These two words can be some of the hardest to say; yet they are two words that can work magic in the circles we work, lead and interact.
Pro golfer Phil Mickelson had an encounter recently that created a real leadership moment. Here’s the quick recap or you can also read the entire story here.
At a recent PGA tournament, Mickelson sent the ball long but left — way, way left. The ball sailed into the gallery and tagged a guy carrying his folding chair to another spot on the course. As soon as Mickelson learned what happened, he tracked down his “victim”. And when he finally reached the fan — who apparently was not harmed beyond getting a dimpled bruise — Phil was generous, offering up a signed glove as a token of his apology.
I think we can be sure Mickelson never intended to strike the unsuspecting spectator. But how he quickly responded holds a lesson in leadership we all need to be reminded of.
Even with good intentions, we sometimes fall short. As humans, it’s inevitable. But for effective leaders…those who are intentional in their leadership, opportunities to grow are always taken advantage of.
So, when you mess up (and we all do), how do you respond? Think about these three questions. Your responses may spotlight opportunities for a deeper reflection.
- How long has it been since you said “I’m sorry” to another colleague or member o f your team?
- Do you have someone in your world who “holds you accountable”? (that person who doesn’t enable excuses)
- When you know you have wronged someone, how long is the lapse before the apology is made?
So how do your answers to these questions reflect your leadership effectiveness?
Question One: Your willingness to utter the words “I’m sorry” indicates a spirit of humility and approachability. They demonstrate your acknowledgement that you are –as everyone else –simply human. This phrase tears down “power” barriers with those you lead and can build bridges with those you work alongside every day.
Question Two: We can be our own worst critic or best excuse maker. Every leader needs one person in their sphere who they can be 100% honest with. This person is willing to ask the tough questions and create the accountability to keep us on track. Sometimes it’s that person who helps us see the need to apologize. Without them, we can easily fall into our own justification traps.
Question Three: Timing is everything. Offering an apology as soon as practical after an indiscretion reduces the potential for the other person to 1) make false assumptions about your behavior, 2) share their experience with other co-workers and 3) destroy trust in you. While no one is perfect, that sense of a constant “checking” of our behavior and making amends instead of avoiding it and hoping it will be forgotten makes all the difference in maintaining strong relationships.
“I’m sorry.” Two very powerful words. The question is…are they words in your vocabulary?