Admitting failure in public

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

A customer is angry:

When I trust you with my money and my company’s data, I don’t want those precious assets to be with someone who’s been given permission to fail. I really do want it to be someone who tells the troops this: “Let’s double-down, work through the weekend, push through the issues, get ‘er done, rally!”

The issue to me is public declarations vs private thoughts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with waking up covered in flop sweat, wondering if you’re destroyed your business and the job situations of people you genuinely like and appreciate.

However, I’ve found that a good part of leadership is, in fact, shutting the hell up when “routine” bad things are happening because too much openness can stress out employees. By “routine” I mean pretty much anything other than the certain death of the company, at which time they deserve reasonably early notice).

The CEO responds:

Hi Tom. I was anticipating a response like this and I’m glad you shared your perspective. One of the reasons this piece was difficult to share is that the last thing that I want my customers thinking about is failure.

Let me clarify one thing (and perhaps I should do this in the blog post as well?). Our team cares incredibly deeply about our commitments to our customers and their data. I 100% agree with you that we can _and should_ double-down and work through the weekend when that’s what it takes to maintain that commitment.

The thing is, we already do that, and our team was already doing it at the time I wrote this message. People at Keen take their responsibilities to our customers and to each other very seriously. That’s why we haven’t had another loss since then, now almost 12 months later. When I wrote this message, the problem wasn’t that people weren’t working hard enough. It was that we were stressed out and burnout was becoming a risk. In this situation, reminding people to take a deep breath and get some perspective seemed to be really helpful.

There definitely is a time and a place to rally and to push through, and we have plenty of experience with that too :)

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