I Made A Mistake

I believe it is important to be punctual and do what you say you will do. Occasionally, I am late to a meeting or event, or I don’t get something done that I promised to do. In the moment when I am confronted with the reality that I have not acted with punctuality or dependability, I have a choice to make. I can claim that I am busy and am required to prioritize my time and attention (in other words, rationalize what happened). Or, I can simply say I am sorry for being late, admitting that I made a mistake.

When people act in ways that are inconsistent with who they believe themselves to be, cognitive dissonance occurs. It is highly desirable to reduce the stress caused by this dissonance. Many people simply make excuses (rationalizations) to shift the situation from one where they are culpable to one where they are the victims. This allows them to continue to hold the belief that they are who they claim to be and deviations from that perception are not their fault.

If I do things I should not do or fail to do what I should, am I really the person I think I am? Am I really the person other people think I am? If I believe that failure negates my desired identity, then I will work very hard to keep my actions from being classified as failure, by me or by anyone else. Additionally, I am likely to mistrust other people’s projected identity whenever they make a mistake.

One of the phrases we learn in recovery is “Progress Not Perfection.” This simple statement carries a significant message. In recovery, we can see an ideal version of ourselves, but we can also acknowledge that we are not yet that person in every way and every moment. The question is not, “Am I the person I think I am?”, the question is, “Am I becoming the person I want to be?”

Leaders need to learn to say, “I made a mistake.” The ability to acknowledge what others probably already know (or at least strongly suspect) will build trust, lead to greater understanding, help your team make better decisions, and make your team more efficient.

Being able to say, “I made a mistake” builds trust. Trust is based on vulnerability. Being your current, imperfect self around your team is an act of letting others in. When you model this behavior, you will see others becoming vulnerable too, leading to more trust within the team.

Being able to say, “I made a mistake” leads to greater understanding. There is enough confusion and misdirection in the world. Our teams need a clear line of sight to be able to resolve problems and capitalize on opportunities. Removing the false fronts and smokescreens helps the whole team see things as they really are, which leads to deeper perspective.

Being able to say, “I made a mistake” will help your team make better decisions. Greater understanding gives you the insight to make better choices. This has a multiplier effect: Not only does the quality of your decisions improve (yielding better results), but the speed and ease of making decisions improves as well (creating a better process).

Being able to say, “I made a mistake” will make your team more efficient. The longer you deny, repress, or hide a mistake, the more impact it will have in the long run. That impact translates into effort spent on the wrong things instead of on moving the team forward. You may have heard the phrase, “Fail fast.” You are going to fail; the question is, how fast will you call it a fail and shift gears. The speed at which the world is moving today demands that our organizations and teams are agile. When leaders model that it is OK to make a mistake and admit it, the whole team can learn how to handle mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen. How you deal with them is what makes a difference. Choosing to admit that I made a mistake gives me the opportunity to fix it, and in doing so, to move in the right direction. Progress, not perfection, is The Kimray Way.