When Your Office Might Burn Down

Posted by Richard Moran.

The recent Northern California fires were frightening.  The damage is heartbreaking and in the area, no one is untouched.  I know because I have an office in the Calistoga area, which was heavily damaged.   The office did not burn but as the fire approached decisions were at hand.  What is important?  What should I take when evacuated?

With the benefit of a few weeks of perspective and no smoke in the air it is useful to reflect on some thoughts that rattle around when all hell is breaking loose.

Things you notice and consider when your office might burn down…

  • Relationships matter. Relationships are more important than anything else I can think of. Take a moment to introduce yourself to your neighbor – at your office or at home. Neighbors can really step up to help each other even if the acquaintance is new.
  • We are all spoiled.  Or at least most of us are. Firefighters don’t worry about what kind of espresso machine is in the break room. The next time you see a first responder – buy them coffee. Or lunch. They deserve it.
  • Teamwork and communication are skills necessary for any type of success but both are essential during emergencies. Always have a plan. Make sure at home or at work you have a plan, and communicate it.
  • The shelf life of old PowerPoint presentations is less than an hour. Any hard copies can be thrown away with most documents that have been saved in a stack on the credenza.
  • Lucite cubes that commemorate a corporate event are not important.
  • When the power goes out, there is nothing: no Internet, no elevator, no lights, no anything.  Electricity is an undervalued resource. Try not to take it for granted.
  • Possessions can be replaced. It is not worth trying to sort through possessions in the face of a fire.
  • Giving back is important. Give back, to neighbors, co-workers, or those in need. You never know when you’ll end up on the other side of the fence.
  • Fire fighters are always welcome and however much money they make, it’s not enough.

Emergencies can bring out the best in people, be they corporate or natural.  The spirit of being compassionate should be a part of the workplace too.

In the US, the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching.  It is the one day a year when we take time and try to be thankful.  We should be thankful for all the first responders who are truly brave men and women.  Be thankful for your family and friends and that you are alive with them to share the holiday.  Be thankful for what you have every single day.  Be thankful for colleagues and a meaningful career.  In the last month I learned to be even more thankful.

Only Until I Am Thirty Years Old

Posted by Richard Moran.

The same declaration has been repeated to me in New York City, in rural Montana, in suburban San Francisco and lots of other places. The people who make the declaration are all in their early twenties and full of vim and vinegar. The statement is, “I am only going to do this until I am thirty years old”.

The “this” each one is referring to is a job. For the New Yorker “this” was to work as an analyst at a private equity firm where she was tortured by pressure and long hours but the money is incredible for someone so young. “This” for the young man in Montana is to act as a fishing guide in the backcountry. The pay is bad and the work is physically rigorous but he is outside all the time doing what he loves. “This” for the San Franciscan is teaching in an inner-city high school. The pay is terrible but he feels like he is doing something meaningful and “paying back” society for a bit.

Setting a goal of “until I’m thirty” is a good idea but it can also be laden with career traps. Let’s just use our three examples.

For the New Yorker, the analyst role might be rewarding, but why torture yourself? If you are only doing something for the money until thirty, be careful. When it comes to money another statement I hear is, “I only intended to do this until I was thirty and that was twenty five years ago. What I really wanted to do was…..” The danger is, because of the money, you can never leave something that you may not want to do. Conversely, you may learn to like the job as it and you evolve.

For the fishing guide, at the end of each trip he says, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” His assumption is that his body will give out by the time he is thirty. Then what? It can be difficult to move from a role full of excitement to the routine. Ask any professional athlete.  Certain jobs can ONLY be done when you are young. If there is something that is pulling you in, do it. A role in the back office or a less rigorous fishing trip may be in the works later. Or, you might just get tired of releasing fish and complaining clients. Worst case scenario for the fishing guide is to say later that, “I wish I did that when I could have.”

For the teacher who is giving back, a commendation is in order but a plan needs to be in place for after thirty. Serving as a teacher is difficult and could prepare anyone for lots of careers. Like the analyst, however, don’t torture yourself. If you don’t like teaching or the pressure, don’t do it.

The “before thirty” mentality can be healthy. How will you know about something if you don’t try it? The twenties can be the best time to take career risks. You can always quit.

When you hit thirty you shouldn’t be using the words “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. You should be saying, “I am glad I did that, now what?”

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.


Chief Reputation Officer


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.


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.


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.