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A Business Leader’s Guide To Being Wrong (The Right Way)


7 min read

Leaders Guide To Being Wrong

Outsourced Bookkeeping and Accounting Costs


It's only human to experience emotions like shame, frustration, embarrassment, and self-doubt when you make mistakes. 

Key Takeaways

However, as a business leader, you must learn to grow past these negative emotions that we all learned to associate with being wrong. After all, no one expects you to be perfect; your employees and peers expect you to be human. It's how you handle being human that can set you apart from the rest.

So, go ahead and give yourself permission to make mistakes and evolve beyond negative, emotional reactions. Have the courage to embrace being wrong and leverage the abundant opportunities that mistakes create. 

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How Leaders Handle Mistakes Can Make or Break Workplace Culture

Step out of your own shoes for a moment. Think about the way you feel when an authority figure makes a mistake and doesn't own up to it. Whether they fail to acknowledge that they were wrong, attempt to cover up the mistake, or try to shield themself from the blame by casting it onto someone else, how does it make you feel about them as a person?

Likely, you respect them less – a lot less. You see them as less reliable. You see them as cowardly. You lose your trust in them.

Read More: The Most Common Mistakes of Business Leaders (And What To Do Instead)

Remember that, as a business leader, you're an authority figure to all of your employees, and the way you lead, the way you handle being wrong is a huge deal. When you don't own your mistakes, try to hide them, or don't accept responsibility, you'll quickly tarnish your reputation as a leader and lose the respect and trust of your employees, corroding your company culture from the top down. This leads to lagging productivity, high employee turnover, and a shrinking bottom line. In other words, being a bad leader and failing to own up to your mistakes is expensive.

When it comes to mistakes that have been made, CEO transparency is essential. Hold a meeting, explain what happened, take responsibility, explain what you've learned, and then set your sights on the future.

When you handle mistakes with a responsible and positive attitude, you'll cultivate a workplace culture that embraces mistakes as opportunities, rather than punishing them as failures. This creates a growth mindset throughout your business and an atmosphere of psychological safety that allows employees to be creative, engaged, and unafraid of sharing their own ideas. It strengthens interpersonal bonds within your company and enables your employees to be good team members, and good team members help good leaders.

Read More: Maximize Your Business Profit With High-Performing Teams

Embrace Being Wrong as an Opportunity for Improvement

While learning to embrace your mistakes, don't forget that, to succeed in business, you need to be wrong in a productive manner. Don't simply begin taking risks willy-nilly, own up to being wrong, and then forget to learn anything from the mistake.

Once you've shifted your perspective on being wrong, commit to continuous improvement. [1] Set aside time to evaluate mistakes and understand what you could have done differently to achieve a more desirable outcome. Then, do things differently – do things better – in the future.

In fact- A Global Business Ethics Survey reported that employees found their direct supervisor to be more effective when he or she frames failures and mistakes as growth opportunities. [2]

Read More: How Productive Business Leaders Spend Their Time

When you actively learn from being wrong and making mistakes in business, you'll actively improve your business acumen and leadership skills. As a result, you'll start being right a lot more often than not.

Handling Achievements: What to Do When Things Go Right

As you sharpen your leadership skills, you will begin experiencing success more and more frequently. Just as the way you handle mistakes is important to your quality as a leader, the way you handle success and achievement is vital, too.

A good leader knows that celebrating achievements is essential to workplace morale. A good leader also knows that they could never be successful without each individual employee working under them. Every time you experience success in your business, meet a benchmark, or achieve a long-term goal, recognize and reward your employees and remember to express your gratitude for their efforts.

So, as a business leader, it's essential that you carry the weight of responsibility when it comes to making mistakes and distribute the levity of success when it comes to achieving goals.

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Remember: Everything Comes Down to the Bottom Line

When you think about interpersonal relationships in the office, the way your employees see you as an individual, and the way you choose to handle your mistakes as a business leader, you might not immediately think about your bottom line. In business, however, everything you do is connected to the bottom line, including the way you handle your mistakes, cultivate positivity in the workplace, foster employee engagement, and continue to improve your leadership skills.

Read More: How To Maximize Profit and ROI From Your People

If you allow yourself, as a leader, to ignore your mistakes, grow stagnate, and stop learning, your business and your bottom line will stagnate, too. Your company culture will fester, employee engagement and productivity will lag, and your business model could become obsolete.

So, rather than ignore or avoid mistakes altogether, give yourself permission to take calculated risks in your business. Embrace mistakes and the opportunities to make them. When things go right, celebrate your entire team's achievement – not just your own. When things go wrong, take responsibility, learn from the mistake, recover quickly, and move forward with a new plan and an ever-optimistic outlook.

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[1] https://www.vistage.com/research-center/business-leadership/20180103-leaders-guide-wrong/ 

[2] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/spring2020/pages/when-leaders-make-mistakes.aspx 

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