Brenda was having her usual busy day. She had just started her morning coffee and was getting ready to leave the house. As she glanced at her schedule, she saw that she had agreed to meet with her siblings that afternoon. They were supposed to discuss their elderly parents. There were issues that needed to be clarified before proposing some options about future living arrangements. It was going to be difficult to do the right thing.
This was a very important meeting, and the other four siblings really wanted Brenda’s input. She was the eldest sister and lived near her parents. The options to be presented would have an impact on everyone in the family.
The meeting had been rescheduled several times, generally because of conflicts with Brenda’s schedule. Here it was, now looming on her calendar for 3:00 P.M.
As Brenda quickly gulped down the lukewarm remains of her coffee, she whined to her husband,
“I'm so upset. Look at my schedule! I'm going to have to cancel my meeting with Sally and the others again today. I really tried to clear my calendar, and had every intention to get together, but I’m just too busy. I really feel bad about it.”
Well, there it is…
The mental and emotional defense mechanism that says: “if I’m really sorry about letting someone down, it is equivalent to not letting them down.”
Don’t get me wrong. I know that in our complicated world, life happens. Plans get messed up. Unexpected events happen. And I am open to accepting a sincere apology for a missed meeting or a broken promise.
Like the boy who cried wolf, if it occurs once in a lifetime, it’s not a big deal. But after the second, third, or fourth time, it loses its power. And it undermines integrity and believability.
For Some, This Is a Way of Life.
I’ve met many people, including some of my employees, who seemed to think that if they did not follow-through on a promise, or broke the rules, that a heartfelt apology could make up for it. These are the same people who don’t understand that blaming others or playing the victim can justify their own failures.
“I don’t know what happened. My cell phone alarm didn’t go off this morning and my dog was sick. I couldn’t help being 20 minutes late. I’m really sorry I wasn’t here to open up.”
“I’m really sorry. I don’t know how that specimen was left out. I guess we're going to have to call the patient back in and draw another one.”
“I'm really, really sorry that I forgot to make that deposit again yesterday. I’ll go do it right now. You know I don’t do that on purpose.”
Hopefully, this is not one of the ways that you justify doing the wrong thing.
If it is, knock it off.
Leaders admit fault and apologize when they make a mistake. But then they learn and commit to doing the right thing the next time. And they follow through on that commitment.
And better yet, if at all possible, leaders do the right thing, the first time.
Do you work with people who repeatedly mess up and then apologize? What is that like? What level of integrity do you think they have?
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