Project U. Blog

How Leaders Can Benefit From Their Mistakes

Posted by Catherine Saar on Thu, Aug 09, 2012 @ 10:00 PM

Face it. Sometimes things go wrong, even if you are a conscientious, competent leader.  A blog post by Art Petty on how leaders can benefit from their mistakes resonated with me so much that I decided to share it with you, especially since many of my bosses over the years counseled me not to ever apologize or explain, as doing so shows weakness.

That did not appear to be good advice. What I found instead was that when I quickly owned up to an issue, shared what happened and how to fix it, my associates were appreciative and understanding.  This practice actually built trust, strengthened my working relationships and encouraged openness. By modeling that mistakes are not the end of the world, it allowed others the freedom to address issues openly when they arose. Petty’s post captures this notion beautifully when he writes, “don’t dwell on or attempt to hide your mistakes.  Instead, confront them head-on, help everyone learn from them, and move on.” 

According to Petty, not only should you clearly admit that you made a mistake, in addition, don’t make up an excuse.  He also states that you shouldn’t blame anyone else on your team when an error happens on your watch: “Take your medicine and use your team member’s mistake as a developmental opportunity.”

Here are the two additional recommendations from the post that I support wholeheartedly: 

“Share where you went wrong. If your gaffe was an interpersonal one, admit to the other party that you recognize what you did wrong. For example, “I shouldn’t have jumped to a conclusion before I heard all of the facts.”  If the mistake related to a decision, assess where you might have gone wrong and share the mistake. “I framed this problem wrong. I let emotions get in the way of a clear view to the situation, and I made a rash decision.”  This is powerful credibility building juice and a teaching moment for everyone involved.”


Apologize. The fine art of the workplace apology is often ignored in the workplace. Instead of a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of character and strength.”

I love that.  As I mentioned, I didn’t often hear this perspective articulated in the business world, and I surely appreciate hearing it now. Thanks Art!

Tags: strength, modeling, blame, character, business, appreciate, leader, opportunity, decision, benefit, apologize, mistakes, emotions, perspective, trust, relationships, weakness, openness, workplace, understaning, freedom, confront, credibility

Want to Excel as a Leader? Please Say, “Hello.”

Posted by Catherine Saar on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:02 AM

Leadership ToolOne of the most common complaints I hear from staff about managers and leaders goes like this, “When Jane comes in, she never says 'good morning' or 'hello' to anyone.  What’s up with that?” Employees notice this behavior. It often raises questions about their relationship with the leader in-charge, such as, “Does my supervisor care about me?  Am I important?”  While there are exceptions to every rule, generally, most of us are willing to work harder and better when we know that the person we work for, values us and the work we do.

“Good morning”, or even a brief, “Hi, how are you?”  is an acknowledgement of a person’s existence.  Acknowledgement is one of the most basic requirements for great leadership.  For most of us, greeting staff upon arrival requires little effort.  For some of us who have forgotten to take the time over the years to check in, (because we are thinking about all our deadlines, the sick child at home, or whatever!)  it may take some practice and getting used to, but it will be worth the effort. Saying hello to your team and asking how they are (with genuine interest) builds relationship capital.

Why should you care? Consider a recent Harvard Business Review blog post  by Daniel Goleman, co-author of Primal Leadership: Leading with Emotional Intelligence, and author of The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights and Leadership: Selected WritingsGoleman writes, “You can be the most brilliant innovator, problem-solver or strategic thinker, but if you can't inspire and motivate, build relationships or communicate powerfully, those talents will get you nowhere. What Zenger and colleagues call the "interpersonal skills" — and what I call social intelligence — are the secret sauce in top-performing leadership.”

He adds, “Why does social intelligence emerge as the make-or-break leadership skill set? For one, leadership is the art of accomplishing goals through other people.”

So ladies and gentleman in leadership, managers who want to get things done and done well, please don’t forget the basics: Start by saying hello.

Tags: leader, emotional intelligence, acknowledgment, accomplishing goals, excel, relationship capital, Harvard Business Review Blog, problem solver, social intelligence, communicate powerfully, great leadership, strategic thinker, top performing leadership, interpersonal skills, build relationships, Daniel Goleman