HOW TO RECOVER FROM AN EPIC MISTAKE
WELL, WE HAD SOME FUN COVERING THE OSCARS PARTIES LAST WEEK. THEN THE SUNDAY TELECAST DELIVERED US A REAL PEACH THERE AT THE END OF THE OSCARS WITH WHAT HAS BEEN CALLED THE "BIGGEST GAFFE IN OSCARS HISTORY" WHEN WARREN BEATTY AND FAYE DUNAWAY WERE ACCIDENTALLY HANDED THE WRONG ENVELOPE FOR BEST PICTURE. OOPS. IN EARLIER POSTS WE HAVE DISCUSSED WHAT TO DO WHEN EVENT MISTAKES ARE MADE BY GIVING YOU PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WHAT NOT TO DO. FOR THIS POST, WE ARE GIVING SOME SOLID ADVICE ON HOW TO MANAGE YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY WHEN THE INEVITABLE MISTAKES OCCUR. WE ALL MAKE MISSTEPS. SO WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU REALLY, REALLY MESS UP? WE'VE BROKEN THE MISTAKE-MAKING DOWN INTO THREE PHASES: BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER AND HELPING YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO RECOVER EVEN IF YOUR MISTAKE IS A BIGGIE.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST
In medical terms, this is known as "preventative medicine." Setting yourself up for success is the best way to avoid disaster. When you are organized, have enough support, adequate resources, a strong handle on your budget, and all other details in order, the chance that something will go wrong is low. However, there will always be elements that you cannot control. So, putting constructs in place to protect from inevitable missteps is another great firewall against them. Double-check, triple-check. As they say, "The Devil is in the details." In the case of the Oscars, by all accounts, a person from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, a stagehand, and the presenter are all supposed to triple check the title of the envelope to confirm its contents before the presenter walks onstage. Did these checks happen? Evidently not because this zoomed-in photo (see above) of the envelope in Beatty's hand clearly shows the wrong envelope title. So, even when everything is in order, as it surely must be on Oscar night, mistakes still occur. So, how to deal with them when they do?
AS IT IS HAPPENING
TRY TO STAY CALM & THINK CLEARLY
Everyone can speculate on how they might have handled themselves differently were they in Beatty and Dunaway's shoes. Should one of them have said, "Hey, this is confusing. Hold on a minute..." and popped offstage to consult the Pricewaterhouse Coopers exec that hands out the cards? The audience would have been in suspense for sure. It would have been weird but sometimes it's better to pause to be sure you're correct--especially if you're handing out THE BIGGEST AWARD OF THE NIGHT. So, maybe they should have done it another way. Would you have been able to think clearly with 30 million some odd people staring right at you? We might not have that much composure. They certainly seemed confused, but decided to go with it.
TRY TO MANAGE ANY ENSUING CHAOS
So, then La La Land people flood the stage in utter joy and triumph. Then...scramble...scramble, whispers, UH OH. Here's the video footage in case you missed it.
ADMIT THE MISTAKE & BE AS GRACIOUS AS POSSIBLE
Once it was evident that the wrong film had been announced, correcting the mistake actually fell into the hands of La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, who was the one who ultimately announced to his colleagues that his film had lost and Moonlight was the rightful winner. Luckily for everyone concerned, Jordan Horowitz is a shining example of how to lose graciously. Though surely crushed that he wouldn't actually be taking home a statuette for his own work, he honored Moonlight's producers and director as he called them onto the stage. When there is a big gaffe, there is not much else we can do other than admit error and be polite and respectfully apologetic.
APOLOGIZE RIGHT THEN AND THERE
The next step in this was for the accounting firm. This was mistake #1 for Pricewaterhouse Coopers who has been handling top-secret Oscars ballot results for 83 years. We all have to break a winning streak sometime and this will probably tarnish but not ruin their stellar reputation. The PwC partner responsible for the mixup, Brian Cullinan, went onstage as immediately as possible to try to correct the error by handing Beatty the actual correct card. A swift recovery is key for damage control!
APOLOGIZE AGAIN. THEN LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKE.
Now that 1200+ articles have been written on every possible news outlet, speculating on how precisely this enormous mistake could have been made, and documenting a rundown of how it did, Pricewaterhouse Coopers has done the post-mortem and chalked it up to "human error." What more can be said about this? Not a lot. Oops, we messed up. That's about as much as you can say, when there isn't much more to the story than that. They were wise, also, to release a public apology taking full responsibility for the mix-up not less than three hours after it happened. People were still popping champagne at the Oscars after parties while they were busy crafting an apologetic press release.
Additionally, new details have emerged in the debacle, that Brian Cullinan, one of the two PwC executive partners charged with handing out the correct cards to presenters, was Tweeting backstage before handing Warren Beatty his envelope. Pricewaterhouse Coopers has issued a revised statement naming Cullinan as the responsible, and apparently distracted, party. PwC's new press release is a detailed list of who is not responsible for the mistake and one very clear apology on behalf of the one person who was. It takes a lot of humility to admit a gigantic mistake that resulted in a lot of confusion, embarrassment, disappointment, and upset for everyone involved. Sure, it wasn't a fatal mistake but it certainly did arguably rob the creators of the year's most impactful film of their rightful moment of celebration and triumph
GO BEYOND EXPECTATIONS
Admitting failure can be very difficult for all of us but avoiding responsibility for it is far worse. Bite the bullet and get it done--with as much humility and grace as you can possibly muster. We have all messed up. It's crushing when it does happen and the humiliation and regret can last a long time. No doubt Brian Cullinan is pulling some mega-bucks out of his savings to send some big gifts to the Moonlight cast and crew to make amends for his error--at least we hope he is. And that is our last piece of wisdom: like a good thank you letter or gift, sometimes it's really most appropriate to find a way to say you are sorry with more than words. We hope Cullinan and Pricewaterhouse Coopers find some really classy ways to elucidate the depths of their regret.
Moving on now...Maybe the interwebs will hang on to this a bit longer but we've got lots more fun stuff to talk about in the event landscape. Tune in next week for more!