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When to Give People a Second Chance
Everyone missteps. But some mistakes are bigger than others.
A willful mistake that erodes trust or seriously undermines credibility has to be forgiven. Without forgiveness and the willingness to give others a second chance, the relationship must come to an end or change in some meaningful way. It’s much easier to give people a second chance.
But when is that smart and when is that a fool’s choice?
Practically speaking, giving people the opportunity to redeem themselves through future actions avoids changing a relationship that historically has been highly valuable.
Although this is the easier course to take and prevents the havoc dissolving a relationship entails, not everyone deserves a second chance. Good leaders ask others to earn the ticket to hit replay and turn the consequences back to zero.
Even though leaders feel better about themselves when they forgive, forgiveness should not be free. The offending party should always have to acknowledge the mistake and commit to avoiding a repeat in the future.
Extracting an explicit promise not to make the same error is requisite. Only when the leader can truly accept this promise and is highly confident they can trust the other party to perform or engage without oversight should they agree to a second chance.
Giving others a second chance without the trust and willingness of the leader to believe that the situation is rectified does more harm to the relationship.
Those granted a second chance but held in the proverbial doghouse quickly become sour and disaffected. No one performs at the highest level when the specter of distrust and suspicion hangs over them.
The truth is that egregious mistakes don’t happen in a vacuum. Both parties usually play a role in the misstep, even if just creating the conditions for the violation to occur.
When the leader and the offender are both able to take responsibility for the error, then a fresh beginning can be truly uplifting. In many cases, people perform even better when given a second chance, as they value the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of trust.
Perhaps the greatest gift a leader can offer another person is a second chance. When trust can be restored through commitments on both sides, this is a smart call. Otherwise, it is better to give the other person a fresh start somewhere else. Screwing up happens, but a second chance can only occur through the forgiveness of a trusting leader.