Politics 101

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Don’t tell fibs and if you make a mistake, fix it fast. It’s an age-old set of rules ingrained in most of us from our youth. In recent days we have seen one of WA’s new MPs under scrutiny for a series of mistakes and alleged mistruths.  We all make mistakes but how you recover from them is a crucial part of achieving long term success in politics.

But it’s not just politicians who can learn from this recent and somewhat surprising case. Any business wanting to work with, sell to, or in any way partner with government needs to ensure it operates with absolute integrity. The high level of scrutiny of government means partners must also adhere to high standards of behaviour and cannot afford to fail these tests.

Sustained media coverage and public exposure can result in long term reputational damage – for both individuals and organisations. Always work on the basis that the truth will come out, it generally does, and if mistakes are genuine then it is usually possible to recover if you set the record straight early (and correctly).

The whole saga has reminded me of one of the most basic rules of politics. A rule that is now just as relevant to the clients I advise. Put at its simplest, if you face a question over the appropriateness of your behaviour; take your time, stay calm and get your facts correct and clear before responding to any query, especially one to do with your integrity. Sounds simple but you see politicians (and businesses) fail to do these simple things time and time again.

Once you are clear on what has happened, if you find you have made a mistake then you need to correct the record and set things right. Trying to buy time by giving an unclear answer, a massaged version of events or a denial will make people look harder at the issue and dig deeper and ultimately the truth has a way of surfacing.

Everyone eventually makes a mistake; the key is how well you deal with and recover from these mistakes. The public is willing to forgive our human errors, but it does not look kindly on those who fail to take responsibility for their actions. 

Associate Director, Jamie Henderson

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