Mistakes are bad, but if they are handled well, they can mean a promotion.

Scott Agnoli

Scott Agnoli

Founder/CEO, Corporate Coach, Author, Speaker, Designer, Marketer

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Has this ever happened to you: you are working on a project at your job, and you notice something is not right. Maybe a report is off, or workflow is not working the way it should. But in any event, it is your project, and now it is out the door. Customers (internal or external) may or may not notice the mistake, and they may never notice it, but right now, you notice it. Critical or not, there is an error. Unless someone brings it explicitly to your boss’s attention, no one may ever find out. If it is such a huge problem, the next phone call could be the one that pops the cork on the issue, and then you have a bigger problem. Either way, this has to be addressed and better sooner than later. What happens next is really up to you.

When I was working in advertising, I was in charge of producing some digital content to promote a viral contest. There were a lot of varying details of the legal terms and conditions for the game. There were many changes over the weeks and days before the launch of the campaign. When all was said and done, everything looked great, and we pushed the “launch” button on the digital ads.

As I usually did, once the campaign was live, I ran through a scenario like I was the consumer. I checked the ad, read the copy, I clicked on it, viewed the landing page, and filled out the entry form. As a “just because,” I clicked on the terms and conditions and read through them. That is when I saw it. The end date for the contest and the eligibility dates were wrong. The contest dates changed a day ago and were not revised on the landing page. Ultimately my responsibility, however, I did not see anyone at all reading the terms and condition page anyway; I mean, who does? For about half a second, I considered not saying anything at all and just letting it go. But my conscience got the best of me. Any change required many steps and reviews. In short, it was a real pain.

I sucked it up, and I called the web guys (who were always busy and hated changes) and got them to review the changes and make sure all dates were right in the T&C. I called the QC people to let them know there would be changes, and they needed to review, approve, and push live the changes as soon as they came through. It was something akin to a fire drill, but that was the process. Next, I went to my manager and told him right away that I had discovered an error, and it was my responsibility. I explained how I thought it occurred, what impact it may have, and the plan I had put into action to resolve it. Also, I told him how I thought we could modify the process, so this could not happen again.

You may not have the ability to put into action the corrections as I did in my example. That is okay. The critical thing to learn from this example is that even though it was a mistake, I took responsibility for it, assessed the impact, and delivered a solution without delay. Through my actions, my manager saw a demonstrated maturity that was needed to take on more responsibility. I was promoted to a senior management position two weeks later.

There are exceptions to every rule; however, when you discover an issue, immediately alerting your supervisor can mean the difference between its quick resolution or a lingering problem that can come back to haunt you. The best way to do this is to inform your manager first, providing how you discovered it, whom it may affect, what a solution could be, and what notification should happen. These actions will demonstrate that you are proactive and knowledgeable in how to work a problem to resolution. In the end, this mistake may be the thing that gives your manager the confidence to promote you with confidence that you can handle an issue if it arises.

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