When Leaders Make Mistakes!

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Leaders make decisions. It’s what they do.

Each and every time a leader makes a decision they are impacting a life.

Apply the ‘Domino’ or ‘Butterfly’ effect and the number of lives impacted by a leader’s single decision is sometimes mesmerizing.

That is why leaders need to: respond rather than react, seek wisdom, listen to counsel, and reflect frequently.

Once a decision is made, however, it is not final. Leaders must be decisive and firm, but when a poor decision is made, and it happens, it is a leader’s duty to make it right.

I firmly believe that leaders must take the motto “We’ll make it right!” to heart; it’s never too late to right a wrong.

In an earlier post, I  discussed the three steps on how to make an apology.  Apologies can at times cause more harm than good if attempted poorly. Step three of the apology, taught to me by the late Dr. Randy Pausch, is of the utmost importance.  Step three is all about making things right.

As a leader you have the ability to right a wrong, and you have the responsibility.

When I am about to do business with someone, and they tell me that they will make it right if things don’t work out the way they promised, that reassures me.  It’s even better if they have a proven track record showing that they make things right.  No product, no company, no service, and no leader, is going to be right 100% of the time.  It’s impossible. So, what are you going to do as a leader when a mistake is made?  Well, the answer to that will speak volumes of your leadership style, and volumes about you as a person.

Apple is admired by me and millions of others, but even their competitors recognize that they make things right when there is a problem. Apple has won repeated awards for customer service. They correct the wrong, replace the defect, ship the replacement, or extend the agreement.

I’m amazed at how many companies don’t do this. They simply continue on and ignore the mistake. I have even had customer service calls where they admit there really is a mistake, but refuse to correct it.  Wow!  What exactly does that say about you as a person, your corporation, or your leadership?  Make it right!

Some leaders will argue that it is too costly to make it right; I’d argue the opposite. Nothing is more expensive than letting a wrong continue. I mean that both metaphorically and financially. You will lose your authenticity as a leader, lose respect, lose support, lose money, and just plain lose.

We’ll Make it Right!  Don’t just say it, do it.

Recently NetFlix, the world’s largest online DVD service changed it’s user agreement. It failed miserably. They finally admitted they made a mistake, but… they did nothing to make it right. They could have flipped a switch and offered a free video, and given something, but they chose to do nothing and it is not working for them at all.  Take a look at their stock.  When will things change for NetFlix? When they make it right.

Making a bad decision is forgivable and easy to recover from; in fact it adds to your authenticity. No one should expect perfection from a leader.  We want leaders who fix the wrongs and aim for progress.  We do not want someone that ignores a wrong, or covers it up.

A friend of mine told me a story about how a board member ‘let go’ an employee.  The board member said he had always regretted that decision.  My friend, a leader, said… (you guessed it) make it right.  They did and all involved were happy for it; its never too late. Never.

Let people know that you are going to work hard to earn back their confidence and make certain this doesn’t happen again. Make your critics part of your team, because making things right makes them the beta testers. When you follow through, they will sing your praises even louder. Don’t however, just give people lip-service. You must work hard to maintain your integrity and authenticity. You are never, ever too big or important to call a client or customer yourself.  (Don’t pass a call on to others.) In fact, making the call in person to correct a problem is the way to go.

In some situations you cannot win a customer or an employee back, but you should try. If you have made a sincere attempt to make things right, and they aren’t accepting your sincere and fair request, then it is time to move on. Leaders must know and repeat to themselves every day, “I can’t control what others think or believe, but I can work hard to make myself and situations better.” Do your best and move forward. Don’t burn bridges; just do the next best action.

I have seen too many leaders actually believe they should not go back and correct a wrong. I write this for the them, and our future leaders.

Always make it right.

Kelly Croy is a chalk artist and professional speaker.

He has entertained and amazed audiences across the nation

including corporations, schools, churches, conferences,

and anywhere people come together to be entertained and inspired.

Please consider booking Kelly for your next event.