If you haven’t already seen it on social media, the episode, “Client Service Strategies that Wow,” from Michele Williams’ podcast “Profit is a Choice” has officially been released! Michele has a fantastic podcast sharing so many great ideas on how to consistently make profitable choices as an interior designer, and if you haven’t already checked it out, I highly recommend you do.
You can listen here as Michele and I share how to really wow your clients with high end client service, how to design the kind of experience that’s memorable and repeatable, how to adjust it to whatever budget level you’re at, and so much more!
Mistakes Don’t Have to Be Your Worst Enemy
Now, onto…. mistakes. Unlike last week’s topic, sweets, mistakes is NOT something that everyone loves. Quite the contrary. Mistakes are something we all avoid. Hide from. Maybe sweep under the rug and pretend they never happened. Or maybe try to fix them so quickly that no one else will ever have to know….
I’m sure we’ve all been there. Realizing that you’ve made a mistake in your work is one of those ultimate “gulp” moments. It’s like realizing you’ve forgotten to pack something super important, times a hundred. Remember the face Kevin’s mom makes in “Home Alone” where she’s flying along in first class and suddenly realized that what she forgot was not to turn off the toaster, but instead her son? Yeah. Realizing you’ve made a mistake at work, pretty much feels like that.
And as making a mistake IS such a horrifying feeling, it’s something that we don’t like to admit. We do everything we can to pretend that it didn’t happen. We try to look the other way and say, “What ever do you mean?! Me make a mistake? Poppy cock! Impossible! Not me! Must have been someone else!”
Understandable. But, is that really the right move? Should we REALLY pretend that we never make mistakes? Should we really act like we’re that one rare human that never makes mistakes, that never forgets something? Especially if we have employees? Well, as I’m sure you’re going to guess, it’s not.
Employees Will Share Their Mistakes, If You Share Your Mistakes
And why not? Why shouldn’t we hide the fact that we too make mistakes? Because then employees hide their mistakes. And that’s NEVER a good thing. If an employee makes a mistake, you NEED to know. You need to know what happened, if and how it affected a client or project, what the consequences are, and what the solutions are. But the only way to have employees honestly admit their mistakes, and then own the solution, is to first admit your own.
Now I know it sounds like a pretty bold and crazy idea. Share your own mistakes with employees? Say whaaat? How is that a good idea? I’m the boss. I need to always showcase an appearance of confidence, professionalism, and perfectionism. Right? I should always appear like I don’t make a mistake. Right? I should always seem like I’ve got it totally together. Right? Well, no.
The more open you are with sharing mistakes that you’ve made in the past, the more open employees will be with sharing mistakes that they’ve made in the present. Because they see that it’s ok. They understand that although mistakes need to be a rarity and prevented as much as possible, unfortunately they do happen because well, we’re human.
But just telling them, “If you make a mistake, make sure and let me know.” is a lot less effective than “I know it’s really hard to admit when you make a mistake. It’s embarrassing and nerve wrecking. But, we are human. I know I’ve made my own mistakes like x,y, and z while working with clients and it’s a pretty terrifying feeling. And although we do work very hard to prevent as many mistakes as possible, unfortunately they are going to happen from time to time. So when they do happen, please feel very comfortable sharing that with me, and asking for my assistance so we can focus on fixing it as quickly as possible.” Which approach do you think your employees will actually take you up on? Which approach would you take your boss up on? I’m guessing the latter.
Stay Calm & Share On
Now what do you do when that time comes and an employee actually shares their mistake with you? Stay calm. No matter how gargantuan that mistake is, stay calm. Because it will affect how they, and any other employee, shares mistakes with you in the future. If they find out that the whole “feel comfortable sharing mistakes with me so we can work together” was just a fallacy and that reality is “WHAT IN THE WORLD DID YOU DO?!!” well, they’re not going to come back the next time. And neither will the other employees.
Instead they’ll frantically run about, spending just as much energy hiding the mistake, as they will fixing the problem. But if you stay calm, thank them for bringing the mistake to you, share a mistake that you’ve made in the past, and then work with them to truly come up with a solution? Well, they’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief and will be able to focus their full energy and brain power on fixing the problem, rather than having it be wasted on hiding the problem. And I’m guessing that’s what both you, and the client whose project has suffered the mistake, would much rather have.
You Never Want to Be in the Dark About Mistakes
Not knowing what’s happening, both good and bad, in your projects is never a good thing. You need to know what’s going on. Now of course if your firm is big enough, you may not know about every itty bitty little detail, but you do need to know about the big ones. And mistakes are a big one. The last thing in the world you want is for a client to call you up to discuss a big mistake and for you to have to respond with, “Sorry, what are we talking about here? This is the first time I’m hearing about this.”
So get your employees to share those mistakes with you, by first sharing yours. That doesn’t mean you need to share a laundry list of your faux pas, or be self-deprecating about it. But it does mean sharing that you too have made mistakes, even give an example, and let them know that although it was hugely stressful at the time, it was managed and corrected. Be straight forward and acknowledge that although our natural instinct is to hide mistakes, it’s much easier, and less detrimental to the project, when a mistake is brought out into the light, so that it can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
The more open and honest you can be with your employees, and the more open and honest your employees can be with you, the better off everyone will be. Because working your rear end off to shove those skeletons in the closet, only to have them tumble into a million pieces onto your head later on as you unsuspectingly open that door, is not something you want to deal with. So go ahead. Share your mistakes. Clear out that closet. And get to fixing problems, instead of hiding them.
I’d love to hear in the comments below, how do you handle mistakes? Are you prone to hiding them? Or are you open and honest about them?
And if you’d like to join us for the last session of “The Exceptional Experience” of 2019 to get even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client experience that gets you greater loyalty, efficiency, and profits, register now!