A friend of mine dropped by the office earlier this week to share with me his frustrations in dealing with a contractor who was undertaking a major renovation of his home.
My friend’s frustration was born, not so much from incompetent, poor or shoddy work but rather from the repeated excuses being presented to him by the contractor each time he was confronted with any issues or concerns that my friend was experiencing.
For example, he told me how, on numerous occasions, the contractor had promised delivery of certain materials by a certain date and, not once, had those materials arrived on time.
He also told me that he frequently obtained promises from the contractor to do things like have a crew on site at a certain time or return a call with information requested by a certain time and again, displaying remarkable consistency, not once had this person delivered on his commitments.
My friend’s annoyance was compounded by something else. Certainly his frustration was being heightened by these ongoing experiences but what appeared to really be getting under his skin was this contractor’s inability, or unwillingness, to assume any responsibility or ownership for anything that had gone wrong.
He told me that each time he asked why the promised goods had not arrived or the promised calls had not been made he was deluged with a barrage of justifying reasons and excuses, each of which absolved this contractor of any responsibility.
Not once was he willing to acknowledge any error or mistake on his part but rather, seemed remarkably creative at presenting my friend with reason after reason as to why he had been unable to keep his word.
And my friend had finally reached bursting point. He had had enough. He told me that he would have been more than willing to forgive any delay in work being done or materials not arriving and would have forgiven calls not being returned and promises not kept if only this person had, even once, apologized for his actions.
The final straw – the event that had brought my friend to my office – had taken place earlier that morning.
He had watched with dismay as wallpaper was being hung in his newly drywalled basement.
The person hanging the wallpaper was doing a masterful job but there was just one little problem; it was the wrong wallpaper.
My friend told the tradesperson to take five and immediately called the contractor who told him that he personally had gone to the supplier and picked up the wallpaper and delivered it to the house for hanging. He argued when my friend told him that it was the wrong wallpaper. My friend asked him to come to the house and when the contractor arrived, showed him the sample that he had kept for himself after selecting the wallpaper a few weeks earlier.
Even faced with that overwhelming evidence, it seems the contractor was still unable to accept any responsibility or find within himself the ability or need to acknowledge an error.
He told my friend he was sure that he had picked up the right wallpaper and suggested my friend had, perhaps, mistakenly kept the wrong sample.
And my friend’s head was about to explode.
There is a wonderful old saying that tells us exactly what we need to do when we are in fact the ones at fault.
It goes like this,” Mess up, Fess up, Dress up.”
It really is a simple philosophy.
It means that when you make a mistake – those of you who have never made one please read no further – then own up to your mistake, acknowledge and apologize for your mistake and do what is necessary to fix the mistake or to make up for what you have done.
And do it in a way that exceeds expectations.
It doesn’t seem like a particularly complex formula, does it?
And yet it appears not to be that common a practice.
I remember being in a restaurant with a friend when he bit into his salad and something, perhaps a tiny little pebble, chipped one of his teeth. He called the waiter over to the table and told him what had happened. The waiter disappeared and returned with the manager who pointedly told my friend that they go to great lengths to wash all vegetables prior to placing them in a salad and questioned whether he was sure the tooth was not chipped prior to coming into the restaurant.
Ironically, the owner of this restaurant was a golfing buddy of my friends and several weeks later while they were batting a few balls around together my friend shared his experience with his colleague who was – needless to say – aghast at the response of his store manager.
My friends experience was, unfortunately, not uncommon, and I don’t understand why it is that way?
It seems quite obvious to me.
It has to be far easier, and consume far less energy, to acknowledge our wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness, assume full responsibility and “make good” than it is to deny responsibility, point fingers elsewhere and somehow believe that we should be trusted and treated as we were prior to our attempts at deception.
Marriage has taught me the value of “mess up, dress up, fess up.”
In fact, I usually apologize before I actually attempt to do anything.
Kind of like building credits in an account.
I’m kidding. Of course I would apologize to my wife if I made a mistake or did something wrong. It has just never happened.
But seriously, let’s undertake a second pledge for 2012.
The first one is to make 2012 the Year of Gratitude and Appreciation – the year where we seek out opportunities to acknowledge friends, colleagues and strangers for the good they are doing, the year in which we sincerely tell people how much we appreciate them and the year in which we constantly seek to “catch” others doing things right and then take a moment to thank and praise them.
Not asking a lot is it?
And if you want to participate all you do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “I’m in.”
And you’re in.
So let’s add this one.
Let’s all commit to the doctrine of “Mess up, Fess up, Dress. Let’s agree to take ownership of everything we do wrong and every mistake we make – regardless of the consequences.
Then let’s further commit to fixing what can be fixed, redoing what needs to be redone and over delivering when we make up for what cannot be fixed or redone.
You know the drill. If you wish to commit send me an email at email@example.com with the words “I commit.”
And you will be committed.
We have slightly over 700 pledgees to the first one. Let’s add another 700 to this one.
What say you?
Till we read again.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours is now available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters and Indigo as both a paperback and ebook. As always,it is also available at Self Connection.