How to make a graceful mistake

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, March 15, 2012

By LISA PHILLIPS / Guest Columnist

So how do you handle a “mistake,” an “oversight,” an “oops” when you mess up in front of the whole world … or what seems like it?

There is something to be proud of when we strive for perfection and excellence. We have worked all of our lives working to “be the best,” at the top of our field, and to show how professional we are by never making a mistake.

So how do we keep our head high when we blunder?

First, acknowledge the mistake as soon as possible.

Take responsibility for the mistake, even if you are not the one to shoulder the blame. No one likes the “blame game.” If you are in management and leading a group of dynamic people, standing up for the team is important. You can pull aside the person actually responsible if there needs to be a discussion, but most of the time – when the mistake is discovered – we already understand how it happened.

Say you’re sorry – and mean it.

Take action to make it right. Whatever the situation, understand your position to correct the problem. You may have to pick up the tab for a rescheduled meeting you missed, or apologize in person, or even go out of your way to make amends. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated if this happened to me?” Chances are the Golden Rule will provide your answer.

Learn from your mistakes. You have heard this since you were in grade school. Separate the “good” from the “bad.” Do not let this hold you back from moving forward!

For mistakes that aren’t “life ending,” as we sometimes think everything is, ask yourself, “Can I see this with humor and humility?”

So from now on, when you notice a typo, blunder or mistake that you or someone else has done … use it for your own enjoyment! We are all human; we work every day to be the best we can be, and yes, sometimes we mess up.

Lisa Phillips, owner of SimpleWorks,, 205.981.7733