Maugie: The blame game

We are all human and therefore things go wrong. But Maugie Lyons, head of commercial operations, Royal Horticultural Halls, suggests that sorry seems to be the hardest word

At risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, am I the only one who thinks there is something seriously wrong with the work ethic today? The number of businesses that think it better to shift the blame rather than show remorse is incredible. No one seems to take responsibility for their own actions any more. How many senior bankers are still indulging in lavish lifestyles despite contributing to millions of pounds of losses? How many CEOs fail to volunteer blame when performance is poor? And how many politicians find it so difficult to utter that one small word – sorry.

People make mistakes. Things fall apart. We make thoughtless choices. We sometimes get involved without thinking about the repercussions. Stuff happens. The surprising thing is the disbelief and disappointment that people express when things go wrong, and their eagerness to look outside themselves when searching for something – or someone – to blame. The question isn’t whether we’re smart enough to avoid making mistakes. We can’t. The question is whether we’re willing to be accountable when we mess up. If there’s one good lesson to be learned from the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s that blaming others is no way to save face – especially when your final surrender is an unconditional apology.

And don’t wait for someone else to find out you’ve slipped up! When something goes wrong (and let’s face it, it often does) the best form of defence is attack. Put your hands up, apologise and tell them how you’re going to put it right. How much better would the reaction have been if BP’s bosses had been the first to declare a disaster? Stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility is fundamental and one of the main things I look for in those I choose to do business with. There can be no higher ethical standard. In our client-centric industry the absolute best way to establish a sterling reputation is to be prepared to take responsibility for whatever decision you make! It’s a matter of integrity and it will earn you the respect of your clients, employees, colleagues and business associates. Frankly, there is no higher compliment!