Have you ever made a mistake? Of course, we all have! Have you ever made the same mistake again? I know I have, and I’d bet that you have as well.
Making mistakes is fine, ordinary and expected—once. But when you fail to learn from that mistake, you run the risk of wasting time, energy, and money on the exact same mistake down the road.
For example—a client calls for a price on a cruise they saw advertised on the television. You are busy and promise to call back that afternoon and you drop the ball. You call the cruise line the following day and the price went up. Now what? Do it once, and it is unfortunate for your client and you, do it more than once and you may be out of a job or out of a business.
So how can you prevent yourself from falling into the mistake trap again? My suggestion is to do them again. But (there’s always a “but”), this time do them with pen, ink and a fifty cent notebook. Yes, write down your mistakes to learn from them. When you write something down, it has a much better chance of being retained. Follow along:
Write Down What Went Wrong
Okay, you screwed up. You forgot to call the client back. You missed a final payment. You forgot to tell the manager that Susie was going to be late. It does not matter.
Deal with the immediate ramifications immediately and put out the fire. If your agency deals with the airlines, you are likely an expert at that. Now, take a deep breath and step away from the computer with your pen and your pad and write down exactly what went wrong. Keep it simple—no excuses or reasons—just the facts ma’am.
- You forgot to call the client
- You missed a final payment
- You forgot to tell the manager Susie was going to be late
Determine The Cause
Now you’ve identified the mistake, write out the reasons you feel it happened. There is a reason for everything. When my kids give me a stupid reason, I ask “why?” five times and usually get to the root of the problem. Let’s use the “forgot to call the client” example. Some of your reasons might look like this:
- The sticky note got lost under a pile of papers
- I got tied up on the phone trying to sort out an issue with an airline
- My husband/wife pissed me off this morning and my mind was elsewhere
- I tried and must have written down the wrong number
You are not the judge and jury here. Don’t beat yourself up over this so leave the theatrics someplace else. Simply write down what led to the mistake. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes—do you remember how many you made when you were learning to read, write, walk or talk? You learned from them, right?
Decide What You’ll Do Differently
Now that you have hopefully figured out the reasons behind your mistake, figure out how to eliminate those reasons the next time it rolls around. Write down specific tasks that you are not going to do the next time in order to avoid repeating it.
The next time I need to call a client back I am going to:
- Make sure to enter a reminder in ClientBase (or other CRM)
- Make sure that there is a clean spot on my desk for action items
- Maintain an up to date “to-do” list
- Try to resolve personal issues outside of work
The Writing Is Important
Why put your failures and mistakes in writing? Because it helps! Just think about it; if you did not take time to evaluate your mistake, how long would it take to be out of your mind? The end of the day? The hour? Your brain is like computer RAM—it keeps the info handy for you to use in the short term. But if you want to go back and work on it later, you need to store it on your hard drive! Write it down, and when you find yourself falling off the wagon (and we all will), you will have a document to refresh your memory. I suggest a paper journal—no need committing mistakes to technology that can fail, or perhaps be used against you. Hey, it’s 2009…that’s reality!
Writing makes you accountable. When your friend asks you to dinner and you say “sure”, you may cancel out. But if that same friend asks you to RSVP to their wedding in writing, you are going to be there. Talk really is cheap. And if that wasn’t enough, studies have shown that people who write down their goals are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
Have you made some whoppers? Care to share? Do you have another system to prevent them in the future? We’d love to hear your comments below!