• March 24, 2018

    Was Anyone Spotting for John Skipper?

    I feel for John Skipper, former ESPN chief.  It’s hard not to, in some capacity, when you see someone’s life work unplugged and unravelled.  But here is where my mind goes after reading his fall-from-grace story – he was not alone. I grew up watching ESPN and I know a lot of what I came to love about the ESPN brand and sports was a direct result of John’s efforts and passion. As a professional, I also had the privilege of working with ESPN on numerous occasions with NASCAR, NHRA, B.A.S.S., and other sports properties.  I can tell you that the people who worked there reflected John’s attitude and vision – they were first-class people. Now, I also believe that we make and must stand by our choices.  And, like John, we are not alone. In racing, we have spotters.  These people have an elevated perspective of the race track and tell drivers what is happening in their blind spots and how to navigate through wrecks happening ahead of or around them.  There is a remarkably high level of trust between drivers and their spotters to ensure their safety and ultimately their success – as a team.   I don’t know who John’s spotters were in his years of cocaine addiction, or if they tried to help and he ignored them.  But I can’t believe he was alone. Can we learn from this? Yes. Who are your spotters? Who are the small group of people in your life that are looking out for you?  The ones to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.  We may not like what they have to say, but if they are trusted, then we know from where their words are coming – and we need to listen. So, who are they? Can you rattle off their names right now?  Do they even know that you consider them your spotters? Who are you a spotter for in your life? We are all in this journey together and need each other to have our backs when we are operating in our blind spots. Career stage does not matter.  Life stage does not matter either.  We all need spotters and they need to know that we need them to shoot straight with us and that we will listen! John, I have no doubt you will rebound from this and be stronger than before!

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  • February 4, 2018

    2 Critical Components to Rebuild a Reputation

    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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  • December 24, 2017

    Crisis of Values

    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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