Maintaining Trust When You Fail

Several years ago a business friend of mine recommended a book over breakfast. Sheepishly he said, you’re going to find some of the language offensive. I assured him its not like I haven’t heard offensive language before and if he thought it was an important book I’d read it.

The thesis of the book was if you make a mistake, be the first to acknowledge it. If your performance was not up to your own expectations, then be the first one to admit it before someone else does.

Dr. Leslie Addison told me something on a working trip that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Familiarity doesn’t bring contempt if you are what you say you are.”

All of us make mistakes if we are trying to achieve anything at all in life. If you are not trying to achieve anything, then you are making a huge mistake.

When you goof up, fess up!
Use your mistake to lead by saying this is where I didn’t meet or we didn’t meet our own standard of excellence.
This is why we missed it.
This is how we are going to correct it.
This is what we have learned.
Cast the vision again. I (we) are going to continue to do ______ with excellence!

Remember the Tylenol story. The medicine had been tainted and the company fessed up and made things right. Tylenol is still a trusted name.

Remember jetBlue passengers being stranded on a tarmac for hours. The didn’t make excuses they made things right. They are still the top rated low cost airline for the fifth year in a row by J. D. Power and Associates.

Remember the Bible is filled with stories of men and women of faith who failed. The difference maker is the one they served, the Lord God Almighty. When the prophets, the kings or the apostles failed, God picked them up and worked in everything (their failure) for the good of those (those who failed) who loved Him.

I have found that people will trust you for being honest and admitting your failure. They will trust your leadership when you learn from your failure and keep moving ahead with the vision. Best of all you will experience the smile of God upon your life when you admit your failure and seek His help.

You probably want to know the name of the book my friend recommended. Well, the language did make me blush, but it wasn’t something I had not heard before. So instead I am going to recommend another book by John Maxwell, Failing Forward.

Peace and Joy!

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