What to do when things go wrong

A while back, my capping class was set to give quick, five minute elevator pitches on our projects. Easy, right? Just explain the point and process of your project, do a quick show and tell, and dive back into the safety of your seat. I am not the biggest fan of public presentations, but I was not worried since I would be speaking about this wonderful site, something I’m pretty knowledgeable on since I created it and everything. My turn rolls around, I get up, pull up my presentation and begin speaking.

“Hi, everyone. My name is Caitlin Nolan and my project is The Cheat Shit.”

Pause. Did I really just say shit? Why, yes. Yes I did. What a wonderful ice-breaker. What am I going to do? Instead of bugging out (like I really, really wanted to do), I smiled, tried to swallow away the encroaching tomato-like hue that was taking over my face, and corrected myself.

“The Cheat Sheet. Sheet. Cheat Sheet.”

Smile again and laugh. If you laugh, they know it’s alright to laugh. And they did.

The rest of the presentation went well and before I knew it, I was sitting back in my seat. And while it was certainly embarrassing (I’m still given good-natured guff about it), that sort of thing happens all the time. The best thing you can possibly do is just roll with the punches and realize everyone makes mistakes.

In this instance, I was surrounded by people I knew and felt comfortable around, but what happens when you make a mistake in a less friendly and more professional setting?

In a guest post on lifelearningtoday.com, Chrissy of The Executive Assistant’s Tool Box had a few words of wisdom on what to do when things go wrong:

“Once you’ve realized that there is problem, consider who will be impacted by your actions,” Chrissy said. “Be straight forward and concise. Don’t beat around the bush and don’t wait.”

By being proactive and acknowledging there is a problem, you’re leaving no more room for mistake, and your employer will recognize that.

It’s also extremely important to keep the excuses and the tattle-telling to a minimum. In an interview with CNNMoney.com, Managing Partner at Corporate Coaching International in Pasadena, Calif. Pamela Erhardt, Ph.D. explained the importance of a sincere apology.

“You have to sincerely apologize to whoever was affected by the mistake, and explain how you plan to avoid repeating it,” Erhardt said. “Often, people’s first impulse is to try and spread the blame around, which is the worst thing you can do.”

Once a problem has been addressed and a solution found, there’s no use harping on the past. Apologize, carry on, remember people are only human and don’t beat yourself up about things that can’t be changed.

“You do need to reflect on your mistakes of course, but when you get to the point where you’re just beating yourself up, you have to let it go, or it will undermine everything you do from now on,” Erhardt said. “You’ll start second-guessing yourself.”

And if all else fails, my friend’s motto on what to do when you’re running late/mess up on a project/life in general can usually be applied:

Remain Calm

Do Your Thing

Do it Quickly

Get Out

In a few short hours, I will be presenting about this lovely blog once again. So it’s off to bed, because I fully intend on being well-rested and well-rehearsed for what is going to be a wonderful presentation on The Cheat Sheet.

One Response to “What to do when things go wrong”
  1. Kristin says:

    Thanks for linking to my blog! Cool site you have here.

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