Saturday, June 01, 2013

What to do when you're wrong

When you work in the startup world, you're wrong a lot.

I'm an investor, and I assume that only 10% of the companies I invest in will make it.  That means I'll be lucky to be wrong less than 90% of the time.

So why do so many people suck at being wrong?

I see it all the time; someone made a bad call, and the results prove it.  But instead of admitting the mistake, that person will try to pretend it didn't happen.

For entrepreneurs, this takes the form of changing the subject.

For investors, this takes the form of engineering an acquihire.

But pretending you weren't wrong when you were is a bad strategy.  Like bullshit, refusing to admit mistakes carries a cost:

Here are the three steps I think you should follow when you're wrong:

1) Admit you're wrong.

Lightning won't strike, nor will people think worse of you.  In fact, they'll probably think better of you.  And if you're always wrong, at least admitting it makes you look incompetent rather than completely delusional!

2) Apologize for the mistake.

Love may mean never having to say you're sorry, but being wrong definitely does.  Apologize to the people affected.  Trust me, they haven't forgotten, and apologizing is the best way to get them to forgive.

3) Explain how you'll do better.

Some people apologize to a fault.  The thing is, at some point, it doesn't matter how nice someone is when they fuck up, they are simply a fuck-up (albeit a likeable one).  You need to make clear what you learned, and what you're changing for the future.

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