Archive for March, 2008
In my new book, I mention the importance of “rewinding.” This is one of the four stages of reputation recovery that I describe as a means to restore reputation for the long-term. It basically means looking backwards at what went wrong (and right) to prevent wrongdoing from ever happening again. It sounds so basic but I am always surprised at how many companies and leaders do not look back at the root cause of their undoing as they try to repair their reputations.
Today I was reading The Economist an article on Internet communities (3/22/08) when I came across a quote from Winston Churchill that resonated with my thinking on restoring reputation: “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” A good example was also cited. Philp Rosedale, the founder of Second Life (the virtual community), is said to review old media coverage of AOL’s life history to make sure that Second Life does not make the same mistakes as AOL in not adapting to the web’s open standards.
This got me to thinking about my friend, social psychologist and reputation expert, Joy Sever. She started a business (Tell Me O Muse) a few years ago on the timeless wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey, the ultimate literary story. There is so much to be learned from the past as she has shown me. Listed below are 18 themes that Joy has culled from her tireless reading of that ancient journey back home.
The 18 Themes of Timeless Wisdom
1~Think carefully about what you’re pursuing … and how you’re pursuing it.
2~There is a right and a wrong time for modesty, but never a good
time for hubris. 3~Fear less. 4~Leaders need strategies. 5~Stay awake or
you may pay dearly. 6~ Use power to empower. 7~ Honor the guest-host relationship. 8~ Do not be fooled by disguises, beggars can be heroes.
9~Treat all people with dignity 10~ Accept the guidance of wise women and
the advice of wise men. 11~Honor solemn oaths. 12~Realize the potential
for enemies to become friends. 13~Maintain your vision, even in the face of temptation and despair. 14~When between a rock and a hard place,
select the path that minimizes loss. 15~When in doubt, test
before acting. 16~Take personal responsibility for your actions. 17~You’re
not home, until you’re home. 18~There comes a time when the
fighting must stop.
Unfortunately we are witnessing too many crises and fallen reputations today. Weber Shandwick’s stumble rate of most admired companies only continues to climb. Business schools need to include courses on the most colossal business mistakes of the past decade and on lessons from the classics (contact Joy!) to make sure that our next generation of business leaders realize the power of the past.
We are still reviewing Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For and found some more interesting facts on how reputations can be enhanced by this accolade. We decided to look backwards at the award winners over the past three years to see if there are any differences in what makes a winning workplace. [I should note that the most important factor is employee ratings which accounts for two-thirds of the final score.]
Among the benefits offered by the 100 Best Companies to Work For, the most commonly offered perk is telecommuting (at least one day per week), followed by on-site child care. However, on-site child care may be losing some of its strength as a “Best” driver – 12% fewer companies on the 100 Best listing offered it in 2008 than did in 2006. On the other hand, 43% more Best Companies are offering fully-paid health care suggesting that this benefit is helping drive companies to be ranked as a Best Company to work for (not surprising considering the rising costs of health care and how hard it is to find an employer that pays 100% of health benefits). In fact, eight companies that offer fully-paid health care did not appear on the best employer list in 2006.
As for fully-paid sabbaticals, it looks like this is diminishing as a best workplace factor. Too bad.
Fortune Best Places to Work For Driving Factors
|2006||2007||2008||% change 2008 vs 2006|
|Benefit||# companies out of 100 ranked||# companies out of 100 ranked||# companies out of 100 ranked|
|On-site child care||33||32||29||-12%|
|Fully-paid health care||14||16||20||+43%|
|Allow telecommuting at least 20% of time (or 1 day per week)||79||82||84||+6%|
Source: Weber Shandwick proprietary analysis
It seems that the world has gone list crazy. Everywhere I turn I see 10 best ways to do this or that. I thought I would take my list for safeguarding and recovering reputation and add it to the listmania. When I searched google for “top 10″ I found 499,000,000 mentions. Just that number alone seems to be deliberately set. Perhaps I should come up with 99 tips on protecting reputation. I don’t think I have 99 tips but I bet if I got started, I could get close. But for now, here is a list of 19 tips….hope this satisfies the world’s ranking urge (and mine).
- Don’t leave your reputation up to the roll of the dice
- CEOs must be the first line of defense
- Communicate in heavy doses
- Pay attention to your employees’ vital signs
- Think of stakeholders as your electorate
- Remember no reputation is bulletproof
- Multiply all the bad news you hear by 10
- Don’t forget that we all live in glass houses – there are no secrets
- Inoculate your reputation – build a reservoir of goodwill before you need it
- Shift focus from what has happened to what should happen next
- Don’t underestimate your competitors or critics
- Recovery is continuous with no short cuts or days off – stay the course
- Don’t let the Internet’s allure blind you
- Each crisis has its own rhythm
- Don’t believe your own propaganda
- Use the “R” word (recovery) judiciously
- Second chances are rarely a matter of luck – don’t waste them
- Spin gold from clay – turn crisis into opportunity
- Restoring reputation is an epic voyage
Recently came upon an interesting job opening for the Academic Director of the Centre for Corporate Reputation at the Said Business School at Oxford University. It was in the Economist (01.03.08). The reason the issue is several weeks old is that I saved the posting from my recent travels toEurope. Among the many qualities that Oxford is looking for (energetic, visionary, inspirational, leadership, networker, research management and scholar, international reputation, and prodigious publisher in prestigious publications) is having a “good media presence.” I found it interesting that the school is only requiring that the candidate be “good” with the media when media-bility would be so important to building a reputation for the Centre and attracting top-notch faculty and students. I also was struck by the fact that there was no mention of having to be familiar with emerging or social media. Seems that academia is missing the boat by not even mentioning that they would mildly prefer someone with at least “passing” or “decent” familiarity with the rapidly evolving world of online reputation management. Nothing could be hotter. Why not ask for a blogger? I know. I know. Not going to happen. And I was also musing about why the job description did not mention that the preferred individual should be “great” or “electric” in the classroom (maybe they never teach students but I presume they have to be in the classroom at some point) or a talent magnet (how best to keep top talent and attract them). It seems to me that all of these other factors might have been mentioned in the criteria for this prestigious position. Maybe it would be nice to haves while the ones listed are must haves. But of all the factors that should have been noted, online presence or expertise should have been at least a footnote.
We took a look at the last Fortune Best Places to Work For company winners this year to see which criteria seems to matter most after employee ratings. As you know, the employee ratings carry two-thirds of the final score in winning a place among the top 100 employers-of-choice. We thought it would be interesting to examine what matters most in that remaining one-third of the scoring process. Here is what we found:
- 40 companies on the list had 50% or more women employees
- 29 companies on the list had on-site child care
- 18 companies had fully paid sabbaticals
- 15 companies had unusual perks
- 6 companies had 50% or more minority employees
Gone are the dot.com days when unusual perks seemed to dominate the reasons why some companies were more highly rated over another. I would assume that there is a correlation beween many of these companies having female employees and on-site child care but can not guarantee that to be the case.
Being a Best Place to Work is one of the most coveted scorecards among the many that have proliferated over the years. I almost think that it has surpassed Most Admired Companies in the clamor it receives from companies. Reputations are built on these accolades and will remain so for years to come.
Please excuse my tardiness in writing of late. I was traveling in Europe to our offices, visiting clients and talking about reputation recovery. My laptop’s wireless broke and I was unable to post to my blog. Now that I am back in the U.S., I asked myself what fascinated me the most about my visit. Without a doubt, I have to say that I was shocked that the first question I was usually asked was about Eliot Spitzer. Prior to my visit, I had seriously prepared myself to talk about European corporate scandals such as SocGen, Deutsche Post and Northern Rock. Imagine my surprise when the first question was often about the governor of New York. I did not expect Spitzer’s reputation and moral downfall to reach so far so quickly. But then again, who is surprised by anything these days? Since my new book is about reputation recovery and redemption, I guess it should not have been such a surprise. (I was also asked why wives in the U.S. stand by their disgraced husbands. I was not sure why this is so.)
Here is what I think. I do not believe, like most everyone, that Spitzer can ever rebuild his reputation in the political arena. That chapter is now closed. But I do believe that he can repair his reputation in time by dedicating himself to the common good. Years from now, we may actually hear Spitzer say that this colossal public failure (even crime?) gave him an opportunity to do something with his life that he would never have imagined possible or contemplated. Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld has written extensively about individuals who recover lost reputations over money, sex (less often) and other improprieties. Sonnenfeld’s recent book is called Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound from Career Disasters. In his chapter on “Lessons Learned from Legends and Losers” is his advice to “Know Your Own Story” — “…all of this entails knowing, telling and constantly retelling the leader’s story and to have an explanation for the downfall such that it enables faith in the leader’s ability to rebound.” Spitzer now has to find his own narrative to explain how his lost his way, betrayed his family and colleagues, and let New Yorkers down. He then has to find his own personal route to redemption and earn forgiveness.
Reputation forgiveness should not be ruled out.
Thought you might want to hear about a new book on managing your reputation online. The book written by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss is titled Radically Transparent and here is their seven point guide on online reputation management. I made it my business to read the book (I just received a hard copy in the mail yesterday from amazon). The authors sent me a pre-copy weeks ago which I read with gusto. Lots of great information which got me up-to-speed quickly and smartly. I liked it so much that I was happy to give them a testimonial on the back cover. You might want to get a copy too. As I have said before (and everyone else), online reputation management is the new black.
“We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”