Sometimes the greatest lessons can come from our mistakes. The only problem with this is that most people aren’t comfortable talking about their mistakes, which minimizes the opportunity for others to learn. With this in mind, I am going to occasionally write a column called “My Mistakes” where I will share an experience from my career where I failed in the hope that others can avoid similar mistakes. If anyone else is interested in sharing a mistake in a future column, please let me know.
For today’s mistake, I am going to revisit a situation where there was a sales contest going on among one of our ticket sales teams, and I was running some revenue reports to check on the department’s progress. I overheard a sales manager tell their team members that they had hit the group’s revenue goal and as such, everyone was going to receive a bonus on their next check. However, in the process of running my reports, I knew that this wasn’t true.
I was head-down in the middle of my work, when I decided to shout across the room, “Actually, that’s not true” in a matter-of-fact tone. I wasn’t trying to be critical or negative, I was merely trying to correct a mistake, which as a numbers-oriented person is my natural instinct. When the sales manager walked over to my desk to ask about my comment, I calmly went into the reports, showed them the sales numbers, and explained why they the numbers they had pulled from the ticketing system weren’t correct (essentially there was a price code included that should not have been). It was a fairly short conversation, and I didn’t think much of it. The manager walked away and I kept working on my reports.
However, a couple of hours later as I was driving home, I got a pretty upset call from that manager. What I had failed to realize in my effort to provide accurate information was that I had completely undercut the manager’s chain of communication right in front of their staff. I publicly called them out for a mistake, which could impact their credibility with staff in the future, especially around a topic as important as achieving a team sales goal and performance bonuses.
We spent the next half hour talking about the situation and identified that the issue wasn’t about correcting the mistake, but about not being aware of how correcting it in front of the staff could be received. Some of you may think this seems like nothing to get upset about, but the dynamic between a manager and their staff is very important. We decided that if this situation arises in the future that a better option would be to step into a side room, review the numbers, and them decide the proper communication with staff.
Additionally, I think this is an important lesson for those of you that are very data and numbers oriented. Sometimes the biggest challenge you will face isn’t in “running the numbers” but in how you present your analysis with other staff members. Remember that being right isn’t always enough.