For a lesson in how to come out of a massive, extremely public failure looking pretty great, look no further than Zoom, which experienced an enormous outage this week just as millions of children signed on for their first day of (virtual) school.
Within a few hours, the company managed to turn a disaster into a teachable moment when Velchamy Sankarlingam, Zoom’s president of product and engineering, sent users an email that was, as INC’s tech columnist Jason Aten wrote, “a brilliant lesson in how to respond when things go wrong.”
Maybe the most meaningful line [of the email] is this: “I’m here to get this right and will personally do my best to prevent disruptions like this from happening in the future.” That’s it. That’s the lesson. That’s the mentality everyone who leads a team or a business should have — including you. That’s your job.
When something goes wrong at your company or with your product, Aten points out, it’s your problem, whether or not it’s your fault. Shirking personal responsibility for a mess-up sometimes feels like necessary self-protection, but this is no time to perpetuate the “mistakes were made” model of apologizing.
As Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler writes for Forge, when things go wrong, the emotionally intelligent response is to take a pause, identify your emotions, and then take action. And when the necessary action is an apology, you center the person or people who were adversely affected, not yourself. Sean O’Neil put it this way: “Acknowledging responsibility and then explaining how you plan to address it are the two poles of any good apology and are of way more interest to the wronged party than your feelings.”
After all, professional relationships demand just as much emotional intelligence as personal relationships. Especially now that all of these relationships are taking place over, well, Zoom.