My most popular corporate talk, "How to Screw Up," tells how to take your own mistakes--or those of your company--to actually improve your reputation. The same techniques work in your personal relationships. They involve a few steps:
- Be first with the news. Don't wait for others to report your screw-up.
- Have a plan to fix things. Acknowledge your error--even say you're sorry--while showing what actions you'll take to try and keep it from happening again.
- Name the personal values you violated--your passion for detail, your belief in timeliness, your loyalty or faithfulness. Then say how your temporary lapse makes you all the more committed to these values.
Do these things sincerely, and you'll find that people can actually respect you more. Not despite the screw-up but because of it. Trust me. I'm a master at screwing up.
Here's a video that tells how people have reacted to my advice. Guess who object more: men or women?