Recovering From Poor Leadership Decisions

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What is the first step to recovery after a bad leadership decision?

There are times when we as leaders make poor leadership decisions that negatively impact the organization and the people we lead. How does one recover from poor leadership decisions? Is it possible to get a leadership mulligan and rebuild the confidence by those we lead?

Recovery starts with an honest assessment of the decision process and its impact. It is healthy for leaders to review and evaluate major decisions to determine if the decision is indeed the correct one. Without an honest evaluation of our decisions, course corrections cannot be made nor effectiveness measured. It seems that we live in a culture that assumes that the leader is always right. Given the complexities of human existence and the fact we are fallible, it is wise and prudent to assume we can be occasionally wrong in our leadership decisions.

So what if, after an evaluation, we determine that a bad leadership decision was made, what is the first step to recovery? A proper first action is to admit the mistake and offer an apology to those affected. Some leaders will protest and assert that by admitting a leadership mistake will cause people to lose confidence in the leader. Here is a key insight, the people you lead already know. They are talking about it with one another at the water fountain and lunch tables. What is at risk is trust and confidence in the leader. As a follower, I am far more willing to trust a leader if he/she is transparent and honest. I am also willing to give grace and forgiveness when honesty is expressed.

In 1985 the Coca-Cola Company launched New Coke, which promised to be bolder, smoother and better tasting than the original Coke. New Coke proved to be one of the largest corporate blunders in United States history. On July 11 1985, Coca-Cola yanked New Coke from store shelves. Coke President Donald R. Keough issued this public apology saying “We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola…we want them to know we are really sorry for any discontent that we may have caused for 3 months.” This transparent confession began the rebuilding of the credibility of Coke brand.

How important is transparency to you as a leader and follower?


Written by Jay Vineyard

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