Admitting You Were Wrong Can Be Very Productive

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New York City Mayor Ed Koch appeared on a local news program in 1980 in the middle of the city’s financial crisis.  He had spent more than a quarter of a million dollars to put bike lanes in Manhattan.  They turned out to be a disaster. Cars were driving in the bike lanes, pedestrians were bumping bikers, and the bikers were getting crowded out.  It was a real mess and many people in the Big Apple were irate.

Koch was coming up for re-election and a handful of journalists cornered him on this show, planning to tear him to pieces for spending money foolishly when the city was nearly broke.  One reporter said, “Mayor, in light of the financial difficulties New York City is facing, how could you possibly justify wasting $300,000 on bike lanes?”

“It was a terrible idea.  It was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made,” responded the mayor.  Surprised by his blatant admission, the conversation switched directions to a more productive, less volatile topic.

It is almost surprising when someone admits his wrongdoing or takes the blame for a workplace mess.  It seems much easier to point the finger somewhere else or mask the reality of an idea gone bad.  But people are smart, aren’t they?  Usually, the only one we are kidding in such a situation is ourselves.

What do you do when you are wrong about something at work? (Maybe your co-workers should answer that question about you!)  Do you ever admit that an idea you had wasn’t so great?  Or do you think that you never have a bad idea?  No one is right all the time.  And even brilliant business people, educators, engineers, and entrepreneurs pull the trigger on ideas and decisions that they later regret.  Can you…will you…do you admit it when you are wrong? Most of us usually have an “Aha!” moment when we are wrong and workplace leaders are not afraid to admit that moment.

Acknowledge that no one can be right in every situation.  We are all human.  So be willing to extend grace to yourself in those moments when you realize that your idea, decision, initiative, or plan has hit the wall. When possible, laugh at your mistakes.  Additionally, learn from your mishaps.  Dissect them and make mental notes to prevent making the same mistake twice.  If confronted by others in your workplace, take ownership of what you have done! Respect for you will soar if you simply say, “I was wrong.”  Finally, extend grace to others, too.  Like you, they aren’t going to be right all the time.  The Word says, “Confess your sins to one another…” (Jas. 5:16a)  So admit not only your sins but your workplace errors.  Extend grace to yourself and others.  You will find freedom at work today and you might really make today count.  Big blessings to you as you serve Christ there!

David Cox

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