Words that Matter: "Were you able to...?"

Tonight I got a text from my boss and as I read it my heart sank. "Were you able to…?" He asked me a question of which I dread to hear the end.

I would love to say that I am the kind of assistant that never has to deal with this problem--I always prioritize correctly and get everything done in the time allotted to it, but that's just not true. I have to answer NO to this question more times than I care to admit.

SIDE NOTE: For those of you who cannot relate to the heart sinking feeling when you hear this question from your boss, I both applaud and challenge you. I don't know if I will ever get there, but at the same time I am not sure I ever want to. At that moment, I would both boast up with pride that I had finally arrived at being the best assistant ever (beware of how steep the fall is from that place) and yet also feel disappointment that I wasn't stretching in my capacity or doing more than I was capable of handling in my own strength (and therefore fully leaning on the Holy Spirit every single day)

In this text conversation, I had not completed the task in question and was disappointed in myself because I wanted to be able to say yes (don't we always?). But this blog post is not about time management (though that would be a guest post sometime---looking for volunteers) or about to do lists and how to keep up with and prioritize them.  Instead, today is about TAKING RESPONSIBILITY and OWNING YOUR ERRORS. It is never fun to say "No, I didn't do that", but as an assistant it is important that it falls smoothly off your lips when necessary. 

There are two steps to taking responsibility and often it can be difficult to do either well. Daniel the Tiger teaches it best to my three year old with "Saying I'm sorry is the first step, then how can I help." When you make a mistake or neglect a task the two step process is to:

Apologize & Correct

1. Apologize-- this can be more challenging than it sounds. We have learned to say we are SORRY, but usually it is followed by a comma instead of a period in our language. This is because everything in our flesh wants to justify our mistake or blame another party: I am sorry, but... I was waiting on someone or something else, I didn't have all the information, I wanted you to proof it, etc. The list of "I am sorry I didn't do it, but __________" are endless. Unfortunately, this doesn't usually matter. What matters is that I was asked to do something and it isn't done yet. Tonight I added a comma my response, and immediately regretted it. In the future I will work hard to hold my tongue and my flesh and simply respond, "I am sorry I didn't do this yet like you asked me to. PERIOD."  From there comes part two. 

2. Correct it-- the only statement that needs to come after "I'm sorry" should be "I'll take care of it right now/tonight/first thing in the morning/as soon as possible". Then the kicker--- DO IT in the time you promised. Whenever you say it will be corrected by, make sure it's done. This is key because it speaks highly of your character; you are true to your word (integrity could be an entire category of this blog) and your apology was sincere.

My pastor says, "You either win or you LEARN. You only lose, if you don't learn." Take the opportunity to learn. Apologize AND Correct your mistake. Then next time they ask, "were you able to..." you can say with a smile, "Yes, I took care of it."

Your Turn: How do you do at apologizing and correcting? Is it easy for you? What have you learned about how to recover from your mistakes?