Handling Mistakes

We all make mistakes in life and in business.  Sometimes, those mistakes stay with us for a long time.  No one knows this better than Bill Buckner, the first baseman for the 1986 Boston Red Sox. Today is the 25th anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, more commonly known as The Buckner Game.  With the game tied in the bottom of the 10th, Mookie Wilson hit a slow groundball to first baseman Bill Buckner who let the ball go through his legs and Ray Knight jumped on home plate scoring the winning run.  The Mets then won Game 7 and the Red Sox curse continued.

Bill Buckner is so universally remembered for this error, that there was even an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm this past season focused on Buckner and his fielding skills.  Buckner has never hid from his error or made any excuses for the mistake.  He didn't blame others, even though there were some very relevant factors he could have highlighted:

- In each Red Sox victory that postseason, Buckner was replaced by Dave Stapleton in the late innings for defensive purposes.  Buckner was hit by a pitch in the top of the 10th inning and easily could have come out of the game in favor of Stapleton.

- Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch during Mookie's at-bat which allowed the tying run to score and Ray Knight to move in to scoring position.

- There was still a Game 7 to play.

And on and on.  But Buckner owned up to the error.

In my role as a service provider, it's pretty rare that I am the client.  However, I was in a situation last week where I was the client and my service provider made a mistake that cost me money.  I wasn't happy.  In fact, I was pretty upset.  When we finally connected over the phone, the conversation was short.

Him: "How are you?"

Me: "Not happy."

Him: "I am going to fix it.  It was my mistake, and I am going to make you whole for the money it cost you."

In two sentences, we were able to move forward to a solution.  There weren't excuses; there was no deflection of blame; and there were no arguments.  As a client, it made me feel better about doing business with him that he owned the mistake and promised to fix it.  It also taught me a great lesson about how to deal with my own mistakes. 

No one is perfect, but the way we handle ourselves when we fall short of expectations is crucial to building relationships.  Buckner owns his error and going forward, I will do my best to own mine.  After all, Buckner was able get redemption during his episode of Curb.  I just hope none of my mistakes take 25 years to fix.