Imagine you’re in court. As the prosecutor states his case, you nervously whisper to your defense attorney, “Should I just tell them…” “No,” your counsel quickly interrupts you. “Don’t say anything!” Your advocate’s advice is exactly right for the courtroom.
It’s absolutely wrong for the boardroom.
In legal matters, a good rule of thumb is: don’t admit anything. Never confess your wrongdoing, and never willingly divulge a weakness.
The law is adversarial.** Winners and losers.
It’s a battle of wits in which the ultimate aim is to force a “You’re $#(@ right I did!” admission of guilt.
Heck, here in the U.S. we have a constitutional amendment protecting our right to not admit we’re wrong. (Or that we like Jack Nicholson.)
Many people view life as a constant battle of us vs. them. Never lose. Never admit you’re wrong.
Consulting, however, isn’t adversarial. It’s collaborative. It’s we together.
That changes the entire dynamic and means that admitting your flaws, weaknesses and errors, while not easy, can benefit your consulting practice.
(Many of you readers who are attorneys may be itching to correct me with instances where admission is a good legal strategy. You’re right, I’m wrong, that’s not the point and, ironically, that helps me make the point.)
As a consultant, admitting your shortcomings builds an essential pillar of consulting success: Trust.
When you concede your imperfections, you strengthen trust that you’re honest and reliable; that your claims aren’t manufactured from bluster.
A few admissions that may improve your consulting firm’s success:
“I don’t know the answer to that.”
“That’s not our forte. Another firm could probably help you better.”
“You’re right. I made an error there.”
“Oops, I left something important out.”
Revealing your weakness may also afford you an opportunity to demonstrate your flexibility, responsiveness and resourcefulness. For instance, consider how impressive the following response is, if you can deliver on it:
“I’m sorry, you’re right. I did that calculation wrong. Give me 15 seconds to text my assistant and let’s see if we can get a corrected slide here before we’re done with this meeting.”
Can you think of other times when admitting your faults may help your case as a consultant?
Text and images are © 2021 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.