In the wake of Tony Hayward’s termination, many are re-tracing the legion of mistakes he’s made in the four months since the Gulf oil spill disaster began.
Of course, there were all those unfortunate, foot-in-mouth statements. And the whole “skipping out of town to to watch a yacht race” thing didn’t help either.
But, in an article for Forbes, author and leadership consultant Cy Wakeman points out what ultimately caused Hayward’s downfall: he failed to address the three most important things the public needs to hear during a corporate crisis.
Here are the three points Wakeman feels every CEO needs to consistently, and genuinely, address during a disaster, and how Hayward fell short each time.
1. “Do you care about me?“
Demonstrating real concern and sympathy for those affected should have been a basic part of Hayward’s overall crisis response strategy, but it’s where he failed the most. He missed the boat from the start by failing to establish a consistent presence in the media at all during the first few days of the spill. And when BP finally did make a statement, it was to ask local residents not to sue in exchange for a financial settlement.
Hayward clearly didn’t learn from this mistake, or the crowds of PR pros screaming from the sidelines. From his horrific statement of “I’d like my life back,” to the weekend he spent yachting as the Gulf was further crippled, the overall image of his actions and words didn’t indicate that he really cared about the public.
2. “Can I trust you?“
The public has had to second-guess Hayward and BP from day one. Even when experts were loudly saying otherwise, Hayward continued to grossly under-report how much oil was spilling into the Gulf. And, since the spill began, BP has been anything but transparent — from not allowing journalists to interview workers at the spill site, to releasing its own doctored photos.
3. “Are you committed to excellence?“
With Hayward at the helm, it has come to light that BP made a multitude of atrociously irresponsible decisions prior to the spill, from not conducting important industry tests to knowingly using faulty blow-out preventers — all major managerial oversights that undoubtedly played a major role in the occurrence and magnitude of the oil spill disaster.
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