Humility is good for business. What does a business built on the values of transparency and authenticity do when it outrages its customers? Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane tells Fast Company that after the shock wore off, he learned valuable lessons:
Zendesk launched a series of new features and changed its cost structure last May and alerted its customers via its blog and email. The response was immediate outrage. Comments on the Zendesk blog ranged from, “An increase of 74%? Seriously??!!!” to, “This seems extortionate, we are facing a 100%+ increase, what are you playing at Zendesk.”
Svane tells Fast Company that in hindsight, he can see why they were upset. “The problem wasn’t as much in the pricing and plans, the problem was for the customers it was all too complicated and they lost confidence in us.” (Sound familiar?)
Admitting the emails Zendesk sent out to customers were full of “mumbo jumbo,” was for Svane the first step to fixing the problem. However, the company did not respond to individual complaints immediately and Svane even took heat for tweeting, “I hope all the new sexy Zendesk features don’t drown in today’s noise.”
He attributed the (brief) delay in addressing customer complaints to “a period of shock, like after an accident.” …
[H]e says, “Building a business, especially at this pace, you are making mistakes all the time. The best thing a company can do is embrace its mistakes.”
Flexibility and responsiveness are qualities of leadership that ought not to be taken for granted. How many times have companies fallen short and responded to hardship by digging in their heels or burying their head in the sand (remember BP and the Gulf Oil Crisis?)
An integral vision of business leadership is able to rely on a variety of factors in making sense of differences in leadership style between very different companies. An ability to embrace mistakes is dependent on the psychological capacity of its leaders to hold more expansive and integrative visions than traditional companies.