From time to time, a current issue provides a life lesson. The way Herman Cain has dealt with a recent problem offers an example to all of us of how not to do it, an example we can learn from regardless of political affilitation.

First, when facing a problem or a scandal, do not procrastinate. Now, we all do it from time to time. Sometimes a problem will go away by itself. More often, if there really is a problem, doing nothing makes it worse. Delay wastes time that could have been used to prepare a response, and allows the problem to grow worse. If the problem involves people, procrastination may be the worst strategy of all. People may not like a mistake, but they may eventually be retained as a customer or voter if the issue is addressed. A journalist might be retained as a friendly outlet for information. The one thing guaranteed to infuriate is being ignored.
In Cain’s case, he was given ten days notice by Politico about the story, Judging from ensuing events, Cain, a self-advertised ‘problem solver,’ procrastinated.

Second, when a problem arises, face it immediately. Confront it in full. Admit any errors, and use language mirroring the source of the problem or scandal. Again, it’s human nature not to do this. After all, maybe the mistake will not be noticed. Maybe part of it will remain hidden and never have to be faced. Unfortunately, this way of dealing with a problem results in the ‘rolling disclosure.’ Each time another portion of the problem appears, it forces a change of ground. It gives the impression of dishonesty, and encourages the questioner to press the issue; each time the questioner presses, the ground shifts, rewarding the questioner for pressing further , and the problem keeps rolling and gathering speed.

Third, admit mistakes. Scandals happen. No one if perfect, and most people accept that. Don’t be afraid. Don’t engage in denial. Chances are the mistake has already been noticed. Once again, human nature works against all of us. We want to make excuses, to justify, to explain it away, to blame, or perhaps worst of all, rely on policy. Unfortunately, that just infuriates the customer or the voter or the journalist. Do not blame the media, as Cain attempted. Do not blame the messenger. Do not blame racism or another campaign. Even if they really are to blame, avoid the temptation to cast blame. Above all, do not rely on a policy, such as a nondisclosure agreement, in an attempt to justify. Fair or not, no one likes a weasel.

Finally, when it comes to a solution for the problem or scandal, underpromise and overdeliver. Turn the problem or scandl into an opportunity. Make that person loyal for life by making a direct, satisfying, reasonable offer of redress, and then going far beyond what it originally involved.


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