Why is taking ownership of our mistakes so essential? Simply because owning up to our mistakes shows that we are able to acknowledge our failures, which in turn allows for the situation to move forward: beyond the blame; beyond the accusations; beyond our pride. We can't be perfect and grow.
Meaningful progress only occurs when a team can identify real breakdowns in communication, relationships, trust, and team systems. It takes courage to own your part of a mistake, an error, or failure.
I was asked to listen in on a dysfunctional team this week in order to mediate an issue. I have been in this meeting so many times that I could write the script like a canned sitcom:
Act 1: Everyone gives his or her biased take on the situation.
Act 2: There are subtle clarifying statements and innuendo to justify positions, point fingers, and save face.
Act 3: A leader suggests an action plan to pacify the group. The group then agrees with minor alterations plan, which contribute to their debate positions.
Act 4: The group dissolves to discuss their real feelings and issues with trusted co-workers in order to set the record straight.
Act 5: Everyone coexists; the problem reemerges in a short period of time and everyone wonders why.
I will tell you why. There is a lack of ownership around the problem. Consequently, there will be little or no real progress to finding a solution.
It takes a leader to show others how to fail and learn. Show other's it's OK to own your part of the mess; then show others how to clean it up.