The Coach's Corner

Can you admit your mistakes?*

January 7th, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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I recently read an article about Lance Armstrong in which the writer said, “NBC’s ‘Rock Center’ recently covered Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, and they show that the scandal is much worse than merely doping. The lengths that Armstrong went to in order to cover up his misdeeds were much worse than the doping itself.”

Some of you either remember the Watergate scandal or have read about it. Most would say that it was the elaborate cover-up that caused President Nixon’s resignation, not the break-in itself.

So, what is the business application? It’s simple: Tell the truth. We all make mistakes and bad decisions, we say things we regret, and so on. If you want to build credibility with your team, admit it when you are wrong. Avoid sugar-coating problems and making excuses.

Recently I experienced a great example of this ideal. I have a client who is an Air Force major reservist pilot. She invited me to go on a KC-135 refueling exercise (someone had to go with her, might as well be me), and I sat in the cockpit right behind her and her boss. I had my own set of headphones, so I could listen to their communications. They were taking turns at the controls and, at one point; my client determined the aircraft was off course. Her boss, a colonel, was quick to admit it was his fault. So there I was, listening in, and I heard a military superior telling his subordinate he had made a mistake. Wow! Later, my client told me the colonel is a great boss and leader.

My question to you is this: Do you admit your mistakes? Do you have a culture where your team members take responsibility for their mistakes? This is a trait we observe in the best companies.

p.s. For those of you with children, I would say this is one of the best things you can do to build a strong relationship with them.

*Disclaimer: We are not picking on someone when they are down!

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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