When you start a new project or take on a new task in your life, do you spend a lot of time worrying about making mistakes?

In my first job out of university, I took a position that involved traveling to customer sites to implement fairly complex software systems. I had very little experience compared to the other consultants who performed the same role. My company was billing out my time at very expensive rates so the customer’s expectations were very high.

Inevitably, there were times where I messed things up; usually due to lack of experience. In some cases the mistakes would impact other parts of the business, cause down time or delay project deadlines. Obviously the client would not be happy in these circumstances.

Almost 100% of the time I was able to turn a stressful situation like this into a win for both myself and the customer. Here was the simple process:

  1. Take Ownership: I made sure that the client knew I was taking full responsibility for the problem. I apologized for the mistake and assured them I was going to do everything possible to correct it.
  2. Focus On The Solution: Instead of getting frustrated, upset or panicked, I forced myself to only dwell on potential solutions. I would call colleagues for support and research the problem thoroughly and eventually a solution would present itself.
  3. Go Above And Beyond: Once a solution was determined, not only would I implement and test the solution, I would do anything else beyond the call of duty that proved to the customer that I cared about doing a good job. It could be something simple like writing a process document on how the problem was resolved or something more complex like adding features to their system that they didn’t pay for (as a bonus).

In many cases, I was able to turn the once frustrated/upset customer into a raving fan. The fact that I made a mistake was so easily forgivable because I earned the respect and admiration of the client through my actions. Learn to accept the fact that you are going to mess up at some point (in life or in business). When you commit to excellence and do what it takes to correct mistakes when you make them, you not only pick up a ton of technical skill, you also earn the support of the people you deal with.