Facing our managerial miscues is painful. Properly rectifying missteps is paramount.
“That’s too much savings!” The manager looked at the spreadsheet that showed he had been overspending by more than 50 percent on a particular service under a sweetheart deal he thought he had. He was clearly mortified by what the math displayed. “Too much savings” meant a long history of too much spending, and he was the one responsible.
The phrase resonates to this day. A team member of mine who was on the aforementioned project alongside me still occasionally drops me the question via text or email: “Are you still getting too much savings these days?” It’s a delightful “How ya doin’?” But that episode, while humorous to consider in isolation, actually illustrates a good lesson about confronting reality as business leaders.
At some point, we all must face the unpleasant fact that we’ve made mistakes. We’ve hired the wrong people, bought and sold at ill-timed prices, or invested in the wrong markets. It happens to every one of us who actually make decisions. We try to be perfect, but we’re simply not.
My overspending manager, however, compounded his imperfection by trying to sidestep the inevitable pain of confronting a mistake. He popped the infamous “too much savings” comment not to state that we were going to cut costs too far, but rather to convey “I can’t give this to my boss because it will show I’ve made a big mistake.”
And that’s the problem. Analyzing our decisions sometimes reveals that we’ve made bad ones. And correcting poor decisions often means facing the proverbial music—the dirge of our defeat. We must admit it and move forward. And that’s hard.
If we examine a bad investment we’ve made and choose not to write it off but to instead double down on it because, well, doing the right thing would be too painful, we’ve ultimately determined that doing the right thing is wrong because of the optics or our insecure need to save face. Such decisions may be human nature, but they’re also cowardly, selfish, and detrimental to personal and organizational growth.
If you find yourself in a situation where the answer is so right that it’s wrong, ask yourself why. The correct strategic shift often comes with a cost, but the price of inaction is typically not less than your own job.
After all, if you won’t make the right decision, the person who replaces you probably will. And he or she will look like a hero doing it.
What do you think?