On admitting mistakes

by jeffhilimire on September 11, 2012

Chuck's the only person I know of that doesn't make mistakes.

I’ve never really understood the need for people to act like they don’t make mistakes. It happens in every aspect of life and business, at every level. Everyone is human – I assume – and humans make mistakes. Some people think its a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humanness.

I personally believe a sign of good leadership is to openly admit mistakes. Transparency around why decisions were made and the lessons learned can help build trust with your team and create a dialogue that is both healthy and empowering.

One thing that impresses me the most with people that I work with is when they can admit they made a mistake and walk me through what they learned from it. Unfortunately, in my experience sharing a mistake is the exception rather than the rule. Too often a person feels like they can’t admit a mistake to their boss or leadership because they think it will make them look incompetent. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Anyone in a position of leadership has likely made more mistakes than those that report to her/him. They probably have taken more chances because that’s the way you move up in an organization and they likely have more experience because they’ve been in the game longer. So they should understand and appreciate more than most when a person admits a mistake. And if you do share an honest mistake and you’re punished for it rather than receiving feedback on how to better navigate the situation better in the future, then maybe you’re working for the wrong person.

Perhaps I’ve been more liberal about admitting my mistakes than some are comfortable with. As an example, I blogged in June about the biggest mistakes I’ve made while starting/running my own business, sharing the experiences of my co-founders as we tried to build our business. I’ve also written about the 10 mistakes I’ve made so others won’t have to make them. Maybe when I was younger and earlier in my career, I wasn’t as willing to admit mistakes. That’s certainly possible.

Going forward, I intend to be even more transparent. More willing to admit mistakes and share what I’ve learned from them. Some publicly on this blog, some personally to those that were affected.

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