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Do You ‘Wine’ About Mistakes or Offer a Glass of Grace?

Here’s the scene: You and a few friends arrive at the Hawksmoor, an upscale restaurant in Manchester, England, but there’s a crowd on hand so you take seats in the bar area and decide to make the best of it.

It’s been a really good day. Or maybe a rotten day. Either way, it’s the type of day that prompts you to order a nice bottle of wine to enjoy with your steak dinners. The food and the wine arrive, and you and your friends indulge. Life is good.

On any other night, one bottle would have been plenty, especially at this price – about 290 bucks. But this bottle was really good. I mean really good. What the heck, you say, and you ask the waitress for another bottle. You only live once, right? But she tells you they don’t have another bottle like that one, and, since it was just too good to settle for something less, you pay your tab and call it a night.

A few days later, someone points you to a social media post by Will Beckett, the founder of the restaurant. It seems a manager from another branch was helping out at the Hawksmoor the night you were there and pulled the wrong bottle of wine from the cellar for one of the waitresses. So, Beckett says, someone ordered a $290 bottle of wine—that would be you—but instead got a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001.

Ever had a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001? Me neither. It cost about $5,000 a bottle. Only 500 cases of this vintage were made, so it’s quite rare.

If you’re the customer in this scenario, you’re feeling pretty good about now. Maybe a tad bit guilty, but good. If you’re the manager who made the $4,710 mistake – well, there are plenty of words to describe how you feel and none of them are “good.”

We all make mistakes in life, and so do the people who work for us, but we can’t always attach a price tag to our errors. When that happens – when someone on your team blows it in a very obvious, money-losing way – how do you handle it?

Here’s how Beckett handled it. He made light of it on social media and publicly forgave and praised the manager who made the mistake. “Chin up!” he told her. “One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.” Then in an interview with the BBC he said she is “brilliant, and we know she is brilliant” and that he was going to “tease her for this when she stops being so mortified.”

Talk about turning sour grapes into fine wine! Beckett probably got $4,710 worth of good publicity for the way he handled the matter, and he didn’t have to replace a brilliant manager.

The story reminds me of a similar tale by Andrew Bennett, a keynote speaker who uses magic to teach business and leadership principles. Bennett spent about 10 years working for Ross Perot, and he once made a mistake that cost EDS, Perot’s company, $15,000. The next day he was called into the boss’s office. Perot had Bennett take a seat at his desk, while he sat on the other side in a visitor’s chair. Then Perot said something along the lines of, “If you were me, what would you say to you?”

Bennett swallowed hard and said, “I would tell you you’re fired.”

Instead, Perot looked at him and said, “I can’t fire you. I just invested $15,000 in your education.” Here’s the moral of these stories as I see it: You can’t put a price tag on grace. It costs you nothing but it’s more valuable than the most expensive wine you’ll ever enjoy. It last far longer, and its benefits are immeasurable. So cheers, and may you always have a bottle of grace nearby when you need it – to give or to receive.

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