Everyone makes mistakes. From the lowliest subordinate to the CEO of the company, people are bound to mess up every now and then. When you make a mistake, the key is not so much the mistake itself as it is how you present yourself afterwards. There is one thing you can do that will distinguish yourself from those around you:
Take full responsibility.
What does that mean? It means when you realize you’ve made a mistake, the first thing you should do is tell all those involved–especially your superiors–that you take full responsibility for the mistake. No matter how big the error, you’ve just done something bigger. You’ve taken all of the responsibility. Not 50% of the responsibility. Not 75%. But 100%.
You’ve been designing a new website for a client over the last few weeks. Pleased with your work, you submit it early by putting it online before getting approval from your client. You call your client to tell him to check out the site, and he points out that you used the wrong shade of brown for the main banner.
Response 1: Don’t Take Full Responsibility
You: Um, I’m not sure how that happened. Someone in the art department must have made a mistake.
Client: I didn’t ask for an excuse. It simply needs to be fixed. This is the worst day in the history of my company. I shall spit on your grave.
Response 2: Take Full Responsibility
You: Sir, I’m so sorry. I take full responsibility.
Client: Thank you. It’s just a minor mistake. What are you doing Saturday night? I’d like you to spend some time alone with my of-age daughter.
As you can see, taking full responsibility makes a big difference. You can even take full responsibility for mistakes that have nothing to do with you. Doing so extends the breadth of your power and influence. See this next example.
The janitor in your building didn’t show up the previous night, and the bathroom has run out of toilet paper. You’re reviewing engineering specs when you hear your boss storm into the common area. A few people gather around and try to comfort him. You realize what happened, and you approach the group.
You: Mr. Stern, everybody, I take full responsibility for the bathrooms.
Mr. Stern: I appreciate your upfront attitude. Since everyone’s here, I’d like to take this opportunity to inappropriately announce that you’re getting a $100,000 raise and a promotion to the position of Best Guy Ever, effective today.
Everyone applauds and high-fives you.
Random Coworker (Future Layoff): Does this guy have anything to do with the bathrooms?
Three simple words could make or break your career. Do the right thing. Take full responsibility.