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How to Bounce Back After Making Big Mistakes at Work

I have made plenty of mistakes at work.

Fumbling through a presentation

Launching a product that wasn’t live yet

Spending $$$ on a project only to have legal shot it down

Missing crucial deadlines and creating a bottleneck for other teams

Letting my temper get the best of me and sending inappropriate emails

Mistakes are part of doing business. It’s the tuition we pay to learn and grow.

The question is: how do you bounce back after making a big mistake?

Bouncing back from a mistake

Let’s get something straight first. Your mistakes don't define you.

No matter how mad your manager is right now or how disappointed you feel, a mistake is just a drop in the bucket of value you create at work every day.

I think Liz captured it well in this post:

Okay, so it’s not the worst thing in the world… but making a mistake publicly impacts your confidence and your reputation. You need to address both.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Take responsibility:

The first step is to take responsibility for your mistake. Admit your mistake, apologize for any negative impact it may have caused, and accept any consequences that come with it.

I know this is hard to swallow, but trying to hide your mistake or shift blame will only increase the damage to your reputation. Own it.

2. Communicate with stakeholders:

Be transparent with the stakeholders who need to know.That may include your manager, employees, clients, and colleagues. Explain what happened, what steps you are taking to address the issue, and what you are doing to prevent it from happening again.

3. Focus on solutions:

Instead of dwelling on the mistake, focus on solutions. Demonstrate your commitment to fixing the problem and preventing it from happening again in the future. Be proactive in communicating your plans and actions to stakeholders.

When legal shut down my project after we spent a lot of money on it, I asked myself: what could I have done differently to prevent this from happening?

The answer was simple: Talk to the legal team before you spend money.

So I immediately updated our project launch process and made sure that any campaign is approved by legal before we spend even $1.

I shared it with my team, colleagues, my manager and management to make it clear that a solution is already being implemented.

4. Keep doing your job:

Don’t dwell on the problem. If you don’t dwell on it, others will move on faster.

Consistency is key to managing your reputation. Continue to lead with integrity, perform your job to the best of your ability, and maintain a positive attitude. This will demonstrate that you are focused on moving forward.

5. Learn from the mistake:

Take the opportunity to learn from your mistake and grow in your career. Use the experience to develop new skills and knowledge that can help you become a better leader.

After launching a marketing campaign for a product that wasn’t live yet (massive miscommunication), I realized it wasn’t enough that we fixed the immediate problem. We stopped the marketing campaign before most clients were aware of it, but we had to fix the underlying issue.

I set up a meeting with the product owner to review the process and identify all points of failure. As a result we change the launch process, how our teams communicate, and who needs to sign off before any campaign goes live. Once I realized the value of this process, I used the same line of questions to identify points of failure in my day to day work and was able to stop future mistakes from happening.

6. Find a quick WIN:

you know what makes people forget bad news? Good news. The echoes of your mistake will fade faster if you could show success elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be a massive win, just a demonstration of your ability to deliver.

Your mistakes do not define you

Making a mistake doesn’t make you a failure.

Failure is deciding to give up or not trying again after experiencing setbacks or challenges.

Rather than defining yourself by your mistakes or failures, it is important to adopt a growth mindset and focus on continuous learning and improvement. That means embracing the fact that the only way to grow is through trial and error, and that means making mistakes along the way.

Every successful person you know made mistakes, so if you want to follow in their footsteps, you’ll need to learn how to reframe mistakes as learning opportunities and use them to your advantage.

I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


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