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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Leadership Apology

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does not apologize. Everyone makes that mistake too!
In the course of leading a group of people on a mission toward a vision, over time every leader will make mistakes, insult someone, or otherwise hurt feelings. It just happens if you're doing your job as a leader under pressure to get the job done.
Added to that, we all have both strengths and challenges of character--part of being human. Thus, coming up short as a leader just happens as a byproduct of the job and who we are. So, how do you deal with mistakes? Answer: The apology...one of the most powerful tools in the leadership toolbox.
I've read two books that deal with the magic of apology. Ken Blanchard and Margaret McBride's The One Minute Manager and Marshall Goldsmith's What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
I suggest you check both books out. But essentially the pattern of apologizing is the following.
  1. Admit to the other person that what you did was wrong--not you acting at your best.

  2. Tell them you're sorry that you hurt them and that you feel bad about it.

  3. Ask for their forgiveness.

  4. Let them know what you'll do to stop that behavior.

  5. Enlist their help.

  6. Follow up.
Example: A leader makes fun of a suggestion in a staff meeting and immediately sees the expression of hurt of the person's face. Directly after the meeting, the leader should say:
  1. I make a couple of unkind remarks about your idea. I was wrong.

  2. I'm sorry, and feel like I a jerk.

  3. Will you please forgive me?

  4. I not only promise not to do it again, but if you ever hear me saying something flip or stupid, I ask that you let me know immediately.

  5. I'm going to tell the rest of the staff the same thing. I really have to curb my big mouth.

  6. I'll check back with you in a couple of weeks to see how I'm doing.

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