Do those in leadership make mistakes? Absolutely. Do leaders readily admit mistakes when they happen? Not always. Should they? Some say yes. Some say no.
My advice to all leaders is yes! For three reasons.
1. It Provides Permission. Admitting mistakes gives others permission to make them too. And when they do eventually make a mistake those you lead will be more willing to share the mistake.
Most leaders want to know the truth, and the quicker the better. They don’t want things swept under the rug, because most of the time it will be exposed in some fashion creating issues later on. If you want people to communicate early and consistently when mistakes have been made, you must make it okay to make mistakes.
A leader who opens up about his or her mistakes is showing others it is safe to do the same. When leaders open up; their teams become more efficient because they admit when they need help, admit when they make a mistake or even apologize if necessary – all healthy behaviors on teams.
2. Builds Trust. Every follower wants to know their leaders are human. The more vulnerable you are by admitting mistakes, the more human you become. The more others know about you as a leader, the fewer misjudgments they will make about your intentions because of the greater trust.
Let me explain. Think about the last time someone really ticked you off while driving. Let’s imagine someone is tailgating you – “how rude!” you think to yourself. Immediately you notice this rude person is your nice neighbor. Things change don’t they? Suddenly you aren’t as angry. Why? Because you know your neighbor wouldn’t do anything to purposely anger you.
The more you allow others to understand you as a leader by admitting mistakes, the greater trust they will have in your leadership.
3. Everyone Learns. The video below powerfully highlights why Doctors should admit mistakes and what it would do to our health care system if they did. The speed of learning and getting better at what they do would increase dramatically.
Think for a moment how much better leaders we would all be if we spent a portion of every management meeting talking about each others mistakes? Often times only the manager and/or their boss knows about the mistake(s). What if we created an environment in which we all shared willingly each others mistake and lessons learned? Powerful stuff!
I hope each of us will take a minute and ponder on the need to admit mistakes more often and the difference it could make in our organizations.
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