Last week my post was entitled, “Do You Owe Someone An Apology?” We looked at the benefits of seeking forgiveness. This week we look at the benefits of giving forgiveness. I’ve worked with leaders who have a very hard time with this.
The opportunity to forgive can only arise when an employee has screwed up. He’s done something perceived by the leader to be wrong or unacceptable. And let’s assume that this screw up was not trivial; it caused a problem. Here are a couple of real-life examples.
In the role of consultant, I was working with a Senior VP of HR to implement a new company-wide HR initiative. We designed and executed a pilot to test our process. One step in the pilot process required me to consult by phone with the General Manager and HR Director at each location. The pilot worked quite well, and the Vice President decided to roll it out to all company locations. As we rolled it out, I took the initiative to set up consulting calls with each location. Well… that made the Vice President angry. A control freak, she wanted to control these calls. My calling the locations directly was completely unacceptable to her, and she had me removed from the account. To this day she has not forgiven me. I’ve seen her do this to other people over the years. Someone does something she doesn’t like, and she writes them off. She has a very hard time forgiving.
This next example involves possibly the biggest screw up of my professional career. My boss and mentor at that time was Phil Lombardi, VP of HR for Hyatt Hotels. He gave me the assignment to create a video training program for employees, which he would present at the annual General Managers meeting. I hired outside experts to write, direct and produce this video and the accompanying training materials.
When Phil presented the program, the General Managers universally hated it. To a person, they stated emphatically that they would not implement this program in their hotels. When I recovered from the shock, at the earliest opportunity, I tendered my resignation to Phil. He told me he had just tendered his resignation to the president. The president did not accepted Phil’s resignation and Phil did not accept mine. He forgave me, and he never mentioned it again.
Leadership is all about relationships. If you don’t forgive, the negative feelings you retain will infect your relationship with that person and taint the way you treat each other, thereby undermining your success. Furthermore, there’s a lot of evidence that carrying those feelings around is very bad for your health. See this article by the Mayo Clinic.
Look, we’re all going to screw up at times. We’re human beings for goodness sake. We all need forgiveness. If you don’t forgive you’ll be seen as petty and mean spirited. You’ll drive up turnover, undermine your chances for success, and cause your health to deteriorate. Who needs that?
As a leader when you forgive you increase loyalty and appreciation from others, increase your moral authority, model truly exemplary behavior, improve your relationships, improve your health and increase your chances for success. Who wouldn’t want that?
Life is short. Whatever it is, get over it, let it go. Everyone will be glad you did.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi
Thanks for reading. As always, I welcome your thoughts.