Posts Tagged ‘managing mistakes’


Admitting You’re Wrong is the Right Thing to Do – Lessons from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Sept 19 Press Conference

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference to try and regain control of the public discussion about his controversial decisions over recent domestic abuse incidents involving NFL players.

Whether you agree with Goodell’s remarks or not, in terms of how he managed his press conference, Goodell demonstrated techniques every leader should use during a crisis.

1. Admit your mistakes.  The public will more readily forgive you when you admit you were wrong.  When you deny or try to dismiss a real mistake, you create further mistrust. As Shakespeare wrote, Methinks thou doth protest too much.  

2. Take personal responsibility.  Goodell went beyond admitting the mistake, he owned it.  “Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong. That starts with me.”

3. Say you’re sorry.  Viewers will reject a canned admission of culpability – they want to know you feel remorse. “I got it wrong on the handling of the Ray Rice matter,” Goodell said. “And I’m sorry for that … but now I will get it right.”  (Note how he shifts to the future).

4. Widen the focus.  The commissioner shifted focus from the NFL, in particular, to society, at large, when he said that the league reflects the domestic abuse taking place across the country. He went on to discuss how the NFL will partner with two domestic abuse agencies to offer financial and other support.

5. Time your announcement.  As the Washington Post reported, Goodell took a page from the Bill Clinton playbook.  Friday afternoon is an ideal time to break news you’d like to fade quickly.

6. Never answer “what if” questions.  Although one reporter snared Goodell with a series of tough follow-up questions (the Commissioner failed to look away at the end of each answer) – Goodell did respond on point when asked (and I’m paraphrasing here), If all the NFL owners met today, do you think they’d vote you out?  

Correctly and politely, Goodell said that it’s impossible to respond to speculation.  He then promptly looked away.  Lesson learned.



Monday, June 18th, 2012


Golf pros will tell you that when you find yourself in a rough, only an amateur will go for the “heroic shot” to try to reach the hole with one swing from the weeds.  An experienced golfer knows that what is needed is a “recovery shot”  – to just get the ball on the green – and back in play.

That’s what JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon did in his recent appearance before Congress – he put the ball back in play and in the process demonstrated the fundamentals of how to manage crisis communication:

#1.  Acknowledge the crisis.   Though in early April Dimon initially called the trading problem a “tempest in a teapot,” once he knew the true severity of the problem – two billion dollars lost – he admitted it.  You can’t say you’re on the fairway when you’re in the weeds!

#2. Own your mistakes and show empathy for those impacted:

Dimon used collective pronouns and apologetic language when he said, “We have let a lot of people down and we are very sorry for that.”  “We feel terrible,” and “I was wrong,” Dimon spoke with sincerity and vocal concern – he didn’t mumble or hedge.

#3. Put the mistakes into context:  If you don’t frame the issue, others will and often with vitriol. Dimon explained,  “We will not make light of these losses, but they should be put into perspective.”  He went on to frame that perspective:  “…no client, customer or taxpayer money was impacted by this incident.”

#4. Quickly look to the future and keep the dialog going: Let your public know that you’re proactively working to resolve and not repeat the problem; and keep the information feeder line to the media open.

Immediately after facing Congress, Dimon headed to CNBC where he sat for an extensive interview with Mary Thompson.  During the discussion, Dimon said, “We are going to wrestle this down, admit our sins and get on with our business.”

When probed about who would be fired and who would stay, he said they were conducting “an extensive review of this incident,” and stated, “We are going to do the right thing,” He also promised a personal commitment:  “I’m going to do the best I can every day.”

By the end of the day, Reuters posted the headline:  “Humble but firm, Dimon explains mistake.”  And, JPMorgan stock was on the rise.

With his effectively executed recovery shot, Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan were back on (and in) the green.