This post was written by Susan Griffiths, our Campus Ambassador from the University of Alabama.
Last year I received an email that not only taught me an extremely important life lesson, but also induced a near panic attack. It was an email from an advisor of one of the organizations where I was the Vice President. The email included a list of things I was doing wrong and how many others on the Executive Board had been picking up my slack. Now, I am a very “Type A” person, and if am not doing something correctly I immediately must resolve it.
As I read the curt email I felt a wave of horror that I was letting down not only the entire organization, but also a faculty member I held in very high regard. As a Public Relations major, I know a little bit about damage control, or as the professionals call it, Crisis Management. I began to think of ways to resolve the problem. I could email her back and make excuses for myself, beg for forgiveness and promise to never make another mistake, or I could go apologize and ask her to give me feedback on how to not make the mistake again. At first I wanted to do the cowardly thing of just emailing her back, but I chose to ask to meet with her.
It was perhaps the most nerve-racking 10 minute walk in my life. I arrived at her door and sheepishly sat down in her office. I expected her to stare at me or make me feel worse as I groveled for forgiveness, but to my surprise she was more than helpful! She told me not to worry and gave me excellent advice for the future when situations arose. It also gave me the opportunity to develop an even better relationship with her.
It can be so hard to admit when you are wrong, but here are a few tips to get you through your next oops moment:
1. Fess up! Even if you are convinced you did nothing wrong, it is better to apologize for offending or hindering a co-worker, classmate, friend, or employer.
2. Take a deep breath. This is not the end of the world. It is a setback, but it is one that could help you become a better leader in the end.
3. Listen. This is perhaps the easiest way to solve any problem. Listen to the person who is confronting you and genuinely try to take their advice. You may not like it at first, but they might end up being right in the end.
4. Make a plan. The next time the situation arises, you will be fully prepared and you could possibly help someone else out later.
5. Say “Thank you”. Now, there is no reason to go overboard with flowers and cards, but a simple “thank you for your time and helping me out” is always an excellent business practice.
So the next time this happens to you, remember it is not the end of the world. More times than not, you will be informed of a problem not because everyone hates you, but because they want you to be all you can be. And in the lasting words of Confucius…
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."