Earlier in my career, I made a significant mistake that hurt my best friend at work. We had spent a full week working diligently on a project and I was to incorporate our edits into the final draft and send. I agreed to a specific edit that was very important to my colleague. It was so important to her that she reminded me several times.
Then, I sent the email without the edit.
I didn’t notice until hours passed, and I received a reply. When I reread the note, my heart sank. I felt terrible. I called, I texted, I sent an apology note.
We missed each other and I worried she had taken my mistake the wrong way.
When we were finally able to connect, I apologized and explained my role and what I could do to make it right. I owned my mistake, she recognized that, and we moved forward stronger than ever.
When we work with our clients, they share how tough it is for them to admit shortcomings, to apologize genuinely, and step down from the expert or superhero role. It can be easier to brush aside a mistake, or not fully own the consequences even when they aren’t intentional. Sometimes, saying you’re sorry seems like a weakness or worse. Yet, owning our mistakes is the stuff trust is made of.
Owning our mistakes is what allows us to move forward as strong and ethical leaders.
- When did you witness a leader who did not own his or her mistakes? How did that make you feel? Did you continue to trust the company or organization?
- When did you make a mistake that had serious consequences?
- How did you own your mistake?
- How did you say you’re sorry?
We all make mistakes and our clients, colleagues, friends, and family are willing to forgive us of our mistakes if we’re honest, transparent, and responsible. How we apologize and address our mistakes is the signal others need in order to know whether they can trust us.
We love hearing your stories. Thank you for sending us your thoughts! We love getting your emails and our website is wanting to share in the comments. Please feel free to post your thoughts here.
Here are some of my favorite ways to say I’m sorry…
- 7 Ways to Truly Say You’re Sorry from Psychology Today
- The 22 Best Songs to Say ‘Sorry’ – What’s your favorite? (my favorite is #6 – yes, for real!)
- And, I just love this video clip from Friends when Joey says he’s “sorry”