Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting Smarter - Part 3

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been writing about how making mistakes and changing our minds about something has taken on such a negative connotation that people are afraid to admit that they might ever have been wrong about something.

There is no doubt that the standards, as well as the stakes, are raised when you become a leader. The mistakes made by an up and coming young employee will likely bring much less damage to the company than the mistakes made by a member of the executive team. After all, when leaders make mistakes those mistakes can have long-term ramifications and can impact a far greater number of people than the average mistake. So, it makes sense at some level to hold our leaders more accountable for mistakes than we do for other employees.

But, whether you are a brand new employee, an employee with multiple years of experience, or a seasoned executive, mistakes will get made. You can bank on it. At some point in time, we all make mistakes. And let’s not forget that not all mistakes are made because someone didn’t think things through. Sometimes mistakes are caused by unforeseen circumstances or things outside of our control. In any event, the issue should never be “was a mistake made” but, rather, “how was the mistake handled? What happened when the mistake was discovered? What was learned from the mistake?”

“I reserve the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday.” - Abraham Lincoln

If we acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, then should it not then follow that everyone issues apologies for their mistakes?

I’ll bet that last statement made you stop and pause. After all, how often do apologies follow mistakes, especially in the business world? Not often.

Too many business leaders, at all levels of an organization, are so afraid to admit a mistake that they will do everything in their power to ensure that no one knows of it. They fear that admitting a mistake will be perceived as a weakness or will somehow cause doubts about their ability lead.

But I believe that the opposite is really true. I would much rather work for someone who acknowledges that they made a mistake, apologizes for it, and moves on than I would for someone who hides their mistakes.

I once had a co-worker who told me that he was a “lousy liar.” I assumed from that statement that I should not trust anything he said. Later, I discovered that his definition of being a “lousy liar” was that he was not good at it. “Lying is too much work” he told me. “I discovered long ago that I couldn’t keep my lies straight, so I just stopped lying. I was lousy at it.”

I wish more executives had his attitude toward lying. The truth is that most of them are lousy at it. And, while their employees may not publicly acknowledge their lies, those same employees are acutely aware of the lies. And, as a result, they don’t trust their leadership team.

It’s simple, isn’t it? When I lie, people find out about it. And, while they might not call me on it, they won’t trust me. And, if they don’t trust me they won’t work hard for me.

Maybe all executives should take a pledge to be “lousy liars.” It would build greater trust and create a whole new company culture.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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