Apologies Along the Way

Apologies Help Us Climb the Ladder

It happens to all of us at one time or another; we miss appointments, forget commitments, or make promises we can’t keep.

CC image courtesy of Matt Elsberry, “Rope and Dowel ladder”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_elsberry/4385892743/

Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, and sometimes, for any number of reasons, we abrogate our responsibility to others.

What do you do when you are the offending party? That depends on who you are.  Are you a person who feels guilty for having broken promises, wasted someone’s time or let someone down in some way?  If you are, congratulations!  It means you have a conscience, and a conscience is a critical character trait to help you achieve success, both in business, and in life.

When you hold yourself personally responsible for your actions, you can take the credit for your own achievements, but more than that, you have the ability to determine the quality of your life.

Recently I asked a new business contact for an introduction to someone whom I wanted to meet.  That contact very kindly made the connection in a professional and courteous way.  So far so good, right?

Well, sometimes things blow up, and unfortunately for me, I was called to help a friend who had a crisis and needed immediate assistance.  Naturally, all thoughts of a low-key business conversation blew out of my mind and it wasn’t until the situation had been rectified that I realized I had missed an appointment for a phone conversation with someone I very much wanted to meet.

What were my options in that situation?

  1.  I could have blown both contacts off and moved on;
  2.  I could contact both people and apologize and reschedule the call.

Obviously option one is a dead end, but option 2 turns out to be rewarding.

Writing letters of apology or apologizing in person are both uncomfortable activities, but success and satisfaction have to be earned. Dealing with uncomfortable situations is the way we earn both self-respect, and the respect of others (I’ve never been a fan of “self-esteem” because it does not appear to me to have that element of being earned.)

These are the surprising, and powerful, benefits that turned up from taking that uncomfortable step:

  1. Both people very graciously forgave me.
  2. They saw that I take responsibility seriously.
  3. They saw that respect them and their time.
  4. The delayed conversation and developing relationship were not lost.
  5. I have the distinct pleasure of feeling gratitude to them for giving me a second chance, and to the universe for providing me with the ability to feel gratitude.

What could be better than that?!  All successful relationships, no matter their context, can only be based on foundations of mutual trust and respect.  When we treat clients, vendors, friends and family with respect and gratitude, we help one another climb the ladder to success.

Fear as a Success Tool: A Personal Story

Fear as Success ToolSometimes our greatest fear leads to our greatest growth. When I first began my private coaching practice, I was terrified of being a visible leader. I did some pretty impressive things, but always gave the credit to someone else and let them shine. Often they didn’t want to accept the credit, but couldn’t convince me to stand in the spotlight. This same situation occurred on an almost regular basis for most of my life. I didn’t recognize the pattern until very recently, when I realized it was the result of growing up in an unstable and high-stress family environment.

One day my coach asked me to write a presentation which I would deliver to him in our next session. Now this was a private session. I would only have an audience of one, and that one was very definitely one of my primary supporters, but just knowing that he was expecting me to speak was enough to send me right into the deepest pit of fear I have, revealing myself and demonstrating leadership. My reaction to this assignment was extreme. On the day I sat down to write my presentation, I found myself quaking and crying uncontrollably.

Now for those who don’t know me, I’m not a shrinking violet type who stays in their comfort zone and lives a quiet, safe little life. Quite the contrary, I’m a world traveler, runner, weight-lifter, very politically engaged and not afraid to venture an opinion about anything on my mind. Despite being an extrovert, I was paralyzed with fear by the prospect of being in the spotlight. I had to dig deep to pinpoint where my fear resided and how to turn it into something positive.

Any one of us can be stuck in place by fear of the unknown. The key to turning fear into an asset is by the process of connecting with your fear in a non-threatening way, so you can observe it without reacting to it. I know it sounds like theoretical talk but it is truly effective. It takes some doing and is most effective when you can work with someone else, like a coach or therapist who can help you stay objective. You will learn so much about the origins of that fear, why it developed and how it is affecting you in the present moment.

Some questions you can ask yourself questions about you fear are:

  • When is the first time I remember this happening?
  • What am I really afraid of?
  • How real is the danger?
  • How has it affected me in the past?
  • How is it affecting me in the present?
  • What would be different if I wasn’t held back by this fear?
  • How much do I want that different result?
  • What am I willing to do to move past this fear?

If you find that fear is holding you back from responding positively to challenges and from achieving success in your business and your life than test yourself by taking one single action step. If you are still unable to move forward positively – reach out to a coach that is trained in helping business owners make impactful next steps toward their vision of success. Remember, “No man is an island complete unto himself.” That includes small business owners!