We all make mistakes at work. No one is perfect.
But it’s how you handle the inevitable fallout that determines your ability to influence in future situations.
Both Barnaby Joyce and Steve Smith will be remembered for stuffing up their high-paying and well respected jobs.
But it is only Smith who will be remembered (eventually) for having the dignity to fess up to his mistakes and face his critics. Joyce is still in denial.
While Smith initially thought he could maintain his position as captain, he has now moved on without a murmur – a public one at least – since being advised that he must go. He did not appeal his 12-month suspension from cricket.
Compare that with Mr Joyce, who had to be blasted out of the position after the details of his affair became public fodder, causing political damage to the Coalition for weeks.
There are three critical steps to recover with dignity after stuffing up. These will help you maintain some semblance of influence in the future.
- Fess up. When you know you have been caught, admit it. As with most things (for example, Joyce and Michaelia Cash) being in denial only makes it worse. When you fess up, the way people carry on becomes all about them and not you.
- Cop it sweet. It’s never pleasant to receive a punishment, but it is coming. You can’t control what is sent, but you can control how you react.
- Show remorse. Smith showed some. Joyce is still in denial. On the day of departure he still wanted his job back.
Seeing your remorse is something that the aggrieved wants. It shows you understand why we feel wronged.
It shows that you have learned your lesson and won’t behave that way again. Without remorse, those aggrieved do not get that feeling. They are left thinking that the perpetrator is more concerned about being caught than how their actions affected others.
This is the central issue that most politicians miss. They don’t understand the strength that remorse gives them. Remorse shows vulnerability, and – while it may seem ironic – vulnerability is strength.
It is much harder to stand up and face your judgment – that requires true strength. Running will always be more attractive because it is easier.
Barnaby Joyce spent three weeks inflicting damage on the Coalition, only to end up on the backbench with no chance of coming back.
He could have gone to the same place with his dignity intact and been back in a year or two. This would have reduced the power of the story and reduced the stress on his new partner, his ex-wife and his family.
Former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, too, failed to admit any wrongdoing in the ‘Choppergate’ scandal and this ultimately cost her the Speaker’s chair, her pre-selection and badly damaged Tony Abbott’s leadership.
From Joyce and Bishop we may have had an apology, but no convincing remorse.
Although there were missteps along the way, Smith must get credit for at least stepping down. He may get a chance to come back. After all, Shane Warne was banned for 12 months for taking drugs and still went on to become our greatest wicket taker.
Darren Fleming is a leadership and influence expert and the author of books on communication and influence. www.darrrenfleming.com.au