If you want to fail… or not come close to your full potential… allow yourself to fall into the alluring, ego-fulfilling trap of assuming, thinking, or even acting from time to time, as if you are infallible!
Assume or act as if you are infallible… now there is a guaranteed winning strategy… for failure! Join the millions of people… and the millions of organizations… who flat-out refuse to accept or admit when they are wrong. Each and every successful person, each and every highly successful leader, and each and every organization that ever existed has been wrong. And, if that person or organization is still around, they will be wrong again… probably many times if they are appropriately taking prudent risks.
It’s not being wrong or making mistakes from time to time that guarantees business failure, it’s the inevitable ramifications of refusing to acknowledge or accept being wrong or making mistakes. Think about it. Each and every day the media is full of true stories documenting the stupidity of assuming infallibility. Such ‘infallibility belief’ and behavior is far more frequent and prevalent that most of us realize.
A very high percentage of people, including highly successful and not-so-successful people, after reading the statements above will think, “Those statements and this article does not pertain to me… I don’t think I am infallible.”
My response to that thinking is this… “Keep reading and think deeper… you may not assume you are infallible. However, virtually all organizations and all people who assume, or act from time to time, as if they are infallible… are many times completely blind to it. You would do well to keep reading and do a little self examination before dismissing this critical commandment for personal and business failure.”
The fact is, whether personal, professional or business, the world’s daily news is riddled and literally chock-full of thousands of ‘infallibility examples’… with more ‘coming out of the woodwork’ every day. I would simply ask, “Are you so privileged and so smart that you are exempt?”
In Chapter Four… Commandment Four of the book entitled The Ten Commandments for Business Failure, Donald Keough provides a number of interesting true stories regarding well-known businesses (and their leaders) that ignored reality, failed completely, or at best missed wonderful opportunities as a result of an infallible ‘we-know-it-all attitude.’
Keough also relays a very interesting true story from his days when he was President and COO, with world-wide responsibility for operations for The Coca-Cola Company. Keogh starts the story by saying, “I was fortunate in having a team of managers who individually would readily tell me when they thought my executive infallibility was not so infallible.” After a very important business decision, members of Don’s team individually approached him and told him why they felt he was wrong. After listening, learning more about the situation, and personally experiencing the situation as his managers requested, Don “assembled everyone involved and apologized for being so narrowly focused and so intransigent.” Don reversed his decision, he and his team immediately developed appropriate business plans, and the entire situation became a world-wide success story for The Coca-Cola Company and related companies.
Why this Coca-Cola world-wide success story? Because Don Keogh had created the culture and had surrounded himself with excellent people who were empowered, and in fact expected to appropriately question the boss, question decisions, and to be always on the lookout for times and situations where a leader, a team, or the company might be somehow be influenced to feel or act a bit infallible.
Keough succinctly and appropriately writes in Commandment Four, “If you want to fail, pose as an infallible leader.”
I would add, “If you want to fail, be sure those around you, both personally and professionally, know the high cost and sure, swift penalties of appropriately approaching you, even when no one else is around, regarding the possibility that you or your organization may have been affected, ever so slightly, by the alluring trap called Assumed Infallibility.”