It isn't often that we can really learn a lesson in honesty and courage from one of our politicians but this week has seen something of an exception. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Caroline Spellman, came to the snake pit of the House and actually said "We got it wrong" and apologised. More's the point, she went on to say that she will now consult with interested parties to see what can be done to improve the situation.
Of course, there were the ritual screams of "humiliated" and "u-turn" but she had taken the wind out of the sails of the nay-sayers by her honesty and frankness. Whether she was metaphorically pushed to say what she said or jumped herself is academic. Suffice it to say, she did it and with some aplomb.
So what can we learn from this event? There is always a danger when things start to go slightly awry that we default to defence mode and the excuses start to appear. I have had occasions in my Vistage group when certain members, when confronted with radical ideas as to how to solve an issue, revert to "we tried that before and it didn't work" or "my people wouldn't like that" or, inevitably, "it's different in our industry".
Without wanting to appear unbending, unless members with that approach change pretty quickly, they don't last long in the group as the other members expect and indeed want to be challenged.
In essence the same thing applies in the business and, of course, in our daily lives on a regular basis. Simply because we are not perfect, things do occasionally go wrong and the question must be, how do we react? Do we cover up and make like it didn't happen, or brave it out, or best of all, admit the error and take steps to make sure that it won't happen again?
Making mistakes is an all too human trait but we only learn from mistakes, not from success. A business which accepts human frailty and learns from it will go forward whereas the business with a blame culture will only engender fear which leads to people reverting to defensive mode.
It's not easy to admit to making a mistake but the rewards are there; greater honesty, better communication and enhanced confidence in knowing that it's a matter of doing things right, rather than just doing the right things.
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