One of the consequences of the digital age that prompted my exploration of authentic business was the realisation that in a digital environment transparency is inevitable. One implication of this is that whatever we do we must be proud of it and to my mind the most feasible way of achieving that is to learn to be authentic.
12 years later this is playing out on a grand scale with every week bringing fresh embarrassments for businesses and organisations that have not yet adapted to transparency. We all have the experience of doing things that we are ashamed of, how we choose to respond to our less proud moments defines part of our character and many of our relationships privately and at work.
I had an opportunity last week to really explore what it takes for a group, organisation or individual to regain trust after an event or experience that has damaged trust. We identified a four step process to proactively rebuild relationships and trust.
1 – admission – making a voluntary admission of the error, before being caught or before the story goes mainstream. The more quickly we can “fess up” the less recovery we will need to do later. in the transparent digital world the childish assessment between risk of being caught and consequences of admission is now moot. We have to act as if we are always observed.
2 – apology/contrition – It is not enough to apologise for any suffering caused. It is important to be (not just appear to be) contrite. Truly communicating contrition means having empathised with and internalised the suffering of others and having the humility and vulnerability to let it show.
3 – redress/restitution – It is vitally important to offer some sort of correction of suffering caused. Not in the sense of compensation, which can just lead to the buying off of victims, but in the sense of actually offering our best efforts to restore things to where they were. This may be rejected and also may be impossible, but the sincerity of the offer is essential.
4- rehabilitation/forgiveness – after the three steps above the relationship has a chance to find a new level. It will probably never be the same as it was before, but it might be better.
It is easy to look at these steps and feel that they are onerous or not worth it, and that may be true. However, if the relationship is important enough these are the steps that will enable the relationship to continue in some form.
What do you think? Please comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.
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