Gaining Respect By Admitting Mistakes|
Perhaps it could be said that a mistake a day makes us human. And, there have been some days when I would been happy with just one mistake. No matter the frequency, we all make mistakes in both our personal and professional lives.
In many instances, our first response when confronting a mistake is to deny it or make up an excuse. We don't want to seem stupid or ill informed. However, as leaders we must recognize the maxim that "to err is human." Accepting this, we must have the self-confidence and integrity to admit our mistakes. Only with such admission will we maintain the trust of those we lead. When I have made a mistake that has upset an individual, often I find that a simple apology goes a long way.
In business, we make decisions every day based upon imperfect information. We may get blindsided by a competitive response or we may underestimate the time that it takes to sell a product. Accepting our error, rather than avoiding responsibility, limits the potential damage and sets us on the right course.
Poor decisions regarding our behavior that compromise our credibility with our employees, constituents, or followers are particularly damaging. All of us who work in corporate life have experienced a down-sizing(s)-either as the architect or the recipient. Often, I think about the importance of honesty in communicating with our followers up to and through these trying events. When difficult matters are at hand, honesty is the best policy. Sugar coating the facts or intentionally misleading people will not earn respect, but instead will foster disrespect.
This brings me to Gary Condit.
Elected by his California state constituents, Condit effectively represented his state for years. Along the way, however, he has been distracted by instincts and choices that that are outside the mainstream. His current behavior, specifically his initial unwillingness to admit an intimate relationship with a missing person, is inconsistent with the integrity and trust that followers demand of their leaders. Gary Condit is failing to realize that the way to rebuild voters' trust (it may now be too late) is to admit his mistake(s), make amends, and then behave in a responsible manner. Americans are very forgiving. But, they expect honesty-even when mistakes are made.
We are all human beings, imperfect and prone to making mistakes. We grow and improve by learning from our mistakes. Admitting mistakes is not easy, but as those of us who have done it in the past can attest, there is a cleansing feeling after admitting wrong, almost as if the weight of the world has been lifted off our shoulders.
For those individuals who have experience with 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous, Steps 9 and 10 address the need to say "I am sorry," promptly admit wrongdoing, and make amends. Wise suggestions. It is all about moving beyond our mistakes and growing as human beings.
Making mistakes is unavoidable. Whether in our personal or professional lives, the manner with which we handle our errors makes all the difference. The good leaders will admit mistake and move on. The great leader will admit mistake, learn from it, and never make it again.
Now as yourself... Am I a Leader?