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LEADERSHIP IS A PROCESS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE, WHICH MAXIMISES THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SHARED GOAL.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
One key to successful innovation often goes overlooked: the ability to admit when you're wrong. As a leader, owning your mistakes is your greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Admitting fault in the right way can make your company stronger and your employees much more comfortable with failure. That freedom allows for greater creativity and quicker solutions when people make mistakes.
Practice these five tips to help you own your mistakes in a way that strengthens your company:
1. Take ownership.
As the leader, you are responsible for what goes on at your company, so you need to own the problem and the solution. Never make excuses. That doesn't strike confidence in a leader.
Commend employees who take ownership of their mistakes as well. By showing respect and support for them, you create a culture that addresses mistakes without blame. Taking responsibility when things don't work is more conducive to growth.
2. Be sincere.
When you deliver an apology, your audience will be looking for signs of a canned or stiff delivery, and they'll take them as signs that you don't mean what you're saying. To win them over, simply be yourself. That honesty -- in your words and your delivery -- will show that you actually mean it.
3. Show what you've learned.
A good apology explains what happened and why. Start with why you made your original decision and the logic that led to that choice. Next, explain what you learned about why it didn't work and how that new information will inform how you move forward. If you haven't worked out the lesson yet, then you're not ready to deliver the apology.
With any mistake, no matter how small, there is a way to prevent it from happening again. Even if the mistake was simple -- like not thinking through an idea -- you can improve your thought process so it doesn't happen next time. Sharing your lessons will also show your employees how to think about mistakes and move forward.
4. Make proactive changes.
Talk is cheap, so people need to see that you will actually follow through. When you outline your plan for change, mention a step you've already taken toward those ends; the more specific the better. For example, you might mention a new process you initiated to improve communication or a new approach you're taking in product development. As long as you can explain how you're rectifying what went wrong and own it, then you'll come across as a person in a position of strength.
5. End on a high note.
When you talk about a mistake, acknowledge anyone who might have been harmed in the process. Sometimes, the harm is overt, like in the case of BP's oil spill, but often it's more subtle, as when employees invest hope and time in a project that fails. If anyone has been harmed, show empathy, but always bring it back to what you learned and how you plan to use this experience as an opportunity to grow. You want to end with a message of hope in every situation.