The Thing About Mistakes

2012 November 5
by Grace Boyle

Mistakes happen.

In the startup world, mentors will say they don’t trust an entrepreneur who hasn’t failed or hasn’t actively learned from their mistakes.

It puts hair on your chest.

I cringe thinking of the mistakes I’ve made. Sometimes the little ones are the worst. You know? The little slip-ups, the casual breeze over something that really was important or the lack of awareness so you messed up. I feel like such an amateur when I make a mistake.

But I’ve come to notice that it’s not so much about what the mistake is, but how you deal with the mistake after that really counts and speaks volumes.

In an interview I recently did on Eater with famed Sommelier and Co-owner of Frasca, Bobby Stuckey, (king of elevated, personalized service) he wisely shared with me that a mistake is “one of the greatest gifts of our craft.”

He elaborates: “Look, I’m a hospitality craftsman—that’s my deal. If I wasn’t so into that I wouldn’t be here every night. I’d have someone else do it. When you have a problematic misunderstanding or service flaw, that is one of the greatest chances to build a relationship with someone.”

His philosophy makes so much sense. It’s a true way to connect with someone and turn it into service gold. Knowledge is power and opening up the airways to communicate and right a situation, is a blessing.

That’s why when I when I’m on the receiving end of someone else’s mistake, albeit irritating, it’s jumbled over, treated poorly, lacks tact or a basic apology then I’m really hot and bothered over it. Service and respect, no matter the industry, is absolutely my number one priority and I pay close attention to it wherever I go.

I’ve learned that after the mistake…

It’s about the follow through.

Be honest. Own up to what you did. Apologize. I mean, this is the bare minimum.

Be genuine. We are after all, human.

Come up with ways you can rectify the mistake, offer solutions and workarounds.

Make an exception for something that maybe isn’t normally done or allowed because you messed up when you weren’t supposed to.

Remember loyalty and context of who this person/customer/client, etc. is and think of the big picture. How the will this mistake affect the future? They will remember it. Listen to them. Keep the relationship.

Don’t be defensive. That gets you nowhere.

If it’s a business environment, connect with your boss or colleagues about what they might do and what you can offer in exchange for your mistake. Advice doesn’t hurt. They’ve all been there.

Finally, after all the above and you’ve done everything possible, brush it off and move on. Understand sometimes people are angry at other things in their life and although you made a silly mistake, you may not be the only reason they’re directing their anger at you. If you tried your best then don’t hang onto it. But be sure, you really do try your best.

Then, just continue to kick-ass, smile, do your best and enjoy.

It’s all we can ever really do.

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