When Ariana Gupta (name changed), a star performer with an financial services firm, made a goof-up in her research report, she was initially tempted to run away and hide. Instead, she recovered by communicating the mistake and charting out the best possible solutions to move ahead.Even the best performers make mistakes, but the best way to handle them is to own up, find the solution and take it as a lesson.
Admit the Mistake
“It takes courage to admit the mistake. As soon as you identify and admit the mistake, you can get on with finding solutions and rectifying the error. If needed, inform seniors and take their inputs. Hiding or covering it will only make the consequence irresolvable,” says KA Narayan, president, HR, RaymondBSE . “Maintain a positive attitude, apologise to those affected… There should be a well-defined plan with timelines and exact action items,” adds Anupama Beri, head, HR, Snapdeal.
A person who can admit to mistakes and own the responsibility is more likely to garner respect than one who is not ready to accept it. “Admitting your mistake and apologising for it can be a challenge as one risks ‘losing face’. But that is the best way to earn your colleagues’ trust. Don’t look for scapegoats,” says Narayan. Agrees Beri: “Do not play the blame game. If it is your mess then you need to clean it up.”
Get to the Bottom
Do a root cause analysis of any error. “By correcting or eliminating the cause, the problem can be prevented from recurring. We need to introspect why the problem occurred, and then continue to ask why it happened, until we reach the root cause,” says Narayan. Adds Beri: “Identify if the mistake can happen again and take corrective action.”
If the goof-up is with external stakeholders, inform them proactively before they discover it. The stakeholder must be told about the mistake, how it happened and what steps are being taken to rectify it. “You need to reiterate your capabilities and reassure the external party that it won’t happen again,” adds Narayan.
Dwelling on the past doesn’t help at all. “It involves endless self-recrimination and often self-pity, neither of which helps resolve the situation,” says Beri. Also, mistakes may result from erroneous beliefs or outdated assumptions. “Acting without data but on assumptions and beliefs can be dangerous. So, once the goof-up happens, check back on these,” says Narayan.
(This article is taken from The Economic Times, Mumbai edition of May 14th, 2013 and edited for brevity)