Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 

GETTING PAST A MISTAKE

October 23, 2018

Own it, fix it and move on
Intellectually, you know everyone makes mistakes. You even know you will learn a lot from the experience. But that doesn’t make it any less painful, embarrassing or potentially career derailing. The right response to a mistake at work can safeguard your professional capital and actually advance your reputation.
 
Your best first step is a deep breath. Taking corrective action is important but panic and a rush to action can make a bad situation worse. A quick but clear-headed assessment of the damage will enable you to go to your boss with a more complete picture and even some ideas for repair. Consider these steps to minimize the damage, put a corrective course of action in place and show yourself as the capable leader you are. 
 
Admit the mistake immediately
Once you’ve taken that tough step, repair can begin. It’s difficult for others to help if you don’t come clean about the problem.
 
Don’t beat around the bush or try to make things sound better than they are. State the problem clearly, succinctly and without excuses. Be clear about your commitment to not let it happen again.
 
Take responsibility
There may have been others involved but if it’s really your responsibility take ownership right away. Colleagues will be far more understanding and willing to help if you don’t evade responsibility. 
 
Devise an action plan
When you have fully assessed what went wrong, you will be better positioned to create an action plan that not only fixes the problem in the short run, but can prevent it from happening again. A comprehensive plan will also show your boss you take the mistake seriously and are equipped to problem solve.
 
Do what it takes
Major mistakes are not a business-as-usual situation so fixing them often requires staying late or working through the weekend. When others see you step up, you will regain their trust more quickly.
 
Follow up
Do not assume that your fix will work the first time or that others (whose support you need) can drop everything to help. Stay on top of the problem until it is resolved completely. 
 
Once the solutions are in effect, move on. If you have handled your mistake with candor, commitment and a controlled sense of urgency, you can emerge with your reputation intact and the opportunity to be seen as an effective and responsible leader.


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