Ideas and stories from my growth journey. Warning: If you are interested in a casual, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.

The Power of An Unnatural Apology

What you say after you make a mistake will either begin the healing or double the damage. Tweet This There is great power in an honest, full apology.Customer service experts know that a complaint is actually a golden opportunity to create a raving fan if you handle it well. Surgeons are taught that the best way to avoid a malpractice lawsuit is actually to give a heartfelt apology to the family, not avoid and excuse. Marriage counselors help couple reverse years of pain by apologizing instead of defending.

sorry comic

In just about every field of human interaction, a good apology has been proven to be a game changer. But in all those fields, it’s also revealed that our default state is not to apologize well. It’s to explain why it wasn’t really entirely our fault. It’s to protect and defend, rather than humble ourselves.

Many of us have never seen someone offer a full apology, which includes:

1) Name the behavior you’re sorry for. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Not even close to enough. What exactly did you do (or fail to do) that was wrong? Own it and name it.

2) Acknowledge how it made them feel. This is not permission to say, “I’m sorry you felt hurt” and avoid naming what you did wrong. That’s a false apology. This is a separate sentence after you named what you did wrong. Once the mistake is identified, say something like, “I can see that it hurt you” or “I realize this made you feel ignored.”

3) Say what you’ll do differently from now on. Offer a plan on how you’ll make sure this won’t happen again. Or at least a specific commitment that the next time you’re in this situation, you’ll do the opposite. (Of course, this means you need to follow through what that or this whole apology will be invalidated.)

4) Don’t make a single excuse or explain why you weren’t really wrong. This might be the hardest part of the apology. At least, it is for me. No defending, explaining, or justifying why you did what you did. Explaining should be handled in a separate conversation. And don’t start that “separate conversation” right after the apology. If you truly do need to explain, you’ll have to come back later, probably another day, and have that conversation.

But let’s be honest, it usually isn’t necessary to explain. We just want to feel justified so we can avoid the pain of being wrong. When we make a mistake, the guilt and loss felt in that moment is intense. Our impulse is to move away from that as fast as possible. So I challenge to have the strength of character to resist your impulse and make a full apology. Parents, teach your kids to apologize well. Leaders, model for your people a true apology. And spouses, break the cycle of argument with a real apology. Have the courage to sit in that pain for a little bit and make a true, full apology. It will make a bigger difference than you might realize. It could change the future path of your whole relationship.

This post is my answer to a discussion question from Chapter Four Debrief of How To Fail As A Leader.

photo credit: sorry via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakThe Power of An Unnatural Apology

What Do You Do If You Work For A Bad Boss?

What do you do when your boss is bad leader? In How To Fail As A Leader, one of the main characters has real problems with the vision and direction of his boss. Sadly, this is not a fictional problem. I spoke this week with a friend who is a similar situation. Here’s what I said:

First, ask yourself if you really are supposed to stay with that leader. Jimmy Collins (former President of Chick-fil-A) taught me that it is our responsibility to choose our bosses well. Tweet This It’s normal to feel stuck. But you have more options than you probably realize. It might take some time to make a transition happen, but you can find a better job with a better boss.

an unwitting victim screaming man

But what if you believe you’re supposed to stay with that leader? My friend believed God was calling him to stay for at least a while longer.

Then ask the leader how they would like to receive feedback. Before you give challenging feedback, ask them what the best way would be to offer input to them—and on what topics they’re willing to listen. Pre-negotiate how to have that conversation. At best, this opens the door for you to come back later with specifics in the way they want. At worst, you’ll find out they aren’t open to challenges before you stick your foot in your mouth.

But what if—as in my friend’s case—they aren’t open to feedback?

Is time to establish boundaries to protect yourself. Know what you need to stay healthy and protect that. You might need boundaries around how much time you’ll work. Or you might need to limit how often you’ll talk about how bad your boss is with your colleagues and friends. Stirring up frustration after you’ve decided to live with only makes it harder. You might even need to protect yourself from your own passion for excellence and be willing to do what the boss says even when you don’t agree. Choosing to stay means choosing to follow that leader even when you disagree.

If you can’t live with these limits, then I refer you back to the first question. Why are you staying? If the only reason is because you can’t see a way out, then you can decide to leave and give yourself the freedom to start figuring out a way to do that well. There are always options, if you’re willing to be both creative and persistent. And be sure to interview your next boss thoroughly. The second time around with the same type of bad leader you won’t learn as much—and it hurts just as bad.

Lastly, if this is happening to you, do not waste this opportunity. I learned so much from my bad leaders. Hopefully I learned enough that I’m not “teaching” my staff these lessons, too. 🙂 It was painful and exhausting and I don’t recommend staying very long. But while you’re there, squeeze as much learning as you can from it. Don’t let your pain go to waste. Tweet This You might even want to journal during this season, both to help you process your pain and to crystalize the insights.

This post is my answer to a discussion question from Chapter Four Debrief of How To Fail As A Leader.

photo credit: an unwitting victim…bwahahhahahaa via photopin (license)

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Scott WozniakWhat Do You Do If You Work For A Bad Boss?

Finding Joy In the Mud

Life is hard. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

A few weeks ago I ran my third Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it was an 11 mile course with 25 ridiculous obstacles, including ice water (big bin filled chest high with so much ice that it slowed me down wading through), electric shock station (there’s no way to avoid the live wires hanging down, you get shocked and keep moving), a 20 foot jump into water, and all sorts of walls and monkey bars and, of course, giant mud pits. Like I said: ridiculous.



So why would I do something that hard even once, let alone three times? Because it’s hard. I have discovered joy in overcoming obstacles. There is a thrill when facing a new problem (Tough Mudder changes their obstacles every year). Bonds form when helping a friend and being helped (I have always run Tough Mudder with someone else). And there is deep satisfaction in overcoming. There’s nothing quite like the moment after you conquer an obstacle—and double that when you finish the course. Plus, I get to act like a ten year old boy again. Big mud pit? Jump in! See a wall? Climb it! Ice tub? I dare you swim through it!

Sometimes we do need to rest. We can’t be on the course all year long. But we can’t rest all year long either. We aren’t fully alive without some challenges to overcome. Maybe you’ve just come through a major obstacle course in your life. If so, enjoy your rest. But maybe you’ve been resting for a while. If so, it might be time to enjoy some obstacles.

We thrive in a rhythm of rest and challenge. Both are needed. And both can be fun. Tweet This So if life is throwing a challenge at you, bring a friend, jump in with both feet, and embrace the joy of overcoming.

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Scott WozniakFinding Joy In the Mud