08 Oct Want to grow your business? Make mistakes.
My daughter came home crying last week.
She recently got her first job, picking up a neighborhood boy once a week from his after school program, taking him to his swim class and then home.
The first two weeks things went very smoothly and I was proud of her. But last week she messed up. First, she texted me to say that she was “taking a detour” after school and would be late getting home. As it turned out, she had forgotten when she was supposed to pick him up. She arrived 45 minutes late, and he missed his swim class. She was supposed to take him to the doctor’s after the swim class. She not only got off at the wrong subway stop, but also walked in the opposite direction from the doctor’s office. In the end, they had to take a cab, an expense for the Mom.
“I took him the wrong way! My literal job is to make sure he doesn’t do that!” she exclaimed through her tears. The tears were mostly of embarrassment, but also from a sense of failure.
How I relate to the embarrassment of screwing up! As an entrepreneur, it feels like I fail somehow every day. And every mistake stings.
Recently I emailed someone who had signed up for my 5-Day Abundance Challenge to encourage her to start working on the lessons, only to realize that I had emailed the wrong person. I have been known to double book appointments, lose track of emails, forget to follow up and even completely blank on whole conversations. I have overlooked billing a monthly coaching fee, which meant I had to sheepishly call my client and explain that she now owes me for two months. I’ve made mistakes on emails that go out to thousands of people. The list goes on and on.
Frankly, these screw-ups are for me the hardest part of being an entrepreneur. I battle with the aspiration to do it all “perfectly,” which just isn’t possible.
After the flow of my daughter’s tears lessened, we talked about what she could do to make things right; specifically, what to say to the Mom and how.
1. First, apologize. Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of apologizing. I believe we over apologize in life. Many times we don’t really mean “I’m sorry,“ we mean “Please bear with me.“ or “Oops! I didn’t mean to do that.“ or “Pardon me.” Watch yourself for a few days and see how often you apologize for small things that you really don’t need to be sorry for!
There is value, though, in acknowledging to the other person that you realize you made a mistake, and owning up to your part in any bad consequences. Isabel had already said “sorry” quite a few times to the Mom, but I encouraged her to be more specific, saying “I realize I did not live up to my commitment and I am sorry for that.”
2. Offer reparation. In the 25+ years I have been in business as an entrepreneur, I have learned that if someone is unhappy with my service, it’s helpful to offer a way to make up for it. For me, it could be in the form of an extra coaching session or two. About half of the time, the gesture alone is enough to make people happy, and they don’t even take me up on it. In Isabel’s case, I suggested that she let the Mom know that she didn’t have to pay Isabel for the day.
3. Then make a commitment to the future. I tell clients that they need not live forever in the shadow of a “failure”. Forgive yourself and focus on what’s next. I counseled Isabel to say, “You can count on me to be on time moving forward.” This is the most important part because it’s how you rebuild trust. Of course, that trust will stick only if you live up to your words.
I believe that making mistakes is a crucial part of growing your business. Being an entrepreneur is inherently risky, so if you’re not making mistakes, it means you’re not taking risks. Every action can seem magnified in importance when your business is on the line. But in all my years of coaching I’ve yet to see a mistake that my client didn’t recover from. Business is remarkably resilient. Isabel was afraid she’d lose the job. In the end, the Mom stuck with her and insisted on paying her for that day.
Knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it any less stressful. But if you follow these three steps, you can move past your breakdown, learn from the experience, and continue to express your brilliance.
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