The only ways companies can survive big mistakes
Thursday, May 10, 2018
The global economy is growing and even thriving in some countries. The World Bank expect global economic growth to exceed 3 percent in 2018.
Despite the rosy outlook, some companies glaring miscues put their business — and in some cases, their customers — at risk.
Some of the mistakes we’ve seen so far this year include Facebook’s privacy failures and enabling of interference in the 2016 elections . . . Heineken’s culturally insensitive beer commercial . . . the arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks while they waited to meet a friend for coffee . . . and more.
Even when an organization has a very healthy organizational culture — as in Starbucks’ recent case — a "failure of leadership" by one store manager can put the company’s entire reputation at risk.
We’re human. People make mistakes every day. Most mistakes aren’t of this magnitude. But the glaring spotlight of national media on your workplace could be one incident away.
Is your organization prepared to respond effectively when a grave mistake is made? These three steps can help your organization "do the right thing" immediately and maintain your organization’s valued behaviors under intense scrutiny.
Once you learn about the mistake, don’t delay. Learn the circumstances as quickly as possible — and let all people impacted know that, "We’re sorry. We never want to disappoint or mistreat anyone. We’re better than this, and we will make amends."
Maybe the customer contributed to the misunderstanding. Maybe your local manager reacted badly. You’ll learn more about the dynamics of the situation in the next step. First and foremost, apologize sincerely and promptly.
Saying you’re sorry — by itself — doesn’t make it all better. You must promptly make amends. Refund any payment. Provide goods and services at no charge to offset the mistake. Fully restore the receiver — make them whole — as completely and as soon as physically possible.
Once you’ve apologized and made amends — and the receiver has accepted both — you may fully engage in learning as much as possible about the situation that caused the mistake. This may take some time.
Interview all parties. Review any video of interactions. Compare how company staff responded in that moment to defined policies and procedures. It could be that staff did not follow defined policy — and that caused this issue.
It could be that staff responded entirely according to policy — and now you know your policies are flawed and must be refined.
After your analysis, share discoveries with all parties involved. Be transparent with what you’ve learned and how you’ll evolve so this mistake doesn’t happen to anyone again.
Finally, align all future interactions and decisions to revised practices — or to established but not followed practices already in place.
This third step ensures that the discoveries from your analysis become "the new normal" for customer relationships and staff interactions.
Alignment required modeling by senior leaders first. Only then will next level leaders throughout the organization see that the new practices are credible and worthy of emulation.
The great news is that these three steps are also effective when the mistakes don’t make the evening newscasts. If the mistake is as benign as messing up an employee’s schedule, apologize . . . analyze . . . and re-align to make certain the mistake doesn’t happen again.
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