Get Outside of Your Jar!

May 7, 2019

I recently spoke at a business owner summit and asked the audience how often they checked the finances of their company.  The answers ranged from quarterly and monthly to weekly and daily. Then I asked them why they check their finances? Their answers included “to get a baseline”, “to properly forecast spending” and “to see if there are any problems that could be coming and prepare.” All very responsible answers, I told them! Then, I asked “when was the last time you did a check on your reputation?” The room fell silent! You see, the finances are an external measure while our reputations hit us personally.  And, that usually freaks people out because it makes us vulnerable. However, within vulnerability comes immense strength – if you have the courage to step into it in order to grow, evolve, and make an impact. “It’s hard to read the label when you are inside the jar!” While a Reputation Audit can be done for an organization, I’ll focus this on you, the individual! Here are Four Key Steps to performing your personal Reputation Audit: Identify Your Core Group – Choose a small group of people that you trust will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Trust is critical for this exercise because when we know the intentions are for your growth, then we know the feedback is honest and for our greatest good! Ensure that these people represent different aspects of your life – work, social, faith, community, family. Communicate Your Goal & Ask Questions – These are individual conversations, so let them know that you want to check in on your reputation, that you want to ensure it’s strong or whatever your goal in this may be. Then have some questions ready to go, for example: “Do you know my values by the way we interact?” “Do my actions align with my values?” “Do I live into my commitments?” “Am I responsive?” “What is my reputation?” Since you will be getting answers from people in different areas of your life, you may begin to see trends where people are having/seeing similar experiences with you.  Listen. Don’t Talk! – Stephen Covey once said that people often listen with the intent to reply, not with the intent to understand. Don’t try to “explain” your behavior when people are giving you feedback. Just listen and take notes. Again, this is where those behavior trends may start to emerge and you may see gaps and opportunities appear.  Perhaps you realize that the decisions you rationalized as “not a big deal”, were in fact a big deal to those around you! You won’t know until you ask and listen. Make A Plan & Act – Now, gather the information and target one or two areas that you can begin to work on.  Start with small steps to ensure that your actions and decisions are aligning with your values.  By doing this, with consistency and over time, you can make an impact and then move on to other areas.  Continue to think ‘long game’ on this! There is no […]

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2 Critical Components to Rebuild a Reputation

February 4, 2018

I am often asked if a person or company can recover from a reputation crisis.  The simple answer is, “yes”, but the effort and discipline it takes to do so is not that simple and is solely up to the individual or the leadership of an organization to act upon two vital elements – consistency and time. While reputations are fragile, and once cracked can never quite be put exactly back together, recovery can be achieved if there is genuine and transparent acknowledgement of what was done, if there is clear and consistent behavior to make amends, and this is done (again) consistently over time. Robert Downey Jr., comes to mind when I think of a person who rose to prominence, fell, and then repaired his reputation to find success (and work in Hollywood) again.  Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol brand is another example of a brand that lost confidence among consumers, but through diligent and consistent efforts, earned that trust back to regain its place as a global category leader, and a product welcomed back in people’s homes. Consistency – the key here is to recognize what actions or behaviors led to the reputation issue, make the proper amends, and then outline the ways in which you or your company will move forward in an authentic way to demonstrate your intent to regain trust and reputation – day in and day out! Downey Jr., took time to rehab his body from the addiction to drugs while also nurturing his mind and spirit to focus on what would be meaningful in his life and surrounding himself with like-minded people.  People soon saw that he was consistently working to make amends and move forward in a positive manner.  I’m not saying that the Iron Man franchise would not have happened without him, but there’s no question that his involvement and talent made it a blockbuster! Time – people can be skeptical as well as forgiving, so the critical element here is consistent behavior over time.  Commitment to a vision of regaining reputation is what will drive the consistent behavior over time.  Repetition (not only in how I ended the last two sentences) is the key to turning skeptics into supporters and from supporters to potential advocates.  Tylenol’s emergence from the cyanide tampering in the 1980s is an example of not only acting quickly (another form of time – see this story for the power of time), but also how leadership focused on creating a tamper-proof solution that would continue to demonstrate trust and reliability over time. If you or your company have been caught in a reputation crisis, it does not signal the end!  However, it will take deliberate planning to outline what must be done differently, clear communication to your family, friends, colleagues, customers or other key constituents as to what will be done differently moving forward, and then ‘walking the walk‘ each and every day!  Easier said than done, but your future and your reputation are more than worth the work! Don’t you think?

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Crisis of Values

December 24, 2017

We have a problem.  That’s right, we have a problem.  It’s not someone else’s problem – it’s our problem as leaders. The floodgates have burst opened through traditional and social media channels on the subject of people in power abusing their positions by taking advantage of those further down the organizational chart.  The storylines read of sexual misconduct, harassment, and greed, to name a few behavioral trends. Have these stories been told because people are fed up and are ready to name names? Is it because there are more news outlets willing to cover these stories? Perhaps it just took one brave person to step up and tell their story for others to find the courage to do the same?  I believe it’s a combination of all of those and more.  However, what I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that these stories shine a spotlight on the crisis of values that we see in leadership. The word values is one that we grew up hearing about and were told to reflect upon, think about, and use in our daily activities to guide us through the maze of life.  What we are seeing is a significant disregard of values by people in positions of leadership and power.  This chasm between values and behavior is what I’ve seen time and time again when deconstructing crisis situations over my 25-year career. Media reports make us first-hand witnesses to the void in the individual’s value in themselves, their relationships, their intentions, and their legacies.  Ultimately their actions, not just from a year or two ago, but some accusations spanning decades, are all being judged in the court of public opinion delivering career-shattering verdicts. These power plays have been happening for thousands of years and are not isolated to people on the public stage.  And, these behaviors are not gender based either as I think about inappropriate male student/female teacher relationships that are just as much about position and power as a senior-level executive or influential TV talking head.  But in today’s world of instant information sharing and online lynch-mob trolling, the stakes are at an all-time high. In many cases, careers have been ended, families have been split, decades of work have been unravelled, and legacies forever tarnished. And this isn’t just an issue for those in the public eye.  I can think of a person in my life who was a very close friend and was fired from his job of 10 years for embezzlement, which ended with jail time and a divorce.  Can you think of a scenario in your life that has hit close like this? What could have stopped these missteps from occurring? Some cases may have required professional counseling, however, at the foundation of this is a lack of values – plain and simple. Our values should be at the core of who we are … or, at least they should be! Our values are not negotiable … or, at least they shouldn’t be! Our values are what make us stand up for what we believe even when not popular … or at least they […]

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3 Steps to Increase Reputation Influence During Times of Uncertainty

September 20, 2017

In the HBO Game of Thrones series a manipulative character named Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, said, “Chaos isn’t a pit.  Chaos is a ladder.”  Our current world, nation, states, and communities have their share of uncertainty, some may call chaos.  But how we approach and frame up this uncertainty can actually increase our reputation influence. Now, Littlefinger looked at life and chaos through the lens of how can I climb this ladder for my benefit, even at the expense of others?  For this he ultimately met his fate on his knees with a knife at his throat. What can we learn from Littlefinger’s mindset and approach to uncertainty?  It’s simple – in times of uncertainty take your focus off of you.  There are ways for you to benefit from this that not only helps your reputation, but more importantly helps others.   That is the frame through which we should look –how can I help others during this time of uncertainty? Below are three steps that you can personalize and strategically use to benefit your family, friends, business, community, team, colleagues, customers and, yes, your reputation.  I want to stress – let’s learn from Littlefinger – this should not be done with a manipulative mindset.  People will see through that and you will end up doing more harm than good to your reputation (as well as your business and those around you!). Three Steps for building reputation influence during times of uncertainty: Understand the Impact of the Situation -Uncertainty happens on Main Street as well as Wall Street, so your focus may not be on a national or global scale.  Some of the most positive personal demonstrations of support and kindness have started at the grassroots level.  Being in touch with local or regional issues and understanding the impact is the most critical step in this process.  Start by answering some simple questions to gauge the scope, impact and your personal connection to the uncertainty. What could the impact of (insert uncertainty) be to my business industry? To my city? In my community? Within my neighborhood? Why does this matter to me? My customers? My community? My friends? Become a Conduit of Information – The old adage that ‘knowledge is power’ is quite valid in times of uncertainty.  This is the first step in providing value to those around you.  Resources and conduits of information in times of uncertainty are highly regarded.  This could be as simple as writing an email to a core group of people or posting hyperlinks with key and reputable sources on your social media channels where people can get informed.  Yes, you will need to ensure these are credible sources.  Simply put, you send out credible information, it increases your credibility.  Conversely, if you send people resources that are sketchy – well, you get the point and how it reflects upon you!  Do your homework! Share Channels of Action – Now that you’ve identified the areas of potential impact and you found sourced information, can you provide avenues for people to engage and act?  This could be as simple as coordinating a conference call to discuss an uncertainty […]

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Are You Involved or Are You Committed?

September 7, 2017

I was eating a bacon and egg breakfast the other morning and was reminded of a conversation I had with NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson several years ago around the question of involvement versus commitment. At the time, I was running the PR campaign for NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary where I had the great fortune and opportunity to meet and work with some of the legends of the sport, including Junior.  During one encounter with the former moonshiner, whose life story was put on the big screen in the 1973 movie The Last American Hero, we were talking about what it took to be successful in this sport. He smiled and said in his low voice and Southern drawl, “Well, let me ask you a question. Are you involved or are you committed?” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, so I naively asked him, “involved or committed in what way?” Junior went on to explain his point.  “You see, success comes down to being committed not involved,” he said.  “It’s like a bacon and egg breakfast – it took two animals to make that meal and one was committed and one was involved. “Now, that hog gave you everything it had – everything – while that chicken gave you something it could make plenty more of. It wasn’t that big of a deal.” I never looked at a bacon and egg breakfast the same after that chat. So, I’ll ask you the same question as you look at your business growth or perhaps how you are leading your team or organization – are you involved or are you committed? Better yet, do you know if your team is just involved or are they fully committed?  Are they committed to your company’s goals, culture and priorities? That is a vital question to consider when a study by Gallup found that more than 70% of employees feel disengaged at the office.  What’s worse is that an Allegis Group Services study found that more than 84% percent of employees would leave their current place of employment for a company with a better reputation (Aug. 2012).  Can it get worse? Yup! A study by Glassdoor Data Labs found that less than 50% of employees would even recommend their employer to a friend (Dec. 2015)! Your team will become a reflection of you.  So, when it comes to leadership and the type of team and business you are building, do you want an office full of chickens? Nope … bring on the hogs!

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Quit Climbing Trees if You Were Made to Swim!

July 7, 2017

Quit Climbing Trees if You Were Made to Swim! I’ve been thinking a lot about the word authenticity lately.  Authenticity, in my opinion, is powerful because it calls out our uniqueness, our individuality in our thoughts, reflections and, subsequently, our actions and interactions. There’s amazing power and liberation in simply being you.  Yet why is it so hard to identify it and own it? I had so many different questions running through my head such as, what does living authentically really mean?  Is living authentically a reflection of how we see ourselves internally?  Does authenticity show itself in only certain areas of our lives?  Maybe it’s the culmination of taking multiple aptitude and personality assessment tests to understanding where our strengths lie? Better yet, maybe it’s knowing what we aren’t so good at doing? Perhaps it’s all of those things and this is a rabbit hole best left alone and I should just continue to ‘stay the course’ of what is comfortable? Sometimes the status quo can be a safe (and predictable) place. Then, one day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across the picture in this post that really helped put a visual to what I was seeing around me these days and also took me back to a comment from a mentor of mine that I didn’t pay much attention to at the time. I see authenticity being a two-way street.  This cartoon points out the way the first way that some companies go about selecting key talent via ‘standardized’ process.  Which I do believe, in some ways, is fair.  For example, if a company is looking for an accountant, then there are specific skills, training and experience that are required for that role in order for the individual (and the company) to succeed. This leads me to the second way down this two-way street and that is the individual.  If you don’t have any accounting experience, then don’t put yourself in that position.  Don’t try and climb a tree if you were meant to swim!  Yeah, I know – that’s not rocket science!  But how many times do we or people we know do this? Have you ever heard the phrase, “it just isn’t a good fit”?  I used to think of that phrase as being a trite and polite way of saying that a person wasn’t doing a good job and they had to leave. I now see that ‘f’ word as being a more vital link to happiness than pacifying rhetoric. Truth be told, I used that ‘not a good fit’ message years ago when I was a manager at a public relations agency.  There was a person who was on my team that was talented, but just not strong in the area of creative work, where his role currently had him placed.  His strengths were more in line with account management.  While his performance was low in this particular area, this young man embodied the values of our agency, treated his teammates very well and was passionate about the work he delivered to our clients, so I didn’t think letting him go […]

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Mom Was Right, You Do Have A Halo!

December 3, 2016

Mom was right, you do have a halo ::  To be clear, this is not a post talking about a religious halo or your spiritual aura – although, that is more than likely what your mom was referring to!!  But for now, what I’m talking about is the halo that your reputation has created around you and the impact it can have on not only your current state, but more importantly your future opportunities. Why do halos matter, especially now? Simple. Halos work off of the power of association.  Make no mistake, association has power and value.  Social Media channels have created a never-before-seen level of transparency making it incredibly easy for people and brands to better understand with whom they are interested in associating. I’ve seen the power of this first-hand throughout my career in motorsports.  Our world is all about the association between drivers, teams and brands.  For many years, my sole focus was on how to build positive association between drivers and their sponsors through public relations and marketing programs – building platforms to drive association and connection with fans.  The foundation for these types of partnerships is rooted in authentically aligning brand and values attributes with the athlete, which establishes credibility in the eyes of consumers. The power of association … → 84% of employees would consider leaving their current job if offered a job by a company with an excellent reputation → 69% of job seekers would not take a job with a company that has a bad reputation – even if unemployed → 100% of your referrals are based on reputation → 100% of your employees are your reputation ambassadors We often see the halo effect at work when it comes to brand and brand ambassador relationships.  If an ambassador acts in a manner that would negatively impact the brand, because of their association, you’ll generally see the brand quickly and publicly distance or disassociate itself because of the unfavorable publicity halo and adverse business impact it would create.  Can you think of any examples of this??  Does Subway and Jared Fogle come to mind? How about Tiger Woods and Gatorade? Do you remember Michael Phelps and Kellogg after the images of Phelps using a bong were released?  Does the name Ryan Lochte ring a bell? Then there is Kate Moss and H&M when she was publicly exposed for using cocaine.  H&M was quick to sever the relationship and issued a short statement related to what kind of person should represent their brand – “If someone is going to be the face of H&M. It is important they be healthy, wholesome and sound.” In the case of Subway, it’s disassociation with Fogle was quick, to the point and delivered via Social Media channels – “We no longer have a relationship with Jared and have no further comment.” One of the most iconic examples of corporate partners racing away from an ambassador is Lance Armstrong. Shortly after his admission of doping, bullying and lying, his corporate partners dropped the once legend of bike racing. The power of the halo is a two-way street, whether it’s an individual, corporation, franchise or a university. […]

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3 Unique Reputation Perspectives from Seth Godin

October 5, 2016

  If you haven’t heard of Seth Godin and you have even the slightest interest in leadership development, please do yourself a favor and go to his website and explore – you can thank me later. For those of you who absolutely are familiar with Seth and his work, then you know the value of his insights, messages and self-actualization themes. He is, without doubt, one of the greatest resources for leaders and entrepreneurs striving for success. In a recent blog post titled ‘Three things to keep in mind about your reputation,’ he gives 3 unique reputation perspectives. Salient points that capture the power (and personal responsibility) of establishing and nurturing one of your greatest assets for success in both your career and life. Below are his three points from the post, followed by my related thoughts. 3 unique reputation perspectives from Seth Godin: 1. Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do. 2. Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change. 3. The single best way to maintain your reputation is to do things you’re proud of. Gaming goes only so far. What I love about Seth’s perspective is that it crisply captures 3 essential aspects of building and maintaining your personal reputation. Let’s break it down: 1. Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do. I read this as the ability your reputation has to impact your life beyond the work that you actually do or the things you create. Your reputation impacts the referrals that come your way (or pass you by), the people who seek you out (or seek someone else) or the doors of opportunity that open (or close). Yes, it is important to keep doing good things, good works, good turns daily. Those actions, consistently over time, will continue to reinforce your reputation for what you do. Consider that 65% of new business comes from referrals – a key indicator of people seeking you out just as much for who you are, as for what you do. I don’t know of any entrepreneurs, business leaders or executives who don’t see referrals as a significant component of their sales matrix. 2. Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change. Have you ever heard the phrase, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? The first impression is a vital time stamp in reputation development. However, Seth uses a key word ‘assumptions’ that makes his thought different. People may have preconceived biases or assumptions about you before you even say a word or shake a hand. This may have come from someone else’s comments about you, perhaps the company at which you work, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, maybe even the university you attended (or didn’t attend). People rarely enter into a relationship without some initial bias or assumption. That’s ok. Resist the urge to try and prove people’s assumptions wrong. If that is your approach, then you might as well just spend your time playing the carnival game ‘whack-a-mole’. The game […]

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10 Eye-Opening Reputation Statistics For Every Leader and Entrepreneur

September 19, 2016

10 Eye-Opening Reputation Statistics for Every Leader and Entrepreneur Winning in the Reputation Economy requires leaders, entrepreneurs and any individual looking for success to be vigilant in growing, protecting and leveraging one of their greatest assets – their reputations! Every day we see, hear or read about people who are not paying attention to how their actions and decisions are negatively impacting their business, careers and organizations. A critical key is understanding the ways in which our reputations are tied to every aspect of our lives – and the positive, as well as negative, impact it will have over our ability to succeed. Shakespeare even knew the power of reputations – “Defend your reputation, or say farewell to your good life forever.”   My intent in sharing these 10 eye-opening reputation statistics for every leader and entrepreneur is to deliver a catalyst for how you can proactively develop, protect and evolve your reputation to help you achieve your goals. Here they are: 10 eye-opening reputation statistics for every leader and entrepreneur 60% of a company’s market value is tied to its reputation 84% of employees would consider leaving their current job if offered a job by a company with an excellent reputation 69% of job seekers would not take a job with a company that has a bad reputation – even if unemployed 70% of U.S. recruiters and hiring managers have rejected candidates based on information found online 50% of a company’s reputation is tied to the CEO’s reputation 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertising 84% of marketers believe that building trust will be the primary focus for marketing efforts in the future (do you trust people with bad reputations?) 58% of executives believe that reputation management should be addressed, but only 15% actually do anything about it 4 out of 5 consumers changed their minds about a recommended purchase solely on negative information they found online 33% decrease in shareholder value of an organization within one year of a crisis situation becoming public Because I am a big believer in over-delivering, here are two additional statistics that need to be on your radar and developed every day! 100% of your referrals are based on reputation 100% of your employees are your reputation ambassadors As a leader, entrepreneur or anyone looking to succeed, here are 6 key takeaways as you digest the data above! 1. Cultivating your customer relationships will not only drive greater life-time value (which according to studies is 10x the value of their initial purchase), but will also increase your referral pipeline 2. It’s not just your behavior (good or bad), but your employees behavior that becomes the reputation of your organization 3. Trust is one of the core components of a strong reputation and is a business accelerator in the Reputation Economy 4. Your reputation (and that of your company) is a market differentiator in attracting and retaining top talent 5. What you post on Social Media channels will be reviewed and can just as easily shut a door to opportunity as it can open one 6. You must know the online conversation/comments […]

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