It has been a roller coaster couple of months for both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg in the light of the Cambridge Analtyica revelations. It’s share prices falling faster than the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (at one stage Facebook was $80billion down in market value).
Mark and Facebook have broken two out of three of my fundamental laws of governance in business.
The First Law: Whatever you do – do it as if it was in the public eye.
I don’t mean go and publish all of your most sensitive information on the internet (and/or Facebook). Any decision you take, anything you do, anyway you treat people – colleagues, clients, suppliers, the planet – be happy that if your action was entirely public you would not be embarrassed, scared, devastated – or need to go reaching for your lawyer or image repair specialist. Follow this simple rule and you are likely to find your ethical standards keep you in the very best place – and keep you out of the limelight for all of the very wrong reasons.
The Second Law: Make sure if you are not getting it right your staff can tell you.
The Second Law is great in its own right – but it helps make sure you never break The First Law, and to ensure you never need to rely on The Third Law. You may think you know your business, but collectively your staff know every nook and cranny of it way better than you do. You may think you are the smartest person in the business (there is even a chance that you are), but collectively your staff are almost certainly smarter than you are. Make sure your staff feel able to challenge you. Do this and they will act as your eyes, ears, conscience, your preventer of hubris and your early warning system.
Note however, that you will have to work at making this safe for staff to do – and the more the winner effect kicks in, the harder you may find it (as an individual, a management team and a business).
The Third Law: Most of the time you get one chance to Reboot.
If you neglect the Second Law and end up breaking the First Law, you may well one day find yourself in hot water. At this stage if you take the right steps you probably have one shot at redemption. Generally, people are forgiving. In the short term you will usually find them more forgiving than you actually think.
However, you probably have one chance. Be quick, be as transparent as possible, deal with matters fully and fairly and you will probably bounce back. Whatever you do though, don’t assume because you get off the hook once, you can do it again. At that stage people are likely (probably correctly) to assume contrition is an act not truly felt – and then there may be no coming back.
Here is hoping that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg make the right call.
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