Put a bunch of your colleagues–with different backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas about getting work done–together on a project. What do you think that you, as either a member or a manager, will have on your hands? A team? Possibly, if the mission is clear and everyone understands their role as it relates to meeting the project objectives. But you’ll also have the potential for mistakes. This is partially because not everyone will be on the same page at every stage of the project, and also because humans are not perfect. So, what do you do when mistakes happen?
In a word, prepare. In a less-than-perfect working world, you have to anticipate that mistakes will happen. You’ll even make some yourself. But as long as you have a plan to minimize the damage that can result, you’ll be able to get past them–and even turn them into stepping-stones for project success.
“How you deal with your blunder is a true test,” says Sharon Mann, an organizational expert for Esselte Corp. in Melville, New York, a leading maker of office products. “Your actions and attitude during this dilemma will impact your higher-ups’ opinions and reflect on you for a long time.” Mann has 10 tips to help you get in the habit of practicing active damage control when you err while trying to get your work done.
- Own up to it. Resist trying to place blame for your mistakes on others. This will often only worsen the situation. Take responsibility for your own errors.
- Forget justification. “At this point, forget about who is accountable and put your energy into fixing the problem,” says Mann.
- Don’t waste time. “How could you let this happen?” conversations can waste time at a point when every minute counts toward a resolution.
- Look for answers. Help find a solution. “You will be viewed as someone who can meet challenges head-on.”
- Admit you’re human.Everyone makes a few mistakes. You and your colleagues are no different.
- Check your skills. Mistakes are often the result of poor organizational skills. Mann advises keeping all of your information well organized and easily accessible.
- Practice prevention. Take note of what events led up to the mistake, so that you can prevent it from happening again.
- Learn your lesson. A mistake is only truly a mistake if you don’t learn from it. Glean knowledge from the experience to avoid making the same mistake twice.
- Get past it. Don’t dwell on the mistake you made. “Put it behind you so that it does not become a larger issue than necessary, drawing negative attention to yourself,” says Mann.
- Forgive others. Again, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be unnecessarily hard on your staff and colleagues when they mess up.