Handling mistakes with grace

As public relations professionals, we strive for perfection (who here is a self-proclaimed perfectionist?!). We’re merely human, though, so expecting everything to turn out perfectly as planned is not based in reality. In fact, it’s often our own mistakes that cause campaigns, relationships and opportunities to sidetrack and go awry.

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned in my 18 months at Obsidian is that it’s not the mistakes you make that people will remember, but how you rectify them. No matter how complicated the solution to your mistake is, starting the process is simple. These are the first three things you should do as you start to rectify a mistake.

Come clean as soon as mistakes are made.

A mentor once encouraged me to quickly come clean when I’ve messed up. He said that every minute spent trying to hide or cover a mistake prolongs finding a solution. I’ve found this to ring true in my professional career, noting that coming clean to my team immediately starts the correction process and usually clears up the situation.

Beyond your team, mistakes often require that you come clean to your client. Trying to dance around a mistake can damage trust in a client relationship. While admitting a mistake may not please a client, being honest and explaining the path forward can actually build goodwill with your client. For what it’s worth, I’ve actually found that my clients respond with kindness more often than ire when I admit a mistake.

Tell the whole truth.

It’s impossible for your team to help you right-track a project when they don’t know the whole truth. When you admit your mistake, be forthcoming with all of the details to ensure your team knows the scope of the situation. Mistakes tend to snowball when the entire truth isn’t in the open. Even though it’s difficult, it’s necessary to come completely clean on the front end.

Make a change.

Did you miss a deadline or haphazardly copy someone on a confidential email (guilty and guilty)? Once you’ve come clean, take steps to ensure that your mistake isn’t repeated. This requires that you look deeply at why you made the mistake. Were you distracted? Were you working too quickly? Or were you neglecting to pay attention to details? Determine what caused you to make this mistake and create an actionable plan to avoid this mistake in the future.

We all strive to produce our best work, but it’s impossible to make it through the year without stumbling a few times along the way. Always remember that it’s not your mistakes that make you, but how you handle them.