Was Anyone Spotting for John Skipper?

March 24, 2018

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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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 Adidas Must Take in Wake of College Bribery Scandal

October 5, 2017

Adidas is the latest example of the risk that all brands are subject to because reputations rest upon the shoulders of those employees wearing its logo. Jim Gatto, head of marketing for Adidas’ basketball division, is one of 10 people who are at the center of an FBI investigation centered on a high school athlete/college sports bribery scandal that is rocking the college sports industry. Business Insider writer, Dennis Green, put it very well in his Sept. 27 article on the topic, “Part of the reason for Adidas’ newfound success is its evolved reputation. It has courted fashion trendsetters and lifestyle gurus to help turn it into a “cool” brand. If the scandal grows, it’s not hard to see how that reputation could vanish.”   It takes both time and consistent effort to build, shape and protect a reputation. As Warren Buffett once said, “it takes 20 years to build a strong reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Beyond the damaged public perception and tarnished image, Adidas also suffered a direct financial foul after the scandal hit headlines and saw its U.S. stock value dropped by 3% in one day. This type of reputation scenario as well as the financial and public fallout happens every day at varying levels to large and small organizations. While the court of public opinion has yet to deliver its verdict, below are three steps that Adidas – and any company – must take in the wake of a public scandal to not lose its business stride and come out stronger in public perception! 3 Steps Adidas must take in the wake of college basketball bribery scandal Commit to Action & Communicate – You can’t control where the investigation goes or what life it takes on as this scandal unravels.  However, Adidas can control how it processes the information it learns through its own internal investigation, the development of its action plan, and then how it is shared to its stakeholders, employees, and customers to demonstrate its commitment to doing the right thing. Demonstrate Transparency – What did you learn through the investigation? It might be tough to look at and even scarier to share, but understand that in this age of instant information, it will eventually come out.  It’s always best to ‘own’ the message versus it come from a third-party source.  The actions of an individual certainly don’t always reflect that of the organization.  This is the time to acknowledge breakdowns in the system and emphasize that this is not how business is done at Adidas. Outline Change – This is the proverbial ‘Tylenol moment’ and the stamp in time that will either propel a brand forward or anchor it down after the crisis. In every crisis there is opportunity to use a negative situation to create positive industry-wide change.  This is exactly what Tylenol did back in 1982 after seven people died of cyanide poisoning due to Tylenol bottle tampering.  Tylenol went on to create revolutionary bottle safety measures that helped re-establish the brand as an industry leader committed to safety.  Bribery is not new […]

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3 Critical Reputation Crisis Steps For Every Leader

September 9, 2016

3 Critical Reputation Crisis Steps For Every Leader: With today’s Social Media connectivity and people’s ability to voice their opinions or vent their angst, reputation attacks are no longer a question of ‘if’ rather it’s become a question of ‘when’. Of course, these attacks on our greatest personal asset are no longer limited to brands, celebrities, politicians and high-profile executives – we are all vulnerable. But fear not, as reputation issues don’t have to be issues if you know how to approach the situation. While there are multi-step, ultra-disciplined plans for handling reputation attacks, it’s vital to boil down the first few initial steps.  I’ve outlined three critical ones below. These do take some serious introspective work.  Your goals are to gain perspective, get over the hurt and anger and then identify the source of the attack to gauge the validity of the charges. Here are the 3 critical reputation crisis steps for every leader: Have you honestly identified the root cause of the issue? – Typically a reputation issue comes up due to a decision that led to an action or behavior. This takes getting very honest with yourself because if you are in denial about your decisions and actions, you’ll never truly address the issue or whatever this issue is. If left alone and unaddressed, you will repeatedly behave in the same manner and your reputation issues will end up being like one of those whack-a-mole games we see at carnivals – instead of the mole popping up again and again in different places, the behavior that first initiated your issue will just keep popping up again and again – I’m sure you can think of people you know like that!   How quickly do you move past your emotions to get to a plan – emotions are natural – it’s human nature to be upset when your reputation comes under attack – why me? How’d this happen? That person is out to get me! Those are all fair thoughts, but if we stew on those, we lose precious time.  I’ve learned over my 20+ years in communications and crisis management that time is the one resource you will never get back and you never seem to have enough of – move past the emotion and get working on your plan.   Is what is being said about you true and is the source credible? Identifying the source will enable you to validate the credibility of the accusations. There are times when you need to stand up and times when you need to remain focused on ‘staying the course.’ As a leader, you must be mindful of how much energy is spent on refuting the accusations versus continuing to let your consistent actions speak for yourself.   Leaders and entrepreneurs need to keep these reputation crisis steps close at hand in order to quickly and effectively stave off an attack. There is a saying in racing that sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.  While time is of the essence, how you deploy your time in crisis situations will dictate your recovery speed and success. Yes, […]

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