What Do You Do When You’ve Dropped the Ball?
You missed the deadline. You didn’t pay the bill. You didn’t double-check your work. Now what?
The last two weeks have been nuts. I’ve been so busy with work (which is outstanding) and working on a new project with my husband (which we are also very excited about). Add in colds and a child’s wisdom teeth removal and braces issues and huge homework projects and tween drama, I started dropping the balls that I was trying to juggle. I didn’t just mess up once. I messed up four different things. Four BIG things. I missed a deadline, caused unnecessary work, feelings of disappointment and embarrassment. Ugh. I was so mad at myself and just wanted to crawl into bed but I couldn’t because if I did, other things would not get done.
So now what?
When things like this happen, we don’t want to look back. We usually want to look forward. Even though, a niggling voice in our head reminds us of our mistake over and over. Let’s just take a minute and figure out what to do right now and look at what happened to try to prevent it in the future.
Stop crying. Stop yelling. Stop dialing the phone to call someone to freak out. Step away from the junk food, the alcohol, or whatever the thing that you run to when something bad happens. Sit down and think. What went wrong? Why? How can the problem be solved? Now is the time to brainstorm possible solutions.
When the problem is right in front of you, figure out some options on how you can fix it. What can you do right now? Before you completely panic, is there anyone that can help you? Even if the problem seems painful, like having to recreate an entire project, do it. Remedy the problem as best as you can and as quickly as you can.
But what if you can’t fix it? Then…
ADMIT IT AND APOLOGIZE
Rip off the band-aid. Go to the person, tell them what you did, apologize AND try to offer a solution. Be genuine. Express remorse. Admit responsibility. Don’t go on and on with excuses. Try to make amends.
FOR A MANAGER - WHAT IF YOUR EMPLOYEE DID THIS TO YOU?
I was once in a meeting where a coworker really screwed up. Bad. Huge. The client was furious. It cost them time and money and put them way behind schedule. But the client said something that I have remembered twenty-five years later:
Let’s move beyond the blame and focus on the solution.
It immediately stopped his groveling. It completely zapped all of the drama in the room. We were then able to move into a state of action more quickly. I have used that statement many times over the years when managing my own teams. And it works. It works really well to stop someone when they are going on and on with accusations or excuses.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
You want to get back on track to find that motivation to move forward. We need to start by finding the root cause of the problem. Why did you make the mistake? Why are you going off track? What was the reason it happened?
Maybe there was a sickness or a family crisis. You’re not eating healthy, not sleeping and are exhausted. You’ve lost interest and are not double-checking your work. Take the time to identify what caused you to get off track in the first place. Having self-awareness of what’s going on is key in order to make a new plan.
Ask yourself the specifics of why. Why have you fallen off the wagon? Why have you let your emails piled up? What’s going on in your life that has allowed it to happen. Really dig deep and figure out the real reason. Are you working all of the time and you come home truly exhausted and you just want to sit on the couch with your family and watch Netflix a little bit? The last thing that you want to do is go through bills and emails after everyone else goes to bed.
You may need to make a new strategy to accommodate your excuses. Maybe you need to schedule in some downtime alongside your bill-paying times so you know when you can work and you know when you can relax. Create an actual plan with a to-do list and get it on the calendar. If you find yourself making the same mistakes over the over, then you need to make it a priority to prevent them from happening.
Once you fall off the wagon, it’s going a lot of hard work to get back on track. But it has to be done. Suck it up. Be an adult. Get to work.
REBUILD SAFETY AND TRUST
You know how your mom or your grandmother was known for saying the same thing over and over? My mom always says “The consequences of your actions.” I am known for saying…
Safety and trust is the basis for all relationships both personal and professional.
I read that once in the book about crucial conversations. It struck me so strongly that I say it all the time when there is a problem. When you mess up, the safety and the trust get lost. Now is the time to rebuild it. How?
You have to prove your competence again. You can’t disappear and go hide. You can’t avoid people. You have to show up. You have to get back to work. You have to take on projects and tasks and show people your capabilities. You have to let that mistake go and work on rebuilding your reputation. Now is the time to work extra hard and show others that you care about the outcome.
Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson. Work hard. Rebuild the trust. Make yourself a priority to honor the promises that you make to yourself.