I once worked for a boss who was never wrong, never made a mistake
or a bad decision. All you had to do was ask him. To his staff he was
Teflon-man. Nothing stuck to him and everything came sliding toward us.
Accountability was not a concept he practiced unless things turned out well
and then, he claimed the credit. But if they didn't, he immediately
embarked on endeavors to identify someone responsible. Being called to his
office typically meant he was looking for information and trying to decide
whom to blame.
Justify. Justify. Justify. Like a battle cry, he commissioned reports,
graphs, charts and enhanced documentation whenever his boss questioned him.
He found it easier to dig his heels into a position than admit he might
have been wrong or change his mind. Working for someone I couldn't respect
eventually led me to transfer departments.
But it still baffles me. People do make mistakes, they do trip up sometimes
and they do, on occasion, speak or act in error. And while there's nothing
that says we should be happy about it when we do it ourselves, trying to
act like it didn't happen, covering up our mistakes, or trying to justify
inaccurate positions leads nowhere.
You see, unlike that early boss of mine, people who are winning at working
speak up and admit when they've made a mistake. They take accountability
for fixing resulting problems. And even if they have to gather their
courage and swallow hard, they acknowledge when they're wrong.
I learned in twenty years in management that playing it safe, isn't. One of
the biggest mistakes you can make if you want to be winning at working is
pointing fingers, blaming others or offering excuses. Own your decisions,
choices and actions. Admit when you're wrong. Fix your mistakes. Then learn
from them and move on. These are the signs of confident, accountable,
initiative-filled people. And these are the people you want on your team.
There's a story I love about the famed British economist, John Maynard
Keynes, who was confronted by a young man after one of his lectures. The
man insisted Keynes give him an explanation of why he contradicted himself
with something written years before. "Well," Keynes replied. "When I'm
wrong, I change my mind." Seems to me, that's pretty good advice for work
and for life.
© 2005 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and on-line instructor. Visit www.nanrussell.com or contact Nan at firstname.lastname@example.org.