How to Muster Your Comeback After Letting People Down
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Nothing catches the attention of onlookers more than when leaders or prominent team members in our workplace make errors or who engage in egregious acts that impact others. No one desires to find themselves in such a predicament.
Taking a wrong turn, vocationally, can bring a halt to one’s forward progress on all fronts -- namely one’s ability to lead others, complete key projects, manage relationships, validate the company’s brand, as well as one’s ability to further develop one’s career overall. If any one of these circumstances describes you, fear not.
Although this is not your finest hour, you can and will survive the day if you know how to decisively rebound and self-correct your trajectory. Here’s how.
1. Acknowledge ownership of the mistake(s).
Do not delay in reaching this first point of atonement. What you do from this point onward is equally important, but taking ownership of the errors made will be your first step in recovery. Depending on the type of misstep that you are responsible for, share the news with people who are closest to your fault (that is, anyone who was notably impacted by it), including leadership personnel to whom you report.
2. Make a (proper) apology.
Yes, there are several wrong ways to go about this. To the degree that is appropriate consider sharing with team members what went wrong. Why did the customer leave? Why it was that monies were not spent and tracked properly? Why is the company’s brand having to dig out of the recent media storm? For many people an honest explanation of what happened and why, can help them sympathize and forgive. Do not attempt a “yeah, but…” type of an apology -- people do not want to hear excuses, a pity party, nor a disingenuous or cloaked non-apology. Publicly own your error and account for it.
3. Explain how things will be different moving forward.
So, what’s your plan for making things better (and/or preventing tragedy in the future)? Although co-workers and customers want to have faith that things will be better in the future, a repeated failure will solidify feelings of mistrust and may seal one’s vocational doom. Share that you are looking forward to future opportunities and that you’re growing professionally in part because of lessons learned as of late. An action plan that is sensible, sincere and relatively simple will assist you in winning over your original fan base.
4. Restructure how feedback is solicited and received.
Especially if it was not the case previous to your down-turn, make certain that you are creating forums for feedback, solicited and unsolicited alike. This step is critical. The adage of “none of us is as smart as all of us” rings true here. Create a trusted group of people to bounce ideas off of. This step will not only make your decision-making paradigm stronger and more dynamic, but it will build trust for the rest of the team who see you consulting other trusted parties regularly.
Related: Learn to Survive Setbacks
5. Do not be mysterious.
Moving forward, transparency is essential in removing any degree of opacity. Do not leave people guessing, let team members know what you are up to and how you are getting things done (particularly if the continued duties and tasks reside within the area(s) in question).
6. Do not continue apologizing.
For many, the difficulty is not knowing when to apologize or take ownership of a mistake, it is when to stop bringing it up. Some people, due to guilt, embarrassment, shame, etc., will feel compelled to apologize again and again -- or to every single person who was conceivably impacted by the mistake. Once you have adequately apologized drop it and move on. The healing process (i.e., time) needs to begin and each time it is brought up or another apology is issued the clock of forgive and forget, more or less begins again. Once you put the mistake in your rear view, others will try to as well.
7. Learn to again trust your instincts, strengths and life experience.
This is where the tough work begins. Asking others to forgive and forget is one thing, asking this of one’s self is entirely another. Show yourself grace, and embrace the reality that mistakes will be made in the future. Having said that, you’re unique in what you offer your team and organization, dive into that area of confidence to get momentum moving again in your favor.
Taking to heart the importance of looking forward and not back is half of the battle. If others see you blaze forward with confidence, a positive nature and knowledgeable contributions then, over time, people will fall in line and will desire to partner with you once again.