Image from thetelgraph.co.uk

Say It All, Say It Quick, Say It Yourself

What leaders and managers can learn from the Old Trafford Bomb Scare

The bomb scare at Old Trafford this weekend was a bit of a shambles as far as Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd is concerned.

They were the company that left the ‘practice’ bomb in the toilet at one of the biggest football stadiums in the world by mistake. It was found minutes before kick off of the final game of the season and the game was abandoned, costing Manchester United a reported £3million in damages, and pissing off tens of thousands of fans.

I’ve learnt so much about leadership and management from religiously watching post-match interviews with football managers down the years (and will definitely write more about this), and despite the obvious stupidity, I also felt like there was so much to take from this debacle for leaders and managers.

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

Chris Reid, Managing Director of SSMS made a mistake. He didn’t check he’d cleared the Old Trafford site well enough. Simple.

The only difference between his mistake and one you might’ve made yesterday is that his was at a different scale, and played out in the public eye. I’m not here to defend Chris (I don’t know the guy from Adam), but the way it was handled felt honourable, and reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who works in intelligence about the right way to admit you’ve made a mistake.

His advice was simple, just follow 3 steps;

  1. Say it All

Don’t leave anything up for interpretation; admit everything that went wrong and take the flak head on. People will fill in any gaps with whatever they want.

2. Say it Quick

Don’t wait until next week, made your admission as soon as you can (2 days later in this instance). Don’t leave space for people to think something more shifty is going on.

3. Say it Yourself

Don’t send out a spokesperson to take the bullet for you. Be brave enough to take the questions and criticisms yourself.

You can see the video of Chris here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36307246 and make up your own mind —but regardless of what you think of him (and his decidedly dodgy rugby shirt), the lesson for how, as a manager you deal with a mistake is a very valuable one.