3 Ways Owning Your Mistakes Will Make You Powerful
You already know that failure is a crucial and almost always necessary part of the path to success. However, there’s more to failure than just learning from your mistakes -- there’s owning up to them, too. Sometimes failure will come because of your own mistakes, sometimes it won’t, but regardless of the reason something didn’t work out, it’s important that you own the problem.
There are serious long-term implications for not owning up to your mistakes, because being an entrepreneur means you’re participating in a lifestyle that is designed for the long run. Your reputation is your business and while no one expects you to be perfect, everyone expects you to be honest. When the proverbial crud hits the fan, here are three ways that owning your mistake will make you a powerful entrepreneur in the long run and why:
1. Be accountable, it demonstrates you’re responsible. When you make a mistake, be prepared to take accountability for it. All parents understand the incredibly irksome dilemma of an unaccountable child. The glass of the cookie jar shatters in the kitchen and as you run in, there’s your child standing all alone saying, “I didn’t do it.” Don’t be like that!
Reasonable people realize when a mistake has been made and more often than not, owning up to it solves the problem. Not owning up to it adds fuel to a spark and ignites a problem you may not be able to contain later. When a delivery is late, when your inventory system screws up, when you drop the ball and completely forget an important deadline or phone call, don’t try to deny it. As soon as you realize it’s you (or your staff) that’s dropped the ball, don’t make excuses.
2. Be honest, it shows you have integrity. It’s so easy to point fingers when things go wrong or even to not speak up and hope that no one notices the error. However, blame and omission are not effective leadership tools for any entrepreneur who wants to stay in the game long. What kind of example does that exhibit for your team and what kind of reputation are you building if (and when) your client figures out that there’s a problem? By being proactive about the problem and honestly claiming your errors, you’re actually very likely to endear your staff and customers to you even more.
Everyone makes mistakes. Literally everyone. Odds are good as long as mistakes are not the norm for you, people will be appreciative and lenient when you come at them with honesty. You’ll also build up trust because everyone knows how hard it is to come forward and own your errors. As the proverb goes, “Success has many parents, failure is an orphan.” Prove you’re courageous enough to have integrity and own mistakes.
3. Be up front, it shows you’re relatable. So you made a mistake, you took personal accountability for it and you plan to be honest about it -- but how do you approach the injured party? Go through this three-step process for taking accountability the right way.
First, when you realize you dropped the ball, figure out how to expedite a solution. You may have to get creative if it’s a deadline that has been missed, but figure out how you can deliver on your original promise in some way as soon as possible. Next, contact the person or people who are going to be impacted by the mistake. Let them know first that a mistake was made. You don’t need to get into all the details because that can quickly sound like excuses, just let them know the problem. Then present them with the solution you already devised and see if that makes amends. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, see if there’s any negotiating to be done to find an agreeable solution. Finally, you need to follow up after the solution you’ve provided happens.
It’s necessary for you to go above and beyond to own up to your mistakes. A follow-up call or visit will set things right and ensure your customer or client knows they are valuable.
Related: How To Win When You Fail
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.