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The art of the apology

In the middle of a leaders’ coaching session, focusing on how they engaged in difficult conversations with their teams, I began to notice a theme. These leaders were frustrated with the lack of ownership for bad attitudes on the part of some of their team members.

I was also not “hearing” much, if any, sense of ownership regarding their own attitudes with these frustrating team members. I asked a couple of questions:

  1. Have you ever delivered a “bad” attitude in response to a team members’ “bad” attitude?
  2. What did you do when you realized your error (assuming you did)?

Most in the group had not done anything regarding their own gap in attitude. Another question was asked: When is the last time you offered an apology to someone with whom you made a mistake?  To my very great surprise over half of the group had never apologized – EVER!!

Even the boss isn’t perfect

This was a group of leaders with spouses, kids, involved in the community and entrusted with the leadership of people in the business they were helping to lead. How could this be? This was a group in which almost all claimed faith in Christ and yet most had never owned up to their mistakes at work, home, or in their communities.

It became clear that something was really wrong! The lack of character in this group was troubling. The feeling of unease became palpable as they realized the hypocrisy of what was just confessed. I felt for them. The planned agenda was dropped and I proceeded to “teach” this group the “Art of the Apology.” Until they were willing to model the way and “own” an error in judgment or attitude, there was little sense in teaching anything else.

Before going further, I admit that in teaching the “Art of the Apology” it is not because I have it all figured out or find it easy to do. To be authentic and consistent has required much inner work on my part – and this work is surely a lifelong journey!

Our egos, left to their own devices, crave being right, being in charge, being in control. However, the way of our God & His kingdom is so very different. His way is one of letting go of those human drives and humbling oneself before Him and others. His way is one of fully embracing one’s identity in Him.

When we find ourselves in Him our sense of security and significance is bolstered. Our capacity to love, and not operate with fear, is strengthened. Because of Him we can own our mistakes and take the needed steps to apologize, forgive and potentially reconcile.

9 important words

On June 15, 1985, my good friend Luch Delmonte spoke at my wedding. In his charge to me and my bride, he included 9 words. He repeated these same 9 words at the weddings of each of our 4 kids. How’s that for a legacy!! Here are the 9 words that can change your life should you choose to live them:

“I am sorry, I was wrong, Please forgive me!”

These 9 words have provided such a wonderful framework to help ensure relational ease at work and at home.  I cannot imagine the impact on me and on others without them.  Can you?

A Deliberate application

  1. When is the last time you apologized for an attitude, words, and/or actions that were “offside”?
  2. How did you know they were “offside”?
  3. Describe what you were sensing in you and between you, God, and the other person?
  4. What does your internal conversation sound like when you work at avoiding an apology?
  5. What keeps you from living out Romans 12:18 – from taking responsibility in helping ensure peace between you and others?
  6. If you are responsible for any part of a relational disconnect, what is your part?
  7. When will you approach the person and offer the 9 words?

This is the 7th in a series on “Leadership of People and Culture” that have been appearing on the blog, and it is reprinted here with permission. DeliberateU is a Christian business leaders mentorship group. 

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The impact of saying, “I’m so busy”

How many times have you asked someone “How are you doing?” and they respond with “Busy!”? In that response, they did not actually answer your caring inquiry and they unknowingly sabotaged their credibility as a leader.  Further, in their hurriedness, they potentially hijacked an opportunity to bless.  As Christ-following leaders, here’s why I suggest we do well to remove this response from our repertoire… and learn better ways.  Let me explain. We’re all busy. That comes with the position of being any sort of leader. However, even as deliberate leaders are often busy, they are not hurried.  Jesus himself was very busy, but not hurried.  I would suggest that responding with, “I’m so busy” does three things: Reveals our leadership Drains our credibility Limits the God-story 1. It reveals our leadership Newsflash: We are not a “hero” by being busier than others. Being busy is not a badge of honor. Our culture has hoisted the notion of "busyness" onto such a pedestal that many have simply learned to respond this way merely as a status symbol. In the past, I would work ridiculous hours – and be sure to let others know (subtly of course to maintain my “martyr syndrome”).  I burned the candle at both ends with noble church and community work.  I would even brag about my lack of sleep that week, or not attending my family’s vacation because “I have so much to do.”  Worse yet, I thought less of others who didn’t.  I viewed them as lazy or irresponsible.  I was unaware and delusional, arrogant, and prideful.  I wore my hurriedness as a badge of honor. Not only was it destructively sad, but it was also poor thinking.  More yet, it was weak theology, because I didn’t have my identity in Jesus.  My sense of worth came from what I did and accomplished… and what it took to get there.  I would even show up to public functions late and rushed, hoping guests would think, “Man, that guy sure works hard. Look at all his obligations and responsibilities. He’s so industrious… such a servant-heart.” Does that mean all who respond with “I’m so busy” are like I was?  Of course not…  but an addict can easily spot another addict. It doesn’t have to be this way.  Hang around effective leaders for a while and you’ll notice an inner calm and resolve, despite being in the press. A Christ-following leader rests in the unresolved.  They offer a vulnerable, gracious, or inquisitive response… despite being busy. 2. It drains my credibility Rather than being a badge of honor, responding with “I’m so busy” can actually convey: I’m not helping others grow: Show me someone who keeps telling everyone they're busy, and you often see a leader who needs to grow in investing in others.  Effective leaders know how to build, enable, and inspire people to accomplish something bigger and better than they could do on their own.  They look for smarter ways. I'm disorganized: In a lot of cases, a frantic pace is simply a lack of organization and healthy habits. I don't have clarity of what matters most: Without clarity of purpose, and focusing on what’s most important, it's easy to get lured into the frenzy of putting out fires because “I’m so” It might look like hard work, but in many cases, it's just squandered energy. I can’t say no: Enough said. 3. It limits the God-story Starting conversations about how busy you are is a great way to miss an opportunity to witness and bless others.  Why?  Unknowingly, you put up a wall with someone who cared enough to genuinely see how you’re doing.  We’ve also stunted the opportunity to share deeper reflections about where God is at work in your life.   We’ve limited others to see His beauty in the middle of trial or challenge. Ultimately, by saying, “Oh, I’m so busy”, others don’t get to be blessed by the work God is doing in this challenging season of life you’re in. Deliberate application  So, what might be a better way to respond when someone asks, “Hey, how are you doing?” Be thoughtfully deliberate.  Because being real opens meaningful conversation.  Maybe something like, “I’m doing well. Life’s a bit challenging right now, but it is well with my soul. Pressed but not crushed. You know, God is really showing me… Be vulnerable and curious. Because vulnerability builds trust and invites in a God-story.  “I’m actually in a season of struggle right now. Doing well, but feel stretched too thin. How do you manage to juggle all your roles these days? …Could we pray together?” Be a hope dispenser.  Because everyone needs encouragement in their busyness.   “Yes, well I’m really enjoying where God has me right now. What that looks like is…” This one of a ten-part series, “Moving from Hurried to Purposeful” that Darren Bosch has written for DeliberateU, a Christian business leaders mentorship group. ...