Creative Leadership

The Power of Admitting Your Mistakes

Even though we’ve all eaten Domino’s Pizza, few people know just how successful the company is today. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino’s Pizza was profiled for his success leading the company. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when he took over the company was on a rapid slide to oblivion. People hated the pizza, and their PR was in the trash heap. But the dramatic turnaround came when Doyle decided to be brutally honest with his customers and the American public and admit their mistakes. Here’s the way the Wall Street Journal describes it:

“Mr. Doyle became CEO after two of the company’s worst years, and sales were still sliding. One of his first decisions was to take an unorthodox approach: “We held a series of focus groups with consumers and we discovered that people hated the pizza. So we ran these TV ads featuring Americans complaining about how bad Domino’s pizza tasted.” Then Mr. Doyle appeared on screen with an apology and promise: “We hear you America. Sometimes you know you’ve got to make a change. Please give us another try.” In the three months following those ads, Domino’s had its fastest rise in sales in company history. “I think consumers really appreciated that we were direct and honest with them,” he explains. That ad campaign is now considered a textbook crisis-management story, with its lesson in honesty as a best commercial policy.”

When you think about high profile disasters in leadership, it’s rare to hear a solution like this. But the truth is, admitting your mistakes, and being honest with your team, your customers, and the general public actually builds trust – and without trust, you’re lost.

Failure to admit your shortcomings only builds resentment.  Admit the reality of the situation, tell people how you plan to fix it, and then hold fast to your promise. People are forgiving, if you just give them a chance to help you turn things around.

How could your organization honestly rebuild trust with your customers, donors, or the public?

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