How to admit mistakes

How to admit mistakes

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OK, you screwed up. Something’s gone horribly, horribly wrong, and it’s all your fault. And now, it’s time to pay the piper.

Maybe you lost your company’s big client. Maybe you forgot to do a critical part of that big project. Maybe you weren’t there for someone when they needed you, even when you said you would be. Whatever the situation, someone trusted you to do a job and you failed.

Now you’ve got to tell them.

The instinctive reaction to a situation like this is “duck and cover” — protect yourself by any means necessary. Depending on how badly you screwed us, it could mean the end of your job, your career, your relationship, your status, or your reputation.

“Mistakes were made.”

Most people will try to weasel out of their mistakes. There’s a whole language of “weasel-words” people deploy to defer attention away from themselves, to downplay the seriousness of the situation, or even to deny anything went wrong at all.

The all-time universal champs at weaseling are government officials, and their all-time favorite way to weasel is the non-admission of guilt embodied by the phrase “mistakes were made”. It’s what Nixon said about Watergate, it’s what Reagan said about the Iron-Contra affair, it’s what Hillary Clinton said about Whitewater, it’s what Alberto Gonzalez said about his firing of federal prosecutors.

Mistakes were made, but not by me — that’s the implication. They just kind of… happened. Nothing to worry about, really, just mistakes, you know — they were made. Move along, nothing to see here.

“I made a mistake.”

The problem with dodging the bullet is that the bullet is still flying, and still needs to be dealt with — if you dodge it, then it will probably hit someone else. “Whew!” Except not; if you’ve pinned your reputation on your ability to do the job, whatever the job, right, then the failure is still going to stick to you. Plus, you’ll have lost the trust of the people around you, especially the ones who ended up paying for your mistakes, whether by taking the blame or cleaning up the mess. Or, in the worst case, you’ll have distracted enough attention that the mess doesn’t get cleaned up at all.

On the other hand, admitting your fault puts you one step closer to dealing with it, and can often be the first step towards a successful turn-around. At the least, though, it shows that you’re someone with integrity and courage, even in the face of disastrous consequences.

Here are a few pointers about ‘fessing up and dealing with your mistakes:

  • See things from someone else’s perspective: If you’ve made a promise and failed to keep it, put yourself in the other party’s shoes and see how things look from there. How would you feel? What would your response be if you were them? And what action would satisfy you?
  • Be sympathetic: Realize that your mistakes might affect many more people than just you, and recognize the pain you’ve caused. A little bit of sympathy can well be the opening you need to set things right.
  • Take responsibility: Don’t try to weasel out of it, and don’t look around wildly for someone else to blame. Even if your failure came about because someone let you down, you’re ultimately responsible for the projects under your authority.
  • Accept the consequences: It’s hard, I know, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take your lumps. Few actions come without any consequences at all; be prepared to embrace whatever befalls you as a result of the mistakes you’ve made.
  • Have a plan: Taking responsibility means being prepared to clean up the mess, which means you need a plan. You should have a clear idea of what went wrong and how you can fix it — and how you can avoid it in the future.
  • Be sincere: Don’t pretend to feel sympathy or act phony so that the other person can see how deeply you care. Don’t play the martyr. Show honest emotion — the first step to rebuilding the trust lost.
  • Apologize. No, really. A lot of people go to great lengths to make up for their mistakes — or to hide them — when a simple “I’m sorry” would do the job, and cause a lot fewer hard feelings.

None of these tips will prevent the worst from happening — you may still lose your job, your client, your partner, or your friendship. But you’ll have done so with dignity, instead of disgrace — allowing you to walk away with your head held high.

And by taking full responsibility for your mistakes and acting appropriately, you’ll have set yourself on a path to failing successfully — to learning what there is to learn and moving forward with grace and purpose.

Related Stories:

No matter how skilled you are at your profession, how long you’ve been killing it in the workforce or how often you go above and beyond your job description — mistakes happen. Though you might consider yourself a boss and a superhero at the top of your game, at your core, you are thoroughly human — and simply can’t get everything just right. This means every once in a while, you’ll have to admit you’re wrong in the office, whether to a colleague, your manager or an employee. To effectively and professionally do this takes maturity and emotional intelligence, according to career and branding expert Wendi Weiner. By having the courage and the smarts to remove said-foot out of said-mouth can help salvage working dynamics, create a stronger alignment in your environment and most importantly, help you grow as an individual, Weiner notes.

The conversation, no matter how mature you believe yourself to be, will be uncomfortable. But by actively approaching the topic and leaning into this awkward situation for both parties, you iterate your confidence and strength in your performance — even with an error. Here, experts reveal how to say “I was wrong,” and keep moving forward.

Take ownership and responsibility

Here’s the deal: after explaining to your assistant several times how to complete a task, he or she delivers lackluster work, yet again. You understand they are learning and it is your responsibility to help them improve, but you’re on a deadline and frustrated. You lash out — and then feel guilty about it for the rest of the afternoon. It’s time to swallow your ego and apologize, making you the stronger person, according to Weiner.

“Even if it was not your intention to hurt the person’s feelings, by taking ownership of it, you will boost, morale as well as show that you are dedicated to being a perceptive feeler of others,” she explains.

Say the ball is in the other court and you somehow missed a deadline with a client, Weiner recommends apologizing ASAP, since time is of the essence. Don’t place blame on anything or anyone, just take responsibility. “Blowing a deadline can have treacherous consequences, particularly if a client is waiting for a project delivery from you. If you blow a deadline, no matter how busy you are or why it happened, apologize for it, and take ownership of it,” she adds.

Address it quickly

Do you remember that one annoying habit your best friend had three months ago where she would skip out on plans at the last minute? Now that she’s figured out her wrongdoing, do you think she should apologize? Maybe so, but the impact won’t be quite as strong as it would have been if she said “Whoops!” at that moment. Career coach and author Mary Camuto stresses apologizing in real-time if you can. This makes it less likely to fester and nips any drama instantly. However, she also says it is important to have your wits about you before apologizing.

“You must be in good emotional control in order to be effective in this type of conversation and cannot risk becoming defensive, sullen or half-hearted,” she explains.

Don’t over-apologize

Is it too late to say you’re sorry? Nope. But it can be too bad to say it too much. In other words, the valuable part of apologizing is acknowledging what happened, understanding why it happened and then getting back to work. If you keep coming back to the mistake, you make it a bigger deal than what it was in the first place.

“It isn’t always about the apology but how you move on from it, and the actions you take after the incident,” Weiner continues. “Show that you are sorry by correcting the behavior that caused the wrongdoing and try to show the ways in which you will not commit it again.”

Don’t grovel

Much like overdoing it on the ‘I’m sorry’ speech, mentor and business coach Christine Agro says it doesn’t bode well for you to grovel either. When you act overly ashamed, embarrassed or affected by the wrongdoing, you will encourage others to take on this negative mindset, too.

“Be clear about where the error is and offer a solution or correction,” she continues. “If you hold a place of certainty, others will follow suit and your admission will present like a mature conversation rather than a fearful atonement.”

Listen — don’t argue

In the case your manager is asking you to step up and apologize for something when it didn’t occur to you to do so — it can be even more difficult to admit your mistake. Camuto encourages professionals to sit back, take a deep breath and listen. When you start conjuring up excuses, fighting for your side of the story or overall, not accept your part in the situation, you can come across as petty or insincere. Actually digesting the information makes it more likely you’ll be positively perceived by those in your company.

“Listen to the other person’s viewpoint and feelings. Learn from listening – and demonstrate awareness of what you could have done differently. This requires active listening and demonstrates your openness, flexibility, and emotional intelligence. There is strength in admitting we were wrong,” she explains.

Would you rather die than admit you made a mistake?

How to admit mistakes

It’s midnight and three hours have passed but you’re still tossing and turning on your bed. You know your alarm will ring in a few hours, but you don’t want it to. The thought of admitting, in front of your team, that you made a wrong decision is making you weak in the knees. The issue is too big so they’re bound to notice even if you hide it from them. Mistakes are part of our lives, no matter how trivial or challenging it is. The act of admitting your mistakes takes more than just valor and guts. Admitting your mistakes is your key to maturing as a leader. Why? Because it is a man’s natural tendency to point fingers or try to forget what happened. The maturity of a leader is a strong indicator of his ability to lead a team and the challenges that go with it. It also dictates your ability to succeed in client relationships and your personal life.

Swallowing the Bitter Pill of Your Mistakes Helps You Grow as a Leader.

Admitting Your Mistakes Strengthens Your Integrity

Owning up to your misjudgment builds integrity — your inner truth compass to doing good — even if no one is looking.

People’s inability to admit mistakes is sometimes born out of a defensive measure brought about by anxiety. Because of fear, some people will always be inclined to seek a haven in deception, to preserve their ego.

Gain Respect of Your Boss and Team

Due to the competitive nature of office environments, sometimes the fear of making one crucial mistake is overwhelming. You might get fired, the funding for your project might get pulled out, or your fat 30% raise might be cut in half. In any case, you have a lot to lose, not to mention the admiration of your boss and team.

In the long run, however, the truth will come out. Whatever admiration and respect your co-workers had will be replaced by distrust. It’s better to admit your mistakes now, while you have a chance to make amends or at least minimize damage.

Forgive Yourself

“To err is human, to forgive is divine,” this is a famous maxim by Alexander Pope. Let this maxim remind you that mistakes are part of life, and that admitting your mistakes is akin to accepting who you are. Don’t hate yourself for your lapse in judgment. It’s normal for you to feel ashamed of your mistakes, but don’t let it affect your life for years.

When You Admit Your Faults, You Accept Your Limitations.

How can you expect people to treat you fairly when you’re not being fair to yourself? When you admit to our own faults, you are also accepting your limitations.

Mistakes are not present in humanity just for the heck of it. The tumultuous process of growing as a leader is never complete without the act of admission. Learn to love it and do it as often as necessary until you develop a thick skin that doesn’t shy from mistakes.

How to admit mistakes

The Power of Admitting A Mistake

Confucius said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” Yet, many times when a mistake is made, people try to pretend that it did not happen. They attempt to justify the wrong position or try to cover it up, which leads to additional mistakes. This situation reminds me of another quote — “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” -Confucius

Quite often, more damage is done to credibility, relationships, trust and integrity by the actions taken after the original mistake. This is true in personal relationships and especially true when a leader makes a mistake. How many times have we seen high-profile people get prosecuted, not for the original crime, but for the attempt to cover it up by lying?

Of course there is another choice when a mistake is made—admit it, learn from it, correct it and apologize to those that were adversely affected. There is power in properly admitting a mistake.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

Why Admit a Mistake?

Rather than try to ignore or cover up a mistake, there can be many personal and organizational advantages to properly admitting a mistake.

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

  • Averts the need to continue to defend a difficult or incorrect position.
  • Increases leadership credibility.
  • Avoids additional mistakes trying to cover up or “adjust” for the original mistake.
  • Reduces personal stress and tension.
  • Provides a “reset” from others in both personal and professional relationships.
  • If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.

“Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger.” –Bruce Rhoades

  • Provides a learning situation for you and others.
  • Builds trust—others see that you are human, honest and truthful.
  • Allows quick correction, which saves time and resources.
  • Gives others a chance to express views and provide new information.
  • Shows others that they are valued and that their input counts, which builds collaboration.
  • Increases the organization’s ability to try new things then quickly stop those that do not work, which helps establish an innovative culture.
  • Sets the tone for risk-taking, open communication and makes you more approachable.
  • Provides concrete examples to reinforce critical aspects of culture: decisiveness, truthfulness, openness, integrity and quick correction.
  • Removes the “elephant-in-the-room” situation where everyone knows about the mistake, but no one talks about it.
  • Helps offset the bad feelings for those that may have wasted their time.
  • Decreases “pocket-vetoes” when others see the mistake, do not confront it, but simply do not implement.

“As a leader it is a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time.” – Bruce Rhoades

When Admitting Mistakes Does Not Have Power

There are situations when admitting a mistake does not have much benefit. In these circumstances, mistakes must still be acknowledged, but do not expect respect, increased credibility or any of the other benefits listed above.

  • If you continually make and admit mistakes, you look reckless.
  • If the mistake was made out of sheer ego or stubbornness.
  • When it is the second, third or nth time you have made the same mistake.
  • When it was caused by “ready, fire, aim” or knee-jerk reaction when other information should have been considered.
  • If you try to justify it by “just following orders from above.”
  • If was done by an angry, emotional reaction and everyone knows it.

These situations can still provide value as a learning experience, if only as an example of what not do.

“If you take responsibility for a mistake on-behalf of others who participated, it builds loyalty.” –Bruce Rhoades

How to Admit a Mistake

There are several principles to keep in mind to achieve the best outcome when admitting and correcting a mistake.

  • Don’t blame others. Take responsibility. If someone else needs coaching, do it in private.
  • Do not try to get others to admit the mistake on your behalf. When others are asked to do the “dirty work,” leadership credibility goes out the window.
  • Stick to the facts and do not make it look like an excuse. Indicate what information was incorrect.
  • This is not a time for cynical humor used to disguise an excuse or blame.
  • Indicate what you and/or the organization should learn from the mistake and how not to repeat it.
  • Ask for more input from others.
  • Apologize to those who have wasted their time.
  • If possible, state the new direction, or decision, then indicate who is accountable to implement.
  • If there is not an immediate correction, provide the process and timeframe for correcting the mistake.

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.” –Ralph Nader

Summary

All of us make mistakes—it is part of learning and growing. The only people who do not make mistakes are the ones who never try anything new. As a leader it is also a mistake to think that you need to have all the right answers all the time. Trying to be right all the time is stressful, slows progress and causes procrastination. Leadership is about allowing others to use their talents, providing the proper culture and setting the direction.

Admitting and correcting mistakes does not make you look weak; it actually makes you look stronger. When you admit mistakes, you help establish a culture of open communication and a willingness to improve by demonstrating an attitude of, “Let’s learn from this.” The result builds organizational trust, provides an atmosphere for innovation and improves collaboration.

Remember, mistakes are almost never “secret”—most are visible, and the longer they go without correction, the more difficult and expensive it is to change—not to mention that the longer it continues, the worse the leader appears.

I once had someone tell me that the only real mistake is the one from which you learn nothing.

“The only real mistake is the one from which you learn nothing.”

Related Stories:

No matter how skilled you are at your profession, how long you’ve been killing it in the workforce or how often you go above and beyond your job description — mistakes happen. Though you might consider yourself a boss and a superhero at the top of your game, at your core, you are thoroughly human — and simply can’t get everything just right. This means every once in a while, you’ll have to admit you’re wrong in the office, whether to a colleague, your manager or an employee. To effectively and professionally do this takes maturity and emotional intelligence, according to career and branding expert Wendi Weiner. By having the courage and the smarts to remove said-foot out of said-mouth can help salvage working dynamics, create a stronger alignment in your environment and most importantly, help you grow as an individual, Weiner notes.

The conversation, no matter how mature you believe yourself to be, will be uncomfortable. But by actively approaching the topic and leaning into this awkward situation for both parties, you iterate your confidence and strength in your performance — even with an error. Here, experts reveal how to say “I was wrong,” and keep moving forward.

Take ownership and responsibility

Here’s the deal: after explaining to your assistant several times how to complete a task, he or she delivers lackluster work, yet again. You understand they are learning and it is your responsibility to help them improve, but you’re on a deadline and frustrated. You lash out — and then feel guilty about it for the rest of the afternoon. It’s time to swallow your ego and apologize, making you the stronger person, according to Weiner.

“Even if it was not your intention to hurt the person’s feelings, by taking ownership of it, you will boost, morale as well as show that you are dedicated to being a perceptive feeler of others,” she explains.

Say the ball is in the other court and you somehow missed a deadline with a client, Weiner recommends apologizing ASAP, since time is of the essence. Don’t place blame on anything or anyone, just take responsibility. “Blowing a deadline can have treacherous consequences, particularly if a client is waiting for a project delivery from you. If you blow a deadline, no matter how busy you are or why it happened, apologize for it, and take ownership of it,” she adds.

Address it quickly

Do you remember that one annoying habit your best friend had three months ago where she would skip out on plans at the last minute? Now that she’s figured out her wrongdoing, do you think she should apologize? Maybe so, but the impact won’t be quite as strong as it would have been if she said “Whoops!” at that moment. Career coach and author Mary Camuto stresses apologizing in real-time if you can. This makes it less likely to fester and nips any drama instantly. However, she also says it is important to have your wits about you before apologizing.

“You must be in good emotional control in order to be effective in this type of conversation and cannot risk becoming defensive, sullen or half-hearted,” she explains.

Don’t over-apologize

Is it too late to say you’re sorry? Nope. But it can be too bad to say it too much. In other words, the valuable part of apologizing is acknowledging what happened, understanding why it happened and then getting back to work. If you keep coming back to the mistake, you make it a bigger deal than what it was in the first place.

“It isn’t always about the apology but how you move on from it, and the actions you take after the incident,” Weiner continues. “Show that you are sorry by correcting the behavior that caused the wrongdoing and try to show the ways in which you will not commit it again.”

Don’t grovel

Much like overdoing it on the ‘I’m sorry’ speech, mentor and business coach Christine Agro says it doesn’t bode well for you to grovel either. When you act overly ashamed, embarrassed or affected by the wrongdoing, you will encourage others to take on this negative mindset, too.

“Be clear about where the error is and offer a solution or correction,” she continues. “If you hold a place of certainty, others will follow suit and your admission will present like a mature conversation rather than a fearful atonement.”

Listen — don’t argue

In the case your manager is asking you to step up and apologize for something when it didn’t occur to you to do so — it can be even more difficult to admit your mistake. Camuto encourages professionals to sit back, take a deep breath and listen. When you start conjuring up excuses, fighting for your side of the story or overall, not accept your part in the situation, you can come across as petty or insincere. Actually digesting the information makes it more likely you’ll be positively perceived by those in your company.

“Listen to the other person’s viewpoint and feelings. Learn from listening – and demonstrate awareness of what you could have done differently. This requires active listening and demonstrates your openness, flexibility, and emotional intelligence. There is strength in admitting we were wrong,” she explains.

First, Admit You Made a Mistake

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How to admit mistakes

  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Throughout your marriage, you will make mistakes.

Although small mistakes will not initially hurt your marriage, if you do not acknowledge your mistakes, or you become defensive or justify your mistakes, those behaviors will create hostility and a lack of trust between you and your spouse.

It doesn’t make any difference if you’ve made an insignificant mistake or a serious mistake, you need to take ownership of the mistake, admit to it, apologize for it, fix it, and not repeat it.

  • Assume Responsibility. Tell the truth if you’ve made a mistake. Don’t put the blame on anyone or anything else. Don’t try to hide your mistake or pretend it didn’t happen.
  • Accept Consequences of Your Mistake. Realize that your spouse may be annoyed or upset with you, but being honest about making the mistake will help defuse your spouse’s anger.
  • Make Things Right. Fix it, clean it up, do what it takes to correct the mistake. Although you can’t change the past, you can avoid making the same mistake in the future. Learn from your mistakes.
  • Ask for Forgiveness. Be sincere and honest and don’t play games. Say “please forgive me.” Saying you are sorry isn’t enough. Don’t expect your spouse to just get over it immediately. Forgive yourself, too.

Quotes About Making Mistakes

John C. Maxwell: “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Swami Sivananda: “Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.”
Source: ThinkExist.com

Confucius: “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.”

Hugh White: “When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”
Source: Quoteland.com

Nikki Giovanni: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”

No matter how big or small, no one wants to admit when they’ve screwed up, especially at work.

“When we make a mistake we experience a cognitive dissonance, which is a form of mental discomfort and tension,” says Mary Hladio, a workplace expert and president of Ember Carriers leadership group. “This is partially because we know it will hurt our personal, as well as our professional, reputation. And your reputation is essentially the foundation upon which your brand equity is built. So, the natural tendency is to cover up the mistake — but this can be more damaging than taking your lumps by accepting responsibility.”

The more open and honest you are about the matter, the higher the chance of resolving it quickly without getting into major trouble, she says.

David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach, and author, agrees that more often than not, it is best to get out in front of any issues or aftershocks from a mistake. “That starts with letting your superiors know what happened,” he says. “Everyone makes mistakes, including your superiors. And while they know this as well as you, they also want to know that you will fix the error and won’t do it again.”

In this day and age of free-flowing information, it is difficult to keep secrets, anyway, he adds. “Your superiors will usually find out anyway, so it’s certainly best if they hear about it from you.”

Here’s how to tell your boss you’ve screwed up:

Assess the damage. Calculate the potential damage of your mistake before the conversation, suggests Skip Weisman, a leadership and workplace communication expert. “The more information you can bring regarding what happened and what the potential impact may be, the better.” When you fully assess what went wrong and the potential consequences, it’ll show your boss that you care and want to learn from the mistake.

Admit your mistake immediately. It’s like pulling a Band-Aid off, Hladio says. It is painful in the beginning, but as soon as you get it over with, the healing can start. “Your boss may be angry and upset, but he or she will eventually cool down. The sooner you identify and admit the mistake the sooner you can start to fix the problem.”

Be direct and unambiguous. “No buffering. No euphemism. No misdirection,” Parnell says. Let your boss know exactly what happened and why; take full ownership; and let them know why and how it will not happen again. “Forgiveness is much easier if they are comfortable that the error won’t be repeated,” he says. This strategy — complete transparency — is the best way to convince them of that.

Take responsibility with humility. Weisman suggests saying something like: “I missed the deadline for submitting the application on the part of our client by three hours because I misread the instructions and was unaware they required us to submit the application by 5 p.m. Eastern Time, and since we’re in Pacific Time, I thought we had three more hours.” And avoid saying something like: “Well, their deadline was on Eastern Time even though most of their clients are on Pacific Time like us, so the application was filed three hours late.”

“The former involves the person taking responsibility for misreading the instructions and not confirming the deadline time, whereas in the latter they are blaming the instructions and implying that the application was generically filed late without specifically saying they did it,” he explains.

Take a step back and breathe. Before you begin stressing about what’s going to happen next, or start visualizing yourself being fired, allow yourself time before jumping into action. “Even if the problem is a big one, being stressed or anxious impedes your ability to think clearly,” says Hladio.

Don’t throw others under the bus. Blaming others will only make you look petty, Hladio says. “Not taking full responsibility will only worsen the situation, and can lead others to distrust your abilities in the future.”

Devise an action plan. Ideally when you first admit that a mistake was made, you’ll also present a plan to fix the problem and avoid similar ones going forward. “This shows the boss that, to at least some degree, you’re in control,” Hladio says.

“Making mistakes can erode the trust people have in you, so you need to do everything possible to quickly rebuild that trust,” Weisman adds. Being proactive in identifying the cause and solutions can help.

Do everything in your control to make it right. “Whether it’s working late to correct the problem so others are not impacted, or swallowing your pride to apologize to those affected, you’ll need to do whatever you can to stop the problem from spreading and to control the damage,” Hladio says.

Prepare yourself for the consequences. Admitting mistakes doesn’t mean you will be immune to the repercussions, she says. “Even if you do everything you can to be upfront, apologetic, and to fix the problem, you should know that that there may be fallout from for what happened. You will need to rebuild trust, but the best thing you can do is to document lessons learn so the mistake is not made again by you are anyone else.”

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Once you tell your boss, go easy on yourself. As Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Remember that mistakes lead to innovation; mistakes lead to breakthroughs; mistakes can create policies; and mistakes can turn into opportunities. “We learn from mistakes; rarely do we learn from our successes,” Hladio concludes.

How to admit mistakes

You can never go at leadership alone. Unfortunately, too many leaders allow their egos and hidden agendas to stand in the way of doing what is best for the people and organizations they serve. Leaders are not responsible for always being right. However, they are accountable to see that problems become opportunities and solutions are proactively found so that momentum is never lost. They should know who the subject matter experts are on their team(s) and empower them during times of crisis and change so that the organization is not blindsided by the unexpected.

As any great leader will tell you, they have made many mistakes along the way. They will admit that it was the collective insight from bad decisions that taught them invaluable lessons – and how to see opportunities in everything and anticipate the unexpected more quickly. Successful leaders are transparent enough with themselves and others to admit their wrong doings so that those around them can also benefit from their learnings. They call this wisdom and many leaders lack it – because they are too proud to recognize mistakes as valuable learning moments for themselves and others.

Managing mistakes is much like leading change management. Everyone is in search of the clarity and understanding to minimize risk and discover the short and long term rewards of change. We focus so much time on maximizing our strengths but not enough time on understanding how and why we fail – which is equally important to success in the marketplace.

Becoming the most effective leader requires us to take on the responsibility of dissecting both the why and the how of both our successes and our failures. It’s important to see these through circular vision to best evaluate the dynamics that we deal with on a daily basis. They exist around, beneath and beyond what we seek to create through the impact and influence of our leadership role. Taking a 360 approach gives us the broadened observation to see things more clearly and provides us with the perspectives that we often ignore. We spend so much time on the here and now – rather than on the why and how, which is what ultimately teaches us to lead more effectively towards more sustainable outcomes.

Making mistakes is such an important part of the leadership journey. I am certainly not suggesting to be reckless when leading – but be responsible to know why things didn’t work in your favor and how you could have approached things differently. Because we live in a more short-term, rapid-paced world of work – we need to be more mindful of pacing ourselves, to take the time to self-evaluate and learn from our mistakes.

The best way we can stay in front of the market is by strengthening the ecosystem (foundation of people and resources) that allows us to make decisions more effectively and with increasing levels of success and significance. If we don’t know how to make our ecosystem stronger, we run the risk of never being able to stay ahead of the game as we begin to lose momentum. Without a strong ecosystem, we can never mature and develop as leaders. Perhaps this explains why many leaders become followers.

To make sure you are always maturing and developing as a leader, here are four reasons leaders should admit when they make mistakes:

1. It Earns Respect

People don’t expect perfection from their leaders – they just demand their unwavering attention and bold initiative. When leaders are honest about their shortfalls and can learn from their mistakes, they earn respect and along the way create an environment of transparency.

Respected leaders take the calculated risks that others won’t when they fear too much making the wrong decision and having to face the consequences. But playing it too safe fails to earn respect; what does earn respect is real leadership not afraid to change the conversation and challenge the status quo in service to the betterment of a healthier whole. Competitive advantage springs from the ability to anticipate change and then being courageous enough to act on it before circumstances force your hand – and before the opportunity passes you by.

2. Vulnerability Strengthens The Team

When leaders admit to mistakes, it brings clarity to opportunity gaps and elevates a deeper sense of accountability that can be shared amongst the team. Everyone begins to value the importance of having each other’s back.

Vulnerability is a sign of leadership strength, yet many leaders are tentative to reveal what has traditionally been viewed as a weakness – too concerned with how they will be perceived by others. They believe it will undermine their executive presence and make them seem less authoritative. More comfortable hiding behind their title, they haven’t built the confidence to leverage their influence and put their ideas and ideals to the test. This creates a real barrier between leaders and their teams, at a time when more than ever people want to relate to their leaders as individuals and want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and overcome similar obstacles to get where they are today.

3. Leading By Example

When leaders are accountable for their mistakes, they are leading by example. This elevates employee engagement to a point where leaders – by giving them permission not to fear making the wrong decision – are empowering employees to take more initiative, knowing that they’re not always going to have the right answer.

Great leaders do not hesitate to make the difficult decisions and lead by example by putting themselves on the frontlines of change. They gravitate towards what others may see as a “leap of faith” and willingly accept the challenge inherent in any problem because they see the opportunity. Facing the risk and potential obstacles along the way, they readily take on the responsibility, admit their mistakes if they fail, and learn from the experience.

4. Builds a Culture of Trust

When leaders admit to making mistakes – creating an opportunity to earn respect, strengthen their teams and lead by example – it ultimately builds a culture of trust. A workplace culture that promotes trust allows employees to live with an entrepreneurial attitude, which stimulates innovation and initiative.

People are tired of surprises in the workplace and a culture of trust promotes greater alignment and clarity of thought. With each decision made or new relationship cultivated, employees want to know they are operating in a workplace environment that puts a premium on truth and transparency. This means leaders who are not only open about sharing where the company is headed, but are trusted to steer its future and secure its legacy.

With mistakes come key learnings. With each key learning comes more experience. With experience comes the greater ability to identify opportunity. Opportunities seized rightly can be the ultimate game changer and a leader’s platform to advance their career, their organization and the industry they serve.

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