Friday, November 16, 2007

Two More Simple, Yet Powerful Words

I’ve decided to kick off a series of posts pertaining to “Two Simple, Yet Powerful Words.” You’ll remember in my previous post that I tackled the words “Thank You.” I suppose you could also go back to another previous post where I talked about “Just Smile.” So, what’s on the docket this week you ask?

We’re all human and we all WILL make mistakes. It’s a part of life. No one is perfect (although I constantly strive for perfection). We all have those times when we let others down. We may fail to follow through on a promise. We may say something we later regret. In business, we may be late on a delivery, err on a decision, or fail on our quality. The point is humans make mistakes, which brings us to this week’s two simple and powerful words: “I’m Sorry.”

I know! It’s tough for some of us to admit fault and to take ownership of our mistakes. But, that is exactly what needs to happen. When you screw up: Accept it, Fix it, and Apologize. People need to hear "I'm Sorry." When they are feeling let down, depleted, wronged (and we are the cause of these feelings), then we need to say these two simple, yet very powerful words. Being able to admit fault and apologize for that fault can help a leader gain respect from his/her followers.

It’s really about accountability, isn’t it? As managers/leaders, we are always taught to hold others accountable. But, don’t we first need to start by holding ourselves accountable? We won’t gain the respect of our peers/subordinates/employees/bosses, until we are accountable for our actions (whether they are successes or failures/mistakes)!

Erika Andersen over at The Simplest Thing That Works has a great post on “Just Say Sorry.”
Here is an excerpt from her post:

"My opinion? Refusing to acknowledge that you're wrong is a sign of weakness. And lame apologies are worse than no apologies at all. Seth Godin has a great list in a recent blog post, of apologies from worst to best. "

"The two kinds of fake apologies I dislike the most are the I-couldn't-help-it-so-it's-not-really-my-fault apology and the it's-really-your-problem apology. "

Erika really nails it on the head doesn’t she? We can’t just say we’re sorry. We have to really mean it. The apology must be authentic!

Did you read Erika’s post? She has a great story on the nicest apology she has ever received? What about all of you? Tell me your stories (both good and bad). Let’s discuss and really show the power of these two simple words!
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Andy Vis said...

Good thoughts… sparked thoughts of my own…

Apologizing when you're wrong is one thing. Another, is saying sorry to keep the peace in order to build on the relationships that we already have. Sometimes, when others are incapable of saying sorry during or after a heated argument/confrontation... it takes a true leader to start the process by saying sorry first... even when sorry should be coming from the other way.

Anonymous said...


Y yo siento lo mismo; hablando contigo esta muy enriqueciendo por mi, tambien.

Really great post on apologizing! And thanks for quoting me - I'm honored...

Tu tocaya

Ron H said...

I could not agree more with the premise of your article. A leader who admits when they are wrong shows a level of vulnerability that their team will respect and ultimately start to look to shore up. followers sense the inauthentic behavior of those who hide their weaknesses. Who wants to follow someone who is not genuine.

Great post, excellent topic

Eric Peterson said...

Andy - Thank you for your comments. You make a very good point! There are times that we need to let go of our "pride", and be the first to initiate the apology for the sake of keeping peace. However, I think it's also important that we do not offer up a "fake" apology. "I'm sorry" has to be sincere!

Erika - Thank you for the kind words. I look forward to continuing our conversations

Ron - Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate your comments. You are right....being genuine is extremely important in leadership.

I stopped by your "Material Leadership" blog. I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time there, browsing your archives.

J. Erik Potter said...

Outstanding post, Eric. This one should make your next Top Five list.

So many people are afraid of saying "I'm sorry.". I actually had a supervisor tell me that I needed to stop saying it because it was a sign of weakness that opened the corporation up to "unnecessary risks". Not exactly sure what "risks" he was talking about.

If anything, saying "I'm sorry" can set you apart from the crowd and makes you more "human".

Eric Peterson said...

Erik - It's interesting that you brought up "apologizing too often." First, I agree with you in that saying "I'm Sorry" is NOT a weakness, by any means. I think it's especially important for leaders to learn how to say it.

However, I wonder if we can get into the habit of saying it too much? I've had people point out to me that I say it a lot. I suppose if you have nothing to be sorry for, then maybe you don't need to say it. But, like Andy said in his comment above, sometimes it needs to be said so that we can move on and work things out with others.
Great comment Erik - Thanks!

Also, this one will definitely make my Top 5 (when I get around to updating it)!

Timothy Johnson said...

Eric - your posts are outstanding. This is a great one for anyone. Apologies are a great entrance into any bridge-building conversation

Eric Peterson said...

Tim -Thank you. I'm hoping that the remaining posts in my "Two Simple, Yet Powerful Words" series will also be good for others to read.