What “I really messed up” Means for Leadership

I’ve been a devoted user of Zoom for a while.  I’ve spewed many curse words over the years at a variety of other video conference tools but I don’t think I’ve hurled any expletives at Zoom.  As we quarantine, work and school from home, there’s been an almost constant Zoom call going on somewhere in my house at any given time. I might be conducting an Executive Coaching session with a client, my husband might be talking with a customer in Japan, and one of my 3 kids might be pretending to do schoolwork… all by Zoom.  As Zoom’s popularity has increased globally, not just in my house, I’ve been paying close attention to the company’s privacy and security practices. Perhaps, more importantly, I’ve been paying attention to how their leadership responds, in words and action, to obvious weaknesses and very real privacy, security and encryption deficiencies.        

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan admits that he “really messed up” and has been taking swift action to address security breaches.  Using the words “I really messed up” struck me not because they’re the wrong words but because they’re the right words coming from a high profile tech CEO. From an emotional intelligence lens, Yuan is responding to a key moment for himself and his organization.  A key moment is any event or situation that presents a challenge or demands a response from us. Sometimes, key moments are areas that we constantly struggle. I’ve had some significant quarantine “key moments” with my 11 year old daughter. I digress. Whether we believe it or not, we have a choice in how we respond to key moments.  We can respond from a position of protect and survive and justify ourselves while blaming others. Or, we can respond from a position of growth and success in which we seek to understand ourselves and learn from our experiences. In the case of Zoom’s CEO, he made the choice to be accountable and respond from a position of growth. 

In a world where accountability from executives is not the norm, I commend Yuan for his response and actions.  However, the story is far from over. His response and transparency has elicited momentary respect in Zoom. He must continue to respond from a position of growth and take extensive proactive measures to transform that momentary respect into trust in his leadership and trust in the Zoom brand.    

As Yuan soldiers on, I’ll continue virtually coaching clients in the tech world on leadership and accountability while trying to respond from a position of growth to key moments in my own life.  With a home-bound circus of 3 kids, 1 husband, 2 cats and dog, conquering my key moments currently requires wine.