Four tips on taking responsibility for a mistake

March 25, 2015

The woman who ruined my morning

…from the woman who (almost) ruined my morning

By Georgina Tripp

I received an email this morning from a colleague telling me that she’d lost a paper admin file of mine that cannot be replaced. It’s an annoyance and a hassle to me but my response wasn’t to get angry or frustrated with her – instead, when reading her email I was struck again at how brilliant she is and so my response was to tell her to not worry and I bought her a cake.

So what did she do that was so brilliant?

1. She ‘fessed up straight away.

As soon as she knew what had happened she came clean. There was no hiding the facts or putting off telling me. She acknowledged what she had done, what had happened and that she knew I had trusted her with something and would be disappointed. This is exactly what a great lawyer does – shares information with their client, and keeps them informed – even when it’s not the best news. Great lawyers are not afraid of difficult conversations.

2. She told me honestly what had happened.

She didn’t try to make excuses or blame someone else. She took responsibility and acknowledged it was her fault. In doing so she showed me again what great integrity she has and how she will not compromise this – even when it is uncomfortable for her. This is a quality all great lawyers have in common – they won’t compromise their integrity and they have the confidence to take responsibility.

3. She apologised.

Without qualification. Without excuses. She told me she was sorry. And I know she is genuinely mortified about this!

4. She suggested a solution and told me that she wants to put things right.

She came up with an idea to try to help put things right. She really showed me that she wants to help sort this and demonstrated how much thought she had put into finding a solution. And again, that’s what is needed in a good lawyer – someone who can look at a problem and work to find a practical solution and a way through.

So, whilst it would be easy to be frustrated or fly off the handle, I was instead struck by how lucky I am to have such a brilliant colleague. I’m happy to judge her on how she deals with a mistake, rather than the mistake itself. When someone takes responsibility, apologises sincerely, maintains their integrity and confidently helps to find a solution it’s really all you can ask for. She reminded me how much I value these qualities – and how much our clients value them too.

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