Mistakes Happen

We all know the feeling – the pit in your stomach and feeling of despair after you make a mistake. Whether it’s a private e-mail that you send via Reply All or an honest fix/change to your EAM system that has unexpected consequences. We’ve all been there.

Earlier in my career I was working as a network admin for an investment bank, and I managed to bring down the network for 30 seconds during the trading day by fixing what I thought was an innocuous switch connection. By most companies’ standards that sort of network interruption would barely be noticeable, but when trading screens freeze for 30 seconds people notice.

I could have dodged the issue and blamed a nebulous “networking glitch,” but that would have caused the need for more investigation. Instead, I admitted my honest mistake, was mildly reprimanded for making changes during the trading hours, but no further action or work was needed.

It’s not whether we make mistakes, but how we react and deal with them. This is true both when we make mistakes and when our team makes mistakes. We need to be able to feel secure so that when problems occur, we know that our team will work together to rectify, learn, and move on and not blame.

I recently read an article about a restaurant in Manchester, England where a waiter accidentally served a very expensive bottle of wine. The diners had ordered a bottle of Bordeaux costing £260 ($330) – not a cheap bottle to start with. They were accidentally served a bottle that cost £4,500 ($5,700). The mistake was not realized until after the diners had left. The waiter was “mortified” when he realized the mistake. However, the restaurant manager made a statement, “To the customer who accidentally got a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4500 on our menu last night – hope you enjoyed the evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway 😊.” Acceptance, forgiveness and encouragement.

So, the next time you or one of your team makes an honest mistake: accept, forgive, learn, and move on.

Until next time…we are Advoco, make every minute count.

About Steve: In addition to being a founder and partner, Steve is Advoco’s resident math whiz—he has a PhD in Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego (his thesis was on the Total Curvature of 4-Dimensional Manifolds in 7-Dimensional Space), and a first class honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, U.K. Steve is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and heads up our consulting practice. With over 20 years of technical project and program management, Steve consults with clients to solve the challenges that arise within complex systems. He is especially good at bringing together systems from multiple vendors within highly regulated environments. Have a question for Steve? Send him an email!


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