A recent article that I read offered up three somewhat trite examples of how to “impress people with how you handle it when you’ve given them a bad experience.” The author advised readers to:
- Throw a parade (What does being boring have to do with being wrong?)
- Great error pages (Online only, I guess.)
- Give a refund (Money doesn’t solve everything.)
While I may be less-than-impressed by the examples given, I can at least applaud the sentiment behind them: Taking responsibility.
Put another way: Own your messes.
A colleague recently submitted a request for some summary data from a project I was leading. I was in a hurry and responded with a spreadsheet we used on the project team to track the un-summarized data requested. While this response met the letter of the request it didn’t meet the spirit of the request.
Do you know what happened? My boss (who had been copied on the email thread as a courtesy) called me on it. My response? I agreed, followed-up with my colleague, made it right, and I’ll try to not make the same mistake again.
Could I have responded with a litany of excuses about how busy I am or how my colleague could have just as easily summarized the data? Sure, but I don’t think that’s how you demonstrate leadership to those around you. Also, you (usually) end up looking bad by making excuses.
Everyone makes mistakes from the entry-level analyst right up to the CEO. It’s going to happen and denying that fact just makes you look like someone who likes to put their head in the sand. The key to it all is how you respond when you mess up.
Own your messes.