In-House Business Startup Journal Part 8: Admitting Mistakes

By Andy Brenits, as originally seen at InSource

“Steve jobs would never have done that” I thought to myself, as I read the open apology by Tim Cook regarding the new Maps app in iOS6. As I said those words I realized that I don’t actually think that Tim Cook was wrong to do it though. While not the approach that Jobs would have taken, Cook did something few leaders are bold enough to do…admit when they make a mistake.

As a business leader I realize all-too importantly how earning the respect of my peers, co-workers, and clients is. However, I think too few leaders also realize the importance of earning the respect of their own teams. There are of course many ways to do this which include recognition, reward, and standing up for your team (aka backing them up). I also think showing that you’re a mere mortal, fallible, and occasionally make bad decisions is just as important.

In my effort to be a transparent leader, I’ll share with you an example of how I admitted a recent mistake.

After months of research, demonstrations, and RFP’s I decided to purchase a workflow management system (something we desperately needed). All of the demos with the sales reps made this particular piece of software look like it was the perfect solution. I touted to my boss and my team how this product was the best one based on cost, usability, features, etc. But once it was implemented it was virtually unusable by my team.

For the first two weeks I repeated “your just not used to it yet, give t a chance”. For the second two weeks I found myself saying “lets add that to the list and see if their developer can create a workaround”. On the fifth week of complaints, after trying to use the product myself the way they had been (using simplest of features – time sheets), I called one of the other companies I looked at and fast-tracked purchase and implementation of their (better) product. The announcement that we would be switching to this other product brought smiles to everyones faces.

Here is where I went wrong, and what I admitted to:

– I thought with my budget first. I thought spending $1,600 was better than spending $4,000. You know what, you get what you pay for.
– I went with a product that seemed easy to use, but wasn’t. I should have asked for a free month to play with the system.
– I didn’t’ listen to my team, even though they are the ones using it most often.

The last one is important because when I reviewed my notes on my search for the workflow tool, it seems they mentioned having used the tool we ended up switching to, or at least having heard of it. Likewise when I polled my industry colleagues, noone seemed to have heard of the product I chose, or they outright told me they disqualified it from their list of choices for a variety of reasons.

So after just a month of use, I offered up a mea culpa to my boss and my team. And you know what, I think I came out looking much better for it as a manager, and a leader.

Are you brave enough to admit when you made a mistake?

I will be introducing the legendary Paula Scher at the InSource premier event: An Evening With Paula Scher, Perspectives on the relationships between in-house and outside creative agencies. Tuesday, October 23, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM at the School of Visual Arts Beatrice Theatre. Register before October 1 to get the earlybird discount price!

Andy Brenits has had the privilege of managing creative services start-up operations for four organizations in his 20 year career. The In-House Business Startup Journal is an amalgamation of his experiences leading creative services businesses and the trials and tribulations of getting things up and running to a sustainable state. Names have been changed to protect the innocent or those who should have known better.


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About Andy Brenits

Andy Brenits is President of the Board of Directors at InSource, the professional association for in-house creative leaders and managers. He is also a creative consultant advising individuals and business owners on brand strategy, creative management, and what it takes to differentiate yourself consistently in a crowded market. He has previously lead creative teams at GAP, Banana Republic, NFL, KPMG, and Arizona Public Service. 

One thought on “In-House Business Startup Journal Part 8: Admitting Mistakes

  1. Lynn Moore

    Funny, I had the exact opposite thought when I first read about Tim Cook’s recent apology. I thought he was doing exactly what Steve Jobs would have done.