An Unusually Good (If Not Perfect) Leadership Writing Example
“Leadership is fundamentally a relationship, and an apology, when it’s warranted, is an investment in the future of the relationship—whether it’s with a co-worker or a customer, a superior or a subordinate.”
– Bruna Martinuzzi, President and Founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
For many business leaders, “I’m sorry” can be one of the most difficult phrases to utter. We pride ourselves on serving our customers with excellence, leading our teams effectively, and communicating to stakeholders with ease. Admitting wrongdoing can bring up feelings of inadequacy and fear of losing credibility with the people we value most.
The thing is, no matter how hard you try to avoid them, mistakes will happen. If you’re in business, you can bet there will come a day when it’s necessary to issue an apology letter. Understanding how and when to issue an effective apology can be one of the most critical actions a leader can take to save or mend a relationship.
I recently received the following email from Ariel’s Content Manager, Adam Halwitz, with an example of leadership writing at its best.
Check out this recent leadership writing example. It’s an apology for a bad business move from Patreon’s CEO.
They’re rolling back a change they made in their payments system, and I thought this was an unusually good (if not perfect) message explaining that.
What makes the example Adam linked so good? Let’s break down the essential elements of an effective apology letter.
1. Own up to the mistake
“We messed up. We’re sorry.”
It seems painfully obvious, but a simple “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” is the most essential ingredient for an effective apology. Don’t muddy up your apology with an “I’m sorry but…” or “I’m sorry you felt…” Show the recipient that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions. Be direct, own up to your mistake, and don’t make excuses.
2. Show that you understand the problem and the weight of your mistake
“Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income.”
Before you present a plan to avoid the problem in the future, make sure that the recipient feels confident in your understanding of the current situation at hand. Acknowledge how they were affected by the mistake and how it must have made them feel. Practice empathy and put yourself in the shoes of the recipient of your apology.
3. Present a clear plan of action
“We’re not rolling out the fee changes.”
Describe how you plan to fix the current problem as clearly and concisely as possible. If you are in a situation where you aren’t quite sure how to fix the problem, ask, “How can I make this up to you?”
4. Describe how you will avoid this in the future
“We will work harder than ever to build you tools, functionality, and income, and our team won’t rest until Patreon is making that happen.”
Your job is not done after you apologize. The primary goal of any apology should be to gain authentic forgiveness from the person or group you have wronged. The secondary goal is to ensure that something like this never happens again. Outline how you plan to approach situations like this in the future and, most importantly, stick to your word.
5. Show vulnerability
“We are nothing without you, and we know that.”
Authority and vulnerability can coexist. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that showing this side of yourself will make you look weak. In fact, it can achieve the exact opposite. There is power in transparency, especially when you are in the process of mending an important relationship.
Before you issue your next apology, make sure it includes each of the essential elements listed above. Are you and your leaders prepared to effectively communicate in high-stakes situations? Get in touch today to learn how Ariel can help your team write, speak, and apologize with confidence.