Have you made a mistake today, yesterday or in the past week? Who discovered the mistake – you, a colleague or a client/customer? How did you feel when you discovered the mistake or someone confronted you with it – grateful and relieved or angry and defensive? How did you see the mistake – as a nightmarish disaster and the first step to failure or a dream opportunity and as a stepping stone to success? What have you been doing and how have you been feeling since you made the mistake?
When you make a mistake, you may feel like you have suffered a loss of reliability, credibility and capability as well as a negative impact on your reputation. When you lose someone or something, you go through the four stages of mourning a loss. You go through these same stages when you make a mistake. First, you experience the shock of having made the mistake. Second, you may feel fear, anger, anxiety and embarrassment for making the mistake, may choose to deny that the mistake is your responsibility or may resort to firmly affixing the blame on someone else. When you are angry, afraid and anxious, you can make a decision based on emotion rather than fact and neglect to fully explore the short-term and long-term consequences of the decision. It may seem very tempting, especially when it is a costly or high-profile mistake, to deny any responsibility or to point the finger of blame at someone else. If you are someone who always believes that they are right and never admits to being wrong, then you will probably choose one of these options. This may work initially but you may find that you have actually made yet another mistake and have in the end worsened rather than improved your situation.
Take some time to reflect on the mistake. If you can see how and why the mistake was made, how to fix it with excellence and expedience and see yourself as confident, capable and credible, then you are willing to take full responsibility for the mistake and ready to point the finger of blame in the right direction – at yourself. You have now moved into the third stage of mourning, acceptance, when you recognize that mistakes can and do happen and this is neither your first nor your last mistake. Furthermore, you have a strategy in place to fix the mistake and ensure that it is not repeated again in the future. It’s time to transition into the fourth stage of mourning, healing, when you forgive yourself for the mistake, move on from it and commit to focusing on the future rather than on the past.
Choosing to be in a place of denial and blame is like choosing to endlessly drive around a traffic circle. You stubbornly refuse to take responsibility and you eagerly point the finger of blame in the wrong direction – at someone else. Your colleagues and client/customers will see you for who you are – someone who is only concerned about themselves and not in the least bit concerned about others. They will see that you lack capability, credibility, reliability and responsibility and they will either choose to work with someone else or take their business somewhere else.
Ask yourself: is being right and pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction worth limiting your career, damaging your reputation or losing your most valued client/customer? Remember when you make mistake it will be better for you both in the short-term and long-term to point the finger of blame in the right direction – at yourself. Your colleagues and clients/customers will respect and reward you even more.