Screw up? Chin up! ‘Fess up—then clean up

© Nruboc |

© Nruboc |

You’re human, so you’ll make mistakes. It’s part of the bargain. You’ll miss deadlines. You’ll drop the ball in a hundred different ways.  No matter how hard you try, you WILL disappoint people by not meeting their expectations and living up to your commitments.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the ability to (1) admit your mistakes, and (2) clean up after yourself.

A clean-up has two parts—acknowledging the result wasn’t okay and committing to take corrective action. When you miss a deadline, you owe it to your team to say, “I’m so sorry I missed that deadline. There’s no excuse. It shouldn’t have happened. I’m putting a tickler system in place to remind myself earlier in the process so it won’t happen again.”

In a world of wall-to-wall denial and deflection of blame, just IMAGINE the reaction that kind of honesty will get.

When a document slips through with errors—and you know it will sometimes—your boss expects to witness a duck-and-cover drill.  Imagine instead if she hears, “I can see that I made mistakes in this document and I know that’s not acceptable. I will put a reminder at my desk to checklist each document before I submit it to make sure they are double-checked and accurate. I want you to be able to trust me.”  It’ll stand out like a stallion in a herd of mules.

If someone DOES react badly to your honesty—and again, sometimes they will—just grin and bear it, knowing you are not responsible for the reactions of others.  Make an honest willingness to clean up your messes a way of life, and 99 times out of 100, the world will beat a path to your door.

Leave a Reply