Misti Burmeister
author, speaker, executive coach

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister, author of "From Boomers to Bloggers," founded Inspirion Inc. and specializes in speaking, executive coaching, and generational diversity in the workplace.


Coming clean

Q: As oil surges into the Gulf of Mexico for the fourth week, BP's leader steadfastly refuses to take the blame for the collapse of a well. CEO Tony Hayward blames one of its suppliers, and says he's "absolutely confident that we can bounce back." It's not only a PR battle, but one for the ecology and economy of an entire region. What are Hayward's mistakes, and if you were in his shoes, what would you do differently? How do you forge success from disaster?

Hayward is wise to compare, in several articles, such a horrifically damaging accident to the Challenger and other disasters. By so doing he puts this oil disaster in perspective.

While drilling for oil is one of the least sexy career fields today, especially amid the many who are voraciously fighting to save the earth, oil is still a necessity in our world. Just as we are searching for life on other planets (you know, in case we destroy ours), we continue to need oil to fuel many aspects of our daily living.

I've continually found that even the best leaders need a little extra support, especially during disasters such as a major oil spill in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder who, if anyone, is providing such guidance to Hayward before he speaks to the public about this event. In one breath he says to a Washington Post reporter, "it is clearly a very serious situation." In another, he tells a Guardian reporter that the spill is "relatively tiny" compared with the "very big ocean."

Right now is not the time to deflect criticism. Rather, it is time to own full responsibility for the impact this accident is having on everyone and everything it touches. To call it "relatively tiny" or someone else's failure is to shirk responsibility. Right now is the time to own responsibility for both the disaster and the resolution. Communicating with the public consistently and clearly will bring increased credibility to both BP and Hayward.

Open and honest communication is not always the easiest approach, but it is certainly the most appreciated. Regardless of our stance on conservationism, we all want to know there is a leader in charge who's honest, willing to own responsibility and committed to consistent communication. We all want to know that BP doing its best to fix the situation, not avoid responsibility.

By Misti Burmeister  |  May 20, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Comeback attempts Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Own It | Next: The buck stops here

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company