Few of us like to admit it when we make a mistake. We’ve been trained since our childhood school years that only “correct answers” get rewarded. But two things are true: 1) Everyone makes mistakes, and 2) admitting to errors can actually be very beneficial.
Writing in Inc. , Ken Sterling, executive vice president of Bigspeak, contends that “admitting mistakes has the best rewards for you in the long term -- especially for your leadership style and building trust with those around you.” Great leaders, be they CEOs, elected officials, or even quarterbacks, take ownership of their errors and avoid blaming others. So, “If you want to become a better leader, it starts by being accountable…Ultimately, we are involved in creating, promoting, or allowing each situation we find ourselves in. When we realize this, it's quite empowering, actually. Otherwise, if it's not our fault, we're really saying we are victims.”
Leaders who refuse to be accountable create what Sterling calls a culture of fear. And fear leads to silence. People who are afraid of being blamed, don't want to speak up or contribute ideas. To do so would be equivalent to putting a target on their backs. What's more, failing to acknowledge mistakes pretty much ensures the mistakes will be repeated. Writes Sterling, “The key to learning -- be it martial arts, team sports, sales, or leadership -- is owning your errors. If you don't admit the mistake to yourself, then how can you ever improve on it?”
Owning one’s errors builds trust, and trust builds strong relationships. Research has repeatedly shown that employees want to trust their leaders and when that trust is there, leader honesty drives employees to be honest as well. “Candor is at the heart of good management and positive work culture. Imagine being a leader who can admit to personally messing up, and who sends the message that in this organization, you can mess up, too. It's liberating.”
When was the last time you admitted to a mistake, and how did that go? When did your boss last admit to a mistake? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.