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Be less good at apologizing

by | Sep 22, 2019 | CEO Role, Improving Competitiveness, Management Issues, Profit Improvement

It’s amazing how often CEOs find themselves explaining problems and fixing things after screw-ups.

Facing the same issues, again and again

Most CEOs are really good at apologizing — probably because they have so much experience doing it.

All too often they move onto the next screw-up, without spending enough time and energy figuring out how to avoid the problem in the future.

I’ve asked countless CEOs why they don’t make sure their companies do things right the first time — so they can stop wasting their time on making apologies. Most mumble something like “we don’t have enough time to make things go right.

I mumble something like “hmmm…

If you’re like most CEOs, you should be devoting much more of your time figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid making that mistake again.

Dealing with screw-ups

Spend less time apologizing for problems and more time on eliminating the causes.

Why not become less good at apologizing?

Most CEOs are happy to get through the day without a migraine. They’re grateful if there isn’t a major crisis. But there are almost always issues that could be dealt with more effectively.

You need to break the endless circle of difficulties: identify things that could be dealt with better, find their underlying causes and begin to chip away at the obstacles to improvement. Step by step. One bite at a time.

A perfect example — but not in a good way

The Crowne Plaza Hotel at Louisville Airport is pretty decent for an airport hotel. Decent rooms, decent restaurant — not a tragedy if you have to stay at the airport.

I had to stay at the hotel to catch a 6:00 am flight (don’t ask…). On-line reviews warned about their airport van service. I asked at the front desk if I should reserve a spot on the 4:50 am van. Two desk agents looked up and said “No, no, the vans aren’t busy at that time. Just walk on.

4:50 am came way too early, and I tried to get on the van. The friendly driver told me “I’m terribly sorry, this van is reserved for flight crews. It’s a contract we have.

I complained to the front desk manager, who couldn’t have been nicer. Filled with sincere apologies, she was powerless to help me because there were no taxis, and there was no one else to drive a van.

She said apologizing for the van service was a regular part of her morning routine. (And she had gotten quite good at it.) More apologies followed, but there was nothing to be done except wait for the next van.

Happily, the van returned after only 10 minutes, I made my flight and no one died from the experience. But it was unsettling, and colored my whole experience with the hotel.

Fixing the problem wouldn’t be difficult — by warning about the excluded van times, or adding another driver. They’re well aware of the difficulty. It remains to be seen whether they’ll become less good at apologizing and better at doing things right.

Are you succeeding?

How can you know if you’re making progress? It’s simple. Are there fewer problems that pop up over and over? Are you beginning to improve your normal way of doing things — instead of just surviving every day’s onslaught?

You’ll know it when you see it.

Become less good at apologizing. It will mean you’re making progress in having things go as they should.


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