When we’re young, we’re taught to acknowledge our mistakes, apologize and move on. More often than not, even as adults, the guilt or embarrassment of a particular error can make us hang our head in shame or find some excuse that never really covers the slip-up in the first place; nevermind actually paving a path of forgiveness from those around you.
Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” With our busy lives and constant stress levels, mistakes are easily made while great apologies are so often forgotten. I describe my job to my daughter as a mixture of a ballerina- (always on her toes,) a firefighter- (putting out flames) and a mad scientist- (finding concoctions and formulas to fix diseased words.) She says, “Mom, you write things on paper and people read them.” If only these things were that easy.
In my position, I’m accountable for errors. Big ones, small ones, some that happened before me, ones that I personally did and even ones that we never knew were made. Owning oversights can be difficult, but none moreso than when I hold my perfectionist-self to a higher level of accountability than I probably should. I had a hand in an error recently that came from trusting someone else. You know what? Scratch that. I made an error. In either case, I began the daunting task of personally apologizing to each individual affected by the glaring mistake.
I thought, I was going to be in for some serious heartfelt groveling. I started out each of the few calls with absolutely no excuse, just a heartfelt apology and a question that stated, “How do I make this right?” To my surprise, it wasn’t scary and there was no groveling. It was a relationship-builder. No one cared about the mistake, truly. They cared that I had reached out to personally call. Then, I put myself in their shoes.
Integrity is contagious. Doing the right thing, despite my comfort level was an opportunity to build stronger relationships with people I care about. Getting over the fear of feeling weaker because I was in the wrong, (my fault or not,) is completely priceless. I heartfully believe that once you start doing the right thing, others notice and soon, it gives those around you permission to act more like the adults we all are.
I raise my daughter in a “no-excuses” home. We discuss why things happen together, and it immediately stops her from giving a very 6-year-old, “I’m SOWWWRY!” Which frankly, isn’t as much emotionally-tied to the incident as it is tied to making sure mom isn’t angry anymore.
Maybe with the right initiative, I can help develop a “no-excuses” workplace. I so often feel that when I’m on the line, I need to explain why things are happening as they are. The fact of business today is excuses don’t matter; solutions do. Errors aren’t a sign of weakness, unless you allow them to be. The silver bullet in today’s apology is offering a heartfelt solution with a human voice. I’m practicing what I preach, even when it’s hard. Call me human.