Admitting Mistakes

By admin / June 25, 2007
By: David Lesser
Category: Leadership

Success in any creative endeavor depends on trust. If your colleagues trust you, they will give in ways they didnt know were possible. If banks and investors trust you, they will finance your projects. In deep personal work, if a client trusts you, he or she will see and release life-long patterns that have held them bound. Without trust nothing much will move. Many of the people I have coached feel nervous around earning the trust they need from others. We all seem to start out imagining that we have to get everything right in order to be trusted. In fact the reverse is true. Several clients have found helpful the homework of admitting publicly, for a week or two, at least one mistake a day. It is never whether we make mistakes or not. It is what we do with the mistakes that makes the difference. I have been doing board of directors work recently with three very different companies, which in their own ways have each come through a time of crisis. Such times are tough for executives and for boards. Suddenly blind spots come into view. "Oh my god, I never saw how doing that could bring us to this." We see how we were missing vital factors that seem so blatantly obvious now. Not only do we have to handle the shock at seeing what we had previously been blind to but also, at the same time, we find ourselves facing the array of interested parties wondering if they can still trust us. It might be tempting to try to put our best face on it. Yet people can smell cover up a mile away. And no one trusts a blamer. When someone admits his or her mistake, however, it is their way of committing for themselves that it will be done differently from now on. They open a window on the change that has happened inside of them. When people are allowed to look through that window, usually they end up trusting more than they did before. Watching a leader in crisis will tell you a whole lot more about their character than witnessing their success. In the early stages of a coaching engagement, clients usually find ways to test to see if they can trust me. Albeit indirectly, they are asking whether I am capable of hurting, betraying or abandoning them as may have happened before. I have never found it works to deny I could be that way and to proclaim myself as safe. When a person sees that I know the parts of myself that could cause hurt, they seem to relax. People may admire your brilliance or your determination. They may like you for your friendliness. Only when they see that you are capable of the same mistakes they are and that you have the guts to do what it takes to set things right, will they actually trust you. About the author: Formerly CEO of a major real estate and contruction group, David Lesser has been guiding people and organizations through crucial transitions for over 20 years. Go to Join David's blog or arrange for a free 30 minute consultation.

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