“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.” (Ludwig van Beethoven)
If Beethoven’s quote is true, then it must be even harder for us to admit our errors to others. I can tell you from my own experience, that both thoughts are most definitely true for me. I do not like admitting my errors to myself, and I like it even less when I have to admit them to those around me. The reality is that I make errors all the time. Thankfully, most of the mistakes I make are small and easily corrected, but I have made my share of whoppers too.
When faced with this principle I, like many others, want to dodge it a little. When I was first studying the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, I wondered why I would be increasing my leadership by going around talking about the mistakes I have made.
What I came to understand is that it doesn’t make me less of a person to make mistakes and admit them. Rather, it is an empowering act. When I courageously admit my errors to myself and others, it empowers me by lessening the inherent burden of trying to hide them. It also reminds those that I lead of my humanity, and that I have probably made all the mistakes they are making at some point in my career.
Just a week or two ago, two guys came to me with questions about how to get something done in one of our Project Management tools. It was a report they were trying to run, and they weren’t getting the results they expected. They sat with me for a few minutes, and explained what they’d tried. After they explained, I told them that I knew exactly what they were talking about because I had encountered the exact same problem once. I told them that I had made a mistake in the way I set up my report, and explained the mistake. Their eyes lit up with the look of recognition, and they went on their way to fix the problem. Later that week one of them dropped me a note of thanks. They still didn’t have exactly what they needed, but they had made significant progress.
The fact is that we all make mistakes, and we tend to make the same mistakes that someone else has already made. When we are looking to correct something with someone else, it is good for us to remember this and to remember…
Principle 24 – Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.