Hello Leader,

Should you apologize or not? What might be the impact if you apologize? In this KEY, you will discover why only a few apologies work and most don't, and the kind of apology that can help transform your engagement. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.

Listen to the pocast here.


Aviv Shahar

Your Biggest Choice Ever

"The CEO behaves in a demeaning way towards his team. He exhibits outbursts of blame and criticism in public. He does not share credit, nor recognize the contributions of his people. His behavior impacts the team and causes poor morale and results in less than optimal performance... The CEO wants to change. He wants to re-establish credibility and make his team believe he is different. What can the CEO do to redeem the situation?"

This case was posted for discussion on a consultant forum, which developed a discussion about the place for apologies. Most people agreed that apologizing in business situations doesn't work because those receiving the apology often don't trust it and feel uncomfortable. Here is my take:

Two questions need answers here:

  1. Is this a coachable situation?
  2. Should apologies be included in the behavioral change effort?

Note: Typically, I am called to help as a consultant and a coach with successful executives who want to play an even bigger game and raise the bar of success. Only rarely do I get engaged in remedial situations.

The first question is situational and can only be determined by the CEO. If it is important enough, a change can be made because almost every situation is redeemable. This is not blind idealism. It is based on the realization that every person has the power and ability to take responsibility for their choices and behavior. Of course, the evidence in life is that people often choose not to take responsibility and not act in accordance with their best and enlightened self interest. As a CEO coach, my starting foundation is, If you want it - if it's important enough for you - then you can make a change.

The second question is both situational and addresses the core process of change. This is what I said on the consultant's forum about the broader question of apologies:

  1. Apologies do not work because most people are not prepared to do the 'change work' required.
  2. Apologies can only work with assurances.
  3. A complete apology includes four parts:

Awareness > Acknowledgment > Action > Accountability

This means you:
A. Recognize the behavior
B. Acknowledge the impact
C. Declare an action plan
D. Create accountability and assurances

For example, an apology that includes these four elements would look like this:
Step A: I apologize for my (State the behavior...) outbursts / blaming in public...
Step B: I realize that such behavior makes you (Acknowledge an impact...) feel unsafe / demeaned / is hurtful...
Step C: Here is what I am going to do. (Declare a plan of action.) I've asked my coach to help me replace the behavior with... / I asked three people to remind me if they see me engage in the behavior I've committed to change...
Step D: In addition, I want you to hold me accountable. I give you permission (Assurances) and ask that if you see me slip back you will point it out to me.

Real change is hard work. And very rewarding work!

Philosophical addendum:
"Change becomes possible when you love what you can become more than what you have been." The philosophical and spiritual dimension of this is found in deepening the self-awareness and inquiry, where leadership from the inside summons the reflection of - "why you do what you do..."

There is a point where we are each summoned to a place beyond self-gain, to pursue significant change and to offer service. In this place of emergence, leadership is not about what you get to own or might covet, but is about what you liberate in others and how you help others find the courage to let go of what they no longer need. Courage is the power to lead oneself anew and embrace a renewed transformed view of self which enables others to renew and transform themselves.

Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. Practice the leadership of courage. Help your team find renewed belief and conviction in the future you are creating together.

© Aviv Shahar