I was recently working with a client and, during our interaction, I was reminded of an experience that impacted my entire career.
The scene was the celebration of new partners at my former firm. It was — and still is — a tradition to have newly elected partners (new owners in the firm) give an acceptance speech at an all-partner and staff conference. It has always been the highlight of the year.
Years ago, a new partner — I’m guessing this individual may have been very nervous — made some very colorful, off-the-wall, hard to believe comments. Those of us in the audience were stunned and kept waiting for the punch line, which never came. The room became very quiet. I don’t remember anything after his speech; we were all in shock.
The next day, everyone received a memo (yes, a paper memo in our mailbox; for those of you who have never experienced this, please ask someone more senior than you to explain).
There was a brief cover memo from the firm’s HR partner, and then an apology memo from the newly elected partner. The cover memo said, “Let us not judge one another by the dumbest thing someone has ever done or said.” Wow. It was perfect.
I will resist getting into a philosophical or theological discourse, but suffice it to say that, in a few words, our HR partner got us all back to work and prevented days, weeks, and months of gossip and speculation (i.e., a lot of wasted time).
What is the application for you? Today, things move so fast and sometimes, under severe duress in trying to serve customers, we lose it in some way. I’m not talking about chronic road-ragers, but those of us who drop our guard and say something out of character that we soon regret. Let’s learn to apologize and to forgive.
p.s. This new partner went on to have a very successful career and was loved by his clients and colleagues alike.