• May 2015
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Ethical Edge Letters on Integrity  

Click here for Russell Williams' bio

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Who are your LifeLighters?
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Find significance in stopping
I was wrong

“Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
John Kenneth Galbraith

There is one three-word sentence that most adults fail to utter. As a matter of fact, rather than using these three words to exercise creative problem solving, individuals and organizational leaders repeatedly will choose instead to blame, deny, lie or play the victim. Fear, greed, power and control are the foundations upon which the three important words fail to be uttered in critical decision-making times. What are the three words? “I was wrong.”

When exercised, these three words become the tool for reframing ethical decision making. They serve as the pause that precedes the pursuit of a new direction. These words powerfully and meaningfully interrupt selfish behavioral patterns that cause pain in families, communities, businesses and the discourse of nations. On the national and international stage, had President Richard Nixon used these words in the early 1970s, he would have reframed the angst surrounding the Watergate fiasco and would very likely have saved his presidency.

Clearly, human nature seeks to defend and protect while the ethical calling seeks the good of others. Declaring, "I was wrong" is the fulcrum that tips the moral and ethical teeter-totter from me to we.
Is it tough to utter I was wrong? You bet it is. Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s former CEO, recently negotiated a $67.5 million settlement agreement with the SEC surrounding the national mortgage debacle without ever uttering those words. But, this high-profile story of human nature’s defense trumping one’s ethical calling is simply a tiny morsel from the banquet table of the difficult decision making that professionals of goodwill face daily when a bad decision made yesterday gets framed in today’s stonewalling of defense.

I was wrong is offense, not defense. Its utterance is authentic. It is reasonable and reliable. It is purposeful and pragmatic. It communicates clearly that trust’s constant consideration is always built on the bond of caring professional relationships.

Mission Integrity Action

If I face a moment this week when I know I made a wrong decision, will I exercise the moral courage to take action with an I was wrong declaration? Do I move through the creative tension of defensive decision making into the open field of ethical play making? If I do, I discover I have new, innovative alternatives. Closing the door on a bad decision will simultaneously open another door of clarity and decisiveness that communicates to others that my integrity compass is positioned in the direction of true north.

Russell Williams,
Passkeys Foundation/Ethical Edge