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Want better performance? Say you are sorry!!

by on February 2, 2010

I came across this interesting article which is a combination of examples where CEOs and organizations apologized for their mistakes. It adds that companies with CEOs accountable for their mistakes perform better. Owning up mistakes helps to regain faith in the company. There are risks involved in apologizing but by doing so, companies own up their responsibility and thus succeed in winning their employees and customers.



From → Good to Know

  1. Thomas Zhenhua Wang permalink

    It is easy for the executives to apologize for leadership mistakes. (someone under the leadership of the executive did something shouldn’t happen.) The executives probably don’t know until it goes public. It is stupid not to apologize at this point.

    Though I believe it is essential for executives to be truthful, it is also important to have skillful tactics to handle mistakes. There are always situations to make a decision between good and better. It doesn’t mean they make a mistake when the choose the one turns out to be less favorable. Too many apologies will give others the feeling of weakness and indecisiveness or bad judgement, which may all have devastating impact on the executives .

    Just make sure the same mistake never happens twice.

  2. Well, if the executives apologize, they are not speaking for themselves. Instead, they apologize for the whole organization behind them. Accountability is one thing that definitely need to be considered. However, it is naive for a leader to apologize for every mistake he makes.
    Maybe apologizing is one kind of art. Choosing the “right” thing to apologize can gain good reputation; on the contrary, apologize for the “improper” things may run counter to his desire. Another point is that the effect of apologies is culture-dependent. At least in my memory, I heard about more Eastern executives who apologized for their mistakes.

  3. Tien Nguyen permalink

    I agree with Ke Ding that they apologize for the whole organization behind them. Look at Toyota, it has been hit by flaws of some of their car models. Now the CEO felt obliged to apologize:

    “But growing numbers of flaws have started to tarnish Toyota Motor Corp.’s (TM ) reputation for quality. Since 2004 the automaker has had to recall 9.3 million vehicles in the U.S. and Japan—its two biggest markets—up from 2.5 million in the previous three years. The problems got so bad that, in July, Toyota ceo Katsuaki Watanabe felt obliged to bow deeply in apology.”

  4. I agree with Ke Ding’s opinion that the accountability is an essential characteristic for the good leaders. However, accountability isn’t equal to apologizing for the every mistake. If the mistake will damage the company’s social image, the leader should definitely apologize for the mistake and try to retrieve the reputation and losses as far as possible. On the other hand, if the CEO apologizes too often, not only the employees, but also the customers will assume that the CEO is lack of competence.
    Sometimes, the CEO has to be heartless. I remembered an article I read last week was about ten things shouldn’t be done when laying off employees. One was “saying sorry”. The CEO is on behalf of the organization, and he is also responsible for the stakeholders. The decision he makes is forced by the environment. In this case, it’s not necessary for him to apologize, but if he shows sorrow for the compelling decision, he will gain respect both from employees and society.

  5. I don’t quite agree with this article. If I am the CEO of a company, I will apologize for some trivial thing like being late, or apologize for something bad might happen if carrying my ideas in order to motivate the employees. But admitting a happened mistake made by yourself will push you to the edge. Staffs might doubt your future judgment and make your life tougher. Like Clinton refused to admit his improper relationship with his secretary, sometimes, you have to protect your image and say I was right.

  6. Jeroen permalink

    “Before downfall a man’s heart is proud,
    but humility comes before honor” Prov 18:12

    I believe that we have tricked ourselves into thinking that apologies show that we are weak, but actually it takes self-reflection to apologies truthfully. Humility simply means knowing who you are and acting upon that knowledge. So if I let myself take a place where I apologize then I also open up for those around me to respond. And if they accept it, it will give me honor – I will be raised again. And not to a position I take with force or a title, but by the people around me – way more powerful.

  7. Jeroen permalink


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