About that Reputation

Posted by Richard Moran.

A new job title is being bantered about. The title is interesting and the concept sounds good. The job is – CHIEF REPUTATION OFFICER. I am intrigued.

Someone needs to be in charge of an organization’s reputation. Sometimes it’s not clear who that might be. Sometimes it is clear that it’s not the CEO. In fact, lately, it seems that some leaders are doing all they can to tear down their personal and organizations reputation.

Like some jobs that are created in a hurry, it is not clear what the Chief Reputation Officer would actually do when he or she shows up in the morning. A staff job with an unclear charter is not a real job, no matter how lofty the title. So for those organizations creating a Reputation Officer role, the following is a quick job description. Feel free to edit and use as appropriate.

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Chief Reputation Officer

Description

This is a leadership role designed to ensure that other leaders don’t even think about doing stupid stuff. If stupid stuff happens, the CRO will get involved. He or she will sit at the executive table and ask questions like, “Do we really want to do that?” Instead of pointing to a Values Statement on the wall, the CRO will be the living protector of the values. There will be hell to pay if the values are violated. Why did we spend so much time on creating values if they don’t matter?

Impact on the Business

If the reputation is hurt, the business suffers. (See Uber, The Weinstein Company and others.) If the reputation is enhanced, customer loyalty is enhanced and everyone is happy. (See Apple, BMW.) The fact that there is video everywhere means the CRO can almost always work with data.

Customers / Stakeholders

No one can hide. Everyone is a customer or a stakeholder when it comes to reputation, including the CEO and the maintenance staff.  The CRO should seek opportunities to enhance the reputation and be full of ideas and research.

Leadership & Teamwork

The CRO should have clout and face validity so that everyone in the organization knows that there is a new sheriff in town. Liam Neeson would make an excellent CRO.

Major Challenges

Some people think they won’t get caught and can do any thing they want even if it will hurt the organization’s reputation. Some people don’t understand that inappropriate behavior is not your friend at work (or anywhere). Some people drink too much whenever the alcohol is free, like at company events. Some people think that if the CEO can do that, I can do it too.

Qualifications

A previous leadership roll where you established clarity about “the way things work around here.”

Leadership Capabilities

  • Have an understanding of the difference between good and bad behavior.
  • Be ambitious about high standards
  • Make considered decisions every day.

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Maybe the reputation officer is like a priest or a rabbi who makes everyone feel guilty for misbehaving. It doesn’t matter. If the presence of someone who is in charge of reputation will help eliminate boorish behavior and establish a sterling reputation, then it is a job needed in every organization.

A reputation can change in a second based on someone doing something ill advised. And a tarnished reputation takes a long time to fix.

Don’t snicker. It’s about time for that Chief Reputation Officer, and I am all for it.

Communicating with the Boss (via the Chair)

Posted by Richard Moran.

Communicating with the boss is tricky. If all you ever do is say good things you may enter the world of being called a “suck up” and your colleagues will hate you. Even the boss doesn’t like a brown-noser.  If you are critical, especially in front of others, you may end up “spending more time with your family”.

The suggestion box went the way of the pager and fax machine. All employee surveys are generally too broad to provide feedback at the individual level.  An email is easily tracked. So how do you get that feedback to the boss? The Chair is sometimes the answer for communications.

It is important to distinguish between capital C Communications and communication about the things that the boss should know but no one has the gumption to voice.

Capital C Communications include “the strategy would be better if we expanded in to Latin America.” Or, “the customers are complaining about the lag time in service.” No need to bury that type of information. Say it out loud and often. You might help the company in big ways and even get a promotion.

The messages to the boss that are best served by leaving it on the chair at night are things the boss should know but no one will ever say.  Sample messages include:

  • Screaming at the sales team every day is not showing your best self. It won’t get better results and the team doesn’t like it.
  • Please don’t take a newspaper with you to the bathroom. You can do better.
  • If you say “at the end of the day” one more time I think my hair will catch on fire.
  • Showing favorites is never a good way to get the team to work harder.
  • The team is wondering why your door is closed all the time. Rumor is you’re looking for another job?
  • Communicating via Twitter or email is not as effective as getting us all in the conference room for an update every once in a while.

Messages like these are tough to deliver to someone who controls your future. But these are things a boss should know, albeit through a note on a chair. If the message is helpful and positive the boss might actually welcome the feedback, although maybe not at first.

(Be sure there are no video recording devices that can catch you around the boss’s chair as the messenger.)

Most people in any kind of a supervisory role are quick to say, “I want feedback”. No they don’t. Well, they do if the feedback is positive. Negative feedback is criticism. Especially if it’s about personal behavior, and it’s not what they want to hear.

Using the boss’s chair at night is only a metaphor for somehow ensuring that important messages are delivered for the good of the organization and the boss. Human nature is such that sometimes-helpful feedback needs to be anonymous.

What’s on your chair?

When Your Boss is Wrong (And Everyone Knows)

Posted by Richard Moran.

It happens. It happens more than it should. The boss made a mistake and all hell is breaking loose. Maybe the mistake was based on a decision made too hastily. Maybe it was made on insufficient data. Maybe it was made on an impulse in the heat of a moment. No matter the logic behind it. The mistake was made and the ramifications are rippling through the organization in a bad way. But the boss is intransigent and will neither own up to the mistake or make any change. Now what?

When the boss is wrong the best case scenario is when he or she recognizes the error of the decision and corrects it. An apology might be the right thing to do but for some leaders, that is not a part of the vocabulary. Just the act of making a correction could be enough to broadcast, “I made a mistake, let’s move on”, and the organization will move on.  But sometimes none of that happens and the mistake lives with you every day.

The list of wrongs that can hurt the organization is long. Could be a star performer that was terminated for no good reason. Could be sticking with a product that everyone knows is a dog. Could be promoting a jerk. Could be imposing a policy that everyone hates. Could be implementing a strategy that everyone knows is doomed to failure. Could be singling out a group for poor performance when it was due to external circumstances. Could be something the boss did that everyone knows is antithetical to what the organization stands for. Could be just stupidity or lack of awareness.

The story of the “Emperor with No Clothes” is not the same situation. At least the Emperor was oblivious to how he looked and seemed to be willing to change once the truth was told. The worst-case scenario that can occur is when the wrong minded boss knows that a mistake has been made, everyone in the organization knows it’s a mistake but no corrections are made.

The organization may not have any options but individuals do have alternatives to consider. Here are just a few:

  • REVOLT! Best not to revolt by yourself. If the mistake is killing the organization, even slowly, it’s best to gather smart people to explain the situation to the boss in the hopes the wrong decision will be righted. No guarantees that things will change but there is strength in numbers.
  • Present alternatives. Sometimes mistakes can be corrected most quickly if there are clear alternatives. If presented in a clear way as a better path forward, any good leader will take the alternate idea forward.
  • Demonstrate. Your personal displeasure can be shown in a myriad of ways. The downside to any overt signs of telling the boss that a bad decision was made, of course, is getting fired. Sometimes that outcome could be worth it and you will be on the record as showing your lack of support.
  • Resign. Best to have something else lined up before executing on this strategy. Don’t assume that anything will change as a result of your action.
  • Live with it. The only solace in hanging around is a belief in the karma that all bad people will eventually suffer. Research does exist that proves this to be true but how patient can you be?

Too bad those leaders still exist that make mistakes and are unwilling to admit mistakes or correct them. In my experience, employees who are doing the real work almost always know when a decision is the right one. If leaders would listen, mistakes wouldn’t be made as often as seems to be the case in the world today. A little listening and course correction is sometimes all that it takes.