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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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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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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Lenny Kravitz ‘Throwin’ Some Ass’ Into Reputation Management

August 25, 2016

Lenny Kravitz Throwin’ Some Ass into Reputation Management:: Several years back, Lenny Kravitz was named the celebrity Grand Marshal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Challenge at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The All-Star event is a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all race among drivers – this race is about the money and bragging rights! I was running Sprint’s marketing communications team for its NASCAR series sponsorship and on at this particular event, I was ‘on point’ to be with Lenny for various media interviews. His main role at the race was to give the most famous command in motorsports, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Well, in today’s races, it is “Drivers, start your engines!” We spent most of the day together between meeting drivers, media interviews and filming promotional videos for NASCAR. We stood on the infield grass near the Start/Finish line waiting for his ‘moment’ and joked around as the drivers were being introduced – he has a hilarious sense of humor! Lenny took in the amazing fly-over and watched the fans go crazy at the sight and sound of the F-15s as their afterburners lit up the summer evening sky. A few minutes later, Lenny leans over to me and says, “hey Mike, let me ask you something. You’ve been around this for a while. How do you think I should do this? What do you think they’d like?” It took me a second to realize what he was asking and then realize that this was a Grammy Award-winning artist/performer asking me my opinion about how to say, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” It was all very bizarre at the time and I didn’t give it much thought, or perhaps I would have answered differently. But in that moment, standing face to face with Lenny Kravitz, this was the professional advice I gave him. “Lenny, you saw how crazy the fans got with the fly-over, right?” He nodded his head, saying, “yeah.” “OK, then, you’ve got to throw some ass into it and just give it to them.” My parents would have been proud. A decade and a half spent in motorsports PR and my advice to Lenny is to ‘throw some ass into it’. Brilliant. But, it worked. He laughed, put his arm on my shoulder and said, “I got that.” Reputation Lesson: There will be times in your life when people are honestly looking for your advice. They are seeking this from you, more than likely, because they value what you will tell them based on your professional position or your personal experiences. Regardless of why you are being asked, it’s imperative that you understand your impact (positive or negative) on the person that is seeking your counsel as well as the impact (positive or negative) it will have on your reputation. 4 Tips To Give Solid Advice And Build Your Reputation: 1. Slow down and be in the moment :: this is tough in our society these days, but it’s a clear sign of respect to the other person. Make sure they know you are in the moment and that you are genuinely interested in helping them. An easy way to do […]

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