Game Production Lesson From Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin (February 1, 1931 – April 23, 2007) was, from 1991 to 1999, the first president of the Russian Federation. Those who want more information about him and his background should check out Wikipedia. I’m focusing on the lesson in game production I recently picked from his actions.

In a past television news I happened to see (I say happened, because I usually avoid the news because of all the negativity) them showing a short video clip about Yeltsin and explaining that he had one major attribute, that made him stand out from many other presidents. Yeltsin was said to have publicly apologized from the people when he made mistakes. I think that’s an excellent lesson that any producer, leader, worker, or member in the team can use.

Let’s face it, everybody makes mistakes. I remember somebody saying something like: “If you are not making any mistakes, it’s unlikely that you are doing anything at all.” Mistakes and temporal failures are okay. (And for the record: I say temporal, because failures in reality are the stepping stones to success). Everybody makes mistakes, but not everybody is willing to admit when they’ve made one.

I appreciate people who are willing to ‘swallow their pride’ and apologize if needed. I’m not saying that everybody in the team should start saying “sorry, sorry, sorry” all time of the day. I’m simply pointing out that it’s not needed to be right all the time. It’s okay to swell your pride and admit if you’ve made a mistake.

When you take this kind of attitude in game production (or basically into any team work) you’ll notice couple of amazing things to happen. First thing is that it will become easier to deal with others. Getting from situation where nobody is taking responsibility and admitting if they’ve made mistakes to a situation where people are taking responsibility is simply amazing. It makes easier to discuss with others. This is one ingredient in creating a workplace where people stop hunting the one who caused the problem, and focus on solving the problem. If the team leader is being able to openly admit when he was wrong, the others will appreciate him more. Just compare this kind of behavior to the situation where the leader (or your boss) refuses to take any responsibility for any problems (since they were caused by somebody else, but never the leader). Does that make you appreciate your boss if he is not taking responsibility for his work?

A former Russian president got more appreciation from people due this simple action (admitting mistakes) and so can you.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. donner, I get the point – and perhaps my example was too simple. I suppose I was simply so amazed that a man like Yeltsin would apologize for his mistakes. I don’t recall Hitler doing that.

    I must point out that I did try to bring this one good action in light, and I agree and must point out that apologizing doesn’t mean it would make Yeltsin’s actions acceptable in any extend.

  2. look, Juuso
    you can’t speak of _one_ thing yeltsin did while discarding other things
    he was complex figure (like any other man, right?)
    please take no offence, ehwn i say “you” below, i don’t mean you personally. it is just an example.

    why don’t praise hitler’s rise of german economy? it is the same thing with him and yeltsin.

  3. donner, I agree (and realize) that public apology and correcting mistakes are two different things, and I didn’t recommend anyone to act like Yeltsin – I simply said there’s an excellent tip to learn from him.

    What I said was this: “Yeltsin was said to have publicly apologized from the people when he made mistakes. I think that’s an excellent lesson that any producer, leader, worker, or member in the team can use.”

    I’m simply saying that if you never admit your mistakes, chances are people might not appreciate you as much as they might if you’d admit them. Simple example:

    Mr. Boss makes mistakes. He doesn’t admit he made mistakes. He blames others. His team members know he is the one who should take responsibility, but he doesn’t.

    Then Mrs. Leader makes mistakes. At some point she makes a bigger mistake and takes full responsibility and apologizes for what she did. In the future she will act differently – as she is the one who should have behaved differently.

    Which one – Mr. Boss or Mrs. Leader – do you think is more appreciated?

    P.S. And I also agree that Yeltsin did horrible job (worst issue mentioned according to other sources must have been Chechnya), but there’s also some true improvements (such as Russia’s economic system might have been a good one). But I’ll stop here the history lessons – those who want to argue whether he was failure in all ways or not might find some political forum a better place for the debate :)

  4. you completely missed the point. making public apology do not mean correction of mistakes made, which fact was clearly shown by our beloved yeltsin. his presidentship was terrible failure in all ways but filling yeltsin’s & co pockets.
    please don’t recommend game producers act like yeltsin :)
    though you’re right with your main idea. you just have taken wrong person as an example.

  5. wazoo, yes balance is needed. (I tried to say what you just mentioned by telling in the post: “I’m not saying that everybody in the team should start saying “sorry, sorry, sorry” all time of the day.”)

  6. Personally IMHO I think some kind of balance is needed.

    Apologizing for mistakes and admitting failures is definitely part of building a career (unless you serve Darth Vader), but then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum.

    I’ve worked with a few managers who took this suggestion too seriously and apologized for everything under the sun. At first it’s liberating, but after hearing an apology every other day, the team soon begins to doubt the effectiveness of the Leader which is even worse for a lot of obvious reasons.

  7. Tuomas, thanks for pointing that out… fixed. “after the initial twinge of pain it clears the air and things will progress normally”, well said.

    ZeHa – yes, it’s basically the same. Good thoughts.

  8. Along with this also goes “admit when you don’t know something”. There are people who always act as if they know everything, and if you ask them some question, they just won’t admit they don’t know the answer – rather they try to say and assume something, but without telling you that these are only assumptions and suggestions. Instead they just talk as if they have the biggest clue about it…

    I think it’s the same thing in the end – if you are honest about your knowledge, you’ll get more appreciation, and if you admit your mistakes, you’ll get more appreciation as well, because people can see that you are reliable and they know with whom they deal.

  9. that’s ‘swallow your pride’…
    anyway, yeah, it takes some cojones to admit sometimes, but after the initial twinge of pain it clears the air and things will progress normally…

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