(This post was first published on the blog on March 20, 2016.)

Two of the important things that great leaders do well are expressing thanks and expressing apologies. Learning to give credit where credit is due and owning up to the times we need to do better are key parts to being a person worth following.

What would it look like to do these two things more frequently and with better quality? Raising the frequency with which we thank and apologize takes discipline. Raising the quality of our thanking and apologizing takes thoughtfulness.

For instance, let’s say someone on your team is just about to be thanked by you (which we hope you do often). Think of how much more potent that thanks is when it is combined with telling them how their contribution made a positive difference.

For example, you might say “Thanks for your work on that project. I know that meant the sacrifice of staying late couple of days. Your good work resulted in an incredible customer presentation that sealed the deal. That helped me and our department perform to our best.” That’s says a lot more than what a brief “thanks” communicates.

We want to express thanks when someone on our team or in our organization does something well. We also want to be sure that this is our first response when someone takes the time to give feedback to us (remember Session 2 of LEAD 365?). In fact, thank you is the appropriate response even when the feedback is difficult to hear.

Again, it takes thoughtfulness and effort to move from a simple thanks—which is GOOD, to a thoughtful and well-thought-out thank you, which is GREAT!

What about our apologies? How quickly and frequently do we own up to what our part is when something goes wrong? None of us are perfect, but it shows real character to be able to quickly take ownership when we come up short in our words, actions, or attitudes. How often do others hear from you “I was wrong, I’m sorry”?

The fact is, we usually gain credibility in the eyes of other people when we are able to admit mistakes, own the times when we blew it, and acknowledge when failed to give our best to a person or situation. 

Just like with the thank you, the apology gains real quality when it is combined with thoughtfulness and effort. A quality apology not only says “I’m sorry” but also acknowledges the damage done by our words and actions. In addition, a quality apology describes how you intend to make sure it does not happen again. 

For example, a quality apology might sound like this: “I know I cut you off several times in the meeting yesterday and that was wrong for me to do that. I apologize. It shows disrespect to you and your important role and thoughts on this team when I do that. I know I need to grow in this area and will work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Where are you the most consistent? Is it in expressing appreciation?  Admitting you are wrong? Where does your frequency need to show an uptick? 

What about the quality of your thank yous and I’m sorrys? Quality often means being in person and face to face. Sometimes quality may mean putting it in writing (handwriting, not email!). And certainly quality means backing up your words with the appropriate actions that follow. 

It would be an amazing compliment to be described as a person who expresses appreciation well and owns up quickly and fully to mistakes. It is part of what makes you a person worth following. 


Image by RebeccaVC1. Used under CC by 2.0 license.