October 30, 2020

How to Handle Screw Ups and Mistakes

“I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.”
— Joe Abercrombie

Everybody makes mistakes, but when you screw something up for your team, a client, or a friend or family member, you need to dig yourself out of that hole. Here is my five-step process for dealing with personal mistakes.

  1. Admit the mistake to yourself. If you can’t admit your mistakes to yourself, then you won’t be able to resolve the situation successfully. Take ownership and don’t make excuses even when it’s easy to blame other people.

  2. If something is “on fire,” stay calm. Determine what actions are immediately necessary and execute those until the situation is stable.

  3. Get ready to apologize. “I’m sorry” is a very powerful phrase when deployed sincerely and humbly. You don’t have to go around proclaiming your mistakes to the whole neighborhood, but if anyone deserves an apology, give it freely.

  4. Never let this mistake happen again. You need to debrief and review what went right and what went wrong. Talk with your mentors and teammates, and get to the bottom of what happened and what you can do better going forward. Then seriously commit to improvement.

  5. Believe in yourself. You are not defined by your mistakes, but by how you respond to your mistakes. You need to get back in the game, and you can’t play scared.