Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is on vacation.
It happens sooner or later. It is just a matter of time before you make a mistake. Hopefully, it is a small one, but it might be a really big mistake with all sorts of repercussions. There are some common reactions when someone is confronted with a mistake they have made, most of them are not good responses.
One response is anger. This one doesn’t make a lot of sense, but some people get angry that they are being accused of making a mistake. Surely, that isn’t possible, since they and their code are perfect. Another response can be to blame someone or something else for the problem. It is clearly not their fault, so it must be a co-worker or gremlins or hardware or something else’s fault.
Some people respond with denial. There is no mistake, perhaps they have gone blind, so if they can’t see the mistake it must not be there. This is kind of like an ostrich putting its head in the sand and thinking it is hiding. Besides, it is not a mistake; it is a feature. Finally, there is just owning up to your mistake and apologizing for it. This response always seems to be the correct action to take, although it is hard to admit to one’s failings.
It is important to own your mistakes when you make them. The quicker you can get over the blame game, the quicker you can move toward a solution. It is interesting how much time and energy can be spent trying to figure who is at fault, when that same time and energy could be spent fixing the problem and moving forward.
It seems like some of our ability to accept or deflect blame is inherited by how our parent’s modeled or showed us how they dealt with their mistakes. If we had parents that never admitted to making a mistake or being wrong, then we, their children, often act the same way. Conversely, if we had parent’s that owned their mistakes and apologized to us as children, we might be more likely to do the same. Other people can positively influence us as well. Co-workers or managers that we respect can model proper ways of owning one’s mistakes.
Recently, I was working on a project and I needed to move some configuration settings from test into production. I accidentally missed a few settings. It was my fault I should have double checked them. The production staff were upset since everything had been tested and looked correct in the test environment. So when it was wrong in production they were not happy. I owned the mistake and apologized and of course fixed the data in prod.
I hope you have people who model owning up to their mistakes in your life. Even if you don’t it is never too late for you to start. You might surprise the people around you, the next time you mess up, admit to being wrong and apologize.
Share a mistake you made and how it worked out in the end.