John, head machine tender for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 2B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"In 1978 I was working as a re-winder helper at a power and paper company. The re-winds were located by a staircase which was used frequently by office workers and managers who wanted to avoid going outside in the harsh, cold weather while on their way to the cafeteria. The pathway and rewind were separated by a long row of rollers. These rollers rolled the paper rolls on a skid plate as we moved them into position to be re-wound. On this particular day, I was rocking the paper roll back and forth on the skid plate, getting ready to push it off. I was giving it all I had as I rocked it. I then took a slight step back into the pathway to get a little more leverage as I pushed the roll and accidentally bumped into another person who was walking behind me. My instant reaction as I looked at the guy I bumped into was, 'You could at least say sorry or excuse me.' The guy looked at me with a puzzled expression, smiled, and just continued walking. A minute later my operator came up to me laughing and said, 'Do you know who that was?' My response was, 'I guess it was just somebody with bad manners.' He said, 'That gentleman you bumped into just happens to be our mill manager.' Boy, did I feel bad!! I could see I really had egg on my face.
From that day forward, whenever I accidentally bump into someone or if someone bumps into me, I always say, 'I'm sorry. Are you okay?' and I feel much better as they walk away knowing that I didn't insult or physically hurt anyone.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to be more patient. I now realize the importance of not being so quick to blame others for the things that seem to go wrong in my life.
The action I call you to take is even if you're not in the wrong, or don't
see how you could possibly be wrong, admit that it could be your responsibility. When you bump into someone, apologize. Be the first person to say 'Excuse me.' When you and another person disagree strongly, say, 'I could be wrong, I frequently am.' You'd be surprised to find out how quickly the other person will say, 'No, excuse me.' or 'I could be wrong, I frequently am.' The benefit you will gain is people will apologize just as quickly. You may strike up a conversation that could lead you to making new friends. You will always be seen as a true professional."