By Chris D. Lewis
“We all make mistakes, everybody should be given a second chance.” - Lailah Gifty Akita
I don’t agree that “everybody” deserves a second chance. Some acts are so egregious that forgiveness isn’t an option in my view. However, from a leadership perspective, many acts by employees are forgivable – and many more people deserve a subsequent opportunity than are afforded one.
I firmly believe that leadership is not easy. If it was, everyone would want to do it.
As a leader, I didn’t always get it right. At times I was too hard on people that made mistakes. Generally, not for accidental errors made by staff that were honestly trying their best, but more so for intentional acts that were done without any consideration for the impacts on others, and/or cases of pure stupidity.
But in other instances, I was unforgiving of some that disappointed me through their simple carelessness or perhaps because I just expected better from them. Occasionally, I was more charitable and gave second and even third chances to those that I liked personally. At other times I over-reacted and then held long-time bad feelings for folks that maybe were good employees overall but just weren’t my cup of tea on a personal level. When you don’t particularly care for an individual, it can be much easier to find fault in things they do, when the reality of the matter is that they may be hard workers that do things perfectly right.
Was that fair on my part? On reflection, in some situations, it was not. For leaders, fairness is extremely important and although I constantly preach that leaders need to be able to distinguish ‘error from malice’ and dole out any reprimands accordingly. But sadly, I didn’t always live up to my own adage. I regret that I failed some I have led by judging and reacting unfairly to their perceived transgression.
“These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.” - Abraham Lincoln
I was recently watching the final season of Apple TV’s series, Ted Lasso, as Ted pondered whether to hire back a previous coach that had turned on him. He then said the following:
“I hope that all of us, or none of us are judged by the actions of our weakest moments but rather by the strength we show when or if we are given a second chance. If you were judged by your actions in your weakest moments, would you have cause to be trepidatious?”
His statement really resonated with me.
I recall specific instances when I stopped supporting some colleagues and friends that I felt had wronged me. Sometimes it was based on what others told me these folks had done or said. I now know that in at least a few of those cases what I had been told was untrue, but I had opted to believe someone I trusted that was in fact trying to hurt others while trying to better position themselves in my eyes. In hindsight, I undoubtedly made some poor decisions that subsequently unjustly impacted careers and relationships in a negative way. I’m sure that led to a breakdown in trust in me as a leader among those that were wronged. Some deserved the second chance I mistakenly didn’t offer them.
Renowned leadership author and speaker Robin Sharma said: “Forgiveness isn't approving what happened. It's choosing to rise above it.”
I didn’t do that often enough and to those that I hurt through my failures – I apologize. I wish I could have a second chance to do better myself, but unfortunately life is not that easy.
“Having a second chance makes you want to work even harder.” -