Blog: Dave LeggettIf you can keep your head...

Dave Leggett | 22 February 2010

Learning new things is one of life's little joys. If you had asked me at the beginning of last week what a 'double McTwist 1260' was, I'd have probably guessed it was something to do with a well known fast food chain. It is not. It is the name for a snowboarding manoeuvre that involves quite a bit of twisting and flipping. I am not all that into winter sports, but the guy who pulled that one off in Vancouver last week had my undivided attention and considerable admiration (he already had the gold and didn't even have to do it). As, indeed, did some of the other competitors in other events.

I guess the thing is, whether you are a winter sports fan or not, the competition for Olympic medals is about human endeavour and competition on an epic scale. People train for years and then push themselves to the absolute limit. The guys who failed spectacularly in the two-man bob also got my attention last week. It had all gone horribly wrong for them but, again, I guess we can empathise on a certain level.

We have all failed at something at some time or another and we have hopefully learned something from that experience. Saying sorry and working hard to correct something that has gone wrong occasionally goes with this territory.

Dealing with Kipling's 'two imposters' of triumph and disaster is a part of life, whoever you are and whatever business you are in. And sometimes it's how you deal with the bad stuff that is particularly important; how you cope in a crisis can be more revealing about character than how you milk the plaudits in the good times.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda - new to the job last year - has had a pretty tough time of late and I would assume that his decision-making is governed by what he believes is in the best interests of his company and its customers. And of course, he is no doubt in receipt of plenty of good advice and wise counsel from his close associates.

He also needs to bear in mind how things are perceived and how the media interprets things. Sometimes the media is unfair in the way it treats things and we have seen plenty of evidence of that here in the UK since the 'Toyota recalls' story first broke last month. The media - in the broadest sense - is on the case and some of the nuances of what a recall actually is, quality versus safety concerns and so on, have been a little lost at times - especially in the non-specialist media.

To some degree, it is a no-win situation for Toyota. The bad PR is already out there and the priority is to limit damage and repair confidence (among customers, dealers, suppliers, employees) as soon as possible. Storms do eventually move off. Dire situations become less dire if you do the right things. Do Mercedes-Benz customers today worry about the firm's serious quality troubles of a few years ago? No. It was very effectively dealt with.

If there was ever a time for effective and decisive leadership at Toyota it is now. And anything that can be interpreted as prevarication or indecision - however unfair that interpretation may in fact be - is certainly not going to be helping.

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