There’s an old lie in the business world that the easiest way to move up the ladder is by appearing invincible. Of course, appearance is the keyword here. If you make a mistake, simply avoid the blame. It’s almost a natural instinct in the competitive world we live in.
This might be true to a limited extent. You walk away with a squeaky-clean image, ready to grab the next promotion. But relying on this tactic is a dangerous game. And true business leaders don’t play it. You’re not going to earn the respect of your employees if you blame others when things go wrong. Our research found that accountability is a critical component of strong company culture.
How to Admit Errors
No one wants to work for an error-prone leader. That said, claiming you never make them or skating around real issues is a surefire way to alienate employees.
“One of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your employees is to deny ever making errors,” business-growth specialist Carol Evenson says. “Even minimizing mistakes can damage your reputation among your workforce.”
If the company’s strategy hasn’t lead to stronger sales, executives need to publicly own up to the problem. Hiding from those mistakes and pretending everything is OK won’t impress anyone.
Taking the blame for errors is a start. Then it’s time to draw lessons from those poor decisions and implement new ideas.
Dr. Barbara Schwarck, an executive coach and CEO, suggests that “you can reopen the door to trust by acknowledging your shortcoming, defining what went wrong and taking steps to bridge the gap with your employees.”
Creating a company culture that recognizes the role of failure is another key step. What happens when an employee screws up? Are they immediately fired or punished? Or are they given the tools to succeed the next time around?
You will develop a stronger company culture when you support employees even when they make errors and acknowledge how failure can serve as a learning experience. Think about how much better this is than an atmosphere where employees are always looking for a colleague to throw under the bus!
Fear is a destructive force in many organizations. It can paralyze both leaders and employees. Fostering an “it’s OK to fail” atmosphere may take time, but it’ll be worth it.