Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fear of looking incompetent prevents leaders from admitting mistakes, new Forum survey reveals

Findings highlight disconnect between how leaders and employees view workplace mistakes and trust in leadership

AUSTRALIA – 12 November 2013 – Leaders in Australia and New Zealand tend to shy away from taking responsibility for their mistakes for fear of looking incompetent in front of their employees. This is one of the key findings of the recent Leadership Pulse Survey published by the Forum Corporation. The full report and infographic illustrating the findings can be viewed here.

Leaders encourage staff to learn from mistakes, but do not take responsibility for their own errors.

According to the survey, leaders in Australia and New Zealand encourage employees to learn from workplace mistakes. 98.5 per cent say they do encourage their staff to learn from their mistakes, and 88.4 per cent of employees agree that they are supported by their leaders to learn from these mistakes.

But while leaders encourage employees to learn from mistakes, employees don’t believe their leaders are willing to admit to their own errors. Forum’s survey shows a disconnect between how leaders and employees in Australia and New Zealand view workplace mistakes.

Only 18.6 per cent of employees say their leaders often or always acknowledge mistakes, a sharp contrast to 78 per cent of leaders who believe they often or always do so. In addition, 45.4 per cent of employees say they never or rarely see their leaders apologising, while 98.5 per cent of leaders claim they do say sorry for their mistakes.

“Encouraging employees to learn from their mistakes is very important for their learning and development,” says Cynthia Stuckey, Managing Director, Forum Asia Pacific. “However, effective leadership requires more than just encouragement. Managers need to ‘walk the talk’. Asking employees to learn from their mistakes but not being willing to openly admit mistakes themselves can affect employee morale and breed distrust towards the company’s leadership.”

Trust in leaders on the decline
Overall, employees in this region still rate the need to trust in leadership very highly, with 93.2 per cent of them say it is critical to have a leader they can trust. 68.2 per cent of them believed trust in leadership is more important now than in the past.

However, 25 per cent of employees say they trust their leaders less today than in the past. 18.1 per cent of them admitted they don’t trust their leaders, or only trust them to some extent.

“The results showed a trust gap in organisation leadership across the region. The lack of trust in leadership directly impacts employee engagement levels, which can reduce productivity and increase staff turnover,” adds Cynthia. “There is a need for managers to focus on regaining employees’ trust in organisation leadership as part of their engagement strategies to ensure they attract and retain the best talent.”

According to Forum’s survey, the top ways leaders can earn trust and engage employees are:
 walk the talk, meaning acting in accordance with their statements,
 spend time listening to employees and understanding their concerns,
 follow through on commitments, and
 encouraging employees to offer ideas and suggestions.

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