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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Confidence to Accept Criticism

A very common flaw among management is the refusal to acknowledge past mistakes.

Some fear that admitting that "things haven't worked out as we expected" is some sort of sign of weakness. It is not. Not if the strategic analysis that supported the original decision was sound (in which case the strategy was correct but the results were not as planned). In such a case, admitting disappointment in results can be construed as a sign of confidence.

Certainly, failure is not the same as a mistake.

The admission of failure, subpar results, poor performance, etc. could be interpreted by others as a sign of incompetence. Those "others" are in many cases naysayers whom you'd never win over if you walked on water and cured cancer tomorrow.

I contend that acknowledging the obvious sends messages that management knows what it's doing...and that it is confident enough in its abilities that it can admit failure (which is different than a mistake). The conveying of this message, and the demonstration of candor, shows both confidence in oneself (or the team) and a respect for the customer base.

Now contrast this confident approach with the panic surrounding the New York Islanders hockey club. The Islanders had serious playoff hopes this year and counted on young prospects (former top draft picks) to lead the charge.

Things did not work out as planned. The Islanders have not won in one month (since October 21st to be exact). An 11-game losing streak resulted in their coach being fired. The team's offense is in a rut so bad that it is comparable only to a stretch of futility in the Islanders' first season, 1972-73. That season, the Islanders lost 60 of 78 games.

Instead of fixing the offense, the Islanders fired their coach. Next, they revoked the press credentials of the popular fan blog "Islanders Point Blank" which is run by none other than the Islanders' former 20-year public relations director Chris Botta.

Think that was a fan-friendly move? The announced crowd for the Islanders' Wednesday game: 8,025. That's less than 50 percent capacity.

Should this mismanagement continue -- and that means the anti-blog, anti-fan actions which are enraging a loyal but oft-abused fan base -- the few players worth keeping around will look to flee the Islanders organization when their current contracts expire. That would be a disaster. See what fear of criticism can do?


Eric Dixon
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