No one is perfect. We all make mistakes (did I spell that right?), yet it can be incredibly embarrassing and discouraging to have to admit mistakes. I recently tripped when stepping up from a street to a sidewalk curb. The first thing I did was hope no one had seen my foolish face plant. Okay, it wasn’t my face, but I did end up on one knee, with my hands breaking the fall, and my sunglasses flying off down the sidewalk. Other than a skinned knee I wasn’t hurt, but I truly felt embarrassed, foolish, ridiculous and wanted nothing more than to curl up and hide.
That (or worse) is how we all feel at first when making a mistake in business or in life. Most people don’t ever want to have to admit to mistakes. We’d all prefer to hide them, hope no one finds out, or try our very best to fix the problem quickly and quietly before it is discovered. However, we all can think of examples when covering up a mistake led to far greater trouble than just owning up to the mistake. Just think about your favorite (or least favorite) politician and I imagine you can recall a time when he or she tried to cover up a mistake when it would have been far better just to admit the problem and move on.
Other than hiding mistakes, another huge temptation is to blame someone or something else. Not long ago I was scheduled to facilitate a meeting for one of my clients. While I was fully prepared for the meeting, I had written it down on my calendar for a later time than the meeting was scheduled. So, as I was driving to the meeting location thinking that I would arrive 30-minutes early, the client telephoned me wondering where I was because the meeting was about to begin without me! I thought the meeting started at 3 PM and I was planning to arrive at 2:30 PM. Yet, the client on the other end of the phone assured me the meeting started at 2:00 PM and it was currently 2:05 – yikes! While the client rearranged the agenda to move another item to the top of the page, I adjusted my driving to assertive yet still safe – and arrived at 2:25. When I walked into the meeting room, I had the biggest urge to tell everyone about how horrible traffic was, and blame that for my being 25 minutes late to the meeting. But, knowing I teach acting like a leader who owns her mistakes at all times, I took a deep breath, apologized, and admitted I had thought the meeting started at 3:00 PM simply because I had placed in on my calendar at the wrong time. I could have blamed traffic, but I would have known the truth, and I would have known I was not living up to the kind of leader I am struggling to become.
Leaders or individuals who strive to embolden their lives with the values of leadership admit their mistakes, work hard to solve problems caused by their mistakes, apologize to those affected, and never blame the mistake on circumstances or other people – or even on traffic.