Here are 10 good tips to apply once you are ready to admit your mistakes.
It was my worst nightmare as a young lawyer.
I had spent hours and hours cite-checking a brief, only to have a more senior colleague say, “Shari, these citations are all wrong. What could you have been thinking? This is not the quality of work we expect from lawyers at the [redacted] firm.”
My colleague’s words reflect an attitude that runs through the legal profession as a whole: Denial. Good lawyers always deliver perfectly for their clients, and they do not make mistakes, the thinking goes. But lawyers (and paralegals and assistants) are human, and mistakes will inevitably happen. By changing our attitude toward mistakes, research tells us we can improve our work, enhance our relationships with clients, and even reduce exposure to ethics violations or malpractice claims. How?
- People who give themselves permission to make mistakes actually make fewer of them.
- A culture where errors are not tolerated does not reduce errors, it just makes people more likely to try to cover up their errors to avoid punishment.
- With respect to client relationships, people actually think more highly of those who admit mistakes because it is a sign of openness, healthy self-esteem, and willingness to trust the person they are admitting the mistake too.
- The seminal ethics opinion on the subject of attorney errors states that “material” errors prejudicing a client’s rights or claims must be disclosed. By pretending mistakes don’t happen, we reduce the opportunity to address them before they become “material.”
Admit Your Mistakes: Top 10 Ways to Deal
Ready to admit that you have been mistaken about mistakes? Here are the 10 things you can do to embrace them.
- Admit that you and others will make mistakes.
- Give yourself enough time to learn something new.
- Ask for help if you get stuck or don’t know how to do something.
- Make a list of your errors as they occur and put systems in place to address the most common ones.
- Schedule enough time for someone else to review your work. If there isn’t enough time, focus on avoiding substantive errors, and let go of the possibility of minor administrative errors.
- Communicate about errors with your client, colleague or the court promptly and appropriately.
- Share your mistakes and how you addressed them, and encourage others to share their mistakes with you.
- When training new lawyers, set the expectation that they will make mistakes and that your only requirements are that they admit them, learn from them, and share them with others.
- Forgive yourself and others. This too shall pass.
My story has a bit of a dramatic ending. A few years after citation-gate, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. This forced me to change the way I thought about my mistakes. I had no choice but to accept my limitations and put systems in place to reduce the inevitable numerical errors I make. Now, when something goes wrong, it doesn’t derail me. I address it, put the mistake on my list, forgive myself, and get back to work.
It builds your credibility.
It builds your credibility.
This might sound obvious, but if you want to build a more engaged workforce you need to, well, engage. That means, whether you are a CEO or a frontline manager, you need to be working hard to connect, face-to-face, with your people. That can mean anything from walking around and making pit stops in offices and cubicles to holding town hall discussions with your teams and staying to answer questions afterward. But most leaders simply can’t make time to sit down with every person in the company, in every office around the world, on a regular basis. It’s mathematically impossible. So what should leaders do instead?
In my experience as CEO of Red Hat, I’ve learned to keep the lines of communication open and find ways to connect with associates when I can, either in person when the opportunity presents itself, or virtually via email and other electronic correspondence. Being accessible and approachable is critical to effective leadership.
For example, recently I was involved in a roundtable of CIOs from many of our customer companies where I was talking about leadership lessons (like this one) from my book, The Open Organization. As it happened, there were a few Red Hatters in the audience as well. After the meeting wrapped up, a couple of these associates came right up to me to talk about some of the themes in the book that resonated with them. They also recommended several other books they thought I would appreciate. I love that this happened because it shows that members of the organization whom I have never met before are comfortable approaching me and having candid discussions with me about leadership. How many CEOs with close to 8,000 associates at their company can say the same?
As powerful as accessibility is—and without it engagement is impossible—I’ve learned that nothing builds engagement more than being accountable to the people in your organization. You simply have to have the confidence to own your mistakes and admit when you’re wrong.
Being a leader doesn’t mean that you’re always right or that you won’t err. What being a leader does mean is airing the reasons for why you did something and then making yourself accountable for the results—even if those you’re accountable to don’t directly work for you.
That’s how you truly sow the seeds of engagement. Think about it: who would you rather trust—the person who denies anything is amiss or the person who admits their error and then follows up with a plan to correct it? Better yet, what if that same person who admits they made a mistake reaches out to their team for ideas on how to make things right? I’ve found that leaders who show their vulnerability, and admit that they are human, foster greater engagement among their associates.
I speak from experience. Early on in my tenure as CEO of Red Hat, we acquired a company whose underlying technology wasn’t entirely open source. But rewriting the code and making it open source was going to mean months of work, something I didn’t think we could afford. So, after much debate and back-and-forth, I made the call to go to market with the product as is. Big mistake. It soon became clear that both our associates and our customers disliked using the product. There was only one thing to do at that point: rewrite the code. Only now, instead of being a few months behind schedule, we would be off by more than a year. Ouch.
Of course, there was quite a bit of anger and frustration among Red Hatters about the extended delay. But I owned it. I put myself out to the company and my board of directors by admitting I was wrong and that we were going to do our best to address the mistake.
I realized that our associates deserved to hear the story of why we made the decision as much as the board did. When you don’t make the time to explain why you made your decision, people will often assume the worst all on their own: that you’re detached, dumb, or don’t care. But when I made the time to explain the rationale—that we had in fact put a lot of thought into it—people finally understood.
Many Red Hatters told me how much they appreciated that I admitted my mistake. They also appreciated that I explained how I came to make the decision in the first place. That earned me their trust. If you want to have engaged employees, in other words, you need to explain why decisions were made. That’s how you build engagement—which also makes you a stronger leader.
In short, being accessible, answering questions, admitting mistakes, and saying you’re sorry aren’t liabilities. They are exactly the tools you can use to build your credibility and authority to lead.
Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’ll never do that again,” only to find yourself doing the exact same thing just a short time later? If so, you’re not alone. It’s likely all of us have repeated some of our mistakes at one time or another.
But making the same mistakes over and over can be costly in more ways than one. Perhaps your team has lost faith in you because your behavior doesn’t match your words. Or maybe your errors have cost you or someone else a lot of money.
The good news is, you can take steps to learn from your mistakes. Then, instead of repeating them again, you’ll gain valuable wisdom that will help you in the future.
Here are five ways to learn from your mistakes:
1. Acknowledge Your Errors
So often, leaders say things like, “I’m sorry you felt that way,” or “It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out.” But blaming other people or minimizing your responsibility isn’t helpful to anyone.
Before you can learn from your mistakes, you have to accept full responsibility for your role in the outcome. That can be uncomfortable sometimes, but until you can say, “I messed up,” you aren’t ready to change.
2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions
While you don’t want to dwell on your mistakes, reflecting on them can be productive. Ask yourself a few tough questions:
• What could I do better next time?
• What did I learn from this?
Write down your responses and you’ll see the situation a little more clearly. Seeing your answers on paper can help you think more logically about an irrational or emotional experience.
3. Make A Plan
Beating yourself up for your mistakes won’t help you down the road. It’s important to spend the bulk of your time thinking about how to do better in the future.
Make a plan that will help you avoid making a similar mistake. Be as detailed as possible but remain flexible since your plan may need to change.
Whether you find an accountability partner or you track your progress on a calendar, find a way to hold yourself accountable. Keep in mind that what works for one person might not work with someone else.
4. Make It Harder To Mess Up
Don’t depend on willpower alone to prevent you from taking an unhealthy shortcut or from giving into immediate gratification. Increase your chances of success by making it harder to mess up again.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with people who have found some creative ways to become more disciplined. I once worked with a woman who blew her budget every month because she shopped online late whenever she was bored.
To prevent herself from having instant access to her cards, she froze her credit cards in a big block of ice. She’d have to wait for the ice to melt to get the number. Whenever she found herself trying to thaw the block of ice, she would pause and realize how ridiculous the situation was and she’d stop short of spending money she didn’t have.
5. Create A List Of Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Make The Mistake Again
Sometimes, it only takes one weak moment to indulge in something you shouldn’t. Creating a list of all the reasons why you should stay on track could help you stay self-disciplined, even during the toughest times.
I once worked with a woman who wanted to stop talking to her ex-boyfriend. She knew he wasn’t good for her but she couldn’t’ resist answering the phone whenever he called.
She created a list of all the reasons why she shouldn’t talk to him—it was bad for her mental health, they were toxic together, etc. She laminated the list and taped it to the back cover of her phone. Whenever he called, she’d turn her phone over and begin to read over the list. It helped her resist the temptation to answer the phone.
Move Forward With Your New-Found Wisdom
Sometimes, mistakes aren’t just one big blunder. Instead, they’re a series of little choices that lead to failure. So pay attention to your errors, no matter how big or how small they might seem. And recognize that each mistake can be an opportunity to build mental muscle and become better.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a little pride. It can propel you forward in tough situations and demonstrates a level of self-assuredness that we all strive for in our personal and professional lives. But there’s a narrow line dividing healthy confidence and stubborn ego, and one of the primary indicators you’ve landed on the wrong side is not being able to admit when you’re wrong.
“Ego, at the rudimentary level is defined as ‘person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance,’” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist based in New York City. “The prevailing ego-centric side of us likes to win, whether it’s an argument with a spouse or even a silly debate over which movie should have won the Oscar.”
Struggling to admit our own fault, though — whether it was a major breach or a minor mess-up — doesn’t really serve us well. Not only can it sour some of our closest relationships, but it can even be detrimental to our own personal growth. For insight into why it’s so hard to hard to put ego aside and acknowledge our wrongdoing, and how to get better at doing so for the good of everyone, keep reading.
Why Admitting Fault is So Difficult
One reason why some can’t admit fault is simply due to a lack of self-awareness. This can be a pervasive and ongoing issue, or simply a matter of having a “blind spot” in certain social situations. After all, if someone isn’t even aware that they’re in the wrong then it’s impossible to admit wrongdoing in the first place.
In other cases, though, it’s possible to be aware that you’re wrong — whether mildly or outright — but still struggle to wave the guilty flag due to our precious egos.
[For some], admitting they have made a mistake is too threatening to their sense of self . What people end up doing is over-compensating by denying fault and refusing ownership of their own mistakes, thereby protecting their self-image.
“[For some], admitting they have made a mistake is too threatening to their sense of self as it would cause embarrassment, shame, guilt, or challenge their character or beliefs,” says Dr. Kate Kaplan, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, CA. “What people end up doing is over-compensating by denying fault and refusing ownership of their own mistakes, thereby protecting their self-image.”
This process is referred to as cognitive dissonance — an unconscious defense system that many of us employ to protect our ego. Dr. Kaplan says that those who struggle to admit fault, even when they’re aware on some level of their own wrongdoing, often worry that showing imperfection will indicate some grave character deficit. It can make them feel weak, unlikeable, or even as if they’re an inherently bad person. There’s also often a strong undercurrent of fear that makes them worry they’ll lose respect or destroy a bond.
Saying I’m Sorry What makes a good apology? These four things.
How a Stubborn Ego Can Impact Your World
In other words, saying, “Yeah, I messed up and I’m sorry” can be terrifying. However, stubbornly denying our own wrongdoing frustrates our peers, colleagues, family members and partners. In doing so, we cause people to grow distant and end up isolating ourselves. It also stifles our personal growth.
“Since underlying the refusal to admit one’s own mistakes is a fragile ego, our loved ones pushing away from us almost acts us like a self-fulfilling prophecy, confirming we are unlovable,” says Dr. Kaplan. “[Additionally, it] perpetuates the pattern of denial and psychological defenses being employed. By not admitting fault, we’re often not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and let down our walls and defenses.”
She adds that when someone perpetually exists in a place of avoiding vulnerability, they hold on to feelings of shame, guilt and fear, which over time can take a toll on mental health in the form of depression or anxiety.
Conversely, Dr. Hafeez says, “Admitting we are wrong shows others that we are compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and good listeners. It also shows that we are capable of being objective about ourselves and that we not ‘perfect’ or always right.”
Admitting flaws allows others to see our vulnerability and can even endear them to us. It also opens the door to meaningful conversations and, therefore, personal and relationship growth.
Ego check Your confidence may be sabotaging your success, research shows
5 Ways to Get Better at Admitting You’re wrong
Dr. Kaplan says that we’re all born with the uniquely human ability to self-reflect. Therefore, we all have it in us to accept responsibility for our mistakes. Sometimes that skill isn’t nurtured, or we grow up in an environment where protecting the ego becomes priority number one. Still, with practice we can get better at admitting when we’re wrong. Start here:
- Lean into the human condition. Dr. Kaplan recommends adopting this mantra and repeating it when you find yourself resistant to admitting fault: “I can admit I’m wrong because I am human, and we all make mistakes and I will still be loved in spite of this.”
- Get introspective. Make a list of your flaws and ask yourself important introspective questions, says Dr. Hafeez. Good questions include: “Why am I afraid to be vulnerable?” “Do I have patience?” “Do I have anger issues?” “Am I overly jealous?” “Am I insecure?” “Am I selfish?” “What role did I have in a recent argument?” “How have my actions impacted others I care about?”
- Ask for feedback. “If it is challenging to personally take accountability for your mistakes it can be helpful to enlist those relationships in your life that are supportive, caring and willing to help,” says Dr. Kaplan. “While it may seem like a really big step to make yourself so vulnerable, just remember how it can open you up to the acceptance and deep emotional connection you need.”
- Be open to critique. In cases of “blind spots,” — or when you’re not aware of your wrongdoing — it’s important to hear out others as they express frustrations or call you out. Dr. Hafeez says, “This skill involves taking the emotion out of the equation and looking at a scenario objectively and from the other person’s perspective.”
- Enlist a therapist. Therapy can serve as a rocket toward personal growth. “Typically, people who have been through therapy have developed the skill set to be introspective and realize where their weaknesses lie and what their fears are,” says Dr. Hafeez. This process prompts a level of introspection that the average person cannot accomplish on their own.
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Content Manager and Career Expert
Making mistakes is part of human nature, but some mistakes in the workplace can be detrimental to your reputation and, indeed, your job.
Instead of trying to cover your tracks and brush your mistakes under the carpet, or spend too much time dwelling on your slip-ups, you should always take the honest path by first admitting and then apologising for your error of judgement.
If you’re not sure how to fess up, simply follow this step-by-step guide on how to apologise for making a mistake at work – we’ve even included sample letters you can follow to make everything right again!
Steps to follow
Whether you’re planning a verbal explanation or a written apology, you should follow the steps listed below to ensure you’re taking the correct measures.
1. Acknowledge your mistake
The first thing you need to do is take ownership for your mistake and admit that you were in the wrong.
Once you’ve admitted that you were in the wrong, you need to apologise for your mistake, but be honest when you’re apologising! Don’t just say ‘sorry’ because it’s the right thing to do!
3. Accept responsibility
Now that you’ve apologised, you should accept responsibility for your wrongdoings. This is where you will explain what happened and identify the wrong actions that you took which led to your mistake.
4. Offer an explanation
You can offer an explanation and insight into your thought process, but make sure that it isn’t just a pile of lame excuses. Reflect on the situation and explain where you think it went wrong and how you could have reacted differently.
5. Take action
Now that you’ve accepted your mistakes, explain how you will take action to ensure that you won’t repeat them. For example, if you shouted at a colleague, say that you’ve started practising mindfulness to help you be calmer.
6. Express your regret
Once again, express how sorry you are and ask for forgiveness. This shows that you take your position seriously and that you want to do all you can to improve and grow as a professional.
7. Promise it won’t happen again
At the end of your letter, promise that you won’t make the same mistake again. Apologising for a mistake is one thing but demonstrating that you intend to learn from it makes it easier for a manager to rebuild their trust in you.
How to structure an apology letter
As with any formal letter in the workplace, you need to follow basic formatting conventions to ensure your letter.
Below is an overview of the structure your letter should follow.
- Sender’s address: If you’re writing a formal apology letter, you should start with your address listed in the top right-hand corner of the page.
- Date: The date should be written underneath the address of the letterhead, but if you’re writing an email, skip this step.
- Subject: You don’t need to go into too much detail here; something as simple as ‘Apology Letter’ can do the trick.
- On-arrival notice (optional): If you want to ensure the letter doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, you can include a notation that the letter is personal. If you do, ensure that it’s written in uppercase like so: ‘PERSONAL’ or ‘CONFIDENTIAL’.
- Salutation: As this is a formal letter, you need to address the reader properly. So, even if you are on a first-name basis with your colleague or HR manager, it’s proper etiquette to open your letter with ‘Dear Becky’ or ‘Dear Ms Bennett’.
- Opening paragraph: Start your letter by apologising for your mistake.
- Body: In the body, give a debrief of the events and acknowledge where you went wrong, and advise on what you could have done differently. For example, if you got angry with a customer and said something that you shouldn’t have, here is the place to mention it.
- Final paragraph: Explain what you’re doing to rectify your mistake and ensure you don’t do it again. For example, you could say that you’ve read over the company’s employee handbook and enrolled in a customer service course to learn how to deal with difficult situations.
- Closing: Offer a second apology before signing off and ask for any assistance you may need.
- Your name and signature: As with any formal letter or email, sign off with your name, handwritten signature (for written letters) and contact information.
Check out the following letter examples for inspiration when writing your own.
Maybe your workplace snafu was a little bigger than that—a costly mistake that damaged your employer’s earnings, credibility, or public image.
Or maybe you made a mistake that simply made you seem like a complete idiot, like double-booking VIP clients, so they both showed up to your office’s reception area to meet with you at the exact same time. (Yes—that happened to me!)
Feeling embarrassed? Ashamed? Worried that your professional credibility is hanging by a thread? Take a deep breath. You’re going to get through this—and maybe even solidify your reputation as a quick-thinking problem solver in the process.
Here’s your seven-step recovery plan.
Step 1: Allow Yourself to Feel Awful About it (But Not for Too Long)
In response to a stressful scenario, like making a mistake at work, it’s natural to feel frustrated, embarrassed, or even distressed for, say, 10-15 seconds. But ideally, after 15 seconds, the feeling should pass. A tiny shadow of negativity may linger, but in general, you get over the snafu.
However, sometimes—for all kinds of reasons—emotions get “stuck,” and instead of dissipating after a few seconds, they keeping building and building, like steam swirling inside a kettle.
When that happens, it’s important to release that pent-up steam in a healthy manner and as soon as possible—by, for instance, going for a quick jog around the block, taking a kickboxing class, journaling in your diary, or talking it out with a therapist, coach, or friend who can give you a sense of perspective. Which brings me to:
Step 2: Keep Things in Perspective
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made.
With very few exceptions—like if you’re a pilot, surgeon, or military personnel—making an error at work is not a life-or-death situation, and most mistakes can be resolved or corrected right away.
So you uploaded the wrong file, double-booked an important meeting, showed up late for a presentation, or included a typo in an important report. You’re alive. No one was mortally wounded. On the freeway of life, this is a parking ticket, not a multiple car pile-up.
A friend of mine who is a professional copywriter once said, “I love my work because nobody dies if I’m not witty enough with a tagline. I do my best, but ultimately, it’s words on a page or a screen. It’s not life or death!”
Step 3: Confront Your Worst-Case Scenario—Then Let it Go
In life, there certainly are consequences for mistakes. But sometimes, your mind exaggerates and distorts the potential consequences for your mistake, sending you into a state of agony and stressing you out, which, ironically, can cause you to make more errors in the future.
It can be helpful to confront your personal worst-case scenario—whatever that may be—so that you can make peace with it and move on.
You might say to yourself, “OK, I goofed up. And you know what? Maybe I will get fired. It’s highly unlikely, because it’s very costly and time-intensive for employers to replace great employees and I usually do a terrific job. But if that happens? I will survive. I am resourceful and creative and I won’t let anything—not even a job loss—derail my life, my health, or my happiness.”
Step 4: Apologize if You Need to—But Don’t Overdo It
If you need to apologize for your goof, do it swiftly and briefly: “Hi Jim, I made a mistake and I’m working on correcting it ASAP.”
Often, that’s the only sentence you need to say.
No excuses. No justifications. No verbally flogging yourself. Just acknowledge the error and move on. Honestly, people are usually so preoccupied with their own goals, projects, and issues, they’ve probably forgotten all about whatever you did wrong by the time you reach this step!
Step 5: Create a Game Plan for Next Time
Evaluate what you need to do differently next time to make sure this same mistake doesn’t happen again. Were you multi-tasking beyond your ability, with dozens of tabs open on your browser? Were you rushing too fast to hit a deadline, missing important details in the process?
If you find an issue that you can address, do so. And for extra measure, if you feel that it would be beneficial to tell your boss about how you’re going to prevent mistakes in the future, do that, too.
Step 6: Take Better Care of Yourself
Most Americans are sleep deprived, and persistent sleep deprivation will eventually catch up with you—in the form of impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. Some studies indicate that working while sleepy is just as bad as working while under the influence of alcohol.
Aside from sleepiness, poor nutrition, dehydration, sitting too long in your chair, and lack of exercise can all contribute to poor performance at work. So if you want to avoid making mistakes in the future, get serious about your physical wellbeing.
Start treating yourself like a professional athlete—sleep, train, work, fuel, sleep, and repeat—and you might notice the less brain fog, more clarity, and fewer errors.
Step 7: Earn Back Trust Through Your Actions—Not Just Your Words
The best way to earn people’s trust and admiration is to consistently deliver great work. Period. Do that, and occasional bouts of forgetfulness or slip-ups here and there are likely to be quickly forgiven—and forgotten.
Bottom line: One mistake—even a big one—does not have to derail your life or career.
President Bill Clinton was publicly shamed for infidelity. He went on to receive the UN Citizen of the World Award a few years later in honor of his human rights work and contribution to the planet.
Several of Henry Ford’s early business ventures failed—multiple times!—before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.
Ever hear of Akio Morita? His first invention was a terrible rice cooker that burned rice, which, obviously, no one wanted. He sold less than 100 of them. That mistake didn’t stop him from trying to improve, though. He kept working and eventually his little gadget company—Sony—became a household name.
The point is, you can fail—even very publicly and dramatically—and still reinvent yourself, move past the mistake, and create a rich, amazing, successful life.
So, if you’re still mentally thrashing yourself about the document you forgot to attach to
that email the other week, let it go. You are going to be just fine.
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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Admitting a mistake can sometimes be the most challenging thing to do. However, it is an important part of growing up. We give you a number of reasons as to why it is of vital significance that you admit your mistakes.
1. Reveals your courage
Admitting a mistake and saying sorry is easier said than done. It takes a lot of courage to come out clean and face yourself. Since you do not know how the other person will react, you know you have no choice but to face the consequences. It takes as much guts as it takes to forgive someone.
2. Frees you from guilt
If you do not admit your mistakes, you will always feel that there is something inside you that is slowly killing you. It is nothing but the feeling of guilt. Being aware of the fact that you are wrong and still not admitting it makes you weak and it becomes all the more difficult to face the world.
3. Shows your respect for the other person
When you say sorry to someone, it is a sign that you care for the other person. It also shows that you respect the person enough to own up to something. This could be a great foundation for a solid relationship.
4. Earns you respect
Taking responsibility for your actions not only shows that you respect the other person, it also makes the other person respect you more. You get to earn genuine love and admiration when the other person realizes how courageous it was of you to say sorry.
5. Helps to save a relationship
There are times when admitting your mistake is the only way to save a valuable relationship. Be it with your friends or your family members, do not waste any second to come clean and let them know that you are aware of your flaws. This can go a long way in ensuring that your relations do not turn sour.
6. Gives you a clear conscience
When you admit that you are wrong, something changes in you. It is almost as you feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest. You feel like a free person and it eases that lingering pain. This is a sign that your conscience is now clear and you can confidently face yourself again.
7. Helps you move on
Once you have admitted that you made a mistake and have freed yourself from the guilt, only then can you detach yourself from the past and give your best to the tasks at hand. If you leave issues unresolved, you will not be able to focus completely on the present and will lose out on what life has to offer you.
8. Makes you humble
Saying sorry is simply a way of accepting the fact that you are not perfect. It is becoming aware of the fact that you have wronged. You are a mere mortal with your own set of flaws. This will prevent you from becoming arrogant and will go a long way in building a strong character.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is getting torn apart for telling people to “admit your mistakes,” even as — critics argue — he refuses to acknowledge the flaws in his leadership against the coronavirus.
On Sunday, Cuomo gave an address stating “the key” to dealing with the pandemic “is to be strong and secure enough to admit your mistakes and admit your shortcomings.
“Don’t get defensive,” he said. “Denying the mistake only assures repeating the mistake.”
Cuomo also used his speech to plug his book — American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic — which has been heavily criticized as a narcissistic exercise of self-praise amid an ongoing crisis. As it were, Cuomo’s remarks were pummeled by critics who found it hypocritical of him to tell others “admit your mistakes” after he failed to do that.
One of the most prominent critics for Cuomo’s speech was Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean. Ever since her parents-in-law died when the coronavirus swept through their nursing home, Dean has been ripping Cuomo for months over his refusal to accept responsibility for his leadership failings, and his latest speech was not spared from her wrath:
This clip of @NYGovCuomo made me physically sick watching it. He continues to lie through his teeth while promoting his book on his “leadership” during a pandemic, profiting off the deaths of over 30,000 New Yorkers. He truly is despicable. pic.twitter.com/NA5m0YwWdI
Dean was hardly alone in her criticism:
Not trying to be funny, this guy is a deluded sociopath https://t.co/PnjZh7Czwj
Several thousand grandmas and grandpas, killed as a result of Cuo’s senicide order, couldn’t be reached for comment. https://t.co/MxibYtPDyF
You killed elderly people with your idiotic decisions. https://t.co/K64uLrxi17
I guess if you say everything, you can’t be held to anything:
Gov: “I hold Trump responsible for every death in NYS from COVID.”
Gov: “I’m not accepting liability. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Stuffing up is a normal part of life. If we didn’t make mistakes we’d never learn anything. But if you’re worried about bouncing back, or find yourself only paying attention to the things that go wrong, there are ways you can turn it around.
This can help if:
- you’re stressed about a mistake you made
- you want to know how to stop dwelling on your mistakes
- you want to learn from your mistakes.
Learning from our mistakes
The great thing about mistakes is that everyone makes them. From your footy coach to the Australian cricket captain, no one is safe from stuffing up. The important thing is learning a lesson and trying to do better next time around.
Every so often a mistake is bigger than a quick fix, and that’s okay too. But it may also take us longer to learn from them and to change our ways. The most essential thing in these instances is accepting what’s happened and moving forward, rather than beating yourself up over it.
Accepting our mistakes
Fortunately, there are some handy tips to help us deal with screwing up.
You are not your mistake
When you make a mistake, keep in mind that it doesn’t define who you are as a person. Try not to jump to conclusions about your worth or value. No one’s perfect, and that’s okay.
Face your mistake head-on, own what happened and draw a line under it. While it can be tempting to look for an easy out – “I didn’t pass my driving test because the instructor had it in for me!” – realising you’re at fault is the first step to figuring moving forward.
The sooner you fess up, the sooner you can get yourself back on track. If you’re making excuses for yourself, you’ll probably just prolong this process.
You better recognise
If you’re confused about what you did wrong, or where the mistake was made, it can be tricky to put it in the past. Chances are it’ll still bug you big time. Try having a chat to someone else who’s involved so that you’re totally sure of what not to do next time.
Find the fix and give it a crack
Most problems have a solution, and if you’ve stuffed up, sit down and have a think about what you could do to improve the situation. You might find that you can smooth some things over and that it’s not as bad as you initially thought.
Talk it out
When you make a really big mistake, don’t feel that you have to cope with it on your own. Talk to your mates or family about it. They might just say something that sheds light on what happened and make you feel a little better.
Can’t stop dwelling on your mistakes?
If you’ve tried doing these things, and you’re having a lot of trouble accepting your mistakes and moving on, there might be something else going on at a deeper level.
Start off by having a chat with someone you trust. If you’re not sure who that might be, or what service you’re after, click through to Reach Out’s professional help portal to look at which option might suit you best. Here you can get an idea of what it’s like to get help, what steps to take and how it all works.
Make the mistake
While “there are no mistakes, only lessons” might sound like the kind of Insta-quote you scroll past every day, when you stop and think about it, the message is strong.
Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has to deal with them. It’s how you recover that comes to define you. Using the above strategies you can start to see mistakes as opportunities, a chance to pick up a little extra knowledge and improve along the way.