Make a Mistake… Own up to it

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 13th, 2011

English BreakfastA lesson I’ve known for a long time was just reinforced for me here at a restaurant in the London Heathrow airport.

Here’s what happened.

I arrived at the airport early so decided to sit down for a nice English breakfast (baked beans with my eggs has grown on me).

The order is placed

I placed my order with a friendly young lady. My OJ and coffee arrived straight away.

An older couple sat down at a table next to me a few minutes later. They ordered their food. I continued to sip on my steaming hot coffee.

A few more minutes pass. I look to my right and see the older folks sitting next to me have already gotten their meal.

A few more minutes pass. I’m hungry, and while still not rushed, I’m beginning to get a little irritated.

Try to maintain composure

I notice my waitress working hard… cleaning tables, helping others, etc. She seems like a nice young lady so I do my best to not get upset.

A few more minutes pass… my neighbors are now almost done with their breakfast. I’m officially irritated now.

My waitress notices me. She can tell I’m less than happy. I see her scurry to the back to check on my food.

She comes running back to my table. She is obviously flustered and in her Russian accent goes on to explain that there had been a problem with my order.

The Lesson

Now here is the lesson.

She didn’t make any excuses or blame anyone. She looked me in the eye and took the blame for the mistake.

I wasn’t mad anymore. Instead, I was impressed. Very impressed.

You see, in most situations like this the waitress or waiter would probably explain how the kitchen messed up or how it wasn’t their fault.

As the customer I didn’t care who made the mistake. I just wanted my food.

But since this young lady had the courage and integrity to own up to the mistake, which may not have even been her fault, any feelings of discontent I had were long gone.

Hefty Tip

My food came shortly thereafter. It was excellent.

The young lady offered my breakfast free of charge. I turned her offer down. In fact, I left her a hefty tip even though hefty tips aren’t expected in the UK.

She seemed confused as to why I wasn’t upset. I almost explained how impressed I was with the way she handled the situation… but decided to just smile and thank her.

This young lady reinforced an important lesson for me. When a mistake is made and we are the face of the organization there is only one correct solution – accept responsibility and fix it quickly.

Subscribe to LSS Academy

If you enjoyed this article please consider subscribing to our full feed RSS. You can also subscribe by email and have new articles sent directly to your inbox.

  1. Kathleen

    May 28, 2008 - 6:44 am

    When I want the low down on someone I am considering working with in some capacity, the first thing I want to do is eat at a restaurant with them. Seeing how they treat “little people” tells me more about their character, integrity and compassion than anything that’ll ever come out of their mouths.

    DH does something related with people he’s interviewing. If someone salts his/her food without having tasted it first, they’re usually not any good at trouble shooting and problem solving.

  2. Ron Pereira

    May 28, 2008 - 8:31 pm

    Great tips! I will remember these in my next lunch interview!

Have something to say?

Leave your comment and let's talk!

Start your Lean & Six Sigma training today.