Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rebuilding Your Reputation: A 5 Step Program

Everyone at one time or another damages his reputation. Everyone will lose the respect of others because he has made a costly mistake, one that is sufficient to damage, but not destroy his reputation.

When it comes to rebuilding a reputation we need to distinguish between Bernard Madoff and John Thain. A criminal like Madoff will never rebuild his reputation. A Master of the Universe, like former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, might very well rebuild his.

To show him how to do it, Business Insider interviewed a series of reputation consultants, and presented Thain with a 13 step recovery program. It has much to recommend it, and will provide useful advise even for those of us who were never Masters of the Universe. Link here.

Keep in mind that reputation concerns how others see you. For obvious reasons it is devilishly difficult to control. Reputation has very little to do with how you see yourself. It does not respond to therapy that tries to repair your damaged psyche, but to coaching that repairs your damaged face.

Since the Business Insider 13 step program contains repetition and some overlap, I am going to distill its 13 steps into 5. I will also rename them.

Step 1. Apologize. You must take full responsibility for your mistakes. Your statement of apology must be clear, concise, and public. You must show sincere anguish and should never try to explain it away, blame someone else, or assert your innocence.

Step 2. Take a Time-Out. After apologizing you cannot go back to business as usual and act as though nothing happened. A sincere apology is normally coupled with a resignation. By taking a time-out you allow the public mind, i.e., the media, to move on to other stories. If you do anything to keep yourself in the news, you will be compounding the problem by reminding people of your misdeeds. This also means that you should not be writing self-serving op-eds. In fact, you should not be writing any op-eds at all for a time.

Step 3.Don't Introspect. While taking your time-out you do not want to do too much soul-searching. As Business Insider recommends, you do not want to construct some " bizarre 'finding yourself' narrative.' You do not need to find the meaning of the mistake. Mistakes do not have a hidden meaning, even when they appear to. You do not need to flagellate yourself or to cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes. You did not commit a crime; you did not sin; you made a mistake.

Step 4. Remain Somewhat Present. This step seeks out the middle ground between making a spectacle of yourself and disappearing altogether. It means that you should keep in touch with your friends and contacts in the business world. First, by telephone and email; later, at lunch. You always want to keep a toe in the water. After a time you will be able to do some consulting work, since it does not involve executive responsibility. Later, you might be able to join some boards.

Step 5. Generosity. Giving back is always a good idea. It is a good antidote to greed. You should get involved in philanthropic activities. Giving selflessly of your time, your money, and your expertise is always good. It will help people to develop a more positive impression of your character, and it will help them to break down their image of you as having made a mistake. Business Insider recommends that John Thain might set up a fund to help Merrill Lynch staffers who lost their jobs. Or else, he might help people to raise money for a start up.

Restoring a reputation takes time and effort. Follow these steps and you will be well on the road to recovering yours.

1 comment:

muebles madrid en stok said...

It can't work as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.