We have all seen them, most of us have probably worked for them at times, leaders or organisations that are incapable of saying “Sorry, we got it wrong”. A close second is the highly qualified carefully presented half apology “We may have got it a little bit wrong but it really wasn’t our fault, but hey if it helps our position then we are a little bit sorry”.
Whether you are a leader or an organisation there are times when a real apology is essential. All too often this can be delayed for reasons of ego, legal worries or concerns about perception, but often the lack of apology or delay is far more damaging than coming out and admitting you got it wrong, maybe very wrong. So what are the benefits of coming out quickly and publicly and admitting “Sorry we were wrong” or “Sorry I was wrong”?
Shows ability to listen: To recognise you are wrong can often be a very clear signal that you have listened to the grievances or views of another party. It demonstrates that you are not just about talking but that you see dialogue as a two way process and listening is equally important to you.
Shows desire to learn: If when you have made a mistake you spend time defending, spinning, sidestepping or shifting blame then people will be rightly sceptical about your desire or ability to learn from this or any other mistake. Ultimately that will undermine trust between you and stakeholders of all types.
Demonstrates self-awareness: It’s pretty hard to form deep and lasting relationships with customers, suppliers or colleagues if you are seen as lacking self-awareness. Defending a situation which is clearly wrong will rapidly establish you a reputation as lacking self-awareness.
Shows a desire to do the right thing: Sometimes people are motivated by not wanting to suffer the same mistake themselves, sometimes it’s a more altruistic they don’t want to see someone else go through the pain/suffering/problems they have been through, others times they just want to know their suffering has not been in vain.
Reestablishes Trust: It’s impossible to trust an individual or organisation who you see trying to defend their mistakes rather than be honest about them.
Demonstrates humility: Similar to trust few of us like working with people or organisations who are arrogant enough to always need to be seen to be right.
Gives chance to move on: It may be surprising in today’s litigious world your team, customers, patients just want to know that you recognise what happened to them should not have happened. Sorry can give a chance for closure and allow all parties to begin to move on – conversely lack of it can leave bitterness for a long time.
So sometimes saying Sorry I got it wrong is not just the decent thing but it’s the best thing for you as an individual or your organisation. So make sure you and your organisation have a culture of having the right means to listen and the sense and decency to know and accept when it is time to say “Sorry”