Memo to CEOs: Apologize in Advance

We’re all leaders. And as leaders, people are watching our actions.  That’s why it’s good to ask ourselves: Am I clear in my direction? Am I kind in my communication? Do I live my life according to principle? Have I accepted the call to live a life of excellence?

Here are two guidelines to help us become – and stay – leaders of excellence:

1. You’re responsible not only for others, but also for ‘taking care of you.’ That means getting the sleep that you need; it means building the space in your day so that you actually have time to be patient. If you don’t, you’ll face pressure that might cause you to react in ways that are not the true you. As CEO, you want to be your best self at all times.

Sometimes, we don’t succeed.  As a leader, your most painful times are when you are not the person you want to be. Perhaps there is an unexpected pressure—a new partnership, a deadline, or a team member who needs extra help. Perhaps you don’t achieve all that you’d hoped to do that day. Perhaps you go home disappointed in yourself: I could have had a kinder tone; I could have slowed down to encourage that team member who needed more time or insight. That’s where we move to Point #2.

2. Learn to apologize quickly, even in advance. People are watching, absorbing your every move. Since we make mistakes, we need to apologize, and quickly. That’s where the graciousness of your team, and of you, come in. So, try to apologize when it is right to do so, and apologize in advance. 

Here’s an example: If you feel you don’t understand the situation, or haven’t seen all your emails, you might preface your comments by saying, “I apologize in advance if I don’t have the full information,” or “I apologize in advance if I’ve missed something,” or “I apologize in advance for moving quickly today. I appreciate your support.”

This is openness. It’s true, it’s real.

It’s compassionate all ways around. It sets your heart up to be a better leader, to be a humble leader, to be a listening leader. It sets appropriate expectations with your team. Your apology is asking them for their graciousness in advance.

Graciousness in advance—what a lovely concept we all deserve to experience.

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