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Owning up to mistakes the best policy

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Q : My business partner and I disagree on how we should handle a situation at work. We made a decision that turned out to be a pretty big mistake and it impacted our team in a negative way. I think we should acknowledge to the team that it was a mistake but my partner things we shouldn’t and that we should just move on. Who’s right?

A: What a great question. In short, in my opinion, you are. I would argue the key to regaining the respect and trust of your team is contingent upon your willingness to accept responsibility for your decision and its impact on the team.

There is often a perceived notion that leaders should hide weaknesses and mistakes. I disagree. Admitting you made a mistake is a sign of strength, maturity and a great leader.

Employees look to see how leaders respond to challenges before they’ll fully accept that person’s leadership. Your team will follow your lead and likely take more ownership of their roles & actions. Further, when they do make a mistake, they will take responsibility for it instead of trying to cover it up, which can happen. Acknowledging your mistake will actually increase trust and builds a culture that fosters team & innovation.

Admitting a mistake does take courage and practice. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”– it’s got to be sincere or don’t bother. An insincere apology will make matters worse.

  2. Own your actions by saying what you regret about your actions. Don’t make excuses or defend your position. The buck stops with you.

  3. Say what you are doing to fix it and/or would do differently next time.

  4. Then do it – follow through. Your words and your actions must align.

My advice is do it sooner then later. You might be surprised how good you and your team feel once you’ve done it.

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