Have you ever made a cringe worthy mistake? One that ruins not just your day but the week or weeks following? One where you can’t stop obsessing about your failings? Yes? You’re not alone.
I made a big mistake last year. A mistake that I was so embarrassed about I couldn’t talk about it to anyone except my husband and one friend. I had a huge amount of shame around my blunder. But with time, distance and overcoming my gaffe I’m now ready to talk about it and share the lessons learned.
I was in my car doing errands when I got a phone call from a client. She said, “Are you on your way?” I was totally confused. What did she mean I asked? Well, it turns out I was supposed to be giving a training to their employees that day. What? It wasn’t on my calendar. How could that be? My heart raced, I broke out in a cold sweat and I felt panicked. I quickly drove home and looked at the client contract. Yep, sure enough that was the date of the training and it was not on my calendar! The CEO of the company called me and shared his disappointment with me. Of course he was disappointed. He and his employees had blocked off that time on their calendars and were sitting and waiting for me.
So, what did I do? I apologized and admitted I had really messed up. I told him I would do the training at another date that was convenient for him for half the price and I would also give each of the participants a copy of my book. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to have me back after I, an etiquette consultant, had inconvenienced them so much. He said he would think about it. I understood. I had truly blown it. So, I waited and prayed he would give me another chance. I’m a great trainer and I knew if he allowed me to give the training he would be happy.
As the weeks passed by with no word my mistake haunted me. A couple weeks later I saw that I had put the training on my calendar for the same date of the month but one month later. I emailed the CEO and explained what had happened and again apologized, but no word back from him.
I beat myself up continually – How could you have been so stupid? What is your problem? You’re a failure! Have you ever said those things to yourself? I was sure he had decided not to have me back. I was devastated.
But, in the meantime, I took steps to make sure this would never happen again. I looked at the contracts of all of my upcoming engagements and checked that the correct dates were on my calendar. I got a white board and listed the future trainings and speaking engagements I had so that I could see the list every day.
Then one day, several months later, my contact emailed me to ask if I could do the training in December. Thankfully I was available the date she inquired about and I quickly responded I was. My spirits lifted. I was so happy I was going to be given a second chance. They had to change the date to later in December but again I was happy I was available. If I had had something else on my calendar that wasn’t client related I would have changed it so I could make the training date for this client.
I then thought about how I was going to discuss my major gaffe with the training participants. I didn’t want it hanging in the air. I decided to make myself an example of how you handle a mistake.
This is how I opened my presentation:
Hello everyone! Etiquette training take two.
I want to apologize for missing the June training. You might be thinking, it’s rather ironic an etiquette consultant missed an etiquette training. Well, yes it is. I had a scheduling snafu where somehow I had the date on my calendar as July 20, not June 20, so, my deepest apologies for inconveniencing you.
But there are lessons to be learned from my rather big mistake. The first one is etiquette is not about being perfect. That said; I would hope this kind of a mistake is few and far between. But, we are all imperfect beings, including etiquette consultants and it’s how we handle those mistakes that makes the difference.
When you mess up, take responsibility. Don’t try to hide or deny your mistake. In my case, I admitted my error and apologized.
Then, make up for the mistake. I offered to do the training another time at half the price and I included a copy of my book for each of the participants.
And then, take precautions to make sure it never happens again. I guess that worked because here I am, committed to giving you a great training.
So, next time you make a mistake, apologize, take responsibility and make it right. And remember, no one is perfect, not even etiquette consultants.
I got some smiles and laughs and the evaluation forms for my training were positive, so I guess I did okay.
So, if you made a major mistake that you’re still beating yourself up about remember we are all imperfect beings who sometimes mess up. Make amends and do what you can to try not to repeat the same mistakes again.
Have you made a huge blunder that you had to recover from? If so, what did you do? Were you able to recover?