You will make mistakes. In business. In relationships. In parenting. In life. Own them. Admit you did them and learn from them. The worst thing we can do is try to find someone else to blame or be in denial about it.
This applies to guys like Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez who cheated with drugs in baseball. It also applies to you and I when a customer has a complaint. If you look for it, you can usually find something you could have done differently that would have kept the situation from ever happening.
I'm owning my mistakes. I recently received my evaluations from a couple talks I did for the toy industry last month. I got shredded. My friends and fellow store owners were nice to my face, but the anonymous comments from the surveys were brutal.
They were dead on, too.
I bit off more than I could chew with those two workshops. I tried to do more than the time would allow. I cut out things that would have been helpful to try to squeeze in a couple worksheets that just didn't work in a big room format. I spent too much time on the worksheets and not enough on the instruction behind the worksheets. I didn't make all the points I was supposed to make as well as I could have made them.
I blew it. And I apologize for anyone who attended those sessions. Not my best hour(s) on stage.
Here is the cool thing. By owning up to my mistakes, I can learn far more than if I were to deny them or find someone or something else to blame. The next time I am asked to present on either of those topics, I now have a far better idea of what to do and what not to do. I know where to put the emphasis and where to beef up the examples.
When you have a customer complain, that is an opportunity for you to learn. Why is she complaining? What could you have done proactively to make sure she would have no reason to complain? What changes to policy and procedure can you make to keep this from happening again?
When you make a mistake with an employee you can learn better ways to handle that issue in the future. Screw up in the training? Admit it, fix it, and move forward. Screw up in communication? Admit it, fix it, and move forward.
Own your mistakes and you can learn from them.
Own your mistakes and you can grow from them.
Own your mistakes and you will find your customers and employees far more willing to forgive you.
PS Negative criticism is tough to handle. I know. I have always had a big issue with it. What changed was when I looked at it as a chance to improve. Then the criticism became an opportunity. As soon as I was able to say, "Yes, I did that," I was able to learn from it and move on. I've already tweaked those presentations, learned my limits and found better ways to get the idea across. The audience last weekend agreed. As hard as it was to own up, it was well worth it!