It is my belief that it is our imperfections that make us so profoundly beautiful. It is our willingness to learn from our mistakes that makes us divine. I realize this sounds spiritually lofty and you may be wondering what does this have to do with business. Everything! Businesses are run by humans, and humans make mistakes, so businesses also make mistakes. Like humans, they are at their best when they recognize their mistakes, make amends, and learn and grow from the experience.
As an entrepreneur and business coach I have made many mistakes. Some of them cost me a lot of money. Others have cost me relationships. Mostly they have cost me pride. Yet no mistake is a waste if it is used as a catalyst to change.
My willingness to admit that I erred affords me the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. In reality, no amount of university and extra courses that I have taken have been a better teacher than my mistakes. It is my willingness to admit my flaws and vow not to make the same mistake again that makes my business the most fertile for growth.
Sometimes the stakes when making mistakes are large and can result in losing money, customers or valuable employees. The humility in admitting the error develops both personal and what I call “corporate empathy”. Outside of the not for profit sector, corporate empathy is not yet a variable that is part of a company’s ethos. When it does start to become in vogue, hopefully it will be understood to be congruous with profitability.
The advance of technology and the internet has done a couple of interesting things with regard for personal and corporate empathy. While the transparency of the internet is forcing companies to ask for forgiveness from the general public, cyber-bullying among youth has become a notable problem. On some levels it brings us together and on others it seems to create division. Comedian Louis CK sums it up best when he talks about not allowing his children to have a cell phone because they are not learning empathy. He argues that when he was a child he could see instantly that his words and actions hurt another person just by the expression on the other person’s face and this does not exist today. Watch this sketch:
Dave Carroll, a musician who travelled on United Airlines, witnessed his guitar case being smashed on its way into the cargo hold of his airplane. He was treated poorly when he followed up on this. He posted a song about the manner in which the airline took no responsibility for breaking his guitar. It went viral. United could not ignore the millions of views, and publicly apologized. There are dozens of examples along this line. Yet corporate empathy has not yet come to the big companies who are deeply entrenched within the political spheres.
Voracious companies in agriculture, petroleum and pharma industries hide the damage they are doing and will not adhere to transparent business practice. At this time, I feel that corporate empathy is an alien concept for them. They see only profit and their only definition of cost is monetary.
They see the potency of the general public as a threat, and hide behind bureaucracy and politics to avoid having to be made accountable to anyone but their stakeholders. Since they do not face the reality that their actions harm others, and they place little value on the effects that their mistakes cause, they keep repeating horrific acts in the name of profit. An extreme example is that of the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India, the worst industrial accident in history. 30 years later the company has still taken no responsibility for the thousands of lives that were devastated.
Closer to home, for months Parvati.org has been trying to uncover what big oil company is pre-funding MKI Geophysical’s planned seismic testing in Canada’s high Arctic next summer. But repeated inquiries to the government has gotten no responses. It is very difficult to be forgiving when no one is taking responsibility. Please help us to make a change by signing the petitions here. The sooner that governments and corporations adopt corporate empathy, the sooner we will all be able to find sustainable solutions.
Since 1994, Rishi Deva, founder and CEO of RishiVision and entrepreneurial coach, has empowered thousands of businesses. Rishi has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and a BBA in accounting. He has spent nearly twenty years coaching, consulting, managing and supporting thousands of businesses from new startups to active global leaders.