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It’s not too late!

Yesterday I poked my head into Anne’s office, and I caught her wiping her eyes. She waved me in and then left the room signalling she would be right back.

Anne returned with two glasses of water. As she put one in front of me, she said, "No one can cry and drink water at the same time.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Having taken a long drink, Anne looked out the window for a minute before answering. “In the early years of my company, more than 25 years ago, we hired a temp for one day. I asked the agency for someone with nice handwriting as I needed some envelopes hand addressed. They sent me Dory, a young high school graduate.

“At the end of the day, I asked her to come back the next day. She agreed and she stayed with us for seven years! During that time, Dory rose to every challenge we gave her. When she arrived, she had a high school education, by the time she left, she had a University Degree that we had helped to finance.

“Dory and I worked well together; we could finish each other’s sentences and we tackled some pretty significant projects together. In fact, she led the implementation of our first computer network including design, installment, and training.

“The company was growing rapidly, and we were having to formalize policies and document procedures. The atmosphere was becoming more structured and less ‘entrepreneurial’ (and frankly less fun).

“We were both under a lot of pressure to adapt, and more stressed than ever before.

“One day Dory tackled me in the hallway. She was fed up with someone and needed to vent. I was already immersed in my own crisis and rather than stop to listen to her, I said, “Why didn’t you …” (in other words it’s your fault so you fix it).

“The look on her face told me she was crushed."

"Still, I rushed away down the hall to deal with my own situation.

“The very next day, Dory resigned and left. She had been hurt, offended, and so disrespected by me that she couldn’t stay. It wasn’t only that interchange that led her to this decision, but it was the last straw!

“I didn’t even try to talk her into staying and working through the challenges. I let her leave without saying goodbye.

“It took a few days for me to be ready to apologize. When I called her number, it was disconnected.

“With no Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn, I was not able to find her. I tracked down her mother and asked her to forward a message. But Dory did not call me back.

“Over the years, the look on her face has haunted me. It was not my finest moment; I have remorse, shame and regret attached to it. And I have never forgiven myself.

“As the various online resources became available, I searched for her periodically, without success.

“Last week, she popped up on LinkedIn as someone who had worked at The Dunvegan Group. I didn’t recognize the last name nor the picture but sure enough, it was Dory.

“I immediately sent her an apology message. I let her know about my regret for showing up in a way that was disrespectful and hurtful to her.”

“And here’s what she wrote me back …”

Anne opened her laptop and pulled up Dory’s message. She took another drink of water and started to read …

“While I don't remember that moment, I look back at my time at The Dunvegan Group as learning.
You took a very young woman and granted me many opportunities to learn. Many of my lessons there have stayed with me throughout my working career.
I have a high standard of customer service, which was exemplified by you. It has served me well throughout my career - always giving my best whether it is an external customer or an internal one.
I also never go into my manager's office - for an official meeting or spontaneous - without a pen and notebook in hand! A lesson I learned directly from you.
I am happy to see that you have continued to learn and grow throughout your life and become the leader you desire to be.”

Anne stopped there and drank more water. She teared up again and I felt like crying too.

“That is a beautiful message, so gracious. I hope you can take it in, Anne and forgive yourself, now” I said.

"What a wonderful demonstration of appreciation and forgiveness. As long as the person is alive, it is never too late to apologize and ask forgiveness.

As Morrie Schwartz taught us in Tuesdays with Morrie,

“Forgive everyone, everything, and then forgive yourself.”


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