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Wired for Sound

Optimize Blog - April 29, 2010 - 0 comments

As the electioneering in Britain hots up in the run up to the general election, Mr. Brown’s opponents might be forgiven for rubbing their hands with glee after the unfortunate incident of making a private statement whilst still wearing a microphone.
Now, we can all be critical about someone, especially so experienced, making such a silly mistake, but with the heavy demands of photo opportunities, news conferences and local rallies it should not be surprising that perhaps this happened. There is also the not inconsiderable matter of running a country as it exits the recession.
Whilst calling a voter a bigot will get all the attention, here at Zeitgeist we’re a little more concerned with the immediate response from the PM – trying to apportion blame for the incident.
In business we see this a lot. Instead of taking time to reflect, consider the context and be determined to learn from errors, too often we see what we like to call ‘blamestorming’ – the fine art of calling a meeting after a mistake and deciding whose fault it was.
Mr. Brown’s first response when getting into the car after being confronted by the alleged bigot – a Mrs Gillian Duffy – was “That was a disaster. Should never have put me with that woman … whose idea was that?”
There is no doubt that Mr. Brown is fighting for his political life and the stress must be enormous but in business we often find ourselves under stress which increases significantly as soon as a mistake is uncovered or we have to deal with bad news. However unlike Mr. Brown, our first response should not be to try and work out who we can blame or to find a scapegoat upon whom we can divert attention so that we don’t get tarnished with the bad news.
In our leadership courses we ask delegates if mistakes are good or bad and invariably the response is that they are good provided we can learn from them. However, whilst we tend to understand this at the conceptual level, we see little evidence that mistakes are widely accepted as opportunities to learn but rather we see scenarios like the one referred to here where all the effort goes into finding who we can blame so that we don’t look bad.
Ultimately we don’t know if this will irreparably damage the Prime minister’s election chances but it is nevertheless a good lesson for us all. Truly recognize that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and make sure your business has a process to capture the learning so that you don’t make the same mistake again.

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