Beyond the Build


The Right Way to Be Wrong

We would all like to weigh our words carefully before we speak, and only say things we’ll be proud of 24-hours later. In reality, this doesn’t always happen.

Earlier this week, toward the end of a tough, stressful day, I had a disagreement with a couple of our managers over something minor. I told them they were wrong. However, later in the evening, I realized it was me who was wrong.

The next day, I went to each of them and told them they did in fact have the correct answer, and then I apologized. Years ago, I might not have taken this path, but I’m glad I’m now in a place to admit my mistakes.

Far too many people equate making a mistake with weakness, but I’m convinced this couldn’t be further from the truth. Mistakes are how we learn; it shows character and the experience makes us stronger. Owning up to your mistakes earns respect and loyalty.

Hearing a leader, or anyone for that matter, admit when he or she is wrong is refreshing. To me, there is a right way to apologize. First and foremost, don’t make excuses. It negates the sincerity of your words. After you’ve accepted fault, if you can, offer a way to make it right.

Over the years, I have found there are generally two types of managers: those that cannot say they made a mistake if their life depended on it, and others can say “I made a mistake.” To me, the latter has more potential in our organization. What about yours?

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.