Making mistakes & bouncing back

I was at a birthday party a few days back, where a bunch of children were running around in the hall. At one point, a boy tripped and fell down on the carpeted floor. Thanks to the carpeting he didn’t hurt himself, but he did become self-conscious. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed the fall, stood up and then started running again.

I was intrigued by two things that happened – one, that moment when the boy, still down on the floor, looked around to see if anyone had noticed his fall. And second, his getting up and running again, as if nothing had happened.

The incident reminded me of an experience from a long time ago. Two months into my first job as a recruiter, I called up a candidate for a certain opening in the firm. I had a job description (JD) in place for this senior position, and a bundle of resumes that I had sourced from multiple sources. The first call I made went unanswered, as did the second. The third call was answered after just one ring. I introduced myself and told the gentleman where I was calling from and why. I read out lines from the JD and then reluctantly answered a couple of questions he asked, hesitating because the answers were not in the JD . What happened after, I still remember vividly after all these years.

“Is this is your first job?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered nervously.

“Hmm. And that possibly is the only reason I am not going to hang up on you,” he said, in a very serious tone. He then told me about a couple of mistakes that I had made during my conversation with him (which I will not get in to here).

“Call me again tomorrow!” he said and hung up. I remember my hands were shaking when I put the phone down. I had made mistakes in the first ever call I made to a candidate and it felt awful. I went to my Manager and told him what had happened. I expected him to reprimand me, but he simply nodded and responded, “Let’s work on it.”

I called the same candidate again the next day, completely prepared this time. The call went well, and all he said after I had answered all his questions was, “You did well today, but I am not interested in this job.”

Three very important lessons I learnt from the experience:

Be patient with those who make (new) mistakes: In those two brief calls, the candidate not only helped me identify my mistakes, but invested time to see if I worked on the feedback he gave me. From him I learnt the importance of being patient with those who make mistakes (more so new mistakes). He could have snapped, or as he suggested, hung up, but he didn’t.

Help your team members succeed: When I went to my Manager after the first phone call, I expected him to reproach me for not going in to the call prepared, but he didn’t. He worked with me to ensure I didn’t make the mistake again…at least not the same one.

Making mistakes & bouncing back: It felt terrible to have made the mistakes, but I had. Just like that child in the party who had tripped and fallen, I had too! And that made me self-conscious. But what was important was to accept that the mistake had been made, get up, and run again, albeit better prepared.

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