While facilitating an employee engagement seminar, I brought up the topic of how to build trust in an organization. I asked for examples of how managers create a safe environment and an attendee shared her story.
While in a management meeting, this woman was called out in a meeting and harshly raked over the coals because of something that she neglected to do on a project. She didn’t recall receiving the email in question, but that didn’t matter. It was her fault and no one wanted to hear anything different.
During the break, the attorney in charge pulled her aside and admitted that he did not send her the email. It was not her mistake after all, it was his. She was relieved and felt better that he confessed. However, she was astounded when he stood up in front of the rest of the organization and publicly acknowledged his mistake, taking full blame for the oversight.
By being vulnerable, this attorney did not diminish his stature with his colleagues, he enhanced it. Yes, we learn from the mistakes of others, and we find out even more from watching others handle their errors. We discover lessons from our own mistakes as well. The key is to be okay in admitting when we are wrong.
PS – I’m going to date myself here…Remember Fonzie from “Happy Days?” He had a hard time apologizing too. It usually came out like, “I’m ssssssssssssorry.” Don’t do that.