You Made a Mistake. Is This How You React?

June 8, 2009 · 42 comments

sorryI made a mistake last week. It was an honest one, but a mistake nonetheless – a misunderstanding that led to an oversight. And a client was pretty upset about it.

How do you respond when a client or colleague confronts you about a mistake that’s been made? Our natural reaction is to quickly search our minds for reasons why it happened or point partial blame back on the person across from us.

What did I do?

I apologized and owned the mistake, explained where the misunderstanding happened and shared ideas for two new processes we could implement to ensure it doesn’t happen again moving forward.

What was my client’s response?

“Thanks for your candor. I have a great deal of respect for you.”

We’re so terrified of being wrong that it causes us to do crazy things sometimes – make excuses, lie, shift blame. The truth is that most of the time people know when a mistake has been made and often they know who made it. Accepting responsibility for your part has a strange way of showing your maturity and integrity and can actually build trust instead of tear it down.

Have you noticed this, too? Do you think owning a mistake is smart for business or does the admission of guilt bring more harm than good?

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