“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
“If you own up to your mistakes, you don’t suffer as much.
But that’s a tough lesson to learn.”
Owning up to what you have done and said is possibly the truest test of character you will ever see.
When you are managing people you learn a shitload about employees by how they handle a mistake … and how they ‘own up.’
As a manager … you always filter the ‘owning up’ through your own management style <because you affect your employees behavior whether you admit it or not>.
Any leader worth half a shit encourages the people on their team to think, go and do.
And, in doing so, they also accept the inevitable mistakes that happen with those who are often reaching beyond what they are currently capable of <that reaching is called “growth” by the way>.
Leaders aside … anyone, in any organization worth a shit, is going to find themselves in situations where well intended actions which have become mistakes have been made.
<note: I will ignore the crappy organizations who believe stupid ongoing mistakes are a fundamental building block to everyday business>
This is where ‘owning up’ moves to the forefront.
In general … you will find owning up falls into three basic categories:
- Cocoon the mistake.
It is mine. Examine it. Accept it. Blame yourself for it. Own it as an isolated incident.
- Leverage the mistake.
It was mine. Examine it. I learned from it. Own it. Use it moving forward as a stepping stone.
- Equivalize the mistake
<note: I made up the word “equivalize” … I could have used ‘equalize’ but it is actually more about someone searching for some equivalence that they can pony up in their defense>
<note: there are certainly degrees of each and every of these response categories>
Let me talk about these.
The first is a martyr. Throwing themselves at the mercy of the court.
The last is a victim. Saying … well … if you are going to convict me, be aware, you will also have to convict all these other people.
The middle one? Well. Before you convict me let me tell you how it makes me, and us, better.
Once again, any good manager worth half a shit will reflect upon their responsibility for the response before they respond. Good managers understand that they set the tone for ‘encouraging mistakes’ and managing the main filter someone flows through when assessing and articulating their own mistakes – fear of repercussions.
All that said.
If you remove fear of repercussion you gain some true insight into the person.
For example … a senior person who feels entitled and ‘above the fray’ will have little to no fear of repercussion and you will see who they truly are in their response. And they can fall into any of the three categories I outlined.
Younger employees, on the other hand, are more likely to be scared shitless and their response is like looking into a mirror of your management style.
Here is an interesting thought with regard to owning up.
The ‘i’ of the word hurricane is also in its center.
That is where owning up truly resides. How the “I” in the middle of the hurricane acts.
Still amidst the buffeting winds?
Scared of the mountain high waves?
Make little nuanced responses to remain in the calm of the hurricane?
“The little things? The little moments? — They aren’t little. “
I imagine my point is that in owning up there is certainly the larger “am I willing to accept responsibility” but there are numerous little things within the acceptance which showcase character.
Being accountable, in general, demonstrates you are responsible. It certainly demonstrates you are willing to do shit, to make a mistake and are prepared to take accountability for it.
Being unaccountable creates an incredibly irksome dilemma to a manager.
“I didn’t do it” , when all the obvious evidence states you did do it, creates incredibly stilted conversations circling some alternative universes.
It can become an absurd dance around reality.
And, worse, not owning up to something actually creates a spark which creates a smoldering fire which needs to be constantly dealt with over and over and over again.
And each time its little flame appears it scorches that person’s integrity just a little more.
It is incredibly easy to point fingers when things go wrong. Even easier to not even speak up and hope that no one notices.
Good things, the right things, are always harder to do.
Which leads me to a really neat thing I found about ‘owning up’ … which I found when doing some research — an organization called ‘cultures of dignity’ that has a curriculum they offer for young people.
Owning Up teaches young people to understand their individual development in relation to group behavior, the influence of social media on their conflicts, and the dynamics that lead to discrimination and bigotry.
Whether you’re teaching in a school, a team, or a youth-serving organization, Owning Up is a flexible, dynamic curriculum that respects your knowledge of the young people you work with and the communities in which you serve.
Owning Up is a tool to help educators work with the most interesting, funny, and challenging people in the world: tweens and teens. It’s also a tool to teach young people the capacity to understand their individual development in relation to group behavior with their peers, the social dynamics that lead to discrimination and bigotry, and the skills to be socially competent in the difficult yet common social conflicts they experience.
I love it. I love we go out of our way to show young people the power of ‘owning up.’
Now adults have to exhibit the same behavior <or have their own class>.
Which leads me to Trump who is, unfortunately, serving as a potential role model for our young people.
I imagine I thought about ‘owning up’ because of Trump.
He has mastered the art of not owning up to anything. But he does it in a way that I am not sure I have ever seen before. He just ignores what he has said and done. He just keeps moving onward <not upward> and I imagine in his head he shows a disdain for ‘owning up’ because it is so far in his rear view mirror he can’t even see why others want to keep talking about it.
I am not sure if in his own alternative universe <in his head> he never did anything to own up to … or if he is so focused on where he is going next he cannot be bothered by going back to what was.
Either way … it teaches nothing about the value of ‘owning up’ to our young people and sends a horrible message with regard to accepting responsibility for words & actions.
I would be quite pleased if Trump ‘owned up’ to that.
All I would suggest to everyone is that there may be nothing more reflective of someone’s character than their ‘owning up’ behavior.