We’ve all had those moments at work.
When you say something you wish you hadn’t in a meeting (or you forget to attend the meeting altogether). When you drop the ball on an important project. When you lose out on a deal you thought was a sure thing.
The bottom line is that all of us, no matter how diligent and responsible we are, will slip up from time to time. It can be easy to wallow in our screwups and let them drag us down, but from a business standpoint, it’s important that we don’t let our mistakes define us or hold us back from taking a chance in the future.
In this installment of Conversations from the Corner Office, we talked with ID Plans CRO Seth Garber about what happens when you mess up at work, why it’s OK, and what you should do when it happens. Because it will. After all, as the ‘80s song says, we’re only human after all.
SG – From a leadership standpoint, when someone talks about their business, they often talk about their successes. The reality, though, is that you don’t always win. Successful businesses do lose sometimes, they make changes based on the things they learn, and they move forward. I just read an interview with Jeff Bezos and how he looks at the intelligence of a business leader. He said he specifically looks for leaders who are wrong more than right because it’s part of intelligence. The concept I always instill is that we will make wrong decisions. As long as we learn from them, and as long as we make one better decision than we do a wrong one, we’re in good shape.
SG – When we talk to business leaders, they tend to know what key attributes and personality types they’re looking for. They develop really elaborate processes to find those people, like having job candidates submit personality profiles and intelligence tests, come in for multiple interviews and do presentations to the board. They do it this way because they hear these are things they “should” do when hiring someone. What I ask myself as someone who hires employees is, “Is this all 100 percent necessary, and where is the gut feeling component?” You can go through these lengthy processes, find someone who on paper is the right match, and it ends up still being the wrong decision. They start working and it turns out not to be the right fit. The loss of productivity, the loss of time you put in to training – the cost is extensive.
SG – The first step is once you identify the person isn’t a good fit is to take action quickly. Every day you don’t act, the costs become higher for everyone. After you act, you have to think about a way to approach the people who will be affected, such as the team members who spent time training the person who was let go and others on staff who will have to pick up the slack for them, and then you have to take responsibility for your role in the hiring process.
Often, leaders will blame the person who was laid off, but in reality, it’s a team thing and you have to accept it. You also have to very quickly understand how this action will affect your team positively and negatively. Then you start again and try to identify mistakes you made during the hiring process so you can avoid them next time. Sometimes, this might mean letting go of your processes altogether and going more with your intuition. Just because someone might not seem like a perfect fit on paper doesn’t mean they might not make a great addition to the team. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and go with your gut.
SG – Let’s use a midmarket enterprise sale for this example. Say you’ve been through your defined sales process, you’ve validated your decision making, you’ve done your due diligence, followed up, the customer agrees to the terms, and you’re basically 99 percent closed. Then all of the sudden the customer comes back and says they’ve decided not to move forward.
I think from a leadership standpoint, provided you’ve been able to validate your steps, you have to trust your organization’s process or pipeline management component when something like this happens. Say to yourself, “I lost this deal, but have I done everything else to create opportunities in my pipeline so that this deal should have mattered less?” Then, you have to be honest with yourself. If that was the deal you had counted on to meet your quota, then maybe you didn’t do everything else you needed to do as it related to other prospects. What I think about from a sales leadership perspective is how much time did the salesperson spend on trying to close that one deal versus how much time they spent cultivating other opportunities. That’s hard to wrap your hands around because time becomes irrelevant when you’re focusing on big deals.
SG – If they say they lost a deal, I always respond in the same way. I always say, “OK.” I don’t ask another question until our next conversation.
SG – I do it for two reasons. I want the salesperson to start thinking about the rest of their business ASAP. It also gives me an opportunity to think and not react to their emotion over losing the deal, which helps them recover faster. If I do react, all I’m doing is validating their current mental state, and I like to get them refocused.
SG – I try to get them to think about what else is on their calendar and what their schedule looks like. Then, I would set aside a special time outside of their regular one-on-one meeting to talk through the deal, a meeting to focus on that topic to understand the why. One part of it would be to validate they followed the process, that the scoring technique was done correctly, and it would focus on the specific deal. If it turned out that the deal was lost because of not running the process correctly, it becomes a coaching opportunity on what they can do better next time. The rest of the meeting would be about everything else except the deal. What is the person doing to create other opportunities?
SG – It goes back to what I said in the beginning. You won’t always win, and sometimes even the most successful people make mistakes. Being willing to be honest with yourself and to think about how you can use the experience to learn and grow is very important, and it can help you take your career to the next level.
How have you learned from mistakes at work? What advice do you have for others in the same boat? Leave us a comment below
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