It’s tough to say you’re sorry, isn’t it? That’s because most CEOs hate to admit that they made a mistake or that they have exhibited some bad behavior. It’s just not what CEOs do, right?
Well, Good CEOs May Not Apologize, But Great CEOs Do
The power of the apology is quite underrated by most of us. We feel that apologizing is beneath us. That it is giving up some of our well-earned power. That our subordinates won’t respect us if we express regret. That we lose and they win (as if we were in some kind of contest). And of course, it’s quite painful and humiliating for most of us to have to say, “I’m sorry” to someone.
So we go on offending people, or making mistakes that everyone is aware of, but with no expression of regret on our part. That doesn’t make us look better…it makes us look worse. Believe me, when you screw up, everyone knows it. Your failure to acknowledge it and express regret, just makes you look like a pompous ass. The people you have offended become bitter through your failure to acknowledge the hurt you have caused them.
On the other hand, apologizing to someone you have offended shows them that you care. It shows them that you are experienced enough and mature enough to know your own shortcomings and to demonstrate a level of confidence that allows you to become “earthly” and unpretentious.
There is a certain magic to saying “I’m sorry.” People open up to you. They feel that you respect them and they are likely to reciprocate with their own heightened respect for you. It solidifies the relationship. I have seen CEOs who refused to apologize, no matter what they did wrong; and I have seen CEOs who were self-assured enough to ask for forgiveness and pledge to do better. Which one do you think garners the greatest respect and loyalty?
So when you find yourself in a situation where you have offended someone or really screwed up, don’t hesitate to apologize. Say you are sorry, and that you will do better in the future, and leave it at that. Don’t explain why it happened, or that it’s somebody else’s fault too. Don’t mess up a good thing. Let theapology stand on its own, without diluting its force and appeal.