In my spare time, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre and at one point in the lengthy conversations between Mr. Rochester and Jane, I felt very convicted by something he said to her in an argument: “You are afraid – Your self-love dreads blunder.”
Here is something to which I can relate. I don’t know if it’s self-love that drives me or makes me hesitate, but I do think it is, to some extent, a fear of mistakes or messing up. I’m a cautious and slow mover. I fear that my chance and risk-taking won’t pan out to success. My question is, when you mess up, how do you recover? This isn’t crisis management but, to reference to Harry Potter, “mischief management”.
In a recent article by Keith Ferrazzi, Founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a strategic consulting and professional development firm, he gives advice on how to deal with both personal and professional mistakes and blunders.
1. Get some perspective: This makes sense to me. In the grand scheme of things, assess how much does this really matter?
2. Assess and forgive yourself: In the grand scheme of YOU (and/or your company), how much does this mistake represent?
3. Come clean: Trust comes from full disclosure and free-flowing information. This goes for all relationships, personal and professional. At least in my experience.
4. Get back on the polo horse: I don’t really get why he stipulated that it was a polo horse, but I’ll take it. Move on by moving on. Prove to everyone that this mistake doesn’t define you or your work.
This is very good advice and coupled with what I’m learning in college, it should help in at least assessing and projecting recovery tactics for PR blunders and mistakes. In my PR classes, my instructors have presented the “wrong” ways to do things and even given us some examples of easily avoidable blunders and then how they were mishandled. The media is full of such situations. I’ve even blogged about them (See “Let’s Rethink This”).
For example, let’s look at former aide to Barack Obama, Samantha Power and how her off-hand and insulting remarks toward Hilary Clinton cost her a comfortable advising position in Obama’s campaign when Hilary didn’t accept her apology. What’s worse is that she’s a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Apprently, in an interview with The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, she called Senator Clinton “a monster” in an off-the-record comment which the paper ended up publishing.
How was this mischief managed? She quit. She also went to the press.
According to the Irish television network RTE, Power told a reporter, when asked if she regretted her comments, “Of course I regret them, I can’t even believe they came out of my mouth.” She went on, [Sentator Clinton] is also incredibly warm, funny. I’ve spent time with her. I think that I just had a very weak moment in seeing some of the tactics, it seems, that were getting employed.”
This is all well and good, but let’s see how this fares in Keith Ferrazzi’s 4-step formula.
1. Get some perspective? Yes – and she decided that this blunder would cost the Obama campaign more than her pride was worth. In the grand scheme of things, it mattered.
2. Assess and forgive herself? Sure. Or at least she’s getting there. Her press follow-up showed her remorse and regret over the situation and that she was looking to move forward.
3. Come clean? Well yes, the initial incriminating interview actually did that for her, and her above-mentioned press follow-up allowed her to own up to her mistake and apologize for it.
4. Get back on the polo horse? Well I don’t know. In an interview with the Boston Globe, she said that she resigned from her aide position to remove all of the distractions that her comments had brought on the campaign. That probably includes staying out of the public eye now that she’s had a chance to put an apology out through the press. I can’t find anything other than her RTE interview. If you can, please let me know via comment.
All things considered, I think Samantha Power handled it as well as anyone could. And now that I have some idea of how to handle mistakes, I hope to be inspired to drive my decision-making with my aspirations and goals rather than let it be bridled by my fears of screwing up. It seems to me that mistakes and the managing of them are essential experiences and that they can only benefit my understanding of PR and add to my ease as a future practitioner.
I can only hope Samantha Power eventually sees it that way if she doesn’t already.
*Image courtesy of PrAsanGaM via Flickr.