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February 31, 2020.

I didn’t think a do over would work, but I was wrong.  I told my husband not to get me anything for Valentine’s day.  “We are on a budget”, I stated.  Then, I found the card I had given him last year.  It seems he keeps all of the cards that I give him in the top drawer of his night stand.  I was tempted, but I rifled through my box of cards to find a special Valentine’s day card. I didn’t find a specific card for the holiday but I did find a “love” card! I put it on my desk in my office to complete later when I could sit quietly and write something from my heart. I found a prime rib in the freezer that I would cook for him, his favorite dinner!  Valentine’s day was on a Friday, so we decided to have a romantic dinner then sit outside listening to music.  We said we would even dance on the Lanai under the stars.  I thought that I was all set for a lovely Valentine’s day! Perfect planning!

Friday came and I quickly woke up, showered, got dressed and ran out of the house to go to facilitate a 4-hour training class.  I had prepared the night before so grabbed my case which contained my laptop, handouts, clicker, and other trainer tools.  The class went great and I left at 1pm to drive quickly to my doctor appointment.  When I got home around 3pm I went to my office and started writing curriculum for the next week’s classes.  I was so focused that when my husband came home from work at 4pm, I totally missed him. He finally came to my office when his tummy started to growl.  “When’s dinner?” he asked.  Oh NO! I was so focused on my work that I had forgotten all of our planning.  The steak was still a frozen brick in the freezer! I apologized and cooked spaghetti.  He was not happy but later accepted my apology and we still had something to look forward to the next day.  Saturday, we did a do-over and all was perfect!  

Sure that is my personal life, but does this work in business? Absolutely!  Most of the time. Have you ever made a mistake at work?  I’m pretty sure we all have. I had worked for this organization for less than a year and had charged multiple expenses to the wrong account.  I was so afraid that I would be fired. Finally, I went to my boss and used this technique. She was so appreciative and said that she knew that she could depend on me to be honest with her.  Here is a list of what to do after you make a mistake.  

Admit to yourself that you made a mistake– They say that if you acknowledge that you have a problem this the first step to recovery. 12-step programs agree.  Admit that you goofed up, that things did not go the way your expected.  

Take responsibility for your mistakes– let the people involved know that you made the error.  Owning up to your blunders and not blaming others is a sign of maturity.  It says to others that you have integrity.  I had a boss once that told me to come to her with any mistakes because she would rather hear bad news from me than from someone else.  She did not want to be surprised.

Apologize to those who have a vested interest– It takes courage to apologize.  Most of us don’t like to admit we were wrong or made a mistake.  A Stanford psychologist says to give yourself positive words before you apologize to someone else.  This makes you feel better about yourself and less defensive.  Here are the steps to create an awesome apology, after you feel good about yourself.

  1. Use the words, “I’m Sorry.”  Don’t elaborate or say but…
  2. Tell them that you take full responsibility
  3. Tell them the facts of what happened and that you know this mistake hurt them.
  4. Tell them your solution
  5. Again, say that you were wrong and take responsibility
  6. Ask them if they will forgive you.

Find a solution– Have you ever heard, “don’t come to me with a problem without a solution”?  That is what I learned very early in my career.  In my example above I offered to my boss that I could use the other account to pay back the money.  I told her I knew exactly how much that I had used from the wrong account.  She was satisfied that the solution would work and said that she was sure I could figure it out.  This also built trust and loyalty.

There are so many projects that don’t go as planned. Projects that could have been better. Usually, protocol determines that we have a “lessons learned” meeting to discuss what could have been done better. I love to use Appreciative Inquiry to keep a positive approach during this meeting.   This technique is usually used with organizational change, however, I find that it can be useful in many types of ways.  It helps us appreciate what we did right and not focus on the wrong because it can lead to blaming.

So I would like to come clean and say I’m sorrybecause this blog is a do over.  I missed my February deadline because I deleted my old boring content then, switched the date to February 31st.   I could come up with so many excuses but I will just take full responsibility for missing my deadline.  The facts are that I just did not plan my time properly and went out of town without realizing that February has 28 days (in fact, this year was leap year and I even had an extra day).  My solution is to publish this blog the first Monday in March and add some humor with the date.  I was late and take full responsibility because I’m sure you were hoping for the blog in February.  Please forgive me.  

Let me know if you have made a mistake and tried a do over.  I would love to know any techniques that you would like to share.

The Journal Book by Lori Ann Roth Ph.D

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