When is it okay to be wrong in business?

27 Nov When is it okay to be wrong in business?

roar-one-millionAfter nearly ten years of working in media, I’m finally coming to the conclusion that I think the correct answer is ‘always‘. Sure, most of us would prefer not to be wrong. I get it. Afterall, when we’re right:

1. We progress in the direction we originally intended – saving time, and making it look like we made the right decision in the first place.

2. (We think) we look better, smarter, and more successful (arguably less imperfect?) in the eyes of others.

And maybe we do. But is this always necessary?

And is it always best to continue in the originally intended direction? Of course not!

How many different career paths have many of the world’s most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs embarked down before finding their sweet spot (Richard Branson being a great example)?

Mistakes (and moreover being receptive to criticism over one’s mistakes) are what enable us to develop and progress.

But many of us take criticism in the wrong way, seeing it as a sign of weakness. And, of course, weakness is bad, right? We want people to perceive us as strong, as righteous, as infallible, as perfect.

Wrong.

None of us are perfect and we shouldn’t believe ourselves to be so.

Which brings me to the beautifully flat structure within Conversant Media. Our two co-founders, the Managing Director and Publisher respectively, regularly ask for feedback from other members of the team, as well as freely volunteering their advice and counsel, thus encouraging open debate and unrestricted discussion throughout the company.

Only one of the team is ever considered to be a ‘junior’ (and that’s only because he’s got the same name as his Dad!).

We all report to each other, as well as to ourselves, remaining constantly accountable with daily ‘Stand Up’ sessions between our three offices in Sydney, Newcastle and Austin, via Skype or Google Hangout, as well as through constant IM and regular posting on our internal chat-platform, Yammer.

I speak for every member of our small, tightly-knitted team when I say that I would just as readily be critiqued by our newest Sales Exec, only a year into his media career, as by our hands-on Managing Director, Zac, who has almost double my own tenure in business.

There really is no substitute for honest, unadulterated feedback from one’s own team. It keeps us on our toes, and accountable. And above all, never standing still.

We have a phrase internally, which I believe Zac borrowed from a mutual ex-colleague of both of us, Richard McLaren: ‘Fail Fast!’

Think about it. Make mistakes, but make them quickly, and identify them soon after. Then look for an alternative solution.

That really is the only way to keep growing.

One final rhetorical question, which I love:

“What in the world would you dare to attempt if you knew without doubt you couldn’t fail?”

Surely the answer is ‘everything…’

3 Comments
  • Jan Leeming
    Posted at 10:40h, 10 December Reply

    I may be a trifle partial but these words are so true. By saying ‘Sorry, I’m wrong’ one can defuse a situation, bring the other person on side and possibly benefit by advice.
    Well done, Jonathan.

  • Bruce Sheekey
    Posted at 19:07h, 14 December Reply

    Gidday Jonathon,

    I know/guess you’re about early-mid 30s, but this is the writing of a wise 80-year-old (meant to be a huge compliment).

    Came across this while having a sneak at Conversant Media.

    Keep up the good work.

    Sheek (Roar)

    • Jono Leeming
      Posted at 20:09h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks very much indeed Sheek; I will most certainly take this as a huge compliment!
      All the best, see you at a game soon I hope…

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