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I think that it hurts whatever credibility a person might have if they are perceived as wrong. It weakens their decision making and allows the team and others to challenge the leader and question that leader's decisions going forward.
However, that is precisely why one needs to freely admit they are wrong. It actually strengthens their leadership and increases confidence with the team. The team feels like they are a part of the process and their voices of opinion do matter.
Admitting freely when we are wrong is generally better than trying to hide our error, for doing so will make us seem untrustworthy, and the stigma of that label is usually worse than the embarrassment we'll feel at being wrong. Since it's very difficult to conceal an error on a project without telling at least one outright lie, it's more pragmatic to bring the error to light before someone does it for you. Doing this has the benefit of making a person appear honest and forthright, and this can result in a net boost to a person's reputation.
Why we're wrong and the consequences of being wrong also matters to how we react to being wrong. Telling a Sponsor a project will take 8 months when I meant to say 7 months would be far easier than telling the Sponsor I'd need another $1 million USD to complete the project because I forgot to make timely arrangements with a Vendor.
The decision to reveal or not reveal a wrong is usually influence by one or more of the following:
- The magnitude of the mistake
- The level of psychological safety within the team
- The past track record of the individual we would be informing of the mistake
While we'd all like to believe we can be 100% open about our mistakes, depending on those three criteria, we may not hide but perhaps procrastinate on highlighting the mistake.
Great insights into a question that most would prefer not to expound on. This forum is great for being able to ask questions and get serious, thoughtful, profound and even humorous answers from a diverse set of professionals – it’s unique and extremely valuable!
I have pondered this question both from personal and observational perspectives and strongly believe that being publicly wrong shows the strength of one’s character; it also models behavior that can impact the success of a project. What I have observed and personally experienced is that a leader who professes they are wrong elicits strength from their team as it creates a "challenge-based" atmosphere that mitigates fear (of failure), thus creating an environment that is empowered to break down barriers to success. To state it another way; when a leader admits they are wrong, others recognize they have the freedom to do the same and an atmosphere of challenge-based thought is created, thus creating more opportunity for success as ideas are no longer constrained to the fear of being wrong.
I agree with Kiron, in that you need to use “wisdom” (as a leader) before making statements that could have unforeseen ramifications – from which those three points are wells stated and received. In general though, I believe that being able to state that you are wrong is the new right.
I suspect the issue is not so much with "you" (the person making the mistake) but with the trust developed between you and those others.
One of the two main legs of trust is the willingness to be vulnerable. (The other is belief in held about your's and other's efficacy.)
I think that admitting that you or wrong, don't know the answer or the solution to any given thing can be both negative and positive.
As a consultant (which I am) you're *supposed to know it all* so it can sometimes have negative impacts on the perception that they have of you.
However, I think it's better to be outright and admit it when you don't know something or you are wrong and take the time to find the answer rather than say nothing and just delay the unavoidable.
A high altitude discussion. Really tempting to put in some comments. "as long as the admission of wrong" is within the team, it really help in the project success. But it would be detrimental to publicize the same in other circles.
I agree with many comments above. As a project manager, being able to tell your team you were wrong, and show them you're adjusting to new information, their feedback, etc. is crucial to your interactions with them. You can't jeopardize your stakeholders' trust in you or the project, though, by airing dirty laundry all over the place. I'm not saying lie, but you can change the messaging. Especially if it has already been dealt with by the time you report on it.
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