A leader’s guide to being wrong


As children, we discover that being wrong and getting in trouble are painful experiences. Mistakes reflect on us personally: Rather than taking them in stride, we let them balloon into pronouncements on our intelligence and character. Sadly, we learn the blame game is an effective way to deflect criticism. We grow up practicing how NOT to be wrong.

Being right, by contrast, validates our egos and our opinions. We believe being right causes our co-workers, family members and even complete strangers look up to us. Being right makes us look good and feel good.

I would argue that our insistence on being right does not serve us well, and especially does not serve CEOs and executives who want to grow their businesses and grow as leaders. We need to challenge the cultural bias against taking blame and learn to acknowledge when we are wrong in the interest of self-improvement.

Be wrong, productively

If you don’t make mistakes, you are not trying hard enough. Really. Now, I’m not saying let’s all aspire to flub up, but I am encouraging you to take a few (calculated) risks. Commit yourself to personal growth. Give it a shot. The key to being wrong productively is being willing to admit that you were wrong. This way, you can learn from your mistakes. Acknowledgement drives you toward a better solution, faster.

Many business leaders and entrepreneurs, for example, have found success in the philosophy of “failing fast”: learning by doing and quickly discovering what doesn’t work. Furthermore, admitting to a mistake or noting that something didn’t go as planned builds trust among your team.

I know it sounds trendy, but transparency in admitting your mistakes takes courage. Transparency is key to growth. Increasing our transparency increases the opportunity to receive help from others and build greater trust.

Commit to continuous improvement

You can’t improve if you can’t admit you don’t have all the answers. A willingness to listen to better ideas paves the way for better outcomes. After all, none of us is as smart as all of us.

In some organizations, leadership establishes “quality circles” of multidisciplinary teams to solve problems. In the Vistage CEO peer advisory groups that I run, executives from non-competing organizations invite others to poke holes or troubleshoot their solutions in the interest of achieving a better outcome for their business and themselves. Both approaches invite others to bring new perspectives in the pursuit of continuous improvement.

Good team members help good leaders

Fostering a culture of continuous improvement, trust and zero tolerance for the blame game will align your team to accomplish greater things. Being wrong becomes a tool for growth, learning and trust building, rather than a negative appraisal of one’s character.

Embrace the notion of being wrong so you can get it right!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
One comment
  1. Brian J Eichenberg

    January 27, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    i think this is spot on advice for just about anybody. i am forwarding it to my children.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Predefined Skins

Primary Color

Background Color

Example Patterns

demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo demo

Privacy Policy Settings

  • Required Cookies
  • Performance Cookies
  • Functional Cookies
  • Advertising Cookies
These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the Sites and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the Sites and using Vistage’s Services. Since these cookies are essential to operate Vistage’s Sites and Services, there is no option to opt out of these cookies.
These cookies collect information about how visitors our Sites, for instance which pages visitors go to most often. These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

Cookies used

Visual Web Optimizer
These cookies remember information you have entered or choices you make (e.g. as your username, language, or your region), and provide enhanced, more personal features. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies then some or all of these services may not function properly.

Cookies used

Google Analytics
GTM
Gravity Forms
These cookies are used to make advertising more relevant to you and your interests. The cookies are usually placed by third party advertising networks. They remember the websites you visit and that information is shared with other parties such as advertisers. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.