I made a mistake

Have you ever found yourself continuing to argue a point long after you stopped believing it yourself? One of the most useful phrases we can benefit from using is “I changed my mind”. Yet how rarely people seem to say it, and it doesn’t come easily for most.

To easily say “You know, I see things differently now, so I’ve changed my mind” is incredibly liberating for all concerned. Somehow changing one’s mind has gained negative associations in leadership but especially in the world of politics, and especially in the UK. Margaret Thatcher famously said “You turn if you want to. The Lady’s not for turning.”. It was seen as a sign of strength and determination. There’s nothing wrong with determination, but continuing to defend a point when we realise it’s wrong is just plain stubborn! The real sign of strength is to admit the error and show that we’re prepared to. Learn to say “I changed my mind” as a sign of strength.

An even better phrase to use and to practice saying sooner rather than later is “I made a mistake”. It doesn’t always have to be accompanied by “sorry”. If you never make mistakes, you’re probably moving too slowly that little ever gets done! So if you rarely say “I made a mistake” you’re probably either hiding your mistakes or playing too safe. Celebrate mistakes as a sign of progress. Learn from mistakes and share the learning. And remember - you can only make a mistake once - if it happens a second time, it was a choice!

“What if I’m wrong?” is an excellent question to ask ourselves on a regular basis. Not as a form of self-doubt, but as a humble and genuine form of self-enquiry based upon the certainty of not being perfect, and of a desire to be open to alternatives.

Imagine what it would be like to live or work with someone who readily changes their mind when it becomes appropriate, admits mistakes, and is open to questioning if their beliefs are reality. It would be very easy to work with and to trust someone like that. It may not seem easy to do, especially if we have built our beliefs around never making mistakes and sticking to the first thing we said. But wouldn’t it be a great environment in which to work.

I often hear business owners asking the rhetorical question of team members “why won’t they just admit it” when someone makes a mistake. Well, usually it’s because the team have learned from their leader. If you criticise people too much when they admit a mistake, don’t be surprised when they hide their mistakes or waste your time and theirs on blame, excuses and denial. Far better to respond to a mistake with “Well done for trying, and what have you learnt so that you don’t need to see it happen again?”. And instead of criticising yourself for making mistakes, practice asking yourself that same question and life and business will be a lot easier.

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By: Rob Pickering

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