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4 Surprisingly Effective Things to Say

As the boss, you have to know it all and always be in the right. Wrong. Try these simple, yet powerful words to build trust and lead with integrity.
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We all make mistakes, say the wrong things, and misjudge a situation from time to time. But not everyone will admit their errors, especially in a competitive environment.

Perhaps legendary leadership author and pastor John C. Maxwell said it best: "A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them."

I learned that very important lesson early in my career at NBC-TV.  As the assistant to the vice president of sales I reported to an amazing mentor who relied heavily on my judgment and diligence.  But on one occasion I had a terrible lapse in common sense and fell short of her expectations. I really screwed up.

Naturally, my boss was livid. She immediately called me on the carpet for my error in judgment. My defenses reared up; my fight or flight instinct screamed, "Fight to survive!" Thankfully, in a moment of sanity I took a more sensible approach. Here's what I said.

 I was wrong. I'm sorry. I know that I still have a lot to learn. Please let me fix it.

Apparently, this reply from a young, ambitious employee was far from expected. I will never forget the series of internal responses reflected in my boss's eyes:  surprise, confusion, acceptance, and something that may have been admiration. Whew! In that moment I knew I'd done exactly the right thing.

This experience taught me something I've carried with me through the years: a little honesty and humility go a long way in life.  It enriches relationships, prevents unnecessary confrontation, saves time, and builds trust. What could have destroyed my career instead earned the trust of a powerful and successful woman and opened the door to growth, learning, and many promotions over the years.

The next time your defenses are up you may find instant relief in one or more of these surprisingly effective, yet simple statements. Give it a try, the only thing you have to lose is a little ego!

I'm sorry.

A short and sweet apology lowers the levels of resistance and anger in the room. Diffuse the situation with these simple words. The conversation will become less stressful and a solution to your problem or challenge is more likely to surface.

I was wrong.

Admitting your mistake is cleansing. No need to defend yourself, no need to create a litany of excuses. How freeing! Admit it and correct it. It's that simple!

I need help.

Go ahead. Accept that you don't know it all. A great entrepreneur surrounds herself with people who know more than she does. Reach out to your army of supporters and save yourself a lot of frustration and time.

I don't know.

Do you think you have to have all the answers? Well, you're wrong. Even "experts" don't know it all.  Any true expert will tell you is that no one is expected to have all the answers. Let's face it, if we knew everything life would be boring! This is an opportunity learn and grow; something every entrepreneur loves to do!

Last updated: Apr 29, 2013

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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