I would love to be perfect. But I’m far from it. I make mistakes everyday. However, I do find it comforting to know that I’m not alone. We are human and all make mistakes from time to time as we grow our careers. When you feel that you’ve made a huge mistake, odds are, you’re not alone. The question is, are you going to be the blamer who deflects or the rock star who takes ownership? It’s up to you. Either way, you can be certain your decision WILL impact your career.
Avoiding Emotional Fog. In career coaching, especially when I’m working with clients in conflict, we often talk about strategies for taking ownership of actions and developing good working relationships. These key behaviors can be easily forgotten in the midst of a heated debate. In many cases our emotions flood in and we feel hurt, angry or desperate and look for ways to lash out. In doing so, we are temporarily relieving our pain by projecting it onto others. Unfortunately, this temporary, angst-filled reaction will either negatively fuel the situation or leave us with a bucket full of guilt. Both are emotional fogs that shut down our productivity and, overtime, ruin our reputation, which will ultimately be detrimental to our careers! Try to cut through the emotional fog and focus on the facts from all three perspectives—yours, theirs and the big picture.
Clear the Fog. When you feel that you’ve made a huge mistake, take a breath and let your emotional fog clear. Politely walk away from the situation for a moment (or 24 hours) to calm your nerves and your mind. This also allows the other party to take time to cool, as well. When the fog is clear, thoughtfully examine your part in the conflict (or mistake) and explore how you might have behaved differently if you could get a “do-over.” Now, what do you need to do to make it right?
Offer Your Apologies. It’s not easy being wrong. But if we make a huge mistake, making it right starts with an apology. This is the best way to bring everyone back to the table in a positive light. Saying you’re “sorry” doesn’t mean you’re weak. Rather, it demonstrates courage. If more of us were transparent and humble, we’d cut out half the struggles in our world. Apologies are especially trust-gaining if you’re in a leadership role. Everyone appreciates a supervisor who can own a mistake. I promise it won’t hurt. Just a little ego sting, but that will be followed by stronger relationships, positive results and a big boost to your career.
Get Back to Work. Don’t let a mistake derail your productivity. Rather, force yourself to concentrate on the work at hand. After a little while, you’ll find that your emotional fog will clear even more and the mistake will seem less impactful. This doesn’t mean it will go away entirely. You still need to own up, apologize and fix your mistake, but it’s a lot easier when the mountain turns back into a molehill.