Issue Number 44: Leaders Admit Mistakes – Part 2

In the first part of “Leaders Admit Mistakes” published in the previous newsletter I explained the importance of defining mistakes as Thomas Edison did – by considering them learning opportunities. His famous answer to a question about the many mistakes he made was, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

There are a lot of common-sense reasons to admit your mistakes beyond merely being an example to others. One of them is that no matter how hard you try to hide your own mistakes, you are almost doomed to fail.

Other people are going to find out about your mistakes – you can count on it. They will spread the word, and pretty soon everyone will be hiding their mistakes as well. You will not only lose credibility when you try to hold people accountable, you will also lose access to information that can help you make decisions that can prevent minor issues from developing into major problems.

I have often included an apology when I admit a mistake. It does not have to be a big deal. It can be something as simple as: “Sorry, I screwed this up. Here is how I fixed it.” You have to be judicious in your use of apologizing but it can make a big difference.

Among the most powerful consequences of apologizing are that it demonstrates respect for yourself and others, allows everyone to confront the issue, allows you to present it on your terms and shifts it into the past.

Just do not ruin an apology with an excuse.

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