Do Overs: Why Apologies Work

Sep 10, 2021

I have a gift for you today! An unlimited, all-access season pass of “do-overs!”

Great coaching requires great conversations. You can practice and you should! “Nothing magical happens outside the conversation!” Leaders are often fearful of having conversations because they might elicit an undesirable reaction or response from their team members. This fear is not unfounded. Every individual gets to choose their own response. They may react in a harsh way, but that is their choice, not yours. Easier said than done, right? I hear you! So, cash in on this gift I’ve given you. Apologize and start over!

As I’ve grown as a coach, I’ve certainly messed up. I’ve said things that have clearly triggered responses of fear, guilt, shame, or resentment. In one particular situation, while working with a new client, I took a bold approach with a leadership team member who was sensitive to public coaching. Unaware of the situation (I was not observing at a Coach level), I continued to ask probing questions that held him accountable for his results in addition to offering him a different approach, all within about one minute. I was doing all the talking and focused more on my checklist than on him.

About a week later, the owner of the business called me and reported that this leader was anxious and worried and didn’t feel like being in the room with me. Ugh, that hurt. Although I was just following a process that had worked 100 times before, I fell into a pattern of checking my list vs. connecting and coaching in a deep way. Here’s something positive I’d like to offer as a takeaway from this painful story: I apologized. I had a conversation with him a few days later, admitted that I was not in my best coaching mode, and asked for a do-over. Our relationship is now deeper and better because I messed up!

Feel free to mess up as you are coaching and leading, and be ready to apologize. The apology connects and creates a shared accomplishment. You now have unlimited use of this season pass of do-overs! Knowing this will help you jump into a conversation without the requirement that it be perfect. It will help you just start coaching. 

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