You’re going to tell me I shouldn’t advocate making mistakes in the first place. Don’t be silly. I’m not advocating mistakes.
The reality of life is that you’ll make mistakes and deliver sub-excellent results sometimes. In fact, the more you push yourself and venture into new territory (good), the more common imperfection will be (not good). Beyond the obvious, “Just try harder to be perfect”, there’s something you can do that will give you the leeway you need to get away with imperfection and recover quickly.
Here’s the thing. You’re not gonna like it. Especially those of you who are perfectionists and understand the tremendous value of high-quality work.
But remember, this is not a way to reduce mistakes and come closer to flawless. This is just a way to earn the respect, trust, and grace that will keep your mistakes from killing your professional relationships. This is a way to earn a second or third chance.
Never be late for anything ever and respond to all emails within 24 hours.
Some of you are mad, some of you are laughing, and some of you are nodding your head and patting yourself on the back as you gaze at your inbox tab that says (0).
Let me defend my claim.
Imagine you’re new at a job. Think of the hardest, scariest, riskiest part of your role. The part you are most likely to screw up a little bit. The part that makes you worry you could lose trust and maybe your job if you don’t learn to master pretty quickly.
There’s a whole lot that goes into what your coworkers or customers feel about you and how much grace they’ll have for you as you learn through trial and error. It’s not just a matter of whether you do that thing well. It’s not about what you do right now as much as what they believe you are capable of doing in time and what kind of person they think you are.
To earn maximum room for error and correction you’ve got to have a pretty decent deposit of ‘social capital‘ in your account. You’ll need to draw down without going into the red.
The easiest way to do this – a way that not a single person is incapable of – is to completely crush it on the simplest parts of your job. Consider that again for a minute.
Earn the freedom to make mistakes in the hardest parts of your job by being perfect in the easiest parts.
What are the easiest parts? Always being on time and responding to all emails within 24 hours. It requires no special knowledge, skill, or experience.
If you’ve been somewhere for a month and everyone has come to rely on your punctuality and lightening fast response time, they’ll feel a glow just thinking of you (Somewhere there’s a crooner inside me, struggling to escape). They’ll never have to dedicate mental space worrying about you, and they’ll have a default belief in your ability to handle things.
When you respond to 10 emails perfectly on time every time and meet your deadlines, people will want you to win. When one of those 10 responses has a mistake, they’ll cut you a break and give you a chance to improve for next time.
Contrast this to the perfectionist who is sometimes late (‘I was putting on the finishing touches!’), even if just a few minutes, and makes people wait around to get a meeting started or causes mental stress because no one is positive when they’ll reply to an important email. When they come back with a mistake the already thin ice gets thinner. Tension mounts, the pressure to be perfect increases. If you’re at all unreliable with the small, easy things, you’d better be damn-near perfect quality with the big, hard things.
Don’t put yourself under that much pressure. Give yourself some wiggle room so you can learn by making and fixing errors.
Never be late. Always respond within 24 hours. You’ll be glad you did next time you make a mistake and someone says, “No problem, let’s improve for next time.”