Well, first things first, I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving full of fun, food, family, friends, and lots of laughter. I also hope there weren’t too many cooking disasters that came your way! Holidays are often the prime time for that kind of thing as well, we’re all a bit high stress and harried, and thus we’re more likely to make mistakes. Or, we push ourselves to cook something we normally don’t, and again, chaos can ensue.
I myself didn’t have any cooking disasters thankfully this year, but have in the past. One year I was making a pumpkin pie and added everything in, left it to attend to other items, realized I forgot salt and then added it in before I put it in the oven. But I forgot to mix it in. Oops. That was one very randomly salty pie making us dodge and weave our forks around each slice trying to avoid a “salt patch”. Oh well, let’s just chuck it up to the wonder that the holiday season brings!
I’m also so glad to hear that so many of you tried the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe that I shared last week and loved it! It truly is an incredible one, and such an easy one at that! Since so many of you did love tit so much, I’ll be sharing a couple more highly loved recipes in a couple of weeks to get you ready for Christmas baking. And if you didn’t get a chance to make the pumpkin cookies for Thanksgiving, I encourage you to spice things up a bit and make them for Christmas! I promise no one will kick you out of your holiday gatherings for bringing in a bit of pumpkin – especially since they’re so scrumptious.
And last thing before we move on to this week’s post, if you’re currently in a frantic search for client gifts, here’s a throwback from last year when I was a guest on Kimberly Seldon’s “Business of Design” podcast. I shared the do’s and don’ts of Holiday Gift Giving, ideas on what to give to clients, employees, vendors, trades, etc. to make sure that your efforts and investment are appreciated and worth it rather than wasted. Hope you find it helpful in ending what’s often a chaotic scurry to find the best gift out there!
Mistakes & Criticism, a Prescription for Insomnia
Anyways, enough baking and holiday chatter for now. Let’s move on to this week’s topic, calmly handling mistakes and criticism. Now, this is no easy task for anyone. Finding out that a mistake has been made, or that a client wasn’t fully satisfied with what you’ve done, or that something has just gone awry with the project and your client is upset, well, that means you’re probably in for a sleepless night. Or, many sleepless nights in some cases.
You’re laying there and thinking, “How could this happen?! What did I do wrong? Why didn’t I catch this? How did I not see this coming? What else could I have done? What will the client think about me now? Will they go and tell everyone they know that I don’t know what I’m doing? Maybe I shouldn’t be a designer if I can’t handle and prevent problems like these?”
But then at the same time you’re asking yourself these really hard questions and not coherently answering them because well, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and your mind isn’t right, you also know you’ve done your best. You know you put your all into the creation, implementation, and management of the project and well, it still wasn’t enough.
Then your mind starts up all over again in another cycle of self – interrogation, “Did I really do my best? If this was my best, what does this mean for my future? Where do I go from here? Does it mean that it’s all over for me?”
Making Mistakes is Normal & Expected
Well, let me stop you right there. No, it doesn’t mean that it’s all over for you. It doesn’t mean that at all. No one starts a business without getting bumps, bruises, and scrapes along the way. No one. Not even the best, the brightest, and the ultimate success stories that you hear. They made mistakes too. They also had these same questions running through their mind at 3 o’clock in the morning. But they just kept going. And you can (and should) too.
So, what do you do when you’re ready to give up completely because your mind is racing a million miles a minute on a mistake or piece of critical feedback you received? Take it step by step. And good news for you there are only two steps. So this is going to be easier than you think. But we’ll only tackle step 1 today since I’m such a chatty gal.
Focus on the Now
Your first step is to focus on the now. Stop all the racing fears, thoughts, and questions in your mind and just completely focus on fixing what happened. Focus on the solution. Not the problem. Don’t worry or wonder about the possible long term consequences of what happened, just focus right now on fixing it. Become completely engulfed in fixing what happened to the best of your ability so you can actually end up with a happy client. And do it in a calm, creative, and objective manner. Drown all other thoughts out.
Then, get it out of your head and onto paper. Write down what the situation is and don’t write down “mistake” or “problem” just write down something objective like “Solutions for:” and then jot down what your situation is. That alone will help you make a mind shift, seeing it as something that needs a solution rather than something that’s a problem. Then, write down every possible solution you can think of. What can be done to right this situation right now?
If your client is unhappy because a family heirloom was broken during an installation, write that down. “Solutions for: clients’ broken heirloom.” Then, write down every solution, no matter how ridiculous or unhelpful it seems. Don’t judge. Just write.
- Call antique stores to see if they know of anyone who can do repairs on the item
- Contact the client to see what information they can give on the specifics of the piece – the year, manufacturer, etc. and then begin searching online
- Contact vendors who sell similar products to see if they have access to discontinued versions of the item or know of someone who does
Then elicit ideas from employees and/or family members. Can they think of anything else to do? I know for me, this is always a huge help. Aaron often gives me fantastic ideas because of the simple fact that he’s not in my business. He sees things from a different perspective, an objective one, and can come up with things that I never would have (like the idea of even starting this business).
Or he gives me an idea, that I don’t use, but it helps me think of another idea that I can use. So, still super helpful. And don’t be embarrassed to share that a mistake was made, be proud that you’re focusing so hard on finding a solution.
Relax, Return, then Take Action
Then once you’ve created your list, take a break. Honestly, take a break. Don’t look at it for a while. Watch something funny. Let your mind relax. Give yourself at least twenty minutes (if not an hour) to let your brain calm down. Usually during your break, your mind relaxes and comes up with an even better idea. In fact that’s usually when you come up with the best idea, when your mind is relaxed and not thinking about the problem. But if you haven’t come up with another idea go back and objectively look at the list.
Ask yourself, which one of these solutions will give my clients and this project the greatest outcome? Which will make them the happiest? Which one will allow me to entirely turn the situation around from upset and disappointed, to being wowed? Then decide, and take action.
And once you’ve decided, don’t look back. Don’t keep thinking about what happened, or what could have happened if you’d done something else, or is this really the best solution, or does the client hate me. Those thoughts won’t get you anywhere. But focusing on carrying out a plan of resolution will. So focus completely, calmly, creatively, and as much as possible, confidently, on that.
Then remember to get back to your client. Let them know how you’re going to resolve this situation to their liking. Acknowledge their feelings of frustration or irritation or disappointment. Apologize if you haven’t already, and then focus on the solution. Nothing else matters at this point. What’s done is done, you can’t go back and stop it from happening.
But what you can do is go above and beyond to wow your clients so much, that they’ll end up seeing this as a strength and a positive note in the project, rather than a negative one. They’ll end up telling this story to others because of how awesome you are and how you came through as a true leader, rather than just blaming others or only giving it a small amount of your attention.
Drown Out the Worries, & Dive into Step 1
So remember, the next time you’re tossing and turning at 3 AM over an unhappy client, or a major mistake, or something that just didn’t go according to plan, drown out your thoughts and worries. Drown out all of the, “What does this all mean?! Can I really hack it in this business? Maybe I should just quit?”
Instead relax, let yourself sleep, then wake up the next morning and only focus on Step 1. Creating a solution for what’s happening now. Don’t think about anything else. Don’t think about how mad the client is. Or how you should have hired a different trade. Or how embarrassed you are. Just focus on objective solutions. Then, take action.
And next week we’ll tackle step 2 of this 2 part plan to calmly handle mistakes and criticism. This week was about the now. Next week it’s about the ___. Hint hint, the two steps together are the name of a candy that was popular in the 90s.
Write in the comments below if you know what’s missing in the blank above!