Leaders Make Mistakes Too – Agile Communication

rejectedThere isn’t a week where we don’t see some leader in business or politician in office that is falling off the pedestal of perceived-perfection. Check the news and stay on that channel for 30 minutes. You’ll see it.

Being in a position of authority is a tough spot to be in. With the pressures of running a business well it seems like there is very little room for mistakes. If people do make mistakes, it’s easy to pass it down-hill or just glaze over it saying that it was “All part of the plan.”

I would think that people these days have had enough of the fakery. It’s time to get real. It’s time to be real and take ownership of mistakes and mis-steps. What encouraged us this past month was an article by Scott Lowe, CIO of Westminster Collage.

“I’m not a perfect human and not a perfect leader.  Every so often I blow it.”

We like the candid honesty from Scott in that he’s willing to let the general public know that he doesn’t always do the right thing. We all know intuitively that nobody is perfect, we don’t have to look far past our own nose to know that for fact. So why play it that way?

“If you got short with someone, particularly in front of others, and you were wrong, fess up, apologize in a way that makes sense, and move on… if you make a mistake, admit it!”

In Agile software development there is a lot of room for correcting mistakes early and often. What is great about working in the Agile space is that people can be honest about failures because there is a team to pick it up and fix it quickly. Hopefully you have a team that allows your members to be open and honest. Mostly likely, your processes and procedures demand that type of transparency, from your information radiators to transparent bug tracking on a big wall with sticky notes.

There is always room for more honesty and transparency where you are. If things go south, be the first to admit it but also have a couple proposals ready on how to fix the situation.

When I coach Agile teams, if there are team members who like to just point out what’s going wrong I always counter with: “Hey, don’t just tell me what’s wrong, tell me 1 or 2 ways to fix it.

Apologizing is great, being honest with your team and company are fantastic. I would add that apologizing is a great start, but come prepared with a couple of ways to make it right. People like that approach. I certainly do.


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