I often joke that working with compilers is easier than working with people. When you screw up and make an error, the compiler gets mad and lets you know it. You fix the error and all is good; move on. With people, you screw up and fix it and they're still going to be mad (assuming they even TELL you about it). The point of my little quip is that we have to be way more careful about what we are doing and how we are doing it with people. I realize this shouldn't have been an ah-ha moment for me as I moved into my role, but it was. Problem fixed ≠ All good. Sometimes you need to go clean up the mess too
This hit home the past week when I was visiting with some folks from a recent acquisition that we were in the process of integrating into the wider group. I was fortunate that when I asked and truly listened, they were willing to open up and be honest with me about what they'd experienced and felt. To start, they had been told one thing but, as often happens, the situation had changed and we need to adjust to accommodate that change. However that change had been communicated, it wasn't heard and thus folks were left in a state of NIMSU (No Information, Make Shit Up - hat tip to Rex Miller). Ultimately something like this was a fall-down on the executive team. Error #1. And then, no one said, "I'm sorry". Error #2. After further conversation and listening, it was pretty straightforward to share the why and get us all moving in the right direction but the "I'm sorry" needed to be said for progress to be made.
We aren't code and people aren't compilers. You're going to mess up. There will be unintended consequences, missed expectations, and possibly hurt feelings. So own it, make amends (I recommend the actual words, "I'm sorry"), and figure out what moving forward together looks like.