Monday, February 27, 2017

Oops—The First Three Things To Do When You've Goofed

Oh well, it will happen many times to all people and organizations. I am referring to when we make mistakes that are communication related. It is well known that no person or entity is perfect, and when it comes to communication, I have said multiple times in this blog that we are all destined to err when we communicate. The key is to recognize it and learn from your mistake because there are a variety of things that can be done to lower the risk of a future communication-related error.
And just last night, many of us saw a colossal communication error unfold at the 89th Academy Awards, which was organized and presented by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; read about the esteemed Academy at

When looking at the list of global crises or humanitarian issues, the Oscar flub was not a big deal. To the winners and losers of the Best Picture category, it was a pretty big deal. To the renowned accounting organization managing the process that resulted in the wrong movie being erroneously announced as the winner, it was a really big deal. To understand more about this February 26, 2017 mistake-that-will-go-down-in-Hollywood-history, you can view plenty of online articles and videos. Possibly you could search for “La La Land and Moonlight flub,” or even better, try searching for “2017 Oscar Fail.” You’ll see videos containing several minutes of panic and brouhaha after La La Land was announced as the winner in the Best Picture category, when instead the award should have gone to Moonlight.

Ok. That’s out of the way. We know that a mistake was made, and we need to learn some lessons from it. What are the first three things we should do if we make a communication mistake?

1. Confirm that the error was made. You think you made a mistake, but did you really? Check and verify so that further steps to fix it do not add to the confusion. Did you mistakenly say something that was wrong, did you send an email to the wrong person, or did you write something that was clearly in error? At the Oscars last night, it took a few people who were in the know just a few seconds to realize that something had gone wrong—terribly wrong. A mistake was made.

2. Determine the best way to fix it and fix it quickly. Don’t prolong the pain, but instead move quickly and methodically. If you misstated the facts, state the correct facts. If the wrong information was sent, say so as quickly as possible and follow up with the correct particulars. If you view any of the Oscar videos from last night, you’ll notice that within seconds a nice and gracious guy (the producer of La La Land) told the cast of the true winning movie (Moonlight) that yes indeed, it is true: You Are The Winner. Yes, hearts were broken, people were disappointed, and others were confused and elated. But can you imagine if this error was corrected an hour later or even during the following day? Move quickly with a plan.

3. Accept responsibility and apologize. Everyone knows that we all make mistakes, and it is expected to happen to each of us. When it happens—and it will happen frequently—contact the person or people to whom you erred and admit that you made a mistake. Apologize. This step is usually done in combination with number two above.

Last night in the remaining minutes of the final Oscar presentation and afterwards as well, one can see the beginnings of acceptance of responsibility followed up by apologies. The presenters did the best they could, and they were helped in the background by the Oscar producers and the accounting organization’s on-the-ground officials who were entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the right envelopes were delivered at the right times. Several minutes of drama and confusion were followed by a quick cleanup operation that prevented a more disastrous situation from unfolding. Ultimately, between last night and today, the accounting organization humbly and profusely apologized for the unprecedented mistake and said it was their fault; it would investigate what happened and fix it.

Will people talk about last night for the remainder of the year? Oh no; I think it will be discussed well into the next century. But that’s ok because we all make mistakes, right? What’s important is that we learn from our slip-ups, improve, and make fewer errors as we move along on this journey called life.

Thanks for checking in with me for my first-ever post-Oscars commentary. I appreciate your time, and please bookmark my blog for easy reference.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        @randallponder

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