When Ty was about four years old he did something that every parent fears.
He was watching TV in the living room while I was nearby in the kitchen making dinner. Earlier I had lit a candle, and without thinking about it, left it burning when I went to the other room. So Ty, being the inquisitive child, found a piece of paper and laid it across the flame. As the paper began to burn he realized he needed my help and flew into the kitchen. I took one look at his face and his urgent cry and wasted no time running into the next room where I picked up the burning piece of paper by a tiny edge that wasn’t on fire and carried it to the sink.
When everything (including me) was under control I turned to face my son. It was obvious from the terrified look on his face that he knew he made a mistake and I was confident he would not make that particular one again. So, I didn’t scold him or punish him, instead I pulled him towards me and gave him a big hug and told him he did the right thing. I thanked him over and over again for coming to get me and not trying to hide what he did. My goal was to reinforce the part he did do right, that was, alerting me to the situation.
There are many situations in life and work, where, if you can identify a problem early in the process, that the damage could be minimized. The piece of paper could have turned into the sofa being on fire, which could have turned into the house being on fire. If that had happened, I can’t imagine the emotional toll Ty and I would have faced.
If you do anything at all in your job, you will occasionally be required to identify or admit problems with your work. But the damage could be negated by admitting the problem sooner than later.