Sometimes, even the most gifted orators put their foot in their mouth. Yes, sometimes even the most capable leaders step on it -- saying something or doing something they later regret. Has it happened to you? Have you messed up lately? How did you handle it?
All I can say is...I'm with you if you have! For those of us who talk a lot, sooner or later we will say something we wish we had not. Yep...I'm with stupidly! (For those of you who don't understand the use of this phrase, you might remember it a little differently on a t-shirt like this one).
Here are a few thoughts for those of us who speak or act without thinking:
-- Own it. It's okay to admit that you are wrong. And the sooner the better. Don't jump straight to damage control. Start by first stepping up and admit your shortcomings. Don't take the course of "apologizing to those who were offended," (i.e. blaming the victim). Instead, confess your errors: "To those whom I have offended, I apologize. I spoke before I thought, engaged my mouth before my brain. I'm sorry. Please forgive me." It's okay...no one is perfect. Be man or woman enough to admit your error.
-- Communicate it. Let people understand that you are mortal and make mistakes. Then share with them your plans to correct the issue and move forward. I have found that people generally appreciate when they see that their leaders are genuine...and that they are human. And people who are wronged are much less likely to hold a grudge, to embrace reconciliation, when they hear you say you are sorry.
-- Fix it. If damages are done, make the necessary repairs. Restore the relationship (yep...sharing a beer is a great way to sort out differences), fix the problem, regain the trust of those who are wronged. Every leader makes mistakes. Great leaders take immediate action to make amends.
-- Learn from it. Great leaders learn from failure. It is important that we make improvements with each and every screw up! It is especially key that we demonstrate our learning by not repeating our mistakes. Our apologies will quickly lose credibility if we continue to make the same errors.
So what about you? Have you offended someone lately? Have you made a public (or private) mistake that warrants a correction? If so...you're in good company! You too are "with stupidly!" (Maybe we should replace the old classic t-shirt with this new one). Stuff happens. How we deal with it will ultimately characterize our ability to lead.
That's Leader Business!