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  • Tracy Hooper

An Authentic Apology

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

We all know of situations where people, including us, need to apologize and take responsibility for whatever happened.

I overestimated. I underestimated. I didn’t listen to the team, or the experts, or our customers.

If you’ve made a mistake, or hurt someone’s feelings or there’s been a misunderstanding, say, “I’m sorry.”

Offering a heartfelt apology shows leadership because it models what it means to be human, to take responsibility for outcomes, to ask what you need to do to make it right, and move on. Your authentic apology also gives your colleagues the courage and confidence to say, “I’m sorry,” when it’s on them.

As someone told me, “If a manager doesn’t apologize and tries to pass the buck, or doesn’t admit to an error, then I feel like they won’t have any qualms about blaming me the next time something bad happens. And that makes me not trust them.”

So, what holds people back from apologizing? Embarrassment?Stubbornness? Anger? Or is it fear? Fear of what will people think?

My team won’t respect me. They’ll think I’m a fake. I’ll become irrelevant.

Ahhh, the stories we make up. Don’t make them up. Stand up!

Here’s how a good apology can go. Remember, use those “I” statements and fill in the blanks.

I want you to know that I’m sorry about…

I misread the market. I underestimated the impact. I didn’t listen to the team. I took too much time. I didn’t take enough time. I didn’t think through the consequences.

And now I can see how it affected the team or the company 

or you.

Here’s what I’d like to do to make it right…What are your thoughts?

Expect silence or outburst or something in-between. Your job at that moment is to listen and take notes. It helps you remember exactly what they said. 

Then say, “Thank you for your perspective. Let’s keep the conversation going. In the meantime, I hope you’ll accept my apology, so we can move forward.”

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