How to Give an Effective Apology

Take responsibility when you need to


“First, I need to apologize. We understand what it means to work on a deadline, and we’ve made that difficult for you.”

I was working on an interview-style article that required a good deal of input from someone else, in this case, two business partners*. While they had agreed to be featured in the publication, they were having a challenging week and were not able to mentally focus on gathering the information I needed.

I sent a gentle reminder and received a gracious response.  Instead of an excuse or request to give them some more time, I received what was essentially a professional apology, the words you read above. I was impressed and am happy to report the article went well and turned out great.

There are times in your professional life (personal too!) when you are going to have to apologize. Hopefully, your reason for an apology isn’t that you’ve purposely behaved like a jerk. But overwhelmed professionals can unintentionally cause stress to others. Maybe you have misplaced something someone else needs, or have forgotten to do something, or are feeling pulled in all directions and get snippy with a colleague. In those cases and more, a professional, sincere apology can go a long way toward keeping the relationship strong.

In the scenario above, this duo handled the apology in a way that provides an example for others. Let’s take a look at why it worked

They immediately acknowledged the need to apologize. There was no sidestepping the issue (they had broken the expected rhythm for the project) but they took responsibility for the delay.  (This wasn’t a case of, “I’m sorry someone/you were offended” which puts the responsibility on the other person.)

They articulated exactly what stress they caused. “We understand deadlines, and we’ve made this difficult for you.” This wasn’t just an off-the-cuff “Sorry this is late.” It took my feelings into consideration.

They provided what I needed.  In this case, they were able to not only apologize, but include the material I needed, which moved the project along. While that may not always be possible, it’s the ideal way to make amends. At the very least, giving a hard deadline for when the material would have been ready would have also been acceptable.

Apologies aren’t easy. We all want to think we are consummate pros who do all things right. But that is not realistic. You WILL have to apologize at some point. Don’t make things worse by not giving an apology well.  We have plenty of poor examples in popular culture.  Don’t be one of them.

*scenario has been changed to protect privacy

How to Get Along with the Colleague Who is Faster than You

Techniques for navigating swift waters in business relationships

By Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Staff Sgt. Timothy Chacon ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A swift water rescue team fans out into a V to navigate the fast flowing rapids. The leader carefully checks for unseen holes. The others slowly walk forward, providing a human barrier for the current to rush around. In the center, an area of peace is created, and the team members rotate opportunities to walk in it to rest and replenish for a few minutes.

There’s a technique to handling rushing waters to benefit the team and accomplish the goal.  And there are techniques that can help you navigate interactions with people who work faster, and differently than you do.

I remember a situation* where a colleague was coming into town for a few days. Our work styles were different. Mine includes a plan for the day, allowing space for highly creative spurts in balance with repeated implementation of administrative tasks. I’m a pretty fast worker myself, but I’m also learning to embrace slower, reflective moments and tease out time to think.

My colleague moves faster than I do. They’re up early and run on high energy most of the day, responding to things as they come up, eager to tick off the to-do list, and crashing early in the evening. They think on the run and tend to like to be in charge, much like the swift water you see in areas of heavy rapids. How were our work styles going to work for the days we worked together?  

One key–the same key used by swift water rescue teams–is preparation and mindset. I reminded myself to:

Anticipate.  I knew enough about the person to know what to expect. This helped me in thinking through an agenda/itinerary for the project since I was the host.

Acclimate. For a few days, my workflow was simply going to be different. I had to adjust. I could not expect to do everything the way I normally would.

Appreciate. I asked myself,  “What three blessings there would be in working with this individual more closely than usual?” What came to mind was creativity. Getting things done. Laughter.  I could choose to focus on those things even prior to their arrival.

Abdicate. I chose what battles would be worth standing firm for, and what I could let go of. I knew that while my colleague would appreciate my being a good host, they would NOT want to be treated like a child with no say in the schedule. So I planned opportunities for choices. For example, I’d narrow down some lunch choices to two or three, present them, and ask them to choose where they’d like to go for lunch. A plan, but not a rigid one, was just right.

Allocate. I thought through their visit and developed an itinerary that they would enjoy, allocating certain time blocks to meetings with others or particular projects that would also balance my need for some project time unrelated to their project. By making this itinerary ahead of time, I had a plan that could make us most productive and give us both breathing space.

Activate. I made a basic plan for their visit and worked it. I made sure we had a list of “must do’s” and attacked those we could finish the first day, so they would feel quick wins about the trip.

A swift water team regularly trains and learns to read the river. You WILL experience a swift water situation at work eventually. What can you do to prepare now?


*As is my custom, while many of my illustrations have elements based on my real life experiences, I reserve the right to mix and modify details and enhance with some fictional elements in order to protect privacy and prevent any recognisable association to specific people or companies.

Steps to Developing a New Habit

Special thanks to Start Blogging Online for Guest Posting!

If your level of productivity is low and you decided to make an improvement in this area, the sure way to make this successful is for you to practice new habits that would let you do more things. Applying positive changes in your behavior and actions would not only benefit your productivity, but all other things that concern it too.

What’s fascinating about us humans is that we turn something into a habit when we keep on doing it. Our body and mind gets used to it and it becomes subconscious in the long run that this is the way we respond or react to things without really paying attention to it. Since these habits have already become part of yourself, it would be hard to remove them in an instant. Sadly, that also includes the not so good ones.

However, no matter how difficult the process is, it can be done if you are committed and focused on your goal. You could start practicing good things that could turn into habits after some time. Your productivity would improve little by little and it would turn great after a while.

Our eye-catching infographic shows you steps that you can take in order to develop these new habits that will lead to the improvement of your productivity.

Here’s the infographic and we hope you enjoy it!

7 Steps to Developing Good Habits

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How to Hot-Desk Effectively

Working in more than one space: Is it for you?


How important is it to you to have your own desk or work space?

There’s an interesting slide show on Entrepreneur about “hot desking” – the concept of employees working in multiple workspaces, moving locations instead of “owning” one desk. The journalist experimented with the concept for a five day period and reported her findings.

Many professionals are getting used to working in various work spots, whether at company headquarters, coffee shops, airport lounges or on airplanes (one of my clients loves her “in-flight” productivity.) For years, when I worked in traditional offices, I either had a cubicle, a desk of my own, or (most ideal) my own office. I’ve found that I like having space I call “my own.”

Now that I run my own business, I no longer have a “workspace” elsewhere to commute to. However, my home office acts as my main location, and several times a month, I also work at local coffee shops. As a board member for a non-profit organization whose lovely office happens to be in town, I’ve been told I’m welcome to come “set up shop” anytime I temporarily want to be in the presence of people (and the office dog.)

Overall, I find that my home office is the best space for productivity. But getting out of there is valuable too, so here are four tools or mindsets I’m finding helpful to take along when I plan to work away from a permanent office space:

Creature comforts.  In my computer bag, I keep an inspiring pouch, a coaster, and a small imitation candle. I often set these up on the table to personalize the space for the time I’m there. (I also keep a large scarf to use as a lap blanket in shops that keep AC high.)

Earphones. This is probably the single most important tool (other than my Chromebook.). I like to be in the presence of people and energy from time to time, but am easily distracted by conversations around me. Earphones allow me to listen to my own playlists and drown out specific conversations.

Playlists. I currently use Spotify as my main source of music. I’m learning to enjoy music more–I tend to not think about turning it on. I have two primary playlists–one for quiet productivity and relaxation, and one for upbeat productivity and working out.  Depending on the types of tasks I am doing, I can play the appropriate playlist.

Associations. I’ve gotten to know which type of work I can do best in “third space” locations vs my home office. So I generally save some of that type of work to do in batches when I am mobile. Right now, creating images, editing/refreshing content, and screening Gmail seem to be good work for third spaces. Processing administrative tasks like scheduling appointments, implementing social media updates or coordinating projects seems to be better handled at my home office.

With these four tools and mindsets with me, I can adapt any space to be a productive one. For long periods, I do prefer my own office, but versatility and flexibility are good traits for professionals to develop. So why not give “hot desking” a try this week?

Question: Does hot-desking interest you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

An Open Letter to the HOPE Family

One Year Anniversary and 200th Post

Beutler-3264(edit)An open letter to all of our HOPE family,

October 15, 2015 was my last day as an employee of another business. While HOPE Unlimited has been around since 2005, I consider October 15 as the anniversary of being fully focused on my own company, and I have much to be thankful for in this first year. Since that “marker” day is coming up this coming Saturday, I wanted to kick off this “anniversary week” by using this 200th post to say “thanks!”

I want to thank God for providing clients, students, readers, and colleagues that have helped HOPE Unlimited begin to serve key leaders and bring encouragement to overwhelmed professionals around the country. I have appreciated several opportunities to speak and teach in live settings, and anticipate increasing what I offer via online tools.

I have one more ebook coming out by the end of the year, and my other books are in production as audio books now.  There’s been at least one new post a week on the blog since January 2014, and now I’m regularly doing Facebook live Tips in 10 presentations.

On the virtual assisting front, we are steadily incorporating team members to provide excellent service on a variety of tasks for our clients. Four additional professionals who share our values allow us to seamlessly provide many kinds of support, and our retainer system remains a flexible way for individuals, executives and entrepreneurs to receive the administrative support they need without hiring an employee.  Thank you to those who have spread the word–word of mouth is a great form of advertising.

For all these things, I give thanks. I wouldn’t have a business without people contracting us, buying my resources, hiring me to teach, or keeping up with us on the blog or social media. And I wouldn’t have HOPE if God didn’t instill the gifts, energy, and time and wisdom to steward it. It’s a constant learning process.

If HOPE can be of service to you in any of these areas, please contact us. And again, THANK YOU for allowing us to serve you and be part of your life.


many thanks

The Pursuit of Excellence

How do you define it?

Right click to save and share

Right click to save and share

“Excellence” just becomes a more respectable word for “control” which is a fancy version of “manipulation” which is a physiological word for “sin.”…   Emily Freeman

I read these words from the book Simply Tuesday and let them sink in.

I help overwhelmed professionals EXCEL.

Is it wrong to excel?


But it depends on what you excel at.

In 1 Thessalonians, 4:10, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their love, but exhorts them to excel still more.

“or indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”

When we think of excellence, especially in business, what do we think of?

  • A product that is selling better than we expected.
  • A published piece that has no typos.
  • Getting all the facts straight in a report.
  • The financial reports being accurate.
  • The presentation to the investors going well.
  • The office looking spiffy.
  • Employees looking sharp.
  • Meeting and exceeding customer needs.

Are those bad things? No, but what’s the motivation?

Do we want to excel so we can control our image or turn certain outcomes our way? Or do we want to excel in loving and serving people?

I confess that I want to excel in business and often measure it in my bottom line. Am I contributing enough to the household budget? Do I need to supplement by finding more work? How many clients do I have or teaching gigs lined up or online books/resources are selling? These are all tangible measures of business “excellence.” They deserve some attention, but also, quite frankly, too much focus on these results can cause stress.

Instead, what if I were to think in this framework at least some of the time, to complement the look at financials and metrics?

  • Did I excel today in helping (insert client name here) improve THEIR business or work life (or even personal life) a little bit?
  • Did I guide (insert a reader’s name here) to think more clearly about an issue or idea?”
  • Did I help (insert student’s name here) streamline their day a little bit or get along better with their teammate?’’

And, am I willing to reach beyond my comfortable “Macedonia” to help and love others, even those different from me?

An answer of “yes” to THOSE questions is what excelling is all about.

If only…