Woman Power

Mistake Recovery Guide: What To Do When You Stuff Up Big Time..

So you are at that moment of realization that you have just made a mistake.  It’s not just a small indiscretion, but it is an orbital heart-stopper. Your blood runs cold and amazingly you break out in sweat at the same time. You visualize your bosses eye’s popping out of their head with fury.

We have all at one time or another in our career made a mistake, and if you haven’t. You will. First it is important to know that mistakes are important to happen to you, so you learn from them. Whilst it may not be of consolation right now, know that even the most successful people got there through making big mistakes. Just ask Sir Richard Branson.

Branson came up with with idea of releasing a competitive version of an MP3 player in partnership with Palm, in the early 2000‘s, to take on Apples newly released iPod. Despite his executive team’s warning that it was a wrong move, Branson pressed ahead. After Virgin spent millions on their device and released it, Apple then swiftly released the iShuffle and slaughtered the market. Branson had to admit his mistake and swallow a huge financial loss.

So what is your next move? Do you run for cover? Or blame it on Larry in Accounts?

You can start by gaining composure through using the PAR Model to map out a plan of attack.

This is a great model for many situations and can be applied here. ‘P’ stands for ‘problem’, ‘A’ is for ‘action’ and ‘R’ the result.

1. The Problem(s)

Identify the impacts fast. Determine what problems occur or happen as a result of your mistake.  Is the customer or products impacted? Does it cause a time issue? Identify all the areas that can be impacted such as morale, safety, reputation (yours, your boss or/and the companies) financial cost and impact. Ensure you have covered off as many possible impacts and their cost (in either time, money or productivity) as possible. Know where you stand.

2. The Action

What action do you need to take? Who do you need to inform? Who should you inform? It is critical to take honest action. Taking responsibility is one thing, but taking action is another. Now is no time to stick your head in the sand thinking the problem will go away. It is there. It is real. Stop the domino effect.

3. The Result.

Get clear on what is the result you want, and need, to produce after the mistake. Look to the problems and impacts to determine the outcomes to restore. Is it to keep the customer on side and happy?

Recovering – Soften The Blow

An effective way to introduce your gaffe to your manager is by approaching them with this opening question. “Bob, (Jane or Bill whatever their name is) can you tell me of a time in your past career when you made a huge mistake that you thought was unrecoverable?”

At this point they may get suspicious and respond with ‘What have you done?’ But if they respond “Yeah sure”. Ask them “How did it make you feel?” Instantly you are connecting them with the emotional zone they were in when it happened for them. They are more likely to understand your position rather than going in cold with the outfall of your mistake.

You can then divulge that you are feeling all of those things right now because you have (XYZ) and insert the mistake you have made.

Let your manager know that you have a plan to recover and fix the mistake. Even if it is unfixable directly, let them know of your plan to fix the surrounding impacted issues.

Keeping your credibility intact as a person who takes responsibility by tackling problems and mistakes head on is not only crucial at this point, but character defining. Think to the future, particularly when you want to move on and referees are looking for and asking after your character traits. You don’t want to be remembered as your companies ‘Johnny English’ or an ostrich, but some one who takes responsibility and initiative, despite the pressured circumstances.

Keeping Track

It is highly recommended that after all the dust has settled and the fan is back to being shiny and new, that you make a record of events, based on the PAR model once again and have your manager sign and endorse the record. Ask for it to be kept on your employee file and make a copy for your own records. That way you can manage any past ghosts that come up in the future that may have potential impact for future promotion opportunities, references, etc.

Remember, things are never as bad as they seem at the time and the world does keep turning. Most important is that you learn from your mistake.  A structured approach and a strong character, however will help you recover with aplomb.

Would love to hear your great stuff ups! What was it and how did you recover?

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