Recently I was asked by Tim of California: What are your best tips for recovering from major mistakes?
Below are answers from the Young Entrepreneur Council, a nonprofit organization that provides young entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.
1. Take a lessons learned approach to business
Don't stick your head in the sand when you make a mistake in business. Develop a post mortem or 'Lessons Learned' document and reflect on what you did, what went wrong and why. Solicit reputable third-party feedback from business associates and mentors. Understanding the key takeaways from a mistake can prevent continued failure in a specific area of your business.
2. Acknowledge them, learn from them and then move on—quickly
The worst thing you can do when you make a mistake is to cover it up, ignore the fact you made it and then dwell on it forever. As soon as you make a mistake, acknowledge it to whomever you need to (including yourself), identify the lessons you've learned from it and then forgive yourself and let it go. The faster you speed up this process, the more you'll find mistakes are good for you.
3. Take five minutes
Take five minutes and let yourself be sad, ashamed, embarrassed, destroyed. Then move on. Remember that failure is just one step on the way to success.
4. Ask, "What can I do?"
If there's a viable solution for fixing your mistake, do it without hesitation. If not, then you need to move on, otherwise you'll waste time, energy and effort worrying about something you have no further control over.
5. Smile and don't do it again
Lesson learned. Mistakes should be expected and welcomed. The best entrepreneurs are the ones that know how to bounce back as quickly as possible. Accept the mistake, ingrain it in your mind forever, and continue moving forward...until the next major mistake.
6. Keep a failure file and a success file
I have a failure file where I document all of my failures—why they happened, what I can learn from them and patterns. I also have a success folder with projects I am most proud of. I believe we should cultivate our mistakes instead of avoiding them, that is how we learn from them.
7. Don't be defensive
If a customer calls and points out a flaw in one of our products, or shares a problem about a recent interaction with our company, I listen carefully, and think of it is as an opportunity to make something better rather than an indictment of who we are. Admitting that my company can improve shows customers we are human and proactive, and allows my employees to react with the same confidence.
—Vanessa Nornberg, Metal Mafia
8. Stay composed
Composure in my business is everything. When a mistake is made in the restaurant industry, chances of the customer knowing about them are slim, but your composure if not managed correctly, will bring your mistakes out to the public eye versus hidden and fixed behind the scenes.
9. Persistence and determination
Major mistakes are major lessons. Change your perspective and realize how much better off you are now that you have made the mistake and overcome its consequences.
10. Review major mistakes with mentors
We have to address mistakes in the moment and it's hard to learn while operating in crisis mode. But taking the time to talk through the situation after the fact, especially with someone with a little more experience with such things, can be the best way to still make a mistake into a learning experience.