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.
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.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make if you want to be winning at working is pointing fingers, blaming others or offering excuses. Sure it might work temporarily to deflect critique or shift accountability, but long term blame-games impact results, reduces credibility, and diminishes trust.
If you want sustained influence and results, 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.