Childbirth & Paul O’Neill: Two Perspectives on How to Deal With Mistakes

About 700 women die from complications during childbirth every year in the United States. Another 50,000 women suffer serious complications. This makes the United States the most dangerous place to have a baby in the developing world.

Now get this, many hospitals and healthcare providers are actually blaming the moms. They’re saying these moms are too old, too fat, or just plain unhealthy to have safe deliveries.

Unfortunately, that feels like a diversionary tactic as an ongoing USA TODAY investigation has revealed that thousands of moms are dying needlessly due to medical mistakes and poor care.

We’re human. We all make mistakes. The problem comes when we don’t own those mistakes and we try to deflect responsibility to a third party.

I’m sure you’ve made mistakes in your business just as we have. I’m sure you do everything you can to deliver the best value to your clients. But there are times when something doesn’t work out as we intended. This is not the time to blame the client.

When something goes awry in your business, it’s an opportunity to look at your procedures and processes and see if there’s a way to further reduce mistakes.

Maybe you and or your employees are overworked. This naturally leads to a higher chance that mistakes will happen. Addressing workload may be all that’s needed to reduce mistakes.

I’m reminded of the story of Paul O’Neill becoming CEO of the Aluminum Company of America also known as Alcoa. It was October 1987 when Paul stepped to the podium and addressed the ranks of Wall Street.

Paul outlined that as the new CEO he had one focus–to improve worker safety. That was not what Wall Street was interested in hearing. They wanted to know about improved profits and reducing costs.

After the meeting, investment advisors told their clients to sell Alcoa stock. But that was bad advice.

You see, Paul wanted to focus on one key leverage point that would trigger a change throughout the organization. He wanted employees to buy into something important. It worked.

A year later, Alcoa’s profits hit an all-time high. When Paul retired 13 years later, the company’s net income was five times greater than when he was hired.

Paul was able to find one key leverage point within the company that led to a large transformation.

If you feel that your business is dealing with too many mistakes, you might consider looking for a key leverage point that could drastically reduce mistakes. However, whatever you do, I don’t recommend blaming your clients. Yes, even if they have played a large role in causing the mistake.

Whether the client caused or contributed to the error, your role is to help the client. So instead of focusing on the frustration or blaming the client, look at how you can improve things and reduce mistakes.

Even if you’re not dealing with more mistakes than you’d like, you may be able to find a key leverage point that can improve the overall value for your clients.

I like to keep learning and looking for ways that we can improve the value that we’re delivering to our clients. I invite you to keep learning and looking for ways that you can improve the value that you’re delivering to your client.


Photo credit: Awwww. Too cute! Guessing this little one is probably one of the greatest models in the world to you, Tim Bish.

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Trevor Wilson

Trevor Wilson

I love helping business owners who are passionate about making a positive difference in their clients' lives. I'm a passionate learner and teacher. My purpose is to help people live a more fulfilled life. In my professional life, I love helping business owners get clear on their purpose and identity. Then I help them clearly communicate their story so they can attract their ideal clients. I do this because I believe that when you work with your ideal clients you'll live a more fulfilled life.

Successful people do what everyone else won't dare to do. Don't wish it were easier; make yourself better.