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You’re Going to Make Mistakes—Here’s How to Handle Them

I talk a lot about confidence on this blog. I think that unwavering confidence in leadership is absolutely essential for the success of an interior design business.

Creative leaders must have a strong sense of their own style and should not be relying on others for validation. As I’ve said before, if you don’t believe in your work, no one else will.  

However, it’s much easier to stay confident when you’re getting positive feedback and doing everything “right.” One of the biggest tests to your confidence will come when you’re given an opportunity to respond to a mistake.

As difficult as it may be to keep our poise when things go wrong, doing so is a great way to develop the resilience necessary to keep our businesses strong for the long haul.

When you make a mistake, here’s what to do.

Process Your Emotions

Whenever we make a mistake, we’re flooded with feelings. Embarrassment, anger, remorse, disappointment, anxiety, panic, resentment — they’re all par for the course in the wake of a mistake.

That’s why the first thing to do when we make a mistake is always to allow ourselves to process those emotions.

Reacting or making decisions when we’re in an emotional state is not a good idea. It usually makes the problem much worse.

Try to allow yourself to feel each emotion mindfully as it comes up.

Step away from work and do something like take a walk, exercise, or deep breathing until you can think about the problem more clearly. This doesn’t have to take all day or even hours. Sometimes just a 10-minute reset can be enough to regain your calm and focus.

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Get to the Bottom of How Things Went Wrong

Pointing fingers is never a good idea and I’ve always made it a practice to look inwards and audit my own actions before looking at other factors.

Maybe you ordered the wrong item, for example. The main cause of the problem may have been your own confusion or misremembering. But there are likely multiple underlying causes.

Could your note-taking during meetings be at fault? Could such a mistake have been prevented if there was a step in your process for you to recap in summary form ( for example, a summary email of what you discussed ) back to your client? Or, perhaps major orders should always be processed using an internal template with a second look from another team member before an item is ordered.

Understanding how and why the mistake occurred is the only way you can learn and improve. (Again, this analysis becomes easier to do once you’ve processed your emotions.)

You want to get all of the facts and decide on a solution(s) before you let the client know (in the cases where it’s necessary to explain). Then, you can point to the adjustments to keep that mistake from happening in the future and focus on the solution.

Accept Full Responsibility

In many cases, the things that go wrong for your interior design business aren’t technically all your fault.

There are always plenty of factors that go into your work that are outside of your control. These include suppliers’ behavior, mistakes that your staff makes, or even problems caused by the tools you use (like software). All of these factors have the potential to throw off a project’s schedule or result in other problems.

When a mistake isn’t totally your fault, fight the urge point fingers. This is your business, so it’s your job to take full responsibility for what happens in that business. Plus, some of the underlying cause likely does rest with you. After all, you’re the one who chose to work with the problematic vendor, software supplier, or staffer).  

(Related post: The Beauty of Taking Full Responsibility for Your Interior Design Business)

That’s not to say that some difficult conversations won’t be in order with the other responsible parties after the mistake. And it’s okay to explain to your client what happened, but it’s important that you assume the role of leadership and not pass the buck.

[bctt tweet=”Stepping up and taking responsibility after a mistake assures clients that you’re in charge and that you’re fixing things.”] It gives them confidence in their decision to work with you.

Reframe Failure as Opportunity

It’s easy to throw around platitudes like “mistakes are opportunities,” when you’re not in the midst of an actual personal failure. It turns out that hypothetical failures are much easier to cope with!

However, I do believe it’s helpful to keep in mind that failures happen all the time, but the media (social and otherwise) tends to only show successes.

Everyone wants to know how people built successful products or made beautiful and well-received art. No one is out there writing feature stories about projects that never worked out, or didn’t turn out the way the founders planned. And when people do succeed, the stories we tell about them don’t typically go back in time to mention the failures that came before the eventual success.

In fact, there’s a name for this phenomenon: “survivorship bias.” We all have a tendency to focus on those people who have succeeded where others have failed to forget about other important factors that may have influenced things.

So, as you prepare to make things right after a mistake or failure, take heart.

Failing at something doesn’t mean that you’re hopelessly bad at the thing you tried to do, that you’re not cut out for this work. Mistakes happen to everyone, and failure is a well-known risk for entrepreneurs like yourself. Although mistakes aren’t exactly celebrated, you can definitely use them as motivation to push you forward and be better than ever.

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Lean on Your Support Network

It’s much easier to process failures with the support of people who understand what you’re going through.

Being a business owner is difficult, and being a solopreneur can be particularly isolating. If you prioritize spending time with people who are dealing with similar problems and trying to achieve similar goals, you can weather the ups and downs a little more easily.

By sharing your experiences, you’ll find that others have made similar mistakes and can offer advice about how to handle them or avoid repeating them. It’s hard to put a value on that kind of connection. It helps us remember that we’re not alone and encourages us to keep going.

I know that finding this kind of community and making time for networking can be difficult amid all of the other responsibilities interior designers have to deal with each day. If this describes you, I hope you consider joining one of our Mastermind groups. In our groups, you can surround yourself with other smart, driven designers and reach the next level of your business. We meet each month to hold each other accountable and encourage each other. Click here to learn more about the investment and requirements.

You’re Going to Make Mistakes—Here’s How to Handle Them by Interior Design Master Class

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