Mistakes happen even under the best of circumstances. In today’s digitally-distracted, demanding world where many businesses are understaffed, mistakes happen even more frequently. A recent client shared with me that presentation binders [prepared in hopes of inking a major deal], showed up onsite an hour prior to the meeting… with a competing institution’s name on the cover. Even though this meeting took months to secure, this connected leader knew better than to make one of the costly mistakes below.
Mistake #1: Shaming and Blaming. It’s not uncommon when things go wrong to be filled with emotion and look for someone to blame. Since outbursts demand little emotional control, leaders lacking emotional intelligence will often fly off the handle, yell, and shame others for their behavior. (Which is a shame, because the leader’s unprofessional behavior quickly teaches others, amongst other lessons, that it’s not okay to make a mistake.)
Connected leaders, on the other hand, support solution thinking. In the above example, my client immediately engaged the marketing contact responsible, explained the predicament without pointing fingers, and as a result — stickers with the correct institution’s name were quickly placed on the binders’ covers.
Mistake #2: Missing the Moment to Build Connection. If you’ve heard me speak, you may have heard me tell the story about a new server, Zoe, who dropped an over-loaded tray of cleared dishes. When her manager busted through the kitchen doors, those within earshot were surprised to see his broad smile and booming voice say, “Welcome to the club!” He encouraged her to find him during a break so he could show her “some tricks of the trade” that he had picked up over his years of restaurant service. I’m certain Zoe showed up for work the next day feeling more engaged and believing her manager has her back as a result. Plus, turning Zoe’s mistake into a coaching opportunity led to a more effective team.
Similarly, a recent Washington Post article featured Hawksmoor Manchester Restaurant Co-Owner Will Beckett’s tweet. Turns out, a manager accidentally served a customer a $5,000 bottle of wine, rather than the $290 bottle ordered. “To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4500 on our menu, last night — hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.” Not only did his tweet gain 31,000 likes and priceless PR, he sent a clear message to his manager and staff that they are valuable and appreciated, regardless of an honest mistake.
Mistake #3: Doing Nothing. Ignoring a mistake doesn’t make the problem go away, stay away or guarantee that the same mistake won’t be made again. Connected leaders address, rather than avoid, the issue at hand to collectively and strategically create or reinforce preventive systems. After all, mistakes that reoccur are often the result of an ineffective system, not an ineffective employee. In the case of my client, marketing and sales got together to develop a form which must be submitted for any printed projects to avoid future confusion.
Just today I read about a bakery that mistakenly put Noble Prize-Winning French Physicist, Marie Curie, on a birthday cake, rather than Mariah Carey (the person’s request). Hopefully, there’s a leader in charge who will leverage this mistake to build a more effective, connected team who serves up greatness to their clients and customers. Wouldn’t that be sweet.