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How to Apologize Like a Boss

April 21, 2022

We all know the power of a good apology but they seem to be few and far between in the workplace. At Refound, we’d like to change that. A good apology can go a long way in transforming team dynamics and building trust.  In fact, it can make the difference between an employee staying or leaving.

Good leadership must have a place for good apologies.

But what does a GOOD apology look like? Do we need to say sorry 20 times? Confess to being a terrible person? Swear we won’t ever make the same mistake again?

The simple answer: No.

What we do need to do is take a little time to think about why we’re sorry, which means we have to shift our awareness from what we did to the impact it had. That way we can deliver a genuine apology that resonates with the person receiving it and helps us become the kind of leader we set out to be.

Ready to put a GOOD apology into action? Start by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. What specific action did you take or not take that created more work, frustration or anxiety for this person?
  2. What proactive action can you take now that shifts that work, frustration or anxiety back to you?
  3. What feeling or inner voice did you ignore that you can pay better attention to next time?

Let’s see how they play out in the real world with an example of a fully-baked GOOD apology.

“Hey Robin, I just realized that I never responded to the question you asked in your email yesterday about that step in our new client onboarding process. I was in my own world thinking about the part I was focused on. Sorry about that — I realize it left you wondering and probably slowed you down. I wrote a full response to your question below so you can see the different options I think we have at this point.”

Specificity? Check.
Ownership? Also check.
Acknowledgement of the impact your actions had? You get where we’re going.

The key is to take a moment to pause and reflect before blurting out an “I’m sorry” in passing.

And don’t think that because you are higher up on the org chart that you don’t need to take this degree of care in how you apologize to your reports. These are actually the apologies that matter the most, because you’re showing that you respect that person, whether they are a junior member of your team or not.

So here’s our challenge to you today. Next time you feel you owe an apology to someone in your workplace,  refer back to the above questions and see if you can deliver an impactful one. You might be surprised at just how far it goes in building trust.

And if you’d like a clear and simple path to great leadership, BOOK a free discovery call with us to talk about it! Our leadership coaching and manager training programs can help you and your company build Good Authority so that people grow and stay on purpose.

We look forward to chatting soon.


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