I am writing this on a Monday afternoon, and in only a few hours I will be heading to the basketball court for my weekly pick-up basketball game. In regards to this article, I began thinking about how I will likely be saying “my bad” quite a bit tonight, as I do most every Monday night during these pick-up games. Even those that don’t regularly play basketball, you can probably guess how “my bad” is typically used. If I miss a shot I should have easily made, “my bad”. If I make a bad pass and turn the ball over to the other team, “my bad”. If I gamble on defense to try to steal the ball and it leads to an easy basket, you guessed it, “my bad”. Unfortunately for me and my fading skills on the court, I end up saying “my bad” all too often.
I am one of those guys that tend to beat sports metaphors to death. Team sports and competition are easily applied to the business world. Phrases such as “there’s no I in team,” “par for the course,” and “I’m going to punt on this one” are all commonly heard in the business world. However, “my bad” is one phrase that I haven’t heard used often in my years in the working world. Rarely do individuals draw the comparison of accepting fault on the court or field with the art of admitting fault and apologizing in business.
I grew up hearing sayings from my parents like “nobody’s perfect”, “we are all human” and “everybody makes mistakes,” and I don’t think I was the only one. Unfortunately, something has been happening over the course of my career—I am finding more and more people that must view themselves as perfect, inhuman, and impervious to making mistakes. When I see mistakes made, I am not hearing “my bad” or the equivalent thereof very often.
One of the attributes I find most endearing about leaders is their ability to say, “I made a mistake.” Another expression I heard growing up was that “you learn from your mistakes.” I took that idea to heart, and made a lot of them. However, it’s the extra step of admitting the mistake that I believe has become a lost art. Tonight, I’ll be saying “my bad” a lot on the court as I’m sure I will this week at work. Hopefully in both situations I’ll be saying it less often than last week and never over the same mistakes.
In conclusion, for those perfect people out there who have yet to admit fault, I will let you in on a little secret. Just like my teammates who watch me make the bad pass or miss the easy shot, your co-workers see and recognize your mistakes, even if you don’t admit them. You may as well admit your fault, get it out there, and have others help keep you accountable to improve and avoid the same mistake twice. Wouldn’t you rather they root for you, than talk behind your back?