Grace, well-received and well-extended, builds relationships.
Recently, I’ve heard two very powerful stories about grace. I have a great amount of respect for the way both women used the grace extended to them to improve the way they extend grace to others. Both stories reminded me of its importance in building trusting relationships.
In the first example, a local business leader shared her story about a time when she inadvertently responded to an email as a “reply all” instead of only responding to the sender. In an attempt to be funny, she made an unkind comment about a coworker who was on the original distribution list. That coworker (and everyone else) was able to see her response. It was embarrassing and hurtful. The way she told the story, though, spoke volumes about her character. The leader immediately acknowledged the mistake and the target of the comment immediately offered grace. It was the use of the word ‘grace’ that got my attention. The leader, sharing the story about having been offered an extreme amount of grace, uses that as a powerful example to remember to extend others the same level of (or even more) grace than was offered to her.
The second story was from a consultant. She shared an account of when she overlooked a presentation at a conference. She completely missed it. She had the date wrong on her calendar and didn’t realize it until she received a phone call from the coordinator from the organization, wondering when she would arrive. There were over a hundred attendees waiting for her to present. I’ve heard this story before, and it’s just as powerful to hear it repeated. This person was heartbroken for having failed so publicly. She connected with each attendee to express her regrets and was offered grace by several people. She won’t soon forget the responses of those that acknowledged her accountability and her efforts to apologize.
The similarities in the stories were striking. Neither offered any excuses, and both accepted complete responsibility for their actions. It was only then the healing process of grace could begin.
When I witness examples of the courage to ask for grace, I see a gap that prevents many managers from becoming leaders. In fact, when I think about asking that of leaders: when was the last time you had to ask for grace? I’m certain a common answer might be that they’ve never “screwed up” enough to have to ask for grace. I doubt, however, that manager’s colleagues would agree that was really the case.
In no way am I advocating that repeated performance issues or egregious offenses be righted by simply offering or receiving grace. I propose the two people the above examples quickly escalated to a leadership level because of the way they’ve responded to their own mistakes. By acknowledging that humans – including themselves – are fallible, they also acknowledge that, sometimes, the most efficient way to build trust going forward is to ask for grace and extend it in a similar fashion.
When was the last time you extended grace?
When was the last time you accepted grace?