Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great Leaders Admit Mistakes and Faults

I think we all have the ability to "see the speck in another's eye, and fail to see the log in our own"... Meaning that as people we can very easily see other people's shortcomings, and the 'easy' fix to many of their problems, while we have no clue as to how to fix our own problems.

As leaders, it's kind of our job to judge others, and we can often see exactly what they need to, or could do, and we have to communicate that.  However I've learned (from both sides) that this is easier said than done.

From our standpoint as a leader the steps that can or should be taken are as clear as day, and often relatively easy.  I've attempted a couple of different styles of conveying my thoughts to my team members.  And only one of them has been really successful.

First I tried just telling them what they should or could do... I've also had my leader/manager try this with me... with mixed results.  Most of us don't want to be told exactly what to do.  Our ego's don't want to accept it; we often reject those suggestions outright, and can walk away thinking 'who do they think they are telling me what to do!?'

I've also had the experience (from both the Leader and team member's perspective) of having a leader hint around and try to get me to see what they saw as the right thing to do... even going so far as saying 'I don't want to tell you... I want you to figure it out for yourself'.  I found it very frustrating, and I'll bet my team members found it just as frustrating when I did the same thing with them.

The best way I've found to have my team members 'hear' what I have to say is to be human with them.  To show empathy; to show them that I care about what's important to them; and to admit my shortcomings.  I've spoken about the first two previously (and probably will again), so now... just the last one.

Leaders genuinely connect with team members by being human.  My team members listen when they hear me talk about the mistakes I've made.  I admit to them that I messed that up too!  I often give them examples of mistakes I've made, as well as how badly I messed things up and what it took to fix it.  I find that talking about my mistakes allows my team members hear the fix I found for myself, and then talk with me about possible fixes for them... It opens them up and puts aside their ego (at least for a time), allows for a little trust, and honest conversations.  Most of the time we end up moving forward together with a plan that we both feel good about.  We can then reconnect and talk about whether or not we are getting the results we hoped for, and how to proceed from there.  It becomes an experiment that we are conducting together as partners.  We are both transparent about what's going on, and so gain an even deeper connection.

At least this is my experience...

Oh, and I thought this post was a good quick read...

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  1. You're absolutely right. When team members see their leader as being infallible, they put up their defenses and are much less likely to take chances. This fear of disappointing someone they view as being perfect stifles creativity and fosters an atmosphere of stagnancy. Showing and sharing your flaws puts the team member at ease and lets them in on the process of how you got to where you are. Very well put. I'll keep checking in for more posts.