I’m Sorry and It Will Happen Again

How often do you find yourself making the same mistake? Again. And Again.

I was talking to a colleague, who also happens to be my daughter. She was describing a client scenario; I jumped in quickly assuming I knew what they wanted. She paused, annoyed, then went on to describe something completely different from what I was envisioning.

As we began scoping out what the client actually needed – instead of my trigger-happy perceptions – I said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t listening earlier.” I was about to reflexively add, “It won’t happen again.” Then I realized, who am I kidding? This will totally happen again. And again, and again.

I routinely move too fast, and don’t listen as well as I should. I’m working on it, but let’s be realistic, this is a lifelong challenge for me, and it ripples over to the people I work and live with. Instead of pretending it was a one-time event, I said, “I’m sorry, and we both know this will happen again. I appreciate you calling me on it when it does.”

Your greatest strengths are always going to be your greatest weaknesses. For example: If you’re good at quickly assessing situations and articulating solutions, you’re probably too quick at times. If you’re a good talker, you’re likely missing opportunities for listening.

Popular leadership thinking is that leveraging your strengths provides greater opportunity for growth than trying to fix your weaknesses. This is certainly true. Yet for most of us, our strengths and our weaknesses are often one and the same. The last thing you want is to fixate on the weaknesses side of equation at the expense of eroding your most valuable strengths.

The secret lies in transparency.

Let’s face it; the people around you already know what you’re good at. They also know what you’re not so good at. You’re not fooling anyone.

Think this doesn’t apply to you? Let’s flip it; if I were to ask you, “What’s your boss, co-worker, spouse, etc.’s greatest strength?” You would know. You’re probably also pretty well acquainted with their weaknesses, and would have no trouble articulating those, at length.

The same holds true for your team. The people around you know what you’re good at and where you’re awful. What creates a negative dynamic is not the weakness itself. Negativity occurs when the offender (in the case of the above, me, the trigger-happy talker) stresses strength, while their colleagues keep waiting for the person to acknowledge the weakness.

Aristotle spoke about the “golden mean,” the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Wikipedia says, “In the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness.”

You’ll make life much easier – for you and them – if you’re transparent about who you are, warts and all.

Perhaps you’re an introvert who practices deep listening, and needs to get better at articulating your needs. Or maybe you’re like me, the raging extrovert, who talks over people, yet is good at summarizing situations.

Whatever your strength, let your team know you’re also aware of the ugly underbelly. Say you’re sorry when it reveals itself, and give them permission to call you on it.

No one is perfect, the best we can do is be honest about where we fall short.