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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Is Your Customer Service Killing Your Brand?

November 11, 2016

Is Your Customer Service Killing Your Brand? Customer relationships, retention, growth and referrals are vital links for any brand’s success in today’s Reputation Economy.  However, it only takes one negative experience to wipe-away the relational equity that had built up and for their business (money and loyalty) to go elsewhere.  Not to even mention the negative impact to your brand if/when the experience is shared via Social Channels. In my opinion, customer service representatives need proactive empowerment, upgraded training and more resources from their leaders to reshape the reputation that this particular group has developed – whether it was honestly earned or they are guilty by association! Customer service must be a mindset that transcends all organizational departments.  New idea? Nope.  But, think about some of your recent experiences in this area? Was that indeed a mindset? Did you get the sense that the person was empowered to make a positive impact? But here’s the reality – We are ALL in the customer service business!  From the top to the bottom and everywhere in between. Below are two stories that I believe illustrate the points above from two different perspectives – one being from the front-line employee and the other a more traditional customer service scenario with two completely different outcomes. The $6,000 Egg: Todd Duncan tells a phenomenal story about he and his wife’s experience at a local restaurant at which they were regulars and also used the facility for corporate events. As the story goes, Todd makes a simple request to add a fried egg to his hamburger, but is repeatedly told by the server that they can’t fulfill his request because they may run out of eggs for the day’s special. His disbelief turns to dismay when he starts to calculate how much money he, his wife and his company have spent at this specific restaurant, which he estimated to be roughly $6,000 in one year!  And he still can’t get a 35-cent egg for his burger! This is a great example of how a front-line associate, representing the brand, was not able (or perhaps not empowered) to make a choice or decision that would have delighted a valuable customer – and in today’s terms, a valuable customer is someone who is spending money with you, period.  He no longer goes to that restaurant nor takes his corporate business there either. How Lego Builds Legendary Reputation: When you are 7 years old and love Legos, they are your world. Legos can be the cradle of imagination, creativity and expression. But, when you lose your favorite Lego character, it can force you to do something as a child that many adults, if given the choice between dealing with customer service or preparing their own taxes, would say, “where are those receipts?” Customer Service, a necessary evil in many minds, a place where we go to wait on hold or worse yet, get bounced around to different departments in search of some type of resolution. We Are All In The Customer Service Business!   So, young Luka emails Lego customer service and explains his situation unaware of the crap-shoot peril in which he just placed himself! However, […]

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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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2 Critical Actions that Saved Belmont University’s Reputation

September 26, 2016

2 Critical Actions that Saved Belmont University’s Reputation:  When leaders or brands find themselves in the middle of a crisis there are two critical elements to remember in order to protect a reputation – time and decisive action. I’ve worked through my share of crisis situations over the past two decades – ranging from race car driver deaths to sponsor/brand crisis – and employed two vital components for successfully managing through those reputation challenges. Belmont University nailed both of them when the school was pulled into a social conversation by one of its students who posted a racially charged post on Snapchat. Click on the link below to read more from the New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/belmont-boots-student-called-protesting-eagles-n-word-article-1.2799746 Below are 2 critical actions that saved Belmont University’s reputation. Time is not on your side Time is not on your side when assessing and beginning to manage a crisis situation. The Belmont University communications team quickly acknowledged, via the university’s Facebook page, that the administration was aware of the social post. Belmont University’s Facebook statement at 11:43 AM: “This morning, we were made aware of a racist social media post by a freshman student at Belmont. We reject comments rooted in racism or bigotry. This is not free speech – this is hate speech. The University is investigating and will take immediate action. As a Christian institution, it is our goal to build a diverse and inclusive community where all members feel accepted, safe and valued.” Acknowledgment, especially in today’s socially connected world, is a critical step in the timeline of reputation management. In fact, the expectation is that a brand or leader will respond through Social Media channels in a matter of hours. A response that takes too long can be considered to be avoidance or disinterest by the leader, organization or brand. Decisive Action is Necessary Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” While the crisis-management clock is ticking, the social-media monster is still feeding – people are watching social timelines for updates, posting comments and armchair quarterbacking what should be done. While it is beneficial to monitor what is being said, those comments should never guide your actions and next steps. The best way to chart the path towards action is to ‘check in’ with your values. Does your action plan align with your values? If so, move forward. Now. If not and you choose to proceed, then you are opening yourself (or company) up to additional scrutiny and reputation damage beyond the initial issue. It’s time to put your plan into action once you have evaluated and selected a values-based decision. Now that your decision has been made, you must see it through. Anything less is indecisive and will undermine your efforts. Belmont University’s Facebook Update at 1:22 PM (less than 2 hours later): “After investigating a racist social media post that surfaced earlier today, we can report that the person involved is no longer a student at Belmont. […]

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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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