oopsIn my professional world, there are a few people who are true celebrities– people every coach I know would love to hang with, to learn from, heck, to be.

One of them is someone I’ve considered a mentor for a long time. I’m a graduate of one of her programs, and I’ve learned more from her than I could ever say.

So imagine my horror when last week, I inadvertently insulted her, and made her really, really mad.

We all make mistakes on the job, and sometimes those mistakes garner the wrath of others. This moment turned out to be a true opportunity to practice what I preach when it comes to how to best handle a professional screw-up.

Here’s how it all went down.

By way of background, you need to know that my mentor is a marketing genius. No one, and I mean no one, does it better than she does.

And right now, she’s in the middle of marketing an annual program that earns her millions. I’m a part of a private Facebook group for graduates of that program, where we bat around all sorts of business ideas on the fly, and ask eachother for help and advice.

And this year, my mentor has been marketing her program everywhere. On the day she launched, I got nine separate emails in my inbox from very famous folks in the personal development arena, all promoting her program.

And her program is great. Worth every penny.

And yet, after nine or so emails, my email inbox felt a little overwhelmed.

And so, without really thinking about it very much, I went to our private Facebook group, and posed a seemingly benign question as to whether others felt the same way with regard to her marketing efforts, and then speculated as to some reasons why so many other famous folks might be involved in her promotion.

Whoops.

Turns out my mentor was reading posts that day.

And man, did she get angry at me for randomly hypothesizing as to why she made the choices she made for her program this year.

So angry she called me out in public for crossing the line by talking about things that I knew nothing about.

On a Facebook page with 4300 or so of my peers.

It was ugly.

My initial reaction was one of shock. I felt like I’d been cold-cocked. I hadn’t intended to do anything offensive– I was just batting around a marketing issue.

And to be candid, I thought about engaging her angrily in response– by writing an inflamed email to her, or just going at it publicly, as some others in the group encouraged me to do in private messages.

The good news is that I was smart enough to pause before responding. And not just for a few minutes. I actually paused overnight because I was so upset.

When I woke up the next morning, I went back to my initial post, and suddenly it was blatantly obvious to me that from my mentor’s perspective, my post could very clearly have been read as an attack on her brilliant marketing efforts. Oh crap, I thought, among other expletives.

And then I started thinking about the advice I give to my clients when they’ve made a big mistake at work which could cause them some serious professional harm.

It goes like this:

Own the error you’ve made.

Apologize without drama. Do not grovel, self-flagellate or engage in negative self talk. In other words, be an adult and understand that every adult, no matter how qualified or conscientious, still effs up occasionally. Just flat-out own the error and apologize.

Be authentic in your apology.

Expect nothing in return.

And then, enjoy good karma.

This experience was another great opportunity for me to apply my own advice.

And so I did. I wrote a private email to my mentor in which I explained my thought process concerning the post, acknowledged how, despite my best intentions, the post might have been received as insulting, and then apologized for any hurt I’d caused and asked for forgiveness.

A few hours later, I got a genuinely lovely email back from my mentor thanking me for writing to her and telling me how much it meant to her and her entire team that I had taken the time to explain and apologize. She was kind, understanding, and said in essence, “no worries, lady, it’s all good.”

So here’s the great lesson I’ve learned from all of this: When you’ve inadvertently hurt someone else, apologizing costs you nothing— and may earn you a lot. (Tweet This!)

That’s not to say that it doesn’t require you to be brave. It’s not always easy to admit when we’ve really made a serious mistake. But not admitting it, or blaming others, or responding in anger yourself, only compounds the hurt or affront you’ve caused.

Being able to admit when we’ve made a mistake, on the other hand, may in fact inure to our benefit. It can earn us the respect of the person we’ve harmed, even out the playing field once again, and may even in the long run leave us in a better place with the other party than where we were before the mistake.

This week’s advice is simple: when you’ve screwed up, apologize– competently, confidently and in your own voice.

In return, you will not only see your stock rise, but you may actually build a better relationship than the one you had at the start.

And for that lesson, I have to thank the one and only Oprah-appearing, Richard Branson-knowing, Russell Simmons-rapping, kindness-growing, spiritually generous multi-millionaire businesswoman powerhouse that is my mentor, also known as Marie Forleo.

This week, she taught me another critical lesson on the importance of being the best, most authentic person I can be, and for that and a whole heck of a lot more, I am forever grateful.

Wishing you an authentic, error-free week.

XOXO E

PS.  Have you learned the Three Keys to a Successful Job Search? If not, download my FREE video here.

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