Beyond the Build

Leadership

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 President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.