Where Liability is Involved Deny! (Not)

(Published in Christopher Avery’s Responsibility eTips)

Where liability is involved Deny! has been the professional advice for eons. Even when great surgeons (for example) made an obvious blunder, they were pressured for liability reasons to deny it: “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, I have no idea how you could have ended up with three surgical sponges where your gal bladder was before I removed it.

It happens in every field, every role, every relationship, and in every business at every level. You and I call it “not owning up.” (And you and I do it too, if not so publicly most of the time. And by the way, not taking ownership is still unrelated to age, race, sex, intelligence, education, financial or professional success and social status).

But many doctors, their hospitals, attorneys, and insurers are experimenting with what responsible leaders have always known, that sincerely acknowledging “I goofed and I want to make amends” works. The injured softens and lowers their sword because the mistake-maker owned up and indicated an interest in wholeness, integrity, and taking responsibility.

Maybe responsibility is the best policy (with a hat tip to Liberty Mutual)!

Neither strategy—denial versus owning up—is completely certain except for one thing: Acknowledging the truth mentally and emotionally frees, expands, and empowers the one who does it.

What are the Responsibility Redefined Lessons?

You are human therefore you make mistakes. When you screw up and deny it, you trap yourself in a cage from which you cannot escape—that is, until you own up (to yourself at the very least). Much mental energy is required to hold the lie (and much energy in organizations with less than highly-responsible cultures is trapped here). Then you act in strange ways in order to protect the lie, often causing more collateral damage… (wonder why Responsibility Redefined™ releases so much performance potential in teams and organizations?)

Release it. How? By facing the truth (own up, face the music, see it as it really is).

The third of the three Keys to Responsibility™ is Confront, as in to confront the truth. Philosophers and psychologists tell me that we resist doing this with all our might. But when we are willing to face a truth that we could not—or would not—previously see, we experience personal growth, immediate transformation, a new expansive perspective from which to view the world. We lead ourselves to newfound freedom, choice, and power.

Acknowledging, owning mistakes, and apologizing is not the only way to practice Confront, but it is a great way to learn to build the courage incrementally to confront anything, any time. To be ready for anything—to increase your ability to respond.

Let those who hold onto their denial believe they are getting away with something. You’ve got something better to pursue.

© 2008 Partnerwerks Inc.

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Posted in Ask Christopher Avery, Leadership on 05/30/2008 12:01 am
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