Like many businesses, ours relies on the part-time labour from University students, mostly covering evening reception duties. It is a position that requires answering the telephone in a friendly manner, and efficiently relaying the messages to our salespeople. It can be mundane work at times, but vital as well. A missed call can be costly for both our salespeople, and more importantly – their clients.
Matt is one such student, and Matt made an error. While paging out a message to one of our salespeople requesting that they return a client’s call, he inadvertently created an all page, meaning that fifty some people were instructed to call John Smith, which they began to do, one by one. From an employers perspective this was the best kind of error to make. Namely, it was an error that caused some inconvenience, at worst annoyance, but it didnt cause anyone financial harm. If these are the worst of our mistakes we should consider ourselves lucky.
That Matt made an error isnt surprising – everyone makes mistakes (and if we are honest with ourselves, we make errors of one kind or another on a daily basis). What struck me about his error, is how he responded. Rather than making excuses, or simply ignoring the gaff, Matt spent the better part of that evening’s wages on donuts and Timbits as a gesture of contrition for the inconvenienced parties the next morning. It was neither suggested nor expected of him, and I would not have thought less of him had he left the issue with simply a verbal acknowledgement and apology. But without a doubt, I think more of him for the gesture. Yes, Matt made an error, but his reaction to his mistake revealed a quality that both employers and clients value.
“How we handle our mistakes says as much or more about us than how we handle our successes“
How we handle our mistakes says as much or more about us than how we handle our successes. In an era in which sorry usually feels more like Im sorry you were offended or Im sorry I got caught, a real apology can make you sit up and take notice. As human beings make mistakes regularly, pretending we dont seems pointless, and only leads others to wonder what mistakes we are hiding. Owning up to them is not only the right thing to do, I would argue it is a pillar of success for any individual or company. (The POTUS being an outlier to my theory!) People will eventually discover both the good and bad*, we may as well speed the process along and eliminate the guesswork by sharing our mistakes as well.
Thanks for reading,
*As I was out of town when this event took place, Matt will only find out I know about it if he stumbles upon it in this article!