Productive Conflict: Own Your Contributions

Have you ever heard the saying, “Nobody’s perfect?” Have you ever used that saying? How often do you use it?

It’s probably one of the most popular things we say and/or think, because it’s true. But what does it mean to not be perfect?

It means that we make mistakes.

We fail at the tasks we’re supposed to do. We ignore shortcomings in ourselves and blame others. We forget to do what’s been asked of us. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time. We put our own wants and needs above those of others. We waste our employers’ time and money. The list goes on. And on and on, right?

We mess up. On a daily basis, if we’re being honest with ourselves. And we mess up at work too, with our co-workers, our managers, and our teams. We miss deadlines. Forget important details. Run the wrong reports.

But what do you do when you miss the mark?

When you put the wrong number in a spreadsheet that changes all the numbers below it? When you make an off-handed remark that offends your co-worker? When you didn’t respond to that email about a legal issue and now the company has to pay a large sum of money for your oversight?

Mistakes are inevitable.

It’s not if we make them; it’s when. But the bright side is that we’re 100% in control of how we respond to them. We can choose to finger-point, blame, lash out, or any of the other negative behaviors we’ve already discussed.


We can own them.

Owning the contributions you made to a conflict, error, misunderstanding, or mistake shows vulnerability, and vulnerability shows humility, and humility leads to trust. And trust builds better work cultures and more productive teams.

When we own our mistakes, we are confessing that we’re not perfect and that we don’t see ourselves as perfect. We admit we’ve made an error and we show the humility it takes to make things right. If we don’t own our mistakes, we can’t amend for them.

Owning your contributions may be more natural for those with the i style or S style, than for those with the D style or C style.

This is the 6th post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective
Part 5: Separate Emotion from Fact

2 Responses

  1. Amy
    | Reply

    Plan to share this the next step I witness failure to own! Thanks.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Sounds great, Amy. We could be waiting a while, though! You do great work.

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