Putting it right when it all goes wrong

What is the best way of putting it right when it all goes wrong?

Smiley’s Clinic in Minneapolis took guidance from Jeffrey Liker’s The Toyota Way in developing the “Smileyota Way”.

Dr Tim Ramer summarises it as:

Patient First
Remove the Blame
Make it Visible
Make it Better
Make it Fun.

This works everywhere if you replace “Patient” with “People” and “Fun” with “Fair”…

So how do you do that?

Think First

  • Change your perspective When we make a mistake, we excuse ourselves by putting forward our motives. “Well, I didn’t mean to upset her” “I was doing my best” “I was only trying to help”. But we judge others on their behaviour, and often don’t think about what they might have intended. So the first part of putting things right is to really look your own behaviour from the other person’s point of view. Even if you were totally right–what did it look like to someone who didn’t know why you did it? 
  • Work out what’s at stake What’s most important? How much does this one battle matter in the long run? How would you feel if you won? What would winning cost?
  • Take Responsibility In almost every mistake, responsibility is shared by the individual, others, and circumstance. It may be only just a sliver of your fault–admit it without blaming.  Blaming others makes them less likely to listen and take responsibility.


people start to heal when they feel heard

  • Stay Calm If you can keep your cool, your brain works better. Losing your temper will only escalate the situation.
  • Respect their feelings Whatever you do, don’t say they should not be upset. The person is unhappy and you need to know why.
  • Hear what the issues are   You don’t have to agree or act on them, just listen with respect and empathy.

What Can You Do When It’s All Gone Wrong

  • Apologise if you were in the wrong
  • Ask what would make it right
  • Do what you can
  • Find something that you both want and stress any points of agreement
  • Don’t promise what you can’t deliver

Follow through

  • Be gracious–if you can’t make it fun, make it pleasant and fair
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Do what you said you would
  • Give it time It takes a lot longer to make a rope than it does to cut it through

A great book on trust and how to build and rebuild it is The Speed of Trust by Stephen MR Covey. And of course, my favourite folks at VitalSmarts have an appropriate Q&A.

flowers in vase

Flowers may put it right–but not if they have hayfever!

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” John C. Maxwell

Here’s a free e-book on Communication. 


Other articles for when it’s all gone wrong

Restoring relationships

Leaving the past behind and moving on