When love means having to say you're sorry

With the corporate mess-ups that have been in the news recently, a few comments about apologizing are in order.

Let's suppose you've messed up. A mistake was made. You can't believe it turned out this way, but it has and to make matters worse, people noticed. What are you going to do?

1. Think fast. You won't have days to react. Often you won't even have hours. Figure out what went wrong, why people are upset, how damaging it is and to whom, what the likely impact will be to your customers, your staff, your reputation.

2. Apologize and be sincere. Say you're sorry. Not that you're sorry that people feel bad or that you're sorry that people took something the wrong way. That's the same as telling them that they are to blame, not you. A phoney apology is no apology at all. We've all been on the receiving end of one of these and it only makes us more angry. Say you're sorry that you messed up. Explain what happened. If it's appropriate you will have to figure out what steps you'll take to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

3. It's not about you. Initially at least, no one cares about the impact this has on you. That's not how to start the conversation. Focus on your error and the impact it had on others. Use clear language that is easy to understand, not your internal office-speak.

4. What if you don't understand what you did wrong? You better start a conversation with the offended parties quickly. You're not there to speak. You're there to listen and learn. What is the perspective that you've missed? This might turn into an ongoing dialogue, but what a great way to build a bridge. They key is to be open-minded and not to get defensive. You are the student in this scenario, Grasshopper.

5. Make amends. What can you do to fix the damage you've caused? Sincerity and speed are key.

6. When is the problem fixed? When the injured parties say it is, not when you do. Be patient. Do what you need to do.

Remember through this, take the high road. Don't go on the attack. Be willing to listen and learn, and to act with integrity. People are pretty forgiving when they know you mean well.

As a side note, this works for the personal side of life as well. 😉

Thoughts? Is this something you've had to deal with? How did it go?



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