Whose mistake was it anyway?

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. – Edward R. Murrow

TruthwayWe have a 13 year old. He is a truly wonderful person. He is bright and caring and his smile brings out a similar response from everyone. There is one characteristic though that makes me a bit crazy. Every time he does something that crosses the boundaries of appropriate behavior, his response is, “Sorry”. In fact, he says this so often that it doesn’t really mean anything. I laugh now and say, “I think you are only sorry that I found out of this behavior” and he smiles.

This was brought to mind this morning as I was listening to a podcast of the radio program This American Life titled, “Mistakes were made”. I realized a growing concern for the loss of accountability. So much media attention in the U.S. is focused on the rich or famous or powerful. They become role models for our children and the object of what we desire to be or perhaps have.

George BushWhen a mistake is made, who is really responsible? I listen to President Bush and he on occasion say, “Mistake were made in Iraq”. Yet I can’t recall any elaboration about what this means. So does he feel responsible? I hear corporate leaders say the words, “I am responsible” for some mistake that was made and then we later discover they received a large bonus. In fact, on this week’s broadcast of our radio program Business Matters, we talk with Joe Bobreski about a scandal at the Washington DC Municipal Water waste treatment plant in which thousands of Washingtonians were at risk from Chlorine poisoning. This wasn’t just his allegation, it was borne out in the legal process. So what was the consequence of this situation for the management of that organization, they got pay raises and bonuses.

3 9Another guest on our show, Professor Tamar Frankel, who wrote the book, “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad” said that we have become so accustomed to dishonesty and lack of accountability in our leaders that we accept it as “just the way it is”. She is hopeful that our young people, like those she teaches, can bring about a change. I am not so sure.

World in handI believe that accountability is a quality that is taught by example. We are inspired to be accountable because we see someone take full responsibility for their actions and we know it is the right thing. Who is going to set that example? I invite you to. This is a constant challenge in my life and each time I absolutely own my actions and their consequence, I experience a sense of peace even if I am also feeling uncomfortable. More importantly, I know this is required for world that I want for my children and grandchildren.

Speak up when you see others who are not accountable. When you know you have erred, own it without hesitation, you will be amazed at the results.

Until later,


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Author: Thomas White

Over the past thirty-five years, Thomas White has created and led private and public organizations that initiated breakthroughs in areas as diverse as computer software, publishing, printing, market research, leadership development and organizational change. The common ingredients in his success are simple. He looked beyond the limitations that others believed and found real solutions to needs that business leaders have. He attracted the best talent to translate these innovative solutions into practical products and services that were of high value to customers. He created cultures where people love what they do, work at their best and produce extraordinary results. In addition to his role as a business leader, Thomas has been a pioneer and inventor of technologies in the computer-networking field. He is a patent holder for innovations in business process and workflow technology. As part of his passion for educating others about the interface of human and computer systems, he was the co-author of “New Tools for New Times, The Workflow Paradigm”. He has also written articles for numerous publications. In 2001, he turned his attention from leading companies to supporting leadership teams in creating organizations of excellence. After many years of being a part of the machine of change, Thomas recognized that business is the most powerful force in the world. It has a major impact on public policy and governments everywhere. It is a key influence on how we use our resources and sets an example of the values that shape communities from local to global. He formed the consulting firm of Profoundly Simple to be a guide for exemplary leaders - leaders who wisely uses the power they are entrusted with to serve their constituencies first and themselves second; leaders who know that it is good business to treat people with respect, honor the environment and act with impeccable integrity – leaders who inspire greatness in those around them and by doing so create great organizations that are notable examples of success. Feeling the itch to get back into the game again, Thomas joined with two long time friends, to start the C-Suite Network. This network of business leaders offers an online network, events, services, and insights to its 500,000 member community. In addition, the C-Suite Network produces and distributes television and radio content to an audience of over 5M per month

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