Dec 7

Make No Mistake

With Gratitude to Brad Hurley

I made a mistake Tuesday.

It was a first-thing-in-the-morning, not-enough-coffee kinda mistake.  I knew better, yet continued on the wrong path anyway.  While it was recoverable, two of my team had to help me correct my boneheaded error.

After the world was righted, I did what we often do at Sabo PR: I self-reported to our team.  It’s a wise woman who learns from her own mistakes – but a wiser woman who learns from the mistakes of others.

One of my colleagues sent a private email thanking me for making it okay to own mistakes.  “I don’t think any of us particularly LIKE doing it,” she wrote, “but in the long run, it’s so much easier to admit, fix and move on without being terrified of how your boss will react!”

I owe my philosophy on mistakes to Brad Hurley, my first professional boss at my first full-time job.  We had both just graduated from UT Martin and taken jobs at our alma mater.  As a senior, Brad had been student government president while I had been editor-in-chief of the student newspaper

When my new boss “resigned” shortly after my arrival, Brad stepped into his shoes.  I received an unexpected promotion – and the opportunity to report to my former mortal enemy.  In student-land, as in real life, there’s no greater oil-and-water combination than elected official and editor-in-chief.  (Just ask Mike Lloyd and John Logie.)

But I learned a lot from Brad over the next two years, including how to handle mistakes in the workplace.  In one of our first team meetings, Brad encouraged all of us to come to him directly when we made a mistake.  He promised not to be mad and to help us resolve whatever issue it was – as long as he heard about it from us first.

One of my colleagues failed to do that.  She also made a big, giant mistake – and because it was a printing error, it wound up being expensive.  She tried to cover it up and hide both the error and the overcharge from Brad.  Of course, he found out and caught her in both the lie and the cover up, which made it even worse being her.  Brad used her as a cautionary tale for the rest of us – and the lesson stuck.

I tell new team members who join Sabo PR this:  You’re going to make mistakes on the job.  We all make mistakes – none of us is perfect.  While we can’t always avoid mistakes, we can manage how we handle them.

And while none of us likes making mistakes, dealing with them head-on honestly makes it easy to follow our established formula for recovery: Acknowledge, apologize and explain how it won’t happen again.

So yes, I made a mistake Tuesday.  Thank you, Brad Hurley, for helping me through it – 30 years after the fact.

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