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You’ve heard the story. JetBlue angered a lot of people when they cancelled a thousand flights in the course of a few days. Negative customer reaction was enough to make the average CEO want to hide. Instead, JetBlue CEO David Neeleman took the pilot’s seat and responded quickly with sincere atonement, hitting every media outlet he could, and issuing apologies not just to every inconvenienced flier but also to his airline’s own crew members. The company also posted a public video apology on its Web site. He and the airline seem to be making a supreme effort to recover the public’s trust and confidence. The first step? Taking responsibility! It’s amazing what a little humility will do toward recovering customer and/or donor trust. Neeleman has said that the operational catastrophe may end up costing $30 million. But the short-term pain is part of Neeleman’s long-term vision of success. “I’m not focused on the first quarter,” he said. “I’m focused on the second, third, and fourth quarter and rebuilding our reputation in the eyes of our customers and crew members.” When companies mess up big time (and it could happen to any company or ministry), the most important steps to take are those designed to recover trust in the most direct, straightforward way possible. As a general principle, customers and donors will forgive incompetence, but not bad character. Good behavior is the single most effective way to restore trust after an episode of bad or untrustworthy behavior. Only time will tell how this situation develops. JetBlue is trying to do the right thing.

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