Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. It’s a part of growing up and learning. If Edison didn’t make mistakes, he would not have invented the lightbulb we know him for, and he knew it well. It’s like what NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said, “It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.”
Mistakes are also a great opportunity for you to rise above them and build a reputation for being a quick thinker and a problem solver. Here’s how and why you need to do that.
Feel the guilt but overcome it quickly
Guilt and frustration are common, but emotions are not going to help in making things right. Pent up emotions build up inside you like steam and can prove to be extremely counterproductive for your work. Instead of letting them get stuck inside you, find a way to let go of them in a healthy manner. Take a walk around the block or if you can, go for a quick round on the treadmill at the office gym.
Own up, and start looking for solutions
Workplace mistakes tend to have an impact on others around you. Make sure everyone who needs to know about it is duly informed. Apologise if you need to, but never overdo that either. Most importantly, don’t try to fix it all by yourself. Seek help from your colleagues and bosses to find a solution.
Toyota Chairman, Katsuaki Watanabe, in an interview with HBR once said, “We must make that issue visible. Hidden problems are the ones that become serious threats eventually.” It might sound like a hard thing to own up to your mistake, but the longer you wait, the worse it will get for you.
Find possible solutions
You were hired to solve problems for managers. They already have a lot of problems at their hands, so if you bring them more problems, you’re not doing them or your career any good. Bring them solutions, show them that you value their time and you will cement your position in the team as a problem solver. Raise the stakes and bring different possible solutions to them, and help them pick the one you think will work the best. Your position as a critical thinker will get a big boost and they will look to you for solutions, paving your way to success within the organization.
Start rebuilding the trust
Once you have committed a mistake, you have to start rebuilding the trust of your bosses and colleagues. And the best way to do that is through hard work.
There is no replacement for hard work. Show them that mistakes were only the stepping stones in your learning process and you mean business. Do that and your mistakes be forgiven and forgotten soon. But do remember that it’s not a license to make more casual mistakes in the future.
Bringing it all together
Akio Morita made an electric rice cooker that failed miserably in the market. Richard Branson was diagnosed with dyslexia and had poor academic performance. But both these men went on to become two of the biggest success stories in modern business history. Morita founded Sony Corporation and Branson, who was told by his high school headmaster that he would probably end up in prison, chose to become a millionaire instead. Both these men have proven that failures are never the end of the line. They are merely lessons that we forget to pay heed to in time. And unless we learn, we won’t be able to go very far.