Business AdvicePersonal Advice

5 Resolutions For When You’ve Really Screwed Up

making mistakes stop sucking

I suck. I really suck.

But I’ve been sick.

I overslept.

But I needed the rest and lost an hour because of the time change.

I still suck.

Such is the inner conversation when you know you’ve screwed up. It really doesn’t matter how small or little the mistake is, except some suckage may take longer to get over than others.

I didn’t put a potential client consultation on my calendar. When I forgot about it, I thought, “Oh, wait I’m not late.” But I was late. I was three hours late. Not to mention I already had to reschedule because I’ve been sick. So I’ve failed a potential client not once, but twice.

I know mistakes are inevitable, but in a brand new business, they hurt so very much. And you start questioning everything you’ve built.

But don’t go into a endless cycle of self-hate. Here’s a few (slightly unusual) things to try when you eff things up:

1. Apologize. Immediately. This is a no-brainer, but there have been times where you feel so bad you don’t even want to address the situation or talk to the person again. Let’s be real. That doesn’t work, especially in business. I sent an e-mail and asked to reschedule but told her I understood if she didn’t want to.

2. Be honest. Don’t just make excuses. Hopefully, if you’ve been following good business practices in today’s social media world, you’ve developed a rapport with this person before talking to them about being a potential client. I told her exactly what happened, and she was already aware of my illness and giving me some wellness tips.

If this is someone you have never interacted with, keep things brief and simple. There’s no need to explain every little detail as to why you screwed up. Just admit you did and move on.

3. Dwell. This is where my advice takes a bit of a turn away from the norm. Give the period in between the time you’ve communicated with this person and the time they respond to think about what you did. This may be a few minutes, or, in my case, several hours. I like to call this the “Wait For Lashing, Hope For Grace” period.

Think about all of the reasons why you screwed up. Yep, every single one. Think about what would have happened had you done what you’re supposed to do. Heck, even think about the absolute worst thing that could happen in the future.

For me – she may never speak to me again. She may un-friend me from Facebook, tell everyone in my networking group what I did and insist on never using me for virtual assistant/administrative consultant or writing services. Ever. My first two clients came from this group, so that could mean the end of a good opportunity for leads. That’s…well, that’s a pretty big deal.

Hey, I didn’t say dwelling on it would bring the bright fuzzies, did I? But keep going.

4. Learn. I mean it. Don’t just say, “Oh, well. I won’t ever let that happen again.” Really, truly learn from these mistakes. Take all of the things you’ve been dwelling on (yep!) and make something positive out of this.

In my case, I decided to blog about it, because I know everyone makes mistakes and wants concrete steps on what to do immediately after. It’s also one of my recommendations. Writing it down is great, because it gets it out of your head (at least temporarily) and it provides a written record to keep yourself accountable.

I’m also taking action. There’s the obvious stuff, like always write down appointment times immediately. Do not wait.

I had considered creating firm business hours for myself. This confirms it. More than likely I will be available from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (or possibly 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.) Central time. This gives my East coast folks some time with me after their 9-5 and still includes my Pacific folks’ primary business hours.

I’m also going to specify one or two days and just dedicate them to consultations. Most likely, this will be Thursday and/or Friday. Mondays are hard. Especially when you’re getting over something. But now it will no longer be a reason to miss them. It narrows down the time period so I can remember.

5. Make Amends. Even if it’s a snail-mail postcard or note, do something a little extra than just apologize over the phone or via e-mail. Even if that person never responds, you’ll feel better about taking one last step. No bridges burned. And it may even renew your relationship with that person.

I’ll be honest. I’m still really bummed out about it, especially since I never got a response. But I’m so grateful I have this outlet so that others can learn from my mistakes.

Image: Balloon-juice.com

10 thoughts on “5 Resolutions For When You’ve Really Screwed Up

  1. I’m loving the honesty here. I know a lot of people who immediately project their anger or blame somebody else for it. It doesn’t work, no matter if it’s a relationship or business venture. I wish you luck with that client and hopefully things work out for you!

    1. Thank you! I think it will work out, but I am so glad you read this and found it useful. I really appreciate the encouragement from readers.

  2. Like Sarah, I love (and admire) your honesty. And the graphic at the top.

    Mistakes are inevitable, but good for you for looking at it objectively and moving forward. I have a bad habit of over-explaining myself when would work better is just acknowledging, apologizing and shutting up.

    Good luck with your client.

    1. Thanks! Love your site. Haha yeah I love that graphic too LOL. Overexplaining is a really, really bad habit of mine. Thanks for reading!

  3. I second Sarah. When we have been out of work for long or do not follow the typical 9-5 work schedule, lapses occur which is why it’s crucial to stay active. Your post has cautioned me about a mistake I’m quite likely to make.

    I wish you health and a flourishing business.

    1. I’m so glad this has encouraged you to stay healthy. It has been a rollercoaster getting back on my feet (literally! See my previous blog). I encourage everyone to set some boundaries for yourself.

  4. Hi Willi,
    You’re so right… especially about #1 and #4. Apologize. Immediately. Make it right…or as right as you can. Ask, “How will I make sure this never happens again?” Make a plan. Follow your plan.

    Realize that you’ll probably screw up again. Keep learning. Keep growing.

    It’s easy to sit on a blog high horse and act like we have it all together. Or, like you, we can recognize that everybody’s human, everybody makes mistakes, and all share in a virtual *hug.*. Good on you for making it right and moving forward with a positive plan.

    Go girl

    1. Thanks, Jesse! I figured being completely honest would really benefit folks. And I don’t think I lost her as a potential client, yet, so these tips worked! LOL

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