As the owner of a company, as the leader of a terrific team of 500+ dedicated individuals, as a deal maker/investor, as a loving human being, as all of the foregoing and more:

– I DETEST Blame!
– I ABHOR Shame!

I’m hard put to think of any more useless emotions. The Terrible Twins of Shame and Blame stifle progress, inhibit learning, and sabotage teamwork.

I DO care about: 

– Rapid Recovery
– Shouldering Responsibility
– Learning the Full Lesson
– Sharing the Story (so all can learn from the mistakes of one)

No one learns when we hide mistakes or attempt to cover up errors. Indeed, some of the best leaders I know have been those who fell on their own fumbles and then had the courage to stand up and become teachers, proudly and loudly proclaiming the lessons learned, doing their best to insure that their fellow team mates learn painlessly the lessons that they learned so painfully! Humans learn best by stories and often the most effective teachers, the one we relate to most, remember most, are the ones who can tell the story first person, who can share the emotions of the situation first hand.

The best way to gain the confidence of a competent superior is to:

– Fess up immediately, give a complete report or as much as you know at the moment along with an ETA for greater detail
– Outline the steps you are taking to recover (or present options along with your recommendation and request for needed resources)
– State the lessons learned
– Emphasize your dedication and commitment to the organization/mission/task
– Ask for forgiveness/understanding or mercy as the case may be
– Be humble, willing to accept advice and guidance i.e. stay coachable. Do NOT become defensive.

Yes, even when you do all of the above, your supervisor may still be upset, may still grimace BUT 

1) It will be a LOT less than if they found out in other ways.
2) At the end of the day they will remember that you stood up and took the heat, stayed to clean up the mess.
3) They will know that you are now smarter and wiser, and having paid the “tuition” for that education, they might as well put it to use!
If it turns out your boss or organization are into the Terrible Twins, then perhaps it is a sign that there are places where your talents might be better put to use. Or it could be a sign that you have a tremendous opportunity to become a Change Agent! Also, at times feelings of shame and blame are primarily internally generated; monitor your self-talk, keep it positive and solution oriented and ensure your self-concept reflects your highest potential.


As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier