Heera Training and Management Consultancy

eNewsletter November 2012

Dear Everyone,

Hi! And how are you all. October was a good month as I spent almost three weeks training in Brunei and met some really, really nice people over there. I also managed to squeeze in a short holiday to Hatyai with old school mates and it was really, really fun. Somehow, when you are with your old school mates, you forget about who you really are and in a sense become ‘boys’ again. We had such a good time that we decided to have another reunion soon.

I was reading the Economist magazine the other day and I felt really good when I read that Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State of America, took full responsibility for what happened at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on September 11. She said, “I am responsible as I’m in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world, and their security is my ultimate responsibility. She continued "I take this very personally, and so we're going to get to the bottom of it, and then we're going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again."

This was so refreshing because it is so common these days to see many leaders pointing fingers at others or situations instead of taking responsibility. In my view, a true leader should enjoy the success achieved by his team or organization but at the same time be able to accept and be responsible for any failures. You cannot have one without the other. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case in reality as I can't remember the last time a leader in corporate Malaysia standing up and saying, “Yes, I am responsible for the mistakes made.” How refreshing would such honesty be?

Right now there is a lot of fuss being made of the runaway lights breakdown in Kota Kinabalu airport which led to flights being cancelled from Thursday night, 26 Oct right up till 10pm on Friday when the problem was finally rectified. A very high ranking official even made the statement that “this is not acceptable and heads must roll”. I do agree with his statement wholeheartedly but I am not too sure that ‘heads will roll’. Once the fuss dies down in about a fortnight’s time, everything will be back to normal and no one will be held accountable or responsible. And what happens after this: a culture of non-accountability permeates to the detriment of that organization.

Compare the above to a situation that took place in 2010 when a severe winter storm hit the Midwest and Northeast of America which wreaked havoc on air travel. Thousands of flights were either cancelled or delayed. JetBlue, a budget airline fared the worst. It apparently suffered an operational breakdown and kept passengers on airplanes for as long as eleven hours. Customers were understandably frustrated and irate.

This led David Neeleman, JetBlue’s Founder and CEO, to issue the following apology (summary below):

Dear JetBlue Customers,
Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week. You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you on board again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.

Isn't this so very refreshing indeed? If I was in America, I would not hesitate to fly JetBlue again. Sadly, acts like this of taking responsibility and apologizing is rare in Malaysia. My view is that the buck must always stop at the top of the hierarchy Responsibility means the willingness to stand up to take responsibility for your mistakes, even if you are guilty of only 10% of the problem or when there were circumstances beyond your control that led to the mistake or problems, like what happened with JetBlue. Such action will earn you the respect of everyone, and importantly ensures that there will be a sense of accountability prevailing in the organization which in turn ensures that management will take their responsibilities more seriously and professionally.

Thank you so very much for reading this newsletter. I do hope you will reflect on this and take action to become a better leader. Have a great month in November!!

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Heera Singh
Principal Consultant
HEERA Training and Management Consultancy
HP 0126083708