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How To Own A Mistake

June 19, 2019

Look! My team has done EVERYTHING you asked us to do. We have the computers updated with the correct software and we have scripts to roll out the new updates. So, unless someone can explain EXACTLY what’s wrong with my team’s preparation, I don’t appreciate people inplying my team isn’t ready!

Okay, Rodney. We’ll see you next week.

I normally don’t get upset at work. Especially not with a client. But, we’d been preparing for this trip for weeks. My team was ready! We’d done what the client asked. We were prepared, and I was annoyed that they were saying we weren’t.

(You know where this is going, right?)

Yep, we got on site and we weren’t ready.

We had the wrong software installed.

Our scripts didn’t work.

The client that I had yelled at on Sunday was onsite explaining to me where my preparation was lacking.

What would you do? I had gone on record, forcefully insisting that we were ready. And then we weren’t.

Maybe you’d like to know why we were not ready? Partly it was my fault. The scripts weren’t ready. We hadn’t testing them. I thought they were ready, but there were some unique aspects to our setup that caused them to fail. I should have insisted we test more.

But, there was also the aspect of the “approved” software. We had installed version 4.9.1. The client now was telling us that it should have been 4.9.3. And the migration process needed to include upgrading to 4.9.3.

Was it my fault they didn’t give us clear instructions? Was it my fault my team didn’t have working scripts? Yes, no. No, yes. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

When we were onsite and the system didn’t work, no one wants to hear about whose fault it is. And that’s why I said it was my fault. Not just the script part. All of it. Of course my team started getting the scripts corrected. And we were updating the installed software as part of the upgrade.

But, I also took responsibility for the parts they screwed up on. And, of course, I apologized, again, for my tone earlier. The client refused to say, “I told you so.” I did it for them.

You told me so.

Well, I wouldn’t say that.

Yeah, I know. That’s why I did.

By owning the mistake, I also got to own the solution. I got to talk about how my team was correcting the issues. I got to reinforce the client’s role. I got to continue rebuilding the bridges that were strained during our initial phone call.

And when you come down to it, I was wrong. We weren’t ready. They why didn’t matter. And if I were the least bit defensive, I risked alienating them just when I needed them to engage with my technical teams to solve our issues.

When you screw up, admit it. Quickly and completely. Don’t try to split hairs. Don’t argue. Simply own the mistake so you can own the solution.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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