www.wellsaid.com June 2014

Oops! In my newsletter you received this past Friday, did you notice the mistake in the greeting? I left out the most important word in the entire article--your name! I sincerely apologize. As Alexander Pope once said, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." Thank you for your pardon. Upon reflection, it seemed like a good opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. Please find below five industry best practices on how to bounce back from a blunder. Thank you for your understanding and loyal readership! 

Kind regards,


Turning Lemons Into Lemonade: 

 Five Ways To Bounce Back From A Blunder 


By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc.

"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." 

--James Joyce

1. Own your mistake and do it quickly. Despite the cause--a computer glitch, human error, circumstances, time constraints, or just a bad day--avoid blaming others when things go wrong. Put the "me" into your "mea culpa" and take ownership.  By being honest and accountable, you show you're a responsible person with integrity. When you do respond, you can use less formal language and also leverage the power of humor if appropriate.

For example, a major pet store chain recently emailed a 10% off coupon to customers after the expiration date. The discount was not honored in stores, causing many customers some extra cost and inconvenience. The following day, the pet store CEO sent another email to customers including a photo of a yellow lab sitting at a laptop. The note read, "Whoops! A human hit the wrong button. We apologize for the confusion and have sent our email team to the doghouse. In the meantime, enjoy this 20% off coupon, which never expires."

2. Apologize and fix it. If the mishap has caused people harm, loss, disappointment, embarrassment, or inconvenience, tell them you're sorry. Assure them that you're committed to making it right because you value their business and relationship.

In 2012, Apple's blunder of the new Maps app left customers lost, literally, with location searches failing and the maps bringing up incorrect results. CEO Tim Cook wrote a letter to his customers stating, "With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better."


3. Address the root cause. Do your best to determine why the error occurred--not to point fingers but to avoid it happening again. Take immediate and necessary measures to prevent reoccurrence and ensure quality moving forward.


Take for example a home healthcare agency in Florida who recently overbilled a client $25,000 after the client's parent had passed away. After apologizing to the family, voiding the invoice, and issuing a generous credit, the CEO immediately researched the situation and discovered the root cause was a clerical error. She quickly increased quality measures through automation, staffing, and monthly audits to ensure billing accuracy. A nice bonus: The client who was overbilled was so impressed with the firm's honesty, accountability, and efficiency they sent several referrals to the agency.


4. Allow mistakes and share the lesson. Research shows that people who work in a High Performance Organization (HPO) learn more quickly and effectively from their mistakes than from their successes. In fact, managers in HPOs encourage employees to take risks; they have a tolerance for failure and setbacks; they don't play the blame game because the real focus is on remedying and improving. People don't cover up their mistakes--on the contrary, they're rewarded for coming forward and discussing them openly so everyone can learn the lesson. As Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, advised, "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate."


In some environments, owning up to your mistakes can be a lifesaver. In her research on learning in hospitals, Amy Edmondson of Harvard University discovered that the highest-performing nursing units, who delivered the best quality of patient care, actually had the largest number of reported mistakes. Not because they made more mistakes, but because they felt safe to report, share, and learn from the ones they did make.


5. Develop resilience. Great leaders have the ability to bounce back when things don't go as planned. In fact, they bounce forward, transforming an 'oops' into an opportunity--turning lemons into lemonade. As awful as it may feel when it happens, you will recover, the lesson will be learned, and those involved will move on. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. What causes harm to your reputation is not the severity of the mistake itself, but the quality and timeliness of your response.


Dale Carnegie said, "A person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language." So, there is no excuse for missing your name on the last email, and I'm sorry. I met with my staff and email marketing firm to determine the cause, and we've taken measures to prevent the error in the future. As a valued client and colleague, thank you for your understanding. Please enjoy the attached complimentary chapter of my book as a token of appreciation. Best wishes for your continued communication excellence! 

Quick Links
Complimentary Chapter 
of My Book: 
Please enjoy Chapter One of 
Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results
Read Darlene's new book, 
Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.
Ranked in the
"Top 30 Business Books for 2013"
by Soundview Executive Book Summaries 
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Well Said, Inc. | PO Box 888346 | Atlanta, GA 30356
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E-mail: darlene.price@wellsaid.com
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