Last week I encountered a wonderful example of transparency at its finest. The example is from outside the business world, but includes the same principles.
During a game with the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was one batter way from making Major League Baseball (MLB) history. All he needed was to get one more batter out and he would complete a “perfect” game, baseball’s moniker for a pitcher who retires every batter he faces without any errors or walks. Only 20 pitchers have done it in the 130 or so years that MLB has existed, so the stage was set for a pretty rare and exciting achievement.
That is, until Galarraga forced in the batter into what appeared to be a routine ground out. Everyone watching saw the throw to first base in time to get the base runner out. Everyone, that is, except the one person who mattered, first base umpire Jim Joyce. Joyce called the base runner safe amid a cascade of boos from the hometown crowd and venom from Detroit manager Jim Leyland and the rest of the Tigers’ players.
Galarraga managed to get the next batter out and Detroit won 3-0. After the game when Joyce asked the clubhouse manager to cue up the video of the disputed call and witnessed his mistake, he had an important decision to make. He could stick to his original story and insist that the runner was safe, that the ball was juggled at first, a subtlety that the camera could not pick up, etc. This is an approach adopted by all too many–inside and outside the business world–who make public mistakes.
Instead Joyce chose transparency.
After viewing the video, Joyce stood in front of the press throng and admitted his mistake. He referenced Galarraga working his (expletive) off to pitch a perfect game and how badly he felt to have taken an accomplishment away from the Detroit pitcher that he likely will never come close to again. He referred to how seriously he takes his job and how much he loves baseball.
What Joyce did, in essence, was render any criticism the media might level as moot. He copped to the whole thing ahead of time, leaving the media with only one story to do: That of the umpire with so much integrity and love for the game that he is willing to stand up in front of the news media and admit his mistake.
Today Joyce is a nearly beloved figure in a game that loves to vilify anyone who fails, especially an umpire.
Transparency at its finest.