We all make mistakes. Usain Bolt, Paul McCartney, Nelson Mandela, all of us.
We have an inbuilt bias, The Self-Serving Fallacy, that makes us think that when I made a mistake I was unlucky, but you? You were stupid.
But we all make them.
What is important is what you do next.
You have choices that will really effect the way others see you.
We work in bidding large projects. That can take 2 years, involve numerous meetings and a forrest of documents. During that time it is a certainty that errors will happen.
A favourite error that every bidding team has made is cutting and pasting from the last bid, but leaving in the name of the last client. Ooops.
So what do you do next?
Firstly you get a good attitude. You made a mistake? That’s unfortunate, but it probably doesn’t matter. Few mistakes are fatal so let yourself off the hook. Admit to yourself what you did, smile and move on.
Secondly, be open about you mistake. Did you see Jimmy Carr on his first show after the tax-avaidance scandal broke? Watch at 3’20”
“In my defence….. no I’ve got nothing.”
Jimmy Carr is a clever man. He figured out that when you’re in a hole the best thing to do is stop digging. If you watch more of the show he repeatedly says, “I was stupid, and I’m sorry.” No excuses. No justification. Just sorry.
So your client looks you in the eye and says, “We found the name of your last client in the document.”
What you say is, “Yes. I’m sorry about that.” And smile.
Now get back to business.
What you never do is try to cover up your mistakes.
We all make mistakes, even if we don’t like to admit it. But we have a phrase about mistakes:
“An honest mistake”
Hiding mistakes, and being found out, or equally, pretending mistakes never happened, is much more risky than admitting you failed.
We’re very sensitive to dishonesty. You can be honest 1000 times and dishonest once a be branded a liar.
So be open about your mistakes and you demonstrate you are honest.
There is a hidden upside to mistakes. In bidding, when you get things wrong you have a wonderful opportunity to show that you can learn, and you listen. Every large project is a collaboration between client and contractor. And since they have the money it is mostly you who will doing the learning…
So while we all get that terrible sinking feeling when we realise we’ve got something wrong, remember what’s important and stop digging.
What do you think? I’d love to hear?