In presenting Jesus-like S3 Leadership, we note that all of us have to do one thing that Jesus never had to do. We need to apologize when we make mistakes.
And we all make mistakes.
In our programs, we point to the insight from Ken Blanchard, co-author of the best-selling business book The One Minute Manager and co-founder of the Lead Like Jesus movement, who says: “The longer you wait to apologize, the sooner your weakness will be perceived as wickedness.”
Assuming there is some delay between the mistake and the apology, there will always be a little bad faith to overcome.
And often there is more than a little to overcome.
Marius van Dijke, a professor of behavioral ethics at RSM and Scientific Director of the Erasmus Centre of Behavioural Ethics, says people have been conditioned to be more cynical today.
He notes that apologies can build trust, but that we should not expect that our single apology will change the whole trust climate between ourselves and our followers.
“Too many leaders fall into the trap of focusing on window dressing as opposed to real substance. The ‘we’re all in this together’ type of speech only serves to conjure up episodes of The Office,” he warns.
He also cautions against exotic team building exercises that try “to turn office workers into fire-walkers or members of the Special Forces.”
“What is really needed,” he explains, “is the creation and sustenance of a working environment which is open and honest, where communication is plentiful, relevant and reliable -- an environment where the leader is proving on a day-to-day basis that they can be trusted and believed by both words and actions.
“Only then will a sincere apology from that leader be taken in the spirit in which it is actually offered.”
Of course he’s talking about culture here. When we actively cultivate high-trust cultures, our apologies can build further trust. But when we’re mired in low-trust or no-trust cultures, even our best intentions are likely to fall short.
As Stephen Covey would surely tell us, “Be proactive.”