Chris Komisarjevsky's Blog

Frank Perry From the moment I first saw this photograph taken by my friend Frank Perry, it seemed to echo so many of the important themes that underlie a strong reputation:

The dramatic images and vibrant colors of the photo stand out like few others, capturing row after row of strong stanchions for anchorage, reflections in the mirror of still water, paths to different directions, a bright sky and a clear view, and the shoreline with a glimpse of what might be off in the distance.

Those very images resonate key reputation strategies: strength, lasting values, depth of character, security and trust, and choices made with a view for the long term. Moreover, the repetition of the stanchions and the reflections in the water reinforce the idea that reputation means doing the right thing … time and time again.

CVS Walks the Talk Feb 07, 2014
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post -- Business
February 6, 2014

CVS Caremark made a bold decision to “walk the talk” when it announced that it would no longer sell cigarettes in its pharmacies.

The announcement means that the shelves of CVS won’t offer any tobacco products in any of its 7600 pharmacies around the country after October 1, 2014.

Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark President and CEO, was straightforward. In his own words: “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."

While there are some who would wish that CVS didn’t wait until the fall to get rid of all those cigarettes, the announcement was met with far ranging support. Print and broadcast media put the story front and center, above the fold and on headline news. The world of social media was filled with comments applauding the decision.

CVS Caremark’s description of itself on Twitter, “reinventing pharmacy for better health,” seems to have been for real. And now with a strong statement and equally strong action underway, people are listening, tweeting and re-tweeting.

Reality, however, reminds us that this kind of decision is costly for CVS. At least in the short run. So, it certainly wasn’t just a philosophical decision or a theoretical exercise. CEO Merlo candidly understood the financial impact:

“The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis from the tobacco shopper, equating to approximately 17 cents per share.”

Clearly, the focus for CVS goes well beyond the quarter or even fiscal year financial results that might prompt some early reaction by investors and the financial markets.

Regardless, the point to keep in mind is that the decision about tobacco for CVS is a long-term one – in keeping with its business strategy.

The clear expectation is that CVS pharmacies will grow because they are on the right side of the cancer and smoking disease equation and, more important and enduring, on the right side of the broader healthcare equation. Considering the demand for simpler and more personal health care and prevention, CVS seems to see a much more meaningful opportunity, well beyond selling packs of cigarettes.

With its growing number of CVS MinuteClinics and, as Helena Foulkes, president of CVS/Pharmacy, said in the announcement, “26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners …,” CVS is determined.

It is likely making a good bet … from two perspectives.

First, it shows courage as a company. Not only does it speak to principles but it now puts teeth into them by walking away from products that, although certainly lucrative, go against the company’s purpose and what it believes is right.

Second, it has a much broader mandate in mind. CVS is determined to be a health company, not just a pharmacy, and to make “better health” possible by serving as a single source for much more than prescriptions.

In a world where the talk about healthcare just seems so confusing and challenging, just maybe we are seeing some light.

Interestingly, sometimes we find guidance on things that otherwise appear complicated from old-fashioned values and simple sources. In an interview for my recent book, “The Power of Reputation” (American Management Association), Manny and Lily Dominguez, the husband and wife owners of a local, independent, family pharmacy in New Jersey, spoke about what underlies the relationships they have with those who come in the door:

“I call everyone who comes into my pharmacy my patient. I treat them that way … not as customers but as patients. I know that I can’t just fill the prescription. If I am to continue to be successful, I have to do more.

“The pharmacy becomes an extension of our values and our beliefs. We are there for them. We are an extension of their family. For us, that is critical. Some might call it old-fashioned but we think it has created a very special reputation for us and that has been critical to our success.”

So, are we starting to see a large-scale rejuvenation with some of the qualities of the local, corner pharmacy at the core?

And is CVS leading the way?

Surely looks that way.

Pharmacies of the future will be light years different. They will not be a throwback to the ones we can imagine having been painted by Norman Rockwell, but there's no doubt that values need to prevail and the pharmacies built on principled business decisions with a clear view toward what really is important.

For the business. And for the patients. Both.

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Beyond Davos -- The Importance of Conversation Feb 02, 2014
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, Business
January 23, 2014

With some of the greatest minds in the world together in one place, the well-publicized discussions and debates taking place at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week can surely light the spark of change.

However, it is only through the repeated echo of those ideas in the months and years to follow – voiced in conversations within much smaller groups – that will lead to action and produce meaningful solutions.

With the 2014 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum now underway, business and government leaders from around the world, along with social activists, have gathered in the Swiss mountain ski resort to engage in conversation with the common goal of sharing the best thinking on how to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Roughly 2,500 attendees have come together to address the WEF mandate of “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.”

Specific topics run the gamut: global politics, monetary policy, healthcare around the world, money and influence, business and ethics, education, global food supply, the digital future, political turmoil, and social unrest affecting countries and continents … just to name a few.

I recall being introduced to Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, more than thirty years ago in offices above Rue du Rhone where I worked in Geneva. Having launched the WEF ten years earlier (1971), Professor Schwab was increasingly ambitious yet always eloquent in his aspirations for what the WEF could be.

As we look at it today, there can be little doubt that this annual event in Davos – coupled with regional and topical meetings held at other locations around the world – has more than met Professor Schwab’s fondest expectations.

The WEF Annual Meeting itself is a singular event. All the media are there. Regularly, blogs hit the web with online news and opinion reporting and leading traditional media – print and broadcast – post their reports daily. Some, like “HuffPostLive,” have set up a studio and broadcast in real-time from Davos with interviews of WEF attendees, such as Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna talking about the “individual” in health care, and Matt Damon, the actor and activist addressing global water issues.

There are those who would discount the importance of global meetings like this. For his DealB%k column on January 20, entitled “Notable in Their Absence from Davos,” Andrew Ross Sorkin had talked with some of them. Sorkin wrote:

“The annual parade of boldface names at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is always striking. … But just as notable are the luminaries who consistently avoid Davos, despite repeated invitations.”

While there certainly are leaders who might decide not to go for a variety of reasons – ranging from a Davos agenda that may seem too large to the inconvenience of travel into the Swiss mountains – the numbers who go outweigh the naysayers.

The reason is simple. Those who go to the World Economic Forum want to have a voice, often have new ideas, are eager to hear the views of others, and the best see it as an opportunity to get a conversation started. Perhaps a few will also take their skis on the high speed Parsennbahn/train to tackle the challenging trails from the top of the Alps.

No one is naïve enough to assume that a speech given or a comment made in a panel discussion is enough to bring about change.

What’s needed is conversation. Real conversation, not where one person does all the talking but rather where there is give-and-take. Working with others and encouraging some form of action require a dialog that is more intimate and at times more personal, made possible only in small groups.

A crucial step is finding common ground. To do that, there must be a full and open airing of ideas, facts, figures and opinions. There must be an appreciation for the thinking and reasoning of others. Without relying on pre-conceived notions.

This kind of respectful conversation may well involve arguments at times, simply because some views are held fast and opinions may be hard to change. But that’s okay because authenticity produces the kind of dialog that can be the starting point to focusing on common ground.

With common ground, there can be trust. It will build over time.

And with trust, just about anything is possible. People start working together, finding solutions, and implementing change.

After all, this is just common sense. It is what works best in our private lives and works best in our public lives too.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos is a very important start. The leaders there, though, have much more work to do, extending well beyond the time when the last CEO and world leader has left behind the village and the peaks of the mountains.

Having set the discussion in motion at the WEF, those same leaders now have the obligation to keep it going by generating important conversations that, on a smaller and more intimate scale, echo the search for solutions to some of our most troubling problems.

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Will 2014 Really Be a "New" New Year? Feb 02, 2014
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post
January 2, 2014

Tradition has it that January is the time to think back on what we have done and look forward to what we will do. As the New Year gets underway, the focus most often is our resolve to change, all with the best intention of doing even better in 2014.

By many accounts, this impulse to be introspective is part human nature and part historic. We are told that the origin of the name of the month January is the Roman god, Janus. History or myth, depending on how we look at it, describes Janus as the god of doorways or passages, in effect representing a threshold to something new. All the coins, drawings, and sculpture with images of Janus show him with one head and two faces, each looking in the opposite direction.

Regardless of what resolution we might have made last year at this same time – and did or didn’t actually do – we should take this seriously. But it must be much more than the New Year’s Eve champagne-spiked commitment to shed pounds, get a new job, or travel to foreign lands that very well may fall by the wayside within weeks.

Just look around, especially at some of those with influence whose behavior affects our lives. If 2014 is really to be a “new” New Year, change is key.

The banking and financial industry is certainly high on that list. After dramatic failures in 2012 and little change this past year, major banks found themselves pilloried. On December 1, just last month, The Daily Mail reported on record European Community fines levied on major banks:

“The EC sanctions serve as the latest reminder of wrongdoing in the industry, which has been left reeling following a series of scandals in recent years.

“Authorities worldwide have so far fined UBS, RBS, Barclays, Rabobank and ICAP for manipulating rates, while seven individuals face criminal charges.

“But Barclays was the first to settle and suffered a major reputational blow, which claimed the scalp of former chief executive Bob Diamond and has led to a major overhaul of practices and culture in the bank.”

Just a few weeks earlier, JPMorganChase found out the hard way that it had to pay $13 billion in fines – the highest in history – just to start down the long journey to rebuild trust.

How about President Obama? If there ever was example of a leader whose foray into healthcare legislation has led to plummeted trust and some of the highest disapproval ratings, this is it. Coming off the high of being named Time’s “Person of the Year” – not just once but twice, in 2008 and 2012 – Mr. Obama is facing a crisis of leadership. As reported by Reuters and The Huffington Post on November 25, 2013:

“A growing number of Americans doubt President Barack Obama’s ability to manage the nation, according to a CNN/ORC poll released on Monday that reflects the possible larger impact of his administration’s fumbled rollout of its healthcare law.

“The poll also found that 53 percent of those polled said Obama is not honest or trustworthy, marking the first time that the CNN/ORC polling found a clear majority questioning the president’s integrity, CNN said.”

For the President, something needs to change.

And then there is the challenge of Pope Francis. From the moment he walked out on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, you could tell that change was on its way. In naming Pope Francis Time’s 2013 “Person of the Year,” the editors wrote:

“He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.”

While the Pope has shown by his actions how to “walk the talk” and lead from the heart, he too needs to move thoughtfully and steadily. He doesn’t have 100 years to make the changes he feels are needed if he wants his legacy and the change he brings to last.

For each of us and our commitment this year to do better, it really isn’t one of those all-too-common “top ten” New Year’s Resolutions that will be the stuff of real change.

Rather, we should set our sights higher.

First, we have the responsibility to conduct our lives in a way that lifts others up, just as we would want them to do for us. And second, we should ask ourselves how we might ensure that our behavior is such that we do our part to make 2014 a really “new” New Year.

For sure – and at a minimum – we must:

1. Put values and integrity at the top of the to-do list … they must govern what we do.
2. Listen first, talk second … that way others know we care and we know how others will feel about what we do.
3. Do what we say … talk is cheap so we have to mean what we say and follow through.

Simple? Maybe yes. Maybe not so simple.

But like all New Year’s resolutions – even the ones about the gym or that new job – don’t let them slip.

And it’s still early January.

There’s too much at stake.

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Our Nation Calls Nov 13, 2013
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, Media
November 12, 2013

From distant writers comes a passionate plea for both the care and honor that our veterans deserve.

In the midst of the many heartfelt tributes and parades that took place this Veterans Day around the country, there were two editorials that, taken together, speak volumes about the obligation and the thanks that all those in service to our country deserve from each of us.

While the major media and social media focused most of its attention on the remarks made by President Obama at Arlington National Cemetery, an editorial by Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, ran on the opinion page of, the online newspaper serving the State of Alabama. The VA Secretary wrote:

"Our gratitude for veterans should not be a one day a year event, but an abiding commitment on every day of every year. There must be no question that this large and powerful country will meet its obligations to them with the same urgency, skill, and determination as it deploys them on critical missions when our nation calls."

For me, it's a little ironic that I found his editorial there. Perhaps I just have a special relationship with Alabama. I earned my wings as an Army helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker in Dothan, my last post before leaving for Vietnam in 1969 to fly Hueys for the First Cavalry Division. And today my youngest son is a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa training with the Army ROTC.
Maybe that's also why I read the Tuscaloosa News regularly. And I am glad I do.

It was in that newspaper, also on Veterans Day, that I read a different but very powerful editorial:

"All who fight today fight because they choose to. They fight because they believe this country is worth fighting for. They are not conscripted or impressed into service. Their willingness to sacrifice is something for which all of us who enjoy the benefits of the security and peace they provide should be thankful."

What struck me about these two points of view is that they are so closely linked. While they come from distant quarters - one written by a newspaper editor and the other by a retired four-star US Army general - they could have been two paragraphs in the same essay.

The editors at the Tuscaloosa News talk about the passion for freedom and the willingness to take up arms and even sacrifice for peace.

And VA Secretary Shinseki talks about the obligation our government and the rest of us have to provide the support and care that soldiers deserve when they come home, wounded or not.

Most important, they both talk about what happens when our nation calls. And they both call for the honor and our obligation that comes with service.

Together they hark back to Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural address. On March 4, 1865, President Lincoln spoke of healing the nation's wounds just one month before the Civil War would come to an end. In that famous speech, he said:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan ...."

It is in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln's words that the VA is dedicated. It is in that same spirit that the Tuscaloosa News editors urge us to be thankful.

And it is in that spirit that we should come together each and every day, not just once a year, to salute and say Thank You to those who serve whenever our nation calls.

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The Twilight of Courtesy and Conversation Nov 13, 2013
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, Technology
November 4, 2013

Are we seeing courtesy and conversation fall victim to technology?

Or, maybe we are just facing the latest skirmish from an onslaught of hand-held digital devices. Regardless, it certainly does feel as if thumb typing and text messaging have taken over planet earth. Simple courtesies, sharing genuine thoughts, and expressing views in whole sentences seem to have been replaced with cryptic messages.

Forget the abbreviations we've been familiar with for decades, let alone full words. The online website,, posts: "1,374 online chat and text message abbreviations," with page after page of two- or three-word abbreviations.

Sadly enough, too many people have already traded "you're welcome" for "no problem." And now "no problem" has slipped even further to become just "NP." Clearly, any similarity between "NP" and the original sentiment behind "you're welcome" is lost. "NP" has no real meaning and absolutely none of the grace that goes with accepting a simple "thank you."

And when a sincere "thank you" might be hard for some to say, "TU" or "TY" just roll off the keyboard. Plus, you don't have to think as hard. Just mindlessly tap two keys.

There are those who would be quick to say that I'm just from an earlier generation and slow to recognize the transformation brought about by the digital age.

Hardly true, though. I know full well the power of social media and you can quickly find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.
But to assuage any doubt and get an impartial and younger view, I texted and spoke with my kids, their friends, and some younger relatives -- all in their twenties or thirties. The findings may not be worthy of a Gallup poll, but what they told me was interesting.

Frankly, regardless how aggressively the wireless phone companies market "unlimited" text messaging, none of those I spoke with are big fans. While they do find it useful when needing to make a quick point, pass on factual information efficiently, or answer a quick question, they seem to mourn the loss of a conversation where people actually have something to say and where two people open up about themselves with the goal of developing a relationship.

One of my children came right out and stated that he actually hated texting: There is no way to tell if the other person was being genuine. If that is the case, he asked, "Why bother texting at all?"

It is no substitute, another added, for "face-to-face," when you can look directly at the other person, watch the movement of their eyes, and see the emotion... or lack of it. In an intriguing turnabout, yet another asked me: "Why would anyone want to talk to a machine and then get a reply you might not be able to believe?"

Others saw receiving texts as an imposition, even intrusive. You receive them whether you want them or not. Some are just one word or two, like "hey" or "wha's up?" People are chasing you electronically and making assumptions about how you want to spend your time. Even if you turn your phone off to avoid the texts, those texts are back again the moment you turn the phone on. So there is no escaping.

Finally, when I asked all of them to share their reaction to the idea of giving someone "bad news" -- "you're fired" or "we are breaking up" -- by text message, they saw it as tacky at best, cowardly at worst. The adjective "sleazy" came up more than once.

All said, texting certainly has proven to be indispensable, especially useful when time and information are critical.

Moreover, it is the backbone of social media, demonstrating its power time and again to reach far and wide and proving that it can galvanize public opinion, turn out the votes, and even foster revolution.

Yet, like most things we encounter in life, there are limitations.

Ultimately, it is what we do with the wonders of technology. And there must be no substitute for simple courtesy and serious conversation.

If Bill Gates -- widely credited with coining the phrase "Content is King" in an article he wrote with that title in 1996 -- is right, there is hope that content will trump technology, not the other way around.

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Poster: John Chamberlain
Comment: Interesting article. Yes, texting -- at its worst -- is probably the nadir of contentless communication. Besides the shrinking of words into abbreviations, texting may hasten the demise of punctuation, the thoughtful pause that is the comma, the linking connective quality of the dash, the definitive clarity or punch of a period. Some students, courtesy of Microsoft Word's auto-correcting features, are already not developing the habit of capitalizing sentences. Subordinated clauses involve a weighed relationship among ideas and texting rarely takes writers or readers beyond a simple, declarative sentence. Snapchat, with its (presumed) 10-second picture lifespan, would probably trump it in the visual social media arena. While Snapchat has its unanticipated dangers -- a quick screenshot can keep a sexted photo around forever -- texting when mixed with driving has a flighty, mercurial, Mad Hatter quality. Driving, after all, is the movement of multitudinous 2,000+ pound machines surrounded by metal at high speeds in crowded conditions, steered and filled with precious, perishable cargo that have a mutitude of agendas, destinations and distractions. Add texting to that and a misery that likewise lingers can result. We all are late for very important dates, but texting while driving raises the risk of accident considerably and can send others down unexpected rabbit holes in life. I like the ad campaign to discourage texting while driving, "It can wait." So simple, so true. As you say elsewhere in your blog, the stanchions in the photo suggest that doing the right thing again and again is the foundation of reputation. So thanks for a thoughtful discussion!

The Cost of Trust Nov 13, 2013
Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, Business
October 4, 2013

Are we getting closer to a rough estimate of the cost of trust?

Speculation over the past week surrounding the meetings between JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department has put the new starting price tag for violating the trust of customers at more than $11 billion. While it already dwarfs last year's Justice Department $3 billion settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, the number appears to be just the beginning. The bank's next step in the negotiation is to come back with another offer, of course a higher one.
But JPMorgan is not alone. Bloomberg has now reported that CitiGroup could be next on the block with the Justice Department. Given the mood in Washington, it is anyone's guess where it could go from here.

At the center of the legal issues are individual homeowners' mortgages -- including those legacy mortgages originated by other financial institutions before being taken over -- plus mortgage backed securities bought by investors who then lost money.

Some argue that the motive behind this is simply for the government to take concrete steps to hold Wall Street accountable and financially liable for the collapse of the housing market and the ensuing recession of 2008.
Others argue that the direct focus on JPMorgan is much more political and perhaps personal.

Yet others say that it is only correct for regulators to regulate, enforce, and levy fines when the rules are broken.
Some have called for personal accountability and want to see those in charge face criminal charges.
From the perspective of the bank though, there are those who say that the bank's motive in reaching a settlement -- even one this large -- is strictly practical: to consolidate all the legal challenges and bring down legal expenses. A one-time fine is seen to do just that and gets it over with.

I, though, would argue that trust -- or, better yet, having the chance to regain trust -- is what underlies this all. The perception is that trust has been abused. Reputation has been damaged. And now, if the bank can get this behind them, there is the opportunity to start down the long road and rebuild trust and reputation.

In fact, that is a much more difficult challenge than the legal settlement. The latter is making a one-time financial payment, albeit a record one. The former, however, means working hard over a longer time to create a lasting reason why customers and all those who interact with the banks can be convinced to start changing their minds and trusting again.

Reputation is the task at hand. Trust lost must be regained. After all, banks are where we put our hard-won earnings and where we go to ask for financial assistance when we need to borrow, whether it is for a home, business, education, a vacation, or everyday expenses through credit cards. It is one place where we must feel comfortable in putting our trust.

The solution is not a rush and flurry of public statements about trust and integrity. No full page ads and evening or Super Bowl television commercials here. Rather, it is changing minds and altering perceptions over the long haul. And consistently. For that, four things are critical:

• Culture -- Change must start within to be lasting and that takes time. It is culture that counts.
• Behavior -- After all, as we all know, actions speak louder than words.
• Transparency -- Clarity about what is done and, most importantly, motives is essential. You can't fool people over the long haul. To get them to know and believe again, the "why" can be even more important than the "what."
• Ethics -- Nothing means more than your word. Do what you say.

None of these are new. We've heard these for generations. They just don't' always seem to sink through. And they're never simple.

However, if the new cost of shattered trust is $11 billion and counting upwards, starting with the basics to restore trust and rebuild reputation is the only way.

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The Drip-Drip of New Revelations Will Always Dominate the Story Nov 13, 2013
Op-Ed published by the Huffington Post, July 29, 2013

When will they learn? Maybe never.

The latest example is Anthony Weiner, New York City mayoral candidate.

His is not a new phenomenon. Like many before him, having skimmed the truth with the media at the outset, Mr. Weiner has learned the hard way that the drip-drip of new revelations will come to tell the real tale and dominate the story. Character questions move to the forefront and disgrace most often follows.

When Mr. Weiner decided at the onset of his campaign not to be forthcoming about the number of women with whom he was sexting, his fate was sealed and the reaction of the media would become a barrage. The New Yorker cover story and media coverage of the resignation of his campaign director are dramatic punctuation points to a critical mistake.
For centuries, the media have influenced opinions. Their origin as "watchdogs" dates back to nineteenth century British Parliament when reporters sitting in the gallery were referred to as the "Fourth Estate." Listening to the debates on the floor and then writing about them was the onset of modern journalism.

Today, though, the media have power beyond anything we've known in the past given the exponential influence of social media. The familiar comparison of the impact of social media to the ground-breaking Faberge Organic Shampoo television commercial of the 1980s is apt. As the photo of a young model with a flowing mane of shining blonde hair multiplies on screen, the voiceover intones, frame after frame: "You tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on." The imagery is powerful.

Estimates of how many people use social media each day reach into the billions. While we most often hear about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, by latest count the industry identifies well over 130 social media and networking sites with active users sharing ideas and opinions on computers, smart phones, tablets, and other tech devices. That number doesn't include all the apps and websites devoted to everything from gossip to hard news and opinion with "The Huffington Post" holding the influential lead as an online newspaper.

Even before its most recent inroads into mobile, Facebook alone boasted well over 500 million active, monthly users. The tally of other social networking sites ranges from a few million each to the majority that rank in the hundreds of millions of active users. Overwhelming as these totals are, they don't include email and content-sharing platforms such as AOL, Google, and Yahoo.

Just try to imagine billions of social media messages traveling at lightning speed around the globe. If anyone dares to think about doing the math, especially recognizing that many people use more than one social networking site, it blows the mind.

If traditional media reporters - those writing for newspapers, network and cable television, and radio - happen to miss a story or the details of a transgression, you can bet that all those bloggers and social media opinion-makers will be thumb typing on their handheld devices. They are a digital breed of investigators, gossipers, and reporters. Add to the mix those who stir the pot by sharing once-private text messages, photos, or other juicy tidbits. Then sit back, watch what happens, and listen to how loud the controversy becomes.

Wow. Sounds like the Anthony Weiner saga.

No doubt, he regrets trying to avoid the truth at the outset. If handled differently, perhaps his early lead in the polls might have held.

So what's the lesson here? When it comes to disclosure, don't underestimate the power of the media and social media. Get the news out quickly and fully. Be truthful.
If you are tempted to skim the truth or try some sort of "spin," it won't work. Frankly, no one likes being lied to. It will backfire. Those who would support you quickly come to believe that you are insulting and treating them as if they are stupid.

They question your moral compass. That can be worse than the indiscretion itself.

In what is fairly typical in these situations, those closest to the problem don't see clearly. It would seem that wishful thinking, naiveté, ego, or plain arrogance get in the way.
As I warn in my book, "The Power of Reputation," the rule of thumb is that you have less than 12 hours to come clean once social media takes over. Mr. Weiner certainly missed that deadline.

Acknowledgment, a sincere apology early, contrition, remorse, and commitment to a different way of behavior are the only paths to take. While we all love the comeback kid, it only happens if truth leads the way.

As with virtually every aspect of life, it all boils down to trust and the expectations others have about how each one of us can be counted on to behave.

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Deceit, Punishment, and the Restoration of Trust Nov 13, 2013
Op-Ed published in The Huffington Post -- July 23, 2013

Whether it's a baseball MVP or one of us mere spectators, deceit and punishment must go hand-in-hand. After all, trust is at stake.

It all came home to roost again this week with the suspension of Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun, star outfielder and National League MVP in 2011, when Major League Baseball announced his doping suspension for the rest of this year's baseball season: reported to be a total of 65 games and forfeiture of millions in salary. Braun is just the first to be suspended and you can be sure that there will be more to come as the MLB gets courage in the wake of the investigation into the Florida "anti-aging clinic."

This is the same clinic that has been tied to Alex Rodriguez and other players. You can safely ask whether the others who are implicated will have harsher suspensions or even face a complete ban from the game.

The arrogant fall the hardest. Only last year, after sidestepping punishment by winning his appeal on a failed drug test, Braun was trumpeting his victory. At the time, he was a bit too loud and certainly premature when he declared: "The truth is always relevant and the truth prevailed."

Ah, how right he was though... little did he realize it then.
Braun is just one in a long line of those who thought they could get away with it, many of whom go far beyond the baseball diamond.

President Nixon fell from grace, the product of his own arrogance, deceit, and lies. Lance Armstrong will forever rue the day he lashed out at those who were his close friends and then turned on them like Attila the Hun, defying his doping charges and throwing the other riders to the curb. All-too-eager students who cheat on tests will most certainly learn the hard way. The names of corporate chiefs escorted out of the building and hauled before the courts are legendary. And, if they didn't ultimately end up in jail, they made it onto lists identifying the worst CEOs, a legacy their children have to live with.

We can't help but wonder about those others who are tempted to put winning above all else.

This year's New York City mayoral and comptroller races are ones for the record books. Not one but two candidates who deceived the rest of us are in the running. As New York Governor Cuomo described it: "political theater." I guess they hope we will make light of it and then forget. Will we?
What makes this all so sad is that deceit really means the loss of trust.

And what is more precious than trust?

Trust makes the world go around. Justice Louis Brandeis understood deceit and the loss of trust. In his 1914 book, he argued for a bright light on those who would do wrong:"Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

Almost a hundred years later now, retired Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Harvard graduates about the pivotal role of trust in their lives. He said: "In virtually all transactions, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business."

If the ultimate goal is to build trust and, when shattered, be ready to restore trust, punishment is exactly right.
The suspension of Ryan Braun is just. So would be the suspension of all those others who want to deceive the rest of us into believing that they are better than they actually are.

For baseball or any other part of life, the same rules apply.
If there is one lesson we should draw from this when we chat with our friends or talk with our children at the kitchen table, it is not to debate the length of the suspension or the loss of the money. Rather, as the Italian proverb goes, it is to remind them that "deceit has short legs." To point out that it is rarely "if" they will be caught but rather "when."

Most important, though, it is to illustrate what happens when deceit shatters trust.

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The Art of Conversation May 09, 2013

Komisarjevsky: Bill Clinton demonstrates the importance of conversation

Guest Column - Op-Ed
As carried by Newsday, May 1, 2013

It was an evening to remember -- a small dinner with former President Bill Clinton.

At dinner, just before his speech in the distinguished lecture series at Temple Sinai in Roslyn, the former president was gracious with his time and shared his thoughts. Speaking about his goals and the work of the Clinton Foundation, he was motivating. The problems facing our world may seem insurmountable to many others, but not to the man who can get through on the first try to virtually any corporate or state leader around the globe. He eagerly makes those calls because he knows how vital the work is.

In his opening letter with the most recent report on the work of the Clinton Foundation, the former president writes: "The good news is that we can all do something to make things better. All over the world, wherever poverty is being reduced, health care is being improved, the economy is more vibrant, and sustainable solutions are taking root -- these changes are being driven by networks of creative cooperation."

While it takes an extraordinary amount of dedication and hard work by so many to implement solutions to the global problems surrounding mankind's most basic needs, there's something magical about Clinton's focus on cooperation.

As a student of political science, and with my experience as a private sector business leader, I've learned that there can be no real cooperation without a common goal and the emotional commitment that goes with it.

To solve our problems, it's up to leaders of all kinds to build the foundation on which there can be common ground. If we put aside differences, reach across the aisle, and find ways to get the public and private sectors to work more closely together, there's little that can't be accomplished.

The starting point, though, is simply conversation.

It begins there, quickly followed by a full and open airing of ideas, facts, figures and opinions. With respectful discussion -- even argument at times -- we can usually open a path through the most difficult issues.

President Clinton demonstrated that very concept during dinner. He spoke his views, but encouraged others to express theirs, eager for comment. He connected with the rest of us. When he spoke, he was passionate. And when he listened, he genuinely wanted to hear.

Most would agree that it's just this kind of conversation -- face-to-face or across a table -- that continues to be the most critical first step to building cooperation and creating common ground.

And, in today's online world, social media are more than ever potent forms of conversation to keep the dialogue going, encouraging frank communication and building excitement. Thumb typing on mobile devices and tapping on digital screens create immediate reactions.

Online tools enable idea-sharing in a captivating way that many find personal. Social media can foster understanding and create consensus that, later, can serve as building blocks toward common goals and action. Billions of people throughout the world use social media each day, according to some estimates. Think of the possibilities to motivate far and wide.

These kinds of connections are a powerful force for encouraging people to embrace new ideas, accept change, solve problems and, in Clinton's words, ensure "creative cooperation."

That dinner with President Clinton was a reminder of both the opportunity and of what can be accomplished by leaders sophisticated in the art of conversation . . . in person and online.

Copyright © 2013 Newsday

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Share Power With The Team or Hoard It? Apr 11, 2013

Guest Post by Chris Komisarjevsky
Posted by AMACOM Books - WordPress

Simply put, reputation – whatever our chosen field – is an asset that makes for strong careers and, as some have learned the hard way, can break them.

When built on a foundation of character, communication, and trust, your reputation brings you power and authority.

If you use that power well, success follows.

But, if you misuse that power or fail to share it and give credit to those who work with you, you are setting off in a direction that is sure to damage your career.

In every profession, we all know that success takes teamwork. Along the way, there are others who work with you.

Notice that I said “with you” … not “for you.” That is a critical distinction. So, as you climb that ladder of success, ask yourself which way of thinking serves you best: sharing the authority and glory with your team … or keeping it for yourself?

No doubt, sharing is best. The success you and your team achieve accrues to everyone, not just yourself.

But for some, sharing power and authority is tough to do. There are those who choose to keep all the power and all the glory for themselves. For them, winning a big client means keeping the credit. For others, landing a new customer is followed by re-told stories in a meeting or over a drink about the important role they played. And for yet others, expanding the donor base was only possible because of them. Or growing the business was due to their work and only their work.

We don’t like it when we hear that kind of attitude from others. And we shouldn’t do that to those who work with us.

A strong reputation, leading to career success over time, means adherence to a set of values, one of which is teamwork. As every successful manager will tell you, no one can reach their potential without the help of others. None of us lives in a vacuum and none of us has enough arms, legs, and brains to do the job alone. Even Robinson Crusoe needed the help of Friday.

Caring and sharing are key elements of teamwork. In fact, as a manager, you need to establish a circle of caring so that those who work with you know how important they are to success, individually and as part of the team.

Above all, it is a sign of respect.

Here are seven tips on successful caring and sharing:

1. Pick the people you work with well – focus on those whom you trust explicitly.
2. Vest them with the raw facts – be candid and make sure they are aware of all the potential problems, the risks, and the challenges.
3. Don’t oversell their roles or the opportunities – makes sure they understand how difficult the challenges are.
4. Let them talk – use any discussions with them as a means of engagement in looking for solutions. Keep every discussion a dialog.
5. Ask them if they need help – then help them get the resources they need.
6. Check in to see how they are doing – don’t check on them but check in with them.
7. Share the victory and the failures – if you chose your team well, then be confident … they can handle the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The bottom line is this: caring and sharing are critical to your reputation and, ultimately, to your career success. Others will want to work with you. They will be energized by how you value the role they play and the importance of what they do. In turn, you will be able to accomplish more. And the enterprise will grow and prosper.

In life – as in work – you get what you give. If you share power and authority, you get more in return. And if you give credit to others for work well done, you are on the road to a successful career.

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Is Anyone Listening … or Reading My Tweets? Apr 08, 2013

The social media numbers boggle the mind.

While we most often hear about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, estimates of how many people use social media each day reach into the billions. By latest count, reports identify well over 130 social media and networking sites with active users sharing ideas and opinions on computers, smart phones, tablets, and other tech devices. That number doesn't include all the apps and websites devoted to everything from hard news to opinion to gossip.

Even as reports are now surfacing that younger users are tiring of Facebook, it boasts well over 500 million active, monthly users. The tally of other social networking sites ranges from a few million each to the majority that rank in the hundreds of millions of active users. Overwhelming as these totals are, there are also email and content-sharing platforms such as AOL, Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail. Add to those the new email management applications that are taking off, such as AltoMail from AOL and the most recent announcement that Mailbox is now delivering 50 million pieces of mail each day.

If I dare to think about doing the math – even acknowledging that many people use more than one social networking site – it blows my mind.

All the while, I can’t help but be reminded of the question that was asked in the dawning days of telegraph and radio when single taps and then voices were first broadcast.
“Is anyone listening?” That was the curiosity and the worry.

Actually, that was the challenge faced by Guglielmo Marconi when he ushered in a new era of communication and technology on January 19, 1903. Operating from a wireless station at South Wellfleet on Cape Cod, Mass, he sent a 48-word greeting to His Majesty, King Edward VII at the British Royal Family estate at Sandringham. The remarkable thing about Marconi’s feat was not simply that one message had been sent across 3000 miles of Atlantic Ocean to a wireless station in Cornwall, England, but that King Edward sent one in reply. A conversation had taken place. There was an exchange of views.

More than a century after that first transatlantic conversation, social media is clearly the name of the game. The numbers make absolutely clear that it is oh-so captivating for oh-so many. And it is, indeed, different.

Looking beyond the obvious technology marvels, though, there are some who would argue for the more traditional style of writing in the media – newspapers, print, broadcast, and even new media blogs and publications found only online – where the format is most often one of expressing your views in customary “column length” of about 750 words. They would say that any less doesn't produce the clear expression of a well-reasoned and complete thought.
By contrast, there are others who would say that the speed demands of social media and the 140 character limit of a Tweet are new art forms, requiring even more precision in choosing words and sharing a thought. Anything longer, they would argue, is unnecessary in this fast-paced, sound bite, ten-second-elevator-speech world.

I would argue somewhat differently. Even with billions of social media messages traveling at Internet speed, I think the issue has always been about whether those who might be listening or those who might be enticed to read actually care about what you have to say.

In short, it is connecting with others.

Do you stand out because you are thoughtful? Are you saying something that is probing and written in a way that might actually be interesting or, even better, intriguing to others? Is it something that you know and that you believe in? Are you authentic?

Technology can’t change the fact that there are still only 24 hours in a day and much of that time is spent working or sleeping. I, for one, could never digest all the information I get. When I write, I love the challenge of both 140 characters and 750 words, let alone the 65,000 words/375,000 characters in my most recent book. When I read, I look for the best thinking whether it is delivered face-to-face over a coffee, social networking on my iPad, or opening up the morning paper.

It was, is, and always will be about content. It is about what is said. It is about the selection of particular words. The turn of a phrase. And sharing a view that strikes a chord with others.

That is real communication.

The rest is chit-chat, noise, or talk to hear yourself talk.

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GUEST COLUMNIST: Does an apology mean anything anymore? Feb 17, 2013

Guest Column -- Reprinted from the TUSCALOOSA NEWS
February 17, 2013

By Chris Komisarjevsky

Lance Armstrong is a thief of the tragic kind. It’s bad enough to stoop so low as to steal a trophy, a prize, a yellow jersey or a bronze Olympic medal from others who rightfully earned them. But it is another thing altogether, year after year, to steal the truth from those who had the courage to share what they knew by beating them down with tactics worthy of a modern-day Attila the Hun.

If the ruthless Hun were alive today, he might well have abandoned the scimitar for some of our more modern-day psychological weapons designed to bully, intimidate, sue, threaten, humiliate and prosecute those who were courageous enough to speak the truth and expose him for what he was.

All of this is part of a very sad tale. With the passing of time since his two-part, exclusive “confession” to Oprah Winfrey, some hoped that there would be more balance to how he was viewed, but that’s not been the case.

Did Lance help resurrect his reputation by appearing on camera? Absolutely not.

Did he build a platform for what he calls “his return”? No. In fact, he did the opposite. In spite of one possibly teary moment when he talked about having deceived even his son, the calculating Lance came through, just like he has in everything else he has done.

What he did, though, is to provide us with some things to think about.

First, he gives us what could well go down in history as “Two Lessons from Lance.” One, liars will always be caught. It’s never a question of “if” they are caught, but simply “when.” And two, even the most ruthless will face a fall and be disgraced.

Second, he forces us to ask the question: “Does ‘sorry’ mean anything anymore?”

It is common thinking, and history bears it out, that most of us will forgive if we hear an apology. It is also common thinking that we love the comeback kid.

But it’s not that simple. Going through the motion of an apology doesn’t work. Neither does waiting until you have no other choice.

Allegations of doping had been around for years. Test results were there. Even if he didn’t want to believe it, this day was bound to come. Real courage would have dictated that he speak out much sooner. And with that kind of courage, there could have been at least a chance that people would believe his “I am sorry” — that it meant something and could possibly pave the way for forgiveness and a new start.

Lance Armstrong will deal with this forever. It is in those quiet moments, alone by himself, “lay’n around” and staring at all those yellow jerseys as he said in his now-famous tweet, that he has to face the impact of his own actions. It is amazing how, in life, things come full circle.

But the greater pain is for others, such as his children, his former wife, his girlfriend, his Mom, the Livestrong Foundation, his sponsors, the dedicated cycling community, and those who did stick by him. Some others did cut their ties in an effort to save themselves from the disgrace and humiliation of having believed, even when the truth had been staring them in the face the whole time.

Worse yet, there is also the damage to those — especially the young — who wanted to be just like the Lance they thought he was. Hopefully, they will not lose their ambition to compete, whatever their sport or their passion, or their desire to win. But it can’t be at any cost, nor at the cost of others. None of us have that right.

While Lance’s apology fell flat in the wake of his actions, for the rest of us — mere mortals, who make human mistakes of a reasonable kind and genuinely try to do better — “I am sorry” can be the most powerful three words we have to use. We simply need to use them well and with courage.

I am reminded of what many parents still tell their kids: “Breaking that window with the ball is OK. Those things happen. But not apologizing, together with not offering to pay for a new one, simply isn’t.”

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GUEST COLUMNIST: Cyberstalking and the sure death of privacy Feb 05, 2013

Guest Column -- Reprinted from THE TUSCALOOSA NEWS
January 13, 2013

By Chris Komisarjevsky

When federal prosecutors announced at the close of 2012 that the Justice Department would drop its cyberstalking investigation and not press charges against Paula Broadwell, Gen. David Petraeus’ biographer and former mistress, it based its decision on the rule of law. Surely, those involved are breathing a sigh of relief.

But not so fast.

No doubt, the scandal surrounding Petraeus has damaged reputations and destroyed at least one celebrated career. Even into the New Year, the media — traditional and online — continue to comment on the controversy. The story still grips many. Strong opinions about morality, the overnight pillory of a patriot, potential security breaches, Internet cat-fighting and family values continue to be shared and talked about. And to push the boundaries of the absurd, the media ran stories about how consultants were working to rebuild reputations using new photos and a shopping spree for less-revealing wardrobes that the two women should start to wear.

As tragic as this has been for those involved, there is even more at stake. The real question to be asked is: Did Paula Broadwell, in her hair-pulling emails to Jill Kelley, put another stake in the heart of privacy? Has the exposure of this affair finally confirmed for everyone that there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet?

In today’s cyberworld, private lives become public when people behave badly.

If the head of the CIA ends up being investigated because of emails from others dealing with his private life and then is pilloried across the globe, what does that mean for the rest of us? Undoubtedly one of the most guarded government officials on earth, he has been brought down, not by his affair, but rather by the exposure of his affair by others.

Maybe, though, underlying it all is a lesson of a different sort. With billions of messages travelling across continents at lightning speed, the Internet has completely transformed our culture. Mobile phones, handheld devices and laptop minis have unseated personal conversations, phone calls, letters and, of course, the dinosaur desktop. Those electronic devices have literally put whatever-we-want-to-say at our finger or thumb tips, transmitted in an instant. Wireless has overtaken wired. The demand for mobile hot spots has put unprotected message centers on virtually every corner.

The result is that anyone can say anything about anyone else, about anything, to anyone else, and from anywhere at any time. Photos included. And, worse yet, they believe those kinds of communications are not only acceptable but required in today’s society. While those very same adults might tell their children to be responsible when they text and send emails, adults are the ones who should be setting the example by what they do, more than what they say.

The truth is that otherwise intelligent and accomplished adults are making it clear that privacy is dead. With no common sense and no discretion, they communicate as if the Internet were secure and as if no one else will ever see what they say. The Internet is not private, never was and never will be. Texts and emails never die. Too many people think it is okay to share private thoughts with those whom they know and don’t know. Either way, it is dangerous to so many.

Privacy surely is destined for the grave if we as adults don’t start to exercise some restraint and show each other, as well as the next generation, that these kinds of communications are powerful tools ... for good and for bad.

Perhaps it is time to make all of this rather simple by reminding those who can’t resist the temptation of that quick tapping on that mobile phone or tablet of what our mothers told us: “When in doubt, leave it out.”

Chris Komisarjevsky is a former Boston University professor, retired worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm, and author of the new book, “The Power of Reputation.” His youngest son is a freshman at the University of Alabama.

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Comment on The Economist -- January 30, 2013 Feb 05, 2013

"Plastic Makes Perfect" -- The Economist, January 30, 2013


Unfortunately, the study zeroes in on cosmetic procedures, leaving out the most important and valuable -- from both a physical and psychological perspective -- work done for reconstructive surgery following cancers, tragic accidents, and traumatic injuries to wounded warriors. Let's concentrate on what is really important.

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Comment on The Economist -- December 22, 2012 Dec 31, 2012

The Importance of Trust -- The King of Con-Men

The biggest fraud in history is a warning to professional and amateur investors alike
Dec 22nd 2012 | from the print edition

When it comes to the importance of trust, retired Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said it best when speaking to the graduating class of Harvard at commencement in 1999:

“Trust is at the root of any economic system based on mutually beneficial exchange. In virtually all transactions, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business. … If a significant number of business people violated the trust upon which our interactions are based, our court system and our economy would be swamped into immobility.”

Throughout the ages, there have been plenty who have violated that trust. Most con men have been found out and have paid some sort of price for their deception. Unfortunately, some have gotten away with it. Gregor MacGregor seems to have been one of them. All along it was the sideshow barker PT Barnum who reminded us of our weaknesses, falling into the trap and becoming the "sucker."

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The Death of Privacy Dec 11, 2012

The Death of Privacy

Did Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley in their cat-fighting email battle over General Petraeus unwittingly ring the death knell of privacy? Or, at the least, has the exposure of this affair finally confirmed for everyone that there is no such thing as privacy on the internet?

No doubt, the scandal surrounding General Petraeus has damaged reputations, destroyed at least one celebrated career, and thrown even more fuel on the fire of the tragic killings in Benghazi.

In the heat of the controversy, though, there’s something else at stake.

If the head of the CIA ends up being investigated because of emails from others dealing with his private life and then is pilloried across the globe, what does that mean for the rest of us? Undoubtedly one of the most guarded government officials on earth, he has been brought down, not by his affair, but rather by the exposure of his affair by others.

The media – traditional and online – is full of comments about the controversy. Opinions about morality, potential security breaches, internet hair-pulling, and family values will continue to be shared and talked about for weeks. Whether personal or politically-motivated, the issue runs deep. If we haven’t already, each of us will soon make up our own mind.

Maybe, though, underlying it all is a lesson of a different sort. With billions of messages travelling across continents at lightning speed, the internet has completely transformed our culture. Mobile phones, handheld devices, and laptop minis have unseated personal conversations, phone calls, letters and, of course, the dinosaur desktop. Those electronic devices have literally put whatever-we-want-to-say at our finger or thumb tips, transmitted in an instant. Wireless has overtaken wired. The demand for mobile hot spots has put unprotected message centers on virtually every corner.

The result is that anyone can say anything about anyone else, about anything, to anyone else, and from anywhere at any time. Photos, included. And, worse yet, they believe those kinds of communications are not only acceptable but required in today’s society. While those very same adults might tell their children to be responsible when they text and send emails, adults are the ones who should be setting the example by what they do, more than what they say.

The truth is that otherwise intelligent and accomplished adults are making it clear that privacy is dead. With no common sense and no discretion, they communicate as if the internet were secure and as if no one else will ever see what they say. The internet is not private, never was and never will be. Texts and emails on the hard drive never die. Too many people think that it is okay to share private thoughts with those whom they know and don’t know. Either way, it is dangerous to so many.

Privacy surely is destined for the grave if we as adults don’t start to exercise some restraint and show each other, as well as the next generation, that these kinds of communications are powerful tools … for good and for bad.

Perhaps it is time to make all of this rather simple by reminding those who can’t resist the temptation of that quick tapping on that mobile phone or tablet of what our mothers told us: “When in doubt, leave it out.”

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Comment -- USA Today -- December 1, 2012 Dec 01, 2012

USA Today -- 7:30AM EST December 1. 2012

This is absurd. Anyone who actually believes that new photos and a few words can change reputation is crazy. Strong reputations are built on character, behavior, strong values, and trust. Much more than skin or clothes deep. And they are built over time. If Paula, Jill and Natalie think otherwise, this is sad. It is the focus on values that endure that ensures a strong reputation even when humans make mistakes.


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Seeing yourself on video: Eye-opening Nov 22, 2012

Reprinted from:
Monday, November 19, 2012

Preparing for a television interview can prove painful. Proper rehearsal involves videotaping yourself as a “host” peppers you with tough questions.

Chris Komisarjevsky, former chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, coached many clients to perform well on TV. He recalls working with a physician who championed a prescription drug that wound up producing adverse side effects in some patients.

The physician, who was scheduled to appear for a grilling on “60 Minutes,” hired Komisarjevsky to improve his performance under fire. Komisarjevsky and his staff recreated the “60 Minutes” set and posed a series of brutal, accusatory questions to the physician, who received blunt advice to stop squirming and covering his mouth while he spoke.

After three hours of rehearsal under hot lights on a crowded stage, the physician viewed his practice round on video. Like most clients, he cringed while watching himself.

Before leaving, the physician told Komisarjevsky, “This was disrespectful to me. It was a waste of time. And I will never speak to you again. You’re fired.”

Nevertheless, the physician appeared the next day at the “60 Minutes” taping. He withstood an hour of harsh questioning from the real host, which was cut to about 10 minutes on air.

After leaving the “60 Minutes” studio, the physician called to thank Komisarjevsky. He explained that as much as he hated the preparation, it helped him remain poised when it counted.

He also told Komisarjevsky that seeing himself on video was eye-opening. The physician decided to change his body language so that he could align his words and nonverbal behavior to come across more persuasively.

The experience reinforced a lesson for Komisarjevsky: The best way to brace for a media interview is to simulate the real thing. It’s often agonizing, but it’s worth it.

— Adapted from The Power of Reputation, Chris Komisarjevsky, AMACOM.

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Book Review Oct 15, 2012
Review by Clark Isaacs
Five of Five Stars

We all have an asset or liability, which is reputation. There are both good and bad reputations. When entering business, education, or some other endeavor how others perceive us is extremely important. Failure or success in our chosen fields is a measure not only how we do the job, but also how we relate to those we serve.

Chris Komisarjevsky in “The Power of Reputation” stresses that it is very important to relate to others in a positive way. This is a book, which is for any field, not just professionals. Many times, there are mechanics that seem to always have so many customers that an appointment is necessary to get even the simplest repair. There is a reason for this! The shop or mechanic has a good reputation. They do what they promise by being fair in pricing and diagnosis. Then there is the other side where no matter who the customer, it is a surprise for charge or the work performance. This is earning a bad reputation.

In simple terms, the relationship between reputation and being successful in customer service or business is how others see you. Many techniques employed in this book are not new. Leaders of industry, government, and educators words show how reputation is a powerful tool.

Komisarjevsky breaks down three sections that he feels are determinative in building reputation. Character, Communication and Trust are these tools. Each section is broken into chapters with methodology, which is easy to follow.

The author has a stellar reputation as a public relations professional with over 35 years in the field. He retired in 2005 as worldwide chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations firm with offices in 81 countries. He has written other books and articles relating to Public Relations. In addition, he is Professor and Chair in Public Relations at Boston University.

Some examples used are not new. However, to emphasize how perception of coworkers is very important, Chris tells of the MBA graduate who swept the floor of a factory on his first day at work. Everyone needs to start at the bottom and work his or her way up to gain the respect of fellow employees. No job is too menial! Being able to do the work expected of others strengthens the bonds so they will follow orders amicably. Building character in this manner gains respect, this all builds upon reputation.

Listening attentively and showing that understanding other points of view is a highlight of the communication section. Speaking or talking according to Chris should only be after listening. Some of the best communicators are the best listeners. Putting an action plan into motion, which will have broad effect, should only happen after careful consideration. Being able to explain how a plan is going forward also entails communicating the reasoning behind it.

“The Power of Reputation” is not a textbook, though it could be! It is a guide to being effective in whatever business or field there is. This is highly recommended for a better career and is a five star book for everyone!

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The Economist Oct 02, 2012

In the October 2, 2012 issue of The Economist, there is a great article, talking about the choice between "who" and "whom."


Beyond the article, there are some fun and interesting comments posted by others who feel strongly -- one way or the other -- about which is right ... and when.

Here's my comment:

What a great piece! As one who tends toward the more formal -- and, fortunately, was taught how to diagram sentences -- it is refreshing to hear someone else delve into the "who" or "whom" of this world. Who wrote it? It was written by whom? Ah, yes. We need to be reminded that there are some rules for proper grammar. It helps make for order in the world. And it gives us something to talk to our children about, pointing out what is right and what is wrong in speech today ... even if the rules are too commonly forgotten. What's expedient and colloguial is not always right, no matter how often used.

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Earning trust is a never-ending and vital process ... Sep 24, 2012

SUCCESS Magazine
Book Review -- by Erin Casey
August 22, 2012

All behavior in business affects your personal reputation and by extension your success. This truth is the dominant theme in Chris Komisarjevsky’s book, The Power of Reputation.

The transparency of today’s tech-connected world has all but erased the lines between our private and professional personas.

More than ever, authenticity and consistency are essential to building and maintaining a good reputation.

Komisarjevsky explores key components of reputation—character, communication and trust—and explains how to improve in each area.

By sharing his personal experiences as well as some of the best and worst moments of well-known business leaders, Komisarjevsky delivers an engaging, educational book.

Noteworthy Quote:

“Earning trust is a never-ending and vital process, especially in a world where skepticism reigns.”

A couple things you’ll learn:

• How to earn a good reputation and build credibility
• How to motivate others and show them you care

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Developing Your Lifetime Reputation Sep 12, 2012

By Jeffrey Bessen
September 6, 2012

Atlantic Beach resident Chris Komisarjevsky uses his business and personal experiences, along with examples from others in a book about how reputation relates to success.

The best example that Atlantic Beach resident Chris Komisarjevsky’s latest book “The Power of Reputation” could be an important read is Mark Murray.
Murray, who worked for the public relations company Burson-Marsteller for a decade, including several years with Komisarjevsky, has been working as a freelance communications writer for the past four and half years for Fortune 500 companies, a large national association and other clients.

“The spreading of my reputation has helped me to be quite successful,” said Murray, who helped Komisarjevsky with the book providing an objective point of view. “Every job I have gotten is because of someone who has known me or from someone who has known someone I know.”

In a nutshell, that is what Komisarjevsky’s 203-page book published by the American Management Association and edited by Jennifer Holder has to offer: practical, example-filled experiences of how important your reputation is to your business and personal relationships. Use of those examples is what makes it more of a how-to guide. He previously collaborated on “Peanut Butter & Jelly Management” with his wife, Reina. Another book written in a conversational style about the parallels of the workplace and home.

After a 35-year career in public relations, Komisarjevsky, 67, retired from Burson-Marsteller in 2005, where he was worldwide chief executive officer. Komisarjevsky divided his book into three parts: Character, Communication and Trust. These three elements are what he calls the “critical factors of reputation.”

Character, Komisarjevsky wrote, “is who we are and what we value. Communication “is how we share out thoughts and values, engage and learn from others, and reach out to help in any way we can.” Trust “is the direct result of who we are actually are and how we actually behave.”
How people behave truly shows what type of person they are, Komisarjevsky said. “What really makes a difference in the interpersonal relationship is the importance of authenticity,” he said. “When it is time to show sorrow you need to show sorrow. It is part and parcel of being a human being.”

He calls into example not only his business life, but his personal life. A Vietnam combat veteran, Komisarjevsky flew Huey helicopters and learned the value of his behavior. “Lives are depending on you and how you behave, what you tell them, what you show them,” he said.
Komisarjevsky also brings into play the power of reputation for family. A father with a total of nine children from two marriages, he mentions how one family member acts effects the entire family’s reputation.

Once, a reporter for a small town newspaper, Komisarjevsky was offered a new barbecue grill by the owner of a store he was writing about, and the owner wondered if the article could make the next day’s front page. Right there and then, Komisarjevsky had to make decision about his values. His reputation. The barbecue didn’t leave the store and the story wasn’t on the front page.

A point that it is never too early to understand that reputation is vital. “Young people have to understand there are so many kids coming out of college today, what will help you stand out are those elements — not tangible — that relate to people. The facts, the feelings. More than details,” Komisarjevsky said.

In the book’s foreword written by Greg Swienton, chairman and chief executive officer of Ryder System, called “The Power of Reputation” a “blueprint for success for everyone and endorsed reading it. “Keep this book handy to refresh your memory,” he wrote. “The principles work for me. They will work for you.”

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Fixing Breached Trust A Must Aug 27, 2012
The Op-Ed below was carried in the Boston-Herald, August 19, 2012.

By Chris Komisarjevsky / As You Were Saying ... | Sunday, August 19, 2012 | | Op-Ed

Watching the scandals in the banking and finance industry unfold this summer is as frustrating as playing “whack-a-mole” at the amusement park. And with every swing at that mole comes more and more shattered trust.

Resignations, firings, public scoldings, a suicide attempt and apologies have followed disclosures of lost and misplaced billions, in-sider trading, money laundering, Libor and interest rate manipulation, poor internal controls, greed and avarice.

These scandals can’t help but shake our trust in the finance industry, and in Massachusetts alone that segment accounts for more than $40 billion of the gross state product.

There was the revelation by JPMorgan Chase that it had lost $2 billion on unauthorized trades. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon took it on the chin, called to testify before Congress. When it became clearer the losses were more than double the first estimates, Dimon’s reputation was thrown into doubt.

Before that, it was MF Global with an unaccounted loss of $1 billion. At Barclays, Robert Diamond, the just-resigned chief, was called before British Parliament in July, following the bank’s record $450 million fine for manipulating Libor, the London interbank lending rate.

Next up was Nomura, with another CEO resignation following an internal investigation that showed bank employees had been involved in insider trading, in effect encouraging short selling by portfolio managers based on leaked information.

HSBC took a $2 billion reserve hit for money laundering in the United States and the United Kingdom. According to reports, CEO Stuart Gulliver spoke in very personal terms about the effect on him and others at the bank, using the words “shameful,” “embarrassing” and “painful.” And on Aug. 3, the Royal Bank of Scotland faced the wrath of clients and regulators following $3 billion in first-half losses, “inappropriate selling of insurance” and ongoing concerns related to Libor rate manipulation.

Crises, though, have not been unique to banks. High on the list is the much-touted Facebook IPO that went south within a few hours with serious questions raised by investors and the SEC about who knew what and when, the performance by NASDAQ, and now the disclosure that 83 million Facebook accounts may be essentially fake.

In Iowa, the founder and chairman of Peregrine Financial Group attempted suicide, leaving a note that admitted to a 20-year fraud of its clients.

So, in this summer of shattered trust, where do we go to from here — especially when we are talking about an industry that underpins everything that we do, every day?

The only solution is for banks and the finance industry to ensure that their leaders build the kinds of corporate cultures that focus on values that endure. This is the surest protection against more wrongdoing.

The answer is in the following five principles:

1. It’s all about character and strong values.

2. If you violate those values, it’s never “if” you will be caught ... but rather “when.”

3. The cover-up is often worse than the crime.

4. The media — in its historic role as the “Fourth Estate” — will be sure to watch closely, research the facts and make the details public.

5. If your behavior doesn’t mirror those values, trust is lost. And there is nothing worse than a loss of trust.

A strong organization is all about trust and reputation. Sadly enough, without deep changes and strong action, we risk repeating the past, rather than learning from it and moving forward.

Chris Komisarjevsky is the author of the new book: “The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career.” He taught at Boston University immediately following his retirement as worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm.

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The Short Life of a Lie Aug 02, 2012
Why don’t people seem to learn? The old Italian proverb is as true today as it has ever been … and sadly so. Roughly translated, it goes like this: “Deceit has short legs.”

A few days ago, we had another startling reminder of the short life of a lie. In a statement issued by book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on behalf of the author Jonah Lehrer, whose book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” had reached the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and had already sold 200,000 copies, we heard the details. In the statement, Lehrer talked about quotes he had attributed to singer/songwriter Bob Dylan: “The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes.” Lehrer went on to say that, when questioned by journalist Michael Moynihan about the quotes, what he told Mr. Moynihan “… was a lie spoken in a moment of panic.”

So what are the practical repercussions? Amazon and Barnes & Noble pulled the book in both the hardcover and electronic versions from stores and shelves. Mr. Lehrer has now resigned from his position as a writer at The New Yorker magazine. And the bottom line: so much for what seemed to be an extraordinary writing career.

This is James Frey redux. We saw deceit of similar magnitude in the publishing world not too long ago when James Frey exaggerated parts of his book, “A Million Little Pieces,” a purported memoir. Reviewer praise was high when the book was first published but didn’t last. In January 2006, website called his book: “Fiction Addiction.” His publisher then pulled out of a two-book contract. A deal was negotiated to refund money to buyers of the book. Frey and his agent were raked over the coals by Oprah. Frey apologized. And, then, in a classic Oprah move to retake the upper ground after having been accused of being too tough, she had Frey return for a dramatic on-camera reconciliation

It seems that there are plenty of examples of short-legged lies these days, not just from the world of publishing. In fact, we’ve seen too many of late in the banking industry. Leaders at major global banks have played lose with the truth and what is right. Resignations, firings, public scoldings, a suicide attempt, and apologies have followed disclosures of billion dollar cover-ups, Libor and interest rate manipulation, money laundering, insider trading, greed and avarice.

So, what about all these lies? Clearly, for too many, it seems that there is a conscious effort to deceive. For others, perhaps it is naiveté, simply thinking that we can get away with it because, as Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince”: “he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” Or in the more vernacular, it was PT Barnum who was reputed to have put it this way: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

In other cases, to be fair we need to acknowledge that what might seem like a lie at first may be a genuine mistake, perhaps with its roots in sloppy research or missing the details.

But a lie never works and does damage along the way.
Moreover, it is only short lived and, in the long run, deceives no one except the liar.

Unfortunately, those who should know better too often forget the children’s taunt: “Liar, liar … pants on fire.”

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What Would Joe Paterno Say Now? Jul 23, 2012
Reprinted from the July 18, 2012 issue of

In the aftermath of the report by Louis Freeh on the abuse scandal at Penn State, you can't help but be reminded of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," where Mark Antony speaks at Caesar's burial: "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

There can be no question that when Joe Paterno -- the legendary and once-revered, now-disgraced football coach -- did not follow through on what he knew about the abuse of children by one of his assistants, his fate was sealed. It was a terrible decision.

I have to believe that, in his heart of hearts, Paterno knew then and there that he was making a horrible mistake and that looking the other way was an unforgivable judgment call.

The Freeh report is damning in its conclusions about Paterno, former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier, ex-vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley: "Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."

Now, in yet another revelation, we hear that Paterno started negotiating a new salary package in January 2011, at a time when he would have known full well that Sandusky's crimes would engulf him too. Add to that how fast the discussion has moved to whether his statue should be torn down. (A halo on Paterno's head on a State College mural has already been painted over.)

A headline on the Internet about the report speculated about the university's motive: "Penn State concealed sex abuse to save reputation -- report."

I don't understand this self-serving focus on reputation, simply because reputation is never established in the short run. It is always a question of whether one's reputation is genuine and will endure. The right values and corresponding behavior are the crucial factors to standing the test of time.

When it comes to questions of reputation, the naive always seem to think that their problems and indiscretions will go away -- that no one will ever know. Their view is very self-serving, motivated by a desire to avoid confrontation or look the other way even if that means that nothing changes. Not tackling the tough challenges or making the hard choices never works.
Time and again, what we see is that, without confrontation, behavior doesn't change and the past is left to repeat itself.

At Penn State, criminal behavior was ignored at the highest levels. It was a cover-up of tragic proportions, with lasting damage.

So, we come to the issue of reputation. Tragically, we relearn that, when the wrong values are in place, reputation will suffer if not today, then tomorrow. And most often, tomorrow it will be worse.

So, I ask myself, given what we all believed were Paterno's insistence on fair play and sportsmanship, what would he do now -- from the grave?

My hope is that Paterno would apologize.

Moreover, I hope his family will soon find the courage to apologize too, rather than follow through with plans for its own investigation of the scandal. I say this with knowledge that most of us instinctively understand how hard it is to stand up for what you believe is right and then to apologize when to do so pits you against the actions of another in your family.

But, what is right is right.

The principles that are at the foundation of a strong reputation have never changed. They will always be the same. These are the ones I believe in:

1. It is all about what you do, not about what you say.
2. It starts with values and how you live them.
3. It takes courage to make the tough call.
4. Believe in doing the right thing. Don't agonize over how tough the decision is or what it may cost.
5. Don't shy away from the tough call, but act quickly.
6. The cover-up is worse than the crime.
7. It never is "if" you'll be found out, but rather "when."
8. When you are wrong, apologize. If moving on is possible, it must start with an apology.

For all of us, any hope for moving on from this tragedy will require remorse from Paterno, through his family, and from those at Penn State who failed in their responsibilities to those children.

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The Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career Jul 23, 2012
Reprinted from The Strategist -- June 28, 2012

Regardless of who you are or how high up you are in the corporate hierarchy, if you make a big enough mistake, then you could be fired. Worse, you might actually ruin your career. In his book “The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career,” Chris Komisarjevsky, former CEO of Burson-Marsteller, offers an action plan for strengthening your most important asset.

Why should professionals treat reputation as an asset?

My view is that, in every facet of our lives — personal and professional — reputation is one of our most treasured and powerful assets. And I use the word “asset” intentionally, because reputation, like any asset, has exchange value.

I look on reputation as an asset from two perspectives.

First, we own our reputation and it is extraordinarily important to our careers and our success. How we behave and, in turn, what we do, become career assets. All of that is under our own control. In short, we are responsible for the views that others have of us and those views make a difference to our own career success. Since we own our reputation and can do something about it, it has value. It is an asset.

Second, as an asset, reputation has exchange value, much like any currency. We may not be using cash or bartering, but we engage in active exchanges based on the value of our reputation. If our reputation is strong and positive, we are able to attract business, gain support for our initiatives and ideas, earn that promotion or get that coveted new position. However, if our reputation is weak or negative, none of that happens.

Quite frankly, your reputation is the asset that will make or break your career.

What are a few key steps to ensure that our reputation endures all of the ups and downs that occur during a career?

In my view, there are three: First, be sure to have a strong set of values that underlie your actions. Your reputation is an outward expression of your values: how you live them and how you project them to others in what you do, how you do it and why you do what you do.

Second, regardless of if you are riding success or are on the brink of a problem, think through every decision and every word you use from the perspective of your key values. Ask yourself, “If I were in danger of losing my job, what values would I not sacrifice even if it meant that I were to lose my job?”

And third, don’t only focus on “what” you plan to do in tough situations, but ask yourself “why” you decide to do what you do. The “why” can be more telling than the “what.” Most often, the “why” dictates “what” you do. Look hard at your motives.

Why is saying “I am sorry” such a daunting task for some professionals?

If those words are used to show compassion for others, they flow rather easily, but when it comes to recognizing or admitting your own shortcomings, they make many people gag.

Why is it so hard to say “I am sorry”? I guess it is probably because that kind of admission means a public acknowledgment that you have made a mistake and, in some ways, failed to live up to your own expectations and those of others, especially those who trusted you. That can be hard to take.

But the fact is, an apology can be among the most powerful statements you can make. It can be disarming, candid and full of character and maturity. Especially in our culture, people are very willing and eager to forgive … but only if they see and feel remorse. The fact is that we all make mistakes. We are human.

Some may see it as a risk. But I don’t. If we have done something wrong, we need to acknowledge our role, accept our responsibility, do what is needed and move on.
From the Editor: Mistakes are meant to be corrected, not ignored or disregarded. — John Elsasser

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Trust and Culture on the Grill Jul 14, 2012
Hot dogs and hamburgers were on BBQs in the US on July 4, but it was the buns of Mr. Robert Diamond, Barclays former chief, that were on fire in the UK from the grilling he received at the hands of Parliament’s Treasury select committee. Within 24 hours, Moody’s announced that it had cut the bank’s rating to “negative.” And, to stoke the flames even higher and expand the investigation, a criminal investigation was opened the very next day, even before the week came to a close.

Mr. Diamond had resigned from his position as the chief executive of Barclays. The bank had received a record fine of $450 million after having been accused by the British financial regulators for “manipulating” Libor, the London interbank lending rate.

In all fairness to Barclays, the bank released a statement in anticipation of Mr. Diamond’s testimony that said: “These events should never have taken place, and Barclays deeply regrets that they did.”

However, the heat of the British Parliamentary committee was still scorching. It was very pointed in its remarks, cutting to the bone on core issues. Chairman Andrew Tyrie was reported to have had deep concerns about a “breakdown of trust.” Talk about “culture” issues loomed large. And some of the reporters asked questions about restoring the bank’s “reputation.”

Are there any issues that could have hit harder and more directly at the core of the financial industry and the integrity of banks? Or any institution for that matter?


Something needs to be done to build cultures that restore trust, especially in the financial industry.

The answer is in five principles that form the foundation of an organization whose culture makes it possible for us to believe and to trust:
1. It’s all about behavior
2. If you violate key values, it’s never “if” you will be caught … but rather “when.’
3. The cover-up is often worse than the crime.
4. The media – in its historic role of the “Fourth Estate” – will be sure to watch closely, research the facts, and make the details public.
5. And there is nothing worse than a loss of trust.

I, for one, am often reminded of what Henry David Thoreau wrote in his 1849 essay, “Civil Disobedience”: “It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.”

So, doesn’t it follow that the values and behavior of the individual dictate those of the organization? And isn’t it true that we look at organizations in the same way that we look at people? We listen to what they say, watch how they behave, and then ask ourselves: Can they be trusted? Will they do what they say?

A strong organization is all about trust and reputation. Sadly enough, without deep changes, all the words amount to naught and the grilling fueled by bad behavior and shattered trust will not stop. The result is that the past is repeated, rather than learning from it and moving forward.

So, now it’s time for leaders to ensure that their organizations and their cultures encourage us to believe and trust, once again. That will take strong action and not just words.

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At Barclays, the Search Is On for a Chief Who Can Restore Its Reputation Jul 04, 2012
Interesting. In the ongoing coverage of the scandal at Barclays, The New York Times' headline for the story on July 4 is: "At Barclays, the Search Is On for a Chief Who Can Restore Its Reputation."

With the resignation of Robert Diamond as CEO on Tuesday after accusations that it had "tried to manipulate important global interest rates" and imposition of a $450 million fine, it appears that the board is focused on the right goal: the reputation of Barclays.

This comes admidst the misteps of other banks of late, including JPMorgan and its massive loss and the grilling of its Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon.

Why does it take these kinds of crises -- and their public exposure -- to get leaders to focus on the real asset for success?

Proven time-and-time again, reputation is critical to lasting success.

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Whom Can We Trust Anymore? Jun 13, 2012
Like “whack-a-mole” in the amusement park, the debacle of billions of dollars in trading losses at JPMorgan Chase raises its ugly head again and again. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon heads to Washington today to answer questions before the Senate Banking Committee and then on to a House hearing later in the month.

Early release of his prepared remarks give some insights. But the core questions remain for the long run. Does he understands how serious people view the problem, really demonstrate that he can put things right, allay concern and restore his reputation as the voice of credibility in the financial community, thereby pushing back against the threat of more regulation? Or does he avoid the underlying issues and, in the process, take more blows?

After leading with his chin and announcing a loss of $2 billion, his testimony comes on the heels of talk last week that the JPMorgan loss may be double or more of the original estimate and that the Comptroller of the Currency is now considering a clawback of the pay of some of the bank’s most senior executives.

But the real issue at hand is not exclusive to JPMorgan. Well-publicized scandals at other important private and public organizations have taken center stage and the spotlight is clearly on the issue of trust.

The problem for many of us is the answer to the question: Whom can we trust anymore?

High on the list of recent fiascos and ongoing investigations is the much-touted Facebook IPO that went south within a few hours with questions raised by investors and the SEC about who knew what and when, especially what information and forecasts were made available to vastly different buyers of shares: the institutions, the wealthy and the average. It sure seems that the IPO was handled in a way that put another stake in the heart of the financial community when the hope had been that this transaction would breathe new life into the integrity of financial institutions and underwriters.

Not long ago, as the media’s probe and the hearings into the Cartagena scandal went full strength and unearthed others instances, it became even more troubling when Mark Sullivan, US Secret Service Director, appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and tried to get us to believe: “This is not a cultural issue. This is not a systemic issue.”

And there was the GSA, followed by resignations and firings and disclosure that at-home employees billed for more than $750,000 in travel expenses.

Are we really supposed to believe what we’re told?

The serious questions we ask seem to be the same but the answers are not always forthcoming: Who knew what? When? What is going to be done about it? And, why should we trust anymore?

Something needs to be done to restore trust.

A strong organization is all about trust and reputation.

Sadly enough, without deep changes, all the words amount to naught and the ugly head of bad behavior will pop up again and again. The result is that the past is repeated, rather than learning from it and moving forward.

And we are left with little faith.

So, now it’s time for some to pay the piper and leaders to build organizations that encourage us to believe and trust, once again. That will take strong action and not just words.

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A Step Toward Closing The Divide That Was Vietnam Jun 10, 2012
President Obama’s remarks on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, at the Vietnam War Memorial on the 50th Anniversary of the war were written with sensitivity and take an important step toward closing a gap that has tormented this country for decades.

The difference between me and the Army pilot in President Obama’s speech was that my tour of combat duty started in 1969 when the war had been going on for seven years and our country was already tragically divided.

I too was one of many young Army helicopter pilots who stepped onto the skid, climbed into the seat, buckled the shoulder harness, and, in one seamless motion, rolled the throttle, pushed the left pedal, lifted the collective, and moved the cyclic forward to lift off across the jungle tree tops of South Vietnam.

Most of us who became pilots were in our early twenties. We weren’t afraid. We had a job to do. We enlisted. Our country said it needed us and we answered. After training in the cold damp Ozark Mountains of Missouri, the dusty plains of Oklahoma, the vast expanse of Texas, and then the green hills of Alabama, I remember boarding a plane in San Francisco to fly to Bien Hoa, trained and ready to serve my country as were so many others who believed in doing what we thought was right.

A year later, I remember returning to San Francisco where, wearing my uniform and waiting at the airport bar for a flight back to New York, a man I had never met spat at me. He didn’t say a word. I guess he didn’t think he needed to. He was echoing what so many others thought at the time.

President Obama’s speechwriter got it right when he wrote: “When you came home, I know many of you put your medals away – tucked them in a drawer, or in a box in the closet. You went on with your lives – started families and pursued careers. A lot of you didn’t talk too much about your service.”

I really didn’t talk about it at all. Too tough to explain was the rationale, especially when viewed against the turmoil the country was facing.

There were times for sudden tears. Like the sorrow that overwhelms when I look at the black granite wall of the Vietnam Memorial wall and the etchings of 58,282 names, I will always remember how so many of those in my classes at Officer Candidate School and Flight school never came back.

There were periods of criticism. I saw different places and fire bases than those mentioned in Mr. Obama’s speech. I landed at Song Be, Landing Zone Grant, Phuoc Vinh, the helicopter pad at the top of Nui Ba Den Mountain, Tay Ninh City, and many others. I landed in Cambodia in the spring of 1970. The pattern was always the same: brave soldiers took hills and land at great expense and, as long we patrolled the green line, we held the land. When we left, the land was no longer ours. And the cycle was repeated, over and over again. Especially from the air, it was all visible.

Most of all, though, there is an overwhelming sense of pride. No one should even come close to feeling sorry for us. We don’t want that. We did what we thought was right and I, for one, am very proud of my military service. I am proud to have Vietnam Veteran license plates on my car. I am proud when I slow down at the entrance gate to the Veterans Administration grounds at Northport, New York, and the guard on duty salutes me and says “Thank you for your service.”

In my own personal but public way, whether it’s at the graduation ceremony for one of my children, the opening of a baseball game, or on the Fourth of July, I take advantage of my right as a combat veteran to salute the flag whenever and wherever our national anthem is played.

And I do it every time … simply because I am proud. I know that, even when people disagree – and some may spit – we are blessed to be able to live in a country where we have the right to do what we think is right.

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A Slap in the Face of Reputation -- A Breach of Trust May 31, 2012
The criminal charges of conspiracy in the phone hacking scandal earlier this month by the British authorities against Rebekah Brooks, former News International CEO and long-time employee of Rupert Murdoch, have garnered more than their fair share of headlines. What we know for sure is that, regardless of how long the legal proceedings may take, due process will prevail and a decision will be reached.

However, the findings of the British House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee -- after investigating News Corporation and News International and after hearing testimony from Rupert Murdoch -- are quite different. That Committee’s words have lasting lessons and broader implications, and will not go away any time soon. In fact, in the more recent history of the relationship between government and business in any democratic country, I’m not sure we have seen anything quite like the language used.

In paragraph 229, page 70, of the report published on May 1, 2012, the report concludes, using bold typeface for these sentences:

"On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."

Journalists, political scientists, business experts, corporate attorneys, accountants, academics, and a slew of advisors will be writing and debating the merits of these findings for decades. Notwithstanding arguments that the findings were not unanimous, may reflect a partisan divide in Britain, or be motivated by politics, those words are among the strongest forms of condemnation and among the hardest slaps to reputation.

Why so harsh? Simply because there was a dramatic breach of trust. Employees, stakeholders, shareowners, readers/viewers, and the public-at-large were deceived. Corporate governance and adherence to values had broken down. Privacy was invaded. People had been wronged and trust shattered.

For government to investigate the practices of business is all too common. For a government committee to singularly tie a damaged corporate culture and loss of trust to one individual, in this case the chief of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, is striking.

As he should, Mr. Murdoch has apologized quite a few times, most recently quoted as saying: “The buck stops with me. I failed. And I’m very sorry about that. It’s going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life.”
Yes, it certainly will. Damage to his reputation will run deep and long. The key words “willful blindness … from the top … not a fit person” tarnish his legacy. From this point on, whenever he is written about, those words will be part of the story.

We know that things in life sometimes do go wrong. But the real mistake here is that the situation became so desperate that it was a government committee that had to step in and take action when a corporate culture had gone wrong and turned away, ignoring the signs of decay and a loss of values.

Should we view government as the enforcer of business values? I hope not. News Corporation should have policed itself, not abdicating its responsibilities. So, now it’s time to pay the piper. Given the depth and breadth and influence of News Corporation, we all hope that there will be a culture change – actions, more than words – that heralds an era with a strong reputation for doing what is right and rebuilding trust.

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Amazon Book Review -- The Power of Reputation May 20, 2012
By John Chancellor

I think we all know intuitively that a good reputation is essential to success in business and in life. However our lives and businesses have become so hectic that we are often tempted to take the expedient route, to take shortcuts trying to save time, find an easier path to our goals and we fail to consider the damage our actions can have on our reputation.

We all know that building a good reputation takes lots of time and energy but destroying a good reputation can happen in a flash. While we know this, it seems that we often forget it. At times our emotional, instant gratification seeking self takes control and overrides our rational mind. If we are to build and maintain a good reputation, we must identify our values and live by them constantly and consistently.

The Power of Reputation by Chris Komisarjevsky is a manual for exactly how to build and maintain a good reputation. It serves as a great reminder of what is important in building trust in our business and personal lives. "We know that lack of trust leads to a bad reputation and the presence of trust leads to a strong reputation. You can't have one without the other."

We have seen countless examples in business, government, sports and personal lives where attempts to cover up a mistake lead to much more serious consequences than owning and admitting mistakes. There are some excellent lessons from the chapter: When You Make a Mistake. There is an action list of steps which everyone should keep handy are refer to when faced with a serious mistake. Here are the bullet points: Acknowledge the mistake, apologize, communicate forthrightly, take responsibility for the problem and solution, commit yourself to doing better in the future, share what you have learned and report back on your progress.

There is also a self-assessment for success which has some excellent questions we should all ask ourselves. The real benefit comes when we answer the questions truthfully after sufficient introspection.

The author makes a very strong case for the importance of character in business and in life. We can and often do see people gain short term advantages by acting without character. But we must take a long term view of life. In the long run, lack of character dooms you to failure.

We also must be effective communicators. Part two of the book deals with effective communication and the starting point is seeking to understand rather than to be understood.

Most of us know and understand, at least on a superficial level, the principles put forth in this book. This book will take you deep into the principles and give you a much better understanding and appreciation for the value of character and reputation. It serves as a reminder of how to live your life and gives excellent advice for how to respond in times of trouble.

The book is well written and contains plenty of real world examples of the ideas in action. If you don't have a good book on reputation in your library, this would make an excellent addition.

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As published in HR Magazine online -- May Issue May 05, 2012
Build a reputation that will boost—not break—your career.

Published by HR Magazine -- May 2012
By Chris Komisarjevsky

If you ask people you admire if reputation has proven to be an important component to their careers, undoubtedly, the answer will be "yes." Ask them how they built their reputations, and the response likely will include the time it took and how it needs to be guarded, recognizing that a good reputation can be shattered in moments.

Everyone has a reputation, whether they know what it is or agree with it. Other people talk about your reputation, judge you by it or try to assess whether it is good or bad. Being active about building a good reputation—what people think of you—will help you be a better manager and boost your career.

"When I interview someone or review their performance, I look for a strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity and the courage to stand up for what they believe in," says Celia Berk, chief talent officer for Young & Rubicam Group, a New York-based marketing and communications firm. "I look for ambition, but not carried out at the expense of others."

Good reputations can't be built by following a formula. And, while there are no specific steps to take in every situation, there are guidelines.

Qualities That Count
• Reputation is built up or torn down on character, communication and trust. Conduct yourself accordingly:
• Be introspective and honest with yourself. As hard as it might be at times, think through what you did and why you did it. Do your own review after every meeting and assignment.
• Be sincere with others. No one likes or admires someone constantly trying to "spin" events. Give it to them straight.
• Do what you say. If you commit to it, then do it. No excuses. You will be judged by your values and you will be trusted only if you follow through.
• Be authentic in your professional relationships. Foster a culture of openness.
• Remember social media.
• Listen first, talk second. Ask for the views of others.
• Accept responsibility. If you are wrong, you must apologize.
• Be personal. Reach out to understand and value the experiences of others. Be interested. Care about your team.
• Share authority, responsibility and credit. Don't be afraid of giving power to others. They will live up to the challenge.

Protect Your Reputation
It's not enough to build a good reputation; you have to protect it and maintain it. Check in with yourself and ask if you are consistently acting in a way that promotes a good reputation. How do your employees feel about working for you? Are they engaged? Empowered? Do they come to you freely with problems, ideas and solutions? Do they feel safe enough to admit their mistakes? If so, they will go to the ends of the earth for you. And, you have a reputation that will boost your career, not break it.

The author retired as worldwide chief executive officer of global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller in 2005. He is author of The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make or Break Your Career (AMACOM, 2012).

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Poster: Tom Newberry
Comment: Being aware of, much less acting on, your own reputation is one of the hardest things to do. These are good tips. Thanks, Chris.

Comments in response to "The Economist" Apr 30, 2012
My comments below are in response to an article in the April 21, 2012, issue of "The Economist," entitled "What’s in a name? ... Why companies should worry less about their reputations" and under the pen-name "Schumpeter."

Posted on "The Economist" website, it received 3 recommendations. Link:

My Comments:
This is an interesting discussion. But I find it even more interesting that a column under the pen-name “Schumpeter” would denigrate the concept of reputation. Having lived in a family where my step-father and journalist actually knew Schumpeter the man, Joseph Schumpeter, in the late 1940s, I believe Schumpeter would have championed reputation. I believe his view would be that, if the reputation was strong and positive, it would permit the kind of innovation that he believed made for economic success.

Having been in the public relations – or reputation – business my entire career, I believe strongly that reputation is vital to success, both for businesses and for each of us as individuals. The logic is simple. In my view, reputation is based on three critical factors: character, communication, and trust. Character is who we really are and what we value. Communication is how we share our thoughts and values, engage, and learn from others. And, when we do what we say, adhering to a set of strong values, our actions lead to trust. In turn, it is trust that encourages support and belief that we actually will deliver.

This is the Power of Reputation and it is a critical asset to success. It is both personal and institutional. Most important, it speaks to values and behavior that lead to trust. And only with trust can there be success.

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Name the Republican Vice President Candidate Now Apr 22, 2012
As soon as Rick Santorum brought his campaign to a close and Mitt Romney’s capture of the Republican Presidential nomination appeared closer than ever, the media turned its focus to the selection of a running mate and rightfully so.
That question came within moments, but Mitt Romney’s reply was that he didn’t even have a list prepared.

Not likely the case. More likely it was just a politician’s delaying tactic.

History tells us that the selection of a Vice President candidate usually doesn’t take place until August. That was the case with Al Gore, Joe Biden, and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

But I would argue that the date is too far off. After all, shouldn’t the President take more time to really get to know his running mate and work to ensure common ground on key values and consistency on key issues?

Isn’t that the mark of a great leader? Whether in politics or business, effective leaders understand that reputation and success are built on teamwork at the top, unified values, authenticity, and shared power and authority.

In their quest for headlines, the media, of course, are looking to break the news and, for the GOP right now, Romney’s teammate is the big unknown and the subject of much speculation. What a scoop that would be.
Just perhaps, it is something more.

Having learned about journalism at the feet of my step-father – the respected author and syndicated journalist John Chamberlain – as he delved deeply each day for the important issues underlying daily events, I would like to think that, in the best of the media’s honored tradition as the Fourth Estate, reporters today are watching out for us and instinctively pressing to see what kind of authentic partnership there will be.

Contrary to some Hollywood portrayals, the media know that Vice Presidents cannot be weak nor ignored. They need to be strong and they need to partner, in every sense of that word, with the President. Above all, the two need to share power and trust each other, a vital quality that only comes with understanding, respect and time. Without time, it cannot be authentic.

Why so important? For two reasons. First, for the sake of continuity because the Vice President might wake up one day and be called to take the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office. In fact, ”one heartbeat away,” nine Vice Presidents have been called to step into the President’s office after an untimely death or resignation. That’s nine out of 44 Presidents or 20 percent … pretty dramatic statistic for such an important responsibility: CEO of the United States and leader of the free world. Some of those Presidential successors were worse than others, and, as would be expected, the country skipped a beat.

Second – and perhaps more important – because at its core the country needs a unified voice from the top calling for stability and growth, especially in these still-troubling economic times. When Americans go to the polls, they are electing a team, Republican or Democrat. The expectation is that whatever the team it will work closely for the good of the country. For that to happen, each member of the team must know the other well and be strong, each in his or her own right as individuals and together in their partnership. That kind of partnership, shared values, and common goals should be the cornerstone for the reputation of the office of the President.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. Partnership means sharing power and for some that can be tough. There are those in positions of leadership in all walks of life who find it challenging. The perception too often is that sharing power is a sign of weakness or it means that you are giving something up. Quite the opposite is true.

Partisan politics aside, if we want a clear choice in November, we need not only know the Republican and Democratic stand on key issues but we need to know that the President and Vice President candidates in both parties understand that we are electing a team. And that takes more time than the customary few months.

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Share power with the team or hoard it? Apr 15, 2012
Posted online by AMACOM – April 12, 2012. The following is a guest post by Chris Komisarjevsky, author of The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset That Will Make of Break Your Career, about teamwork, power, and reputation.

Simply put, reputation – whatever our chosen field – is an asset that makes for strong careers and, as some have learned the hard way, can break them.

When built on a foundation of character, communication, and trust, your reputation brings you power and authority. If you use that power well, success follows. But, if you misuse that power or fail to share it and give credit to those who work with you, you are setting off in a direction that is sure to damage your career.

In every profession, we all know that success takes teamwork. Along the way, there are others who work with you.

Notice that I said “with you” … not “for you.” That is a critical distinction. So, as you climb that ladder of success, ask yourself which way of thinking serves you best: sharing the authority and glory with your team … or keeping it for yourself?

No doubt, sharing is best. The success you and your team achieve accrues to everyone, not just yourself.

But for some, sharing power and authority is tough to do. There are those who choose to keep all the power and all the glory for themselves. For them, winning a big client means keeping the credit. For others, landing a new customer is followed by re-told stories in a meeting or over a drink about the important role they played. And for yet others, expanding the donor base was only possible because of them. Or growing the business was due to their work and only their work.

We don’t like it when we hear that kind of attitude from others. And we shouldn’t do that to those who work with us.

A strong reputation, leading to career success over time, means adherence to a set of values, one of which is teamwork. As every successful manager will tell you, no one can reach their potential without the help of others. None of us lives in a vacuum and none of us has enough arms, legs, and brains to do the job alone. Even Robinson Crusoe needed the help of Friday.

Caring and sharing are key elements of teamwork. In fact, as a manager, you need to establish a circle of caring so that those who work with you know how important they are to success, individually and as part of the team.

Above all, it is a sign of respect.

Here are seven tips on successful caring and sharing from my book, The Power of Reputation:

1. Pick the people you work with well – focus on those whom you trust explicitly.
2. Vest them with the raw facts – be candid and make sure they are aware of all the potential problems, the risks, and the challenges.
3. Don’t oversell their roles or the opportunities – makes sure they understand how difficult the challenges are.
4. Let them talk – use any discussions with them as a means of engagement in looking for solutions. Keep every discussion a dialog.
5. Ask them if they need help – then help them get the resources they need.
6. Check in to see how they are doing – don’t check on them but check in with them.
7. Share the victory and the failures – if you chose your team well, then be confident … they can handle the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The bottom line is this: caring and sharing are critical to your reputation and, ultimately, to your career success. Others will want to work with you. They will be energized by how you value the role they play and the importance of what they do. In turn, you will be able to accomplish more. And the enterprise will grow and prosper.

In life – as in work – you get what you give. If you share power and authority, you get more in return. And if you give credit to others for work well done, you are on the road to a successful career.

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What Is It About Sports ... Here We Go Again Apr 12, 2012
What is it about sports? Another one bites the dust. University of Arkansas fired football coach Bobby Petrino in the wake of a scandal.

According to a report in Tuesday’s New York Times: “Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, in an emotional news conference in which he twice choked back tears, said that Petrino’s ‘pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior’ had led to his firing.”

The background is that Petrino, married and the father of four, put his mistress on the state university payroll, hiring her over what Allen St.John, writing in Forbes Sports Money, said were “158 other applicants for a $55,750 a year job as student athlete development coordinator who would report directly to him.”

As is often the case, something unexpected brought all of this to light: this time, a motorcycle accident.

St.John went on to report: “'By itself, Coach Petrino’s consensual relationship with Ms. Dorrell prior to joining the football staff was not against university policy,' said Long. 'However, in this case Coach Petrino abused his authority when, over the past few weeks, he made a staff decision and personal choices that benefited himself and jeopardized the integrity of the football program.'”

Petrino apologized: “I’m sorry. These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I’ve let down by making selfish decisions. I’ve taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved. This time, I have no one to blame but myself.”

Petrino deserves credit for stepping up to the plate and apologizing – a relevant sports analogy, although a different sport.

But we are reminded once again that the way we behave off the field is as important as our behavior on the field and vice versa. The two are inseparable. They are one-and-the-same.

And our reputation and our careers are determined by both, not just by one.

Beyond the damage and the disgrace he brought on his family, his employer and his colleagues, if we ever wanted proof of the damage to reputation and a career, here are the hard dollar and cents facts: Petrino was fired for cause and forfeits his $18 million contract buyout.

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How Do You Handle Your Punishment? Apr 11, 2012
In the rough, demanding world of football – where millions are glued to the television, each week cheering victory for their favorite team at almost any cost – the decision announced on April 9 by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was a strong statement about proper behavior and player safety. Acting to investigate the New Orleans’ Saints after the allegations of a bounty for injuries to the opposing teams took courage. And it took even more courage for Goodell to deny the appeal by Saints’ head coach Sean Payton who argued that his season-long suspension should not remain in place.

As the facts showed, under Payton, there was a bounty where Saints’ defensive linemen were paid money expressly to injure opposing players. The goal was to send members of the other team to the locker room, if not the hospital. Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was seen as being at the center point of the program. At its worst, Williams was reported to have said: “Kill the head and the body will die.”

Apparently, this program had been in place since 2009 and the bounty pool was reported to have reached $50,000.

Payton had appealed his own suspension. But Commissioner Goodell didn’t blink. It was upheld and runs through Super Bowl 2013 … ironically to be held in New Orleans.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports on March 31, “The only person who hasn’t appealed is former Saints defensive coordinator and current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.”

Florio added: “Per a source with knowledge of the appeal process, Williams currently is not expected to appeal…. The inherently subjective process could be influenced by whether Williams pursues an appeal, and a decision not to appeal possibly could make Goodell more inclined to reinstate Williams after only one year.”

Florio concluded: “The fact that everyone else has appealed will serve only to make Williams look even better in comparison.”

We know football is tough, rough, and nasty. We know Williams was wrong in what he did … in fact, it was not acceptable by any standard even that of pro football.

But who accepted his punishment without a whimper? And what does that say to you about the man?

You decide.

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Poster: Michael
Comment: I really like the fact that Greg Williams held out from the appeal process. That says a lot about how he viewed his actions, and regardless of his personal opinions, it showed others that what he did was wrong and would pay the price for it. He knew the punishment fit the crime. Through this action his integrity and his reputation are reinforced because of the decision he made. People make mistakes, but the ones who own up to them and put their right foot forward to make sure nothing like that happens ever again says a lot about a man and his honor. Mistakes can be fixed, but dishonesty and cowardice can become life-long vices. Own up to your mistakes, come forth, apologize, and things may turn for the better, but it ultimately will speak volumes about your character and reputation as a person.

"Why Online Friends Matter" Apr 10, 2012
As published in Newsday
April 4, 2012 5:55 PM

The recent news that some employers have demanded that job applicants supply their Facebook passwords has caused a firestorm among those who advocate for the rights and privacy of individuals. To be sure, the practice is alarming. But the debate, in part, misses the point.

Privacy, of course, should trump forcing anyone to give a password to an employer who wants access to a social media site to check on a prospective or current employee. And you have to ask why an employer would need access to social media sites, anyway.

Hiring decisions have always been made without it. Over the years as a communications executive, I've hired plenty of people and, like other employers I know, my batting average has been about .666 -- about two out of three hires turn out to be the right ones. That's pretty good. Do employers seriously think that access to Facebook would improve that?

Whether you're a job applicant or an employer, it will always be your reputation that matters most. What we say, what we do, whom we gather around us as "friends" -- ultimately, our behavior both off- and online creates the perceptions others have about us. And after all, perception is reality, as the saying goes.

The Facebook-employer discussion also drives home once again that social media are a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, networking sites and services are powerful forms of communication, creating untold opportunities for individuals and organizations to reach out in personal ways to people they otherwise would never get to know, let alone engage.

As Alberto Ibargüen, president and chief executive of the Knight Foundation -- an organization whose fundamental belief is that "democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged" -- says: "Trust is precisely the key element in the rise of social media. We look for something that feels somehow more authentic, more real, and find it in the people we know."

But regardless of what we might think or be led to believe, social media really aren't totally private. That's not their purpose, and to think otherwise is foolish. Isn't that why we caution our children about the photos and words they post, and the connections they make online?

If you really care about your reputation, there should be no difference between how you project yourself online -- in a supposedly password-protected social media site -- and the reputation you project through your professional resume or day-to-day interaction with others in public. They should be one and the same. Simply put, we should be true to what we say and surround ourselves with people who, regardless of background, share similar core values of integrity and doing what's right.

At least that's the way I see it. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. In my own quest for Twitter followers, for example, my first reaction is one of appreciation when I find that someone new is "following" me -- but I've had some surprises. When I check out some followers' profiles, I block them. What they say, their URL link, or their photo or illustration isn't something I would be proud of . . . so why permit it on my own Twitter account?

A rather simple view? Yes. But reputation is precious. After all, don't we tell our kids what our parents told us? "Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are."

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Manage By Walking Around Apr 02, 2012
Here’s how CBS describes its show Undercover Boss: “… the Emmy-nominated #1 new series of the 2009-2010 season, averaging 17.7 million viewers. Undercover Boss premiered following the Super Bowl to 38.7 million viewers, the largest audience for a new series following the Super Bowl. It also ranks as the biggest new series premiere since 1987 and the most-watched premiere episode of any reality series.

“Each week, Undercover Boss follows a different executive as they leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their companies. While working alongside their employees, they see the effects that their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organizations and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their companies run.”

Obviously, a lot people watch the show. I guess it makes for an interesting television show but what about the reputation of the “boss.”

The pattern is mostly the same: the boss gets a disguise, pretends to be someone just on the job – followed by a camera crew – and goes “undercover” in his or her own company, working with three or four selected employees. At the end of the show, the boss meets with those same employees individually, unearths his or her real identity and makes a management decision that almost always involves providing them with money for something that is important to them and, importantly, correcting problems they have raised or taking advantage of particular skills or talents they bring to their jobs.

Without a doubt, the show’s researchers have done a good job because the people the boss works with have been selected well. They are wonderful and very interesting. Their personal challenges, candid comments about the work environment, and their dedication to hard work are a passionate slice of life and the workplace. They are the real heroes in the show.

But I wonder what the show says about the boss. What happened to “walking the halls, the shop floor or the manufacturing plant”? Or to use the phrase made famous by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in their classic management book, “In Search of Excellence,” why wasn’t there already some MBWA – Management By Wandering Around?

Every CEO should walk around. And not in disguise. No deceit. If you pride yourself on candor and genuine interest in addressing issues head on, then just go out and talk to those who work with you. There will be no doubt that you care … about them and about the company. And, importantly, you are showing that you respect them enough not to be deceptive. It is a matter of trust.

And do the same with customers. Go out and talk with customers. See what they like and don’t like about your products and your company.

It could be refreshing. Not just a show. A genuine reputation for caring and encouraging people to speak up. In the process, it would surely make for a strong business culture.

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Social Media, Privacy, and Reputation Mar 26, 2012
Somehow, people are missing the point in the discussion about social media and privacy. If it really is a question of privacy, then it’s simple and there should be no doubt … privacy, of course, trumps forcing anyone to give their password to an employer who wants access to Facebook or any other social media site in order to evaluate or keep track of prospective or current employees.

But I am not sure that this is really what it’s all about.

The real issue here is about reputation, particularly what we say, what we do, and whom we gather around us. Ultimately, our behavior creates the particular perception that others will have about us. And after all, perception is reality, as the saying goes.

My view is simple. We should do what we say and surround ourselves with people who share similar values.

So, if you care about your reputation, should there really be any difference between how you project yourself online in a supposedly-private, password-protected social media site and the reputation you project through your professional resume or day-to-day interaction with others in public?

Of course not. They should be one and the same … no question.

At least that is the way I see it. For example, in the quest for “Followers” to my Twitter account, my first reaction is one of appreciation when I find that someone new is “Following” me. But I’ve had some surprises. When I check out that “Follower’s” profile, too many times I’ve decided to block them. What they say, their link, or their photo/illustration isn’t something I would be proud of … so why permit it on my Twitter account?

Simple view? Yes. But reputation is precious. After all, didn’t our parents tell us: “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are?”

Also, if we’ve learned anything in this digital age, isn’t it that everything on the Internet may well become public anyways?

So, guard your reputation … online and off.

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Your exit strategy – your resignation Mar 16, 2012
The volume of articles, web postings, blogs, and tweets about the dramatic and highly-visible scorched earth resignation of Greg Smith from Goldman Sachs earlier this week certainly has brought front and center the question of employee exit strategies and how to handle your own resignation.

Here are five quick things to think about if you are planning to resign and have some strongly-felt concerns about the culture of the company where you have been working:

1. Your reputation is critical – Behave in a way that reinforces your values and what you think it is right. What you do today is the way people believe you will behave in the future. In this case, the past does indicate future performance.

2. Stand up for what you believe and share your concerns with dignity – In many cases, you may have some very important points to make about the company culture or perceived values at work in the business. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns – that’s what exit interviews are for. And remember that people who are openly accused tend to react and over-react with the same level of intensity and, perhaps, anger. Little gets accomplished and real change is overshadowed by emotion.

3. Look at your exit plan with objectivity – Ask yourself, “What would you think of someone who behaved like you might? Ask those close to you – a mentor or someone close to you whom you admire – to see what they think. And listen to what they say. They have objectivity when you might not.

4. How you resign speaks volumes – As in many situations in your career, “how” you do something is critical. Others make judgments about you by how they see you behave. What you do to others, you might do to them.

5. There are two sides to every issue – As Dr. Phil always says, regardless of how flat a pancake is, it still has two sides. Constructive dialog from a position of integrity and hard work can be very effective. Respect other points of view if you want them to respect yours.

And remember: as Confucius is reported to have said in 504 BC, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

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Exit strategy Mar 14, 2012
The web was electric this morning with the publication in the New York Times of the open letter by Greg Smith who resigned today from his position as an executive director at Goldman Sachs in London and head of Goldman’s EMEA equity derivatives business.

Blogs, tweets, texts, and emails traveled at lightning speed. Everyone was talking. Even I, a novice tweeter, tweeted the moment I opened the paper. “Quite a read,” I wrote.

Yes, it was. Some have heralded the salvo as a blast that will have deep repercussions. Some think it is yet another statement or proof-point about the rough and tough culture at Goldman Sachs. Others have wondered why Smith would “burn his bridges” so dramatically and so visibly. The Washington Post picked up the British term and called it a “muppet manifesto.” The Street compared Smith to one of the 1% who can now afford to thumb a nose at an employer. And Reuters out of London quoted some who questioned Smith’s accomplishments and his underlying motives.

Regardless, it was an unusual ploy. Dramatic. And his missive caused quite a stir. Just about any newspaper would have been salivating at being the messenger for such a resignation from such a global institution.

Goldman Sachs took a beating, front and center. It replied, saying “We disagree ….” I am confident that bankers were calling clients with a good measure of angst since Smith had invoked some rather derogatory terms as he talked about how the firm treated clients, using words like “muppets,” “hunt elephants,” and “ripping eyeballs out.”

Was this the best way to handle his concerns? Yes, it was dramatic but was it constructive for himself or for Goldman Sachs? Did he offer solutions? Or just vitriol? Will future employers trust him not to do the same to them? Will his colleagues – former and future – let their guard down over the next drink?

Not being in his shoes, one can never really know what he was thinking, his level of frustration or the depth of his concerns … or what he viewed as his options.

There is no doubt that it might well have made him feel good for a while and got him more than his fair share of Guinness in the pub that day. But is this letter little different from one of those that, when drafted, is then put in the desk drawer for the night? And, in the cold light of the next day, crumbled up after having taken the time to think clearly about all the implications and all the possible steps that could be taken?

In short, what was his exit strategy? Was this it? If so, did it really serve him well?

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Poster: Irene
Comment: I like to think that this was Smith's Jerry McGuire moment and that he truly wanted to shed light on what's happening at Goldman Sachs (which isn't really a surprise) and on Wall Street in general. His op-ed definitely ignited a conversation about what kind of change is needed. Is this a smart career move? He may not be hired by another Wall Street firm, but perhaps he can start his own company. I think people would be happy to give their money to manage with someone with his strong ethics and concern for clients.

Acknowledge mistakes Mar 08, 2012
Reprinted from Investor’s Business Daily – Posted 03/02/2012 --

Managing for Success – Column by Morey Stettner, Investor’s Business Daily

“When Drafting A Strategic Plan, Get Staff To Buy In”

In the late 1980s, Chris Komisarjevsky became head of a public relation firm's European operation. He oversaw underperforming offices in 14 countries and sought a turnaround. Soon after starting the job, he needed to assemble a strategic plan for the coming year and present it to his bosses in the firm's New York City headquarters. After working diligently to complete the plan, he submitted it on time.

There was just one problem: It wasn't a realistic plan to reverse the region's poor performance. "My plan was accepted, but it was overly optimistic and not as demanding in cutting costs," recalled Komisarjevsky, author of the forthcoming book, "The Power of Reputation." "I didn't understand the relationship that needed to exist between me and my local managers. I didn't create a spirit of trust and shared commitment."

Komisarjevsky, who later moved to Burson-Marsteller and became its worldwide chief executive, realized too late that he made a series of judgment errors in drafting his first strategic plan as a CEO. For starters, he didn't leave enough time to address concerns and solicit input from his local managers, who were scattered across 14 cities.

"As the new guy on the block, I was somewhat naive," he said. "I should've got more early involvement and commitment from my managers whose goal is to deliver the numbers in their markets." He also regrets how he constructed the plan. Instead of visiting the offices and observing each country's operation in depth, Komisarjevsky took a long-distance approach. He asked each of his 14 managers to submit numbers to him and proceeded to draft the plan from his desk. Looking back, he says he should have hit the road and allotted more time to meeting face-to-face with each of his managers about projections for the coming year. By collaborating more closely, he could have increased his understanding of each of their markets and performed a more accurate financial analysis.

Komisarjevsky applied what he learned when preparing his strategic plan the following year. Rather than wait until a few months before the plan was due, he instituted an ongoing review of each of his 14 offices. He visited the offices throughout the year and invited the regional financial officer and human resources officer to participate. This solidified his bond with his far-flung team.

"Managers in field offices tend to circle the wagons to protect their own people," he said. "But if you build a relationship of trust and respect with them, they're more apt to make tough decisions for the larger good and put the company's interests first."

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A Question of Trust Mar 04, 2012
The newspaper front page headline said it all: “A Question of Trust.” Three of the police force’s former highest ranking officers were arrested on charges that they tried to cover up a burglary committed by the son of a benefactor of the police department. The original crime and now the crime of the cover up have been covered for days in my local paper, with blog postings helping to fan the flames of criticism and shame.

So, are there bad apples in many organizations? Sadly enough, yes.

But, when it comes to the police, cover ups are even more damaging.

And what about the loss of trust?

That’s what’s really tragic. Over time, the arrest of the three culprits and the subsequent trial or adjudication will fade into the background. For each of the three, however, it will still be very personal. It is they who will have to look at themselves in the mirror each day and live with the damage they have put at the feet of their families and friends.

But overcoming the damage to trust will take a very long time. It will take so much work to prove to people that the police department – especially at the upper echelons – can and should be trusted going forward. Each time now that a question arises, the police department will not have the benefit of the doubt … in fact, most people will be inclined to believe the worst.

As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

And as the legendary Warren Buffett said in his speech at the Inaugural Forum for Corporate Conscience on March 14, 2003: “You can lose reputation that took 37 years to build in 37 seconds. And it might take more than 37 years to build it back.”

Trust is simply such a critical aspect of reputation … and reputation is so important to long-term success.

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Reputation and perceptions ... sometimes, take a fresh look Feb 28, 2012
Reputation is built on character, communication and trust. Actions create perceptions.

But yesterday’s perception might not be valid today. Real change is possible. Sometimes, you just need to check it out for yourself to be sure.

As a Vietnam veteran, an Army helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam in 1969-1970, I was in III Corps where the defoliant herbicide Agent Orange was used. This year, I volunteered to be part of an “herbicide study” that the Veterans Administration has been conducting, with some interesting findings that only emerge after 40 or 50 years. When I went to the VA Hospital in Northport, NY, to register, I got a physical, a battery of tests, and a follow-up exam.

That experience belied any views I might have had about the VA. The VA has made some tragic mistakes in the past, some of which have been front page news. But this experience was heartwarming and touching. It changed my perception of the VA.

It started the moment I entered the VA Hospital grounds and stopped at the security booth. When the guard noticed my veteran license plates and I showed him my ID, he saluted. I returned the salute and he said: “Welcome home, Sir.” Except for my parents, no one has ever said that to me. This was a war when those of us who did what we thought was right -- and were lucky to come home -- were, sadly enough, criticized and ostracized.

Regardless of how we were treated years ago, we remain proud of our service. At the VA, the lobby is filled with former soldiers – many veterans from Vietnam, a dwindling number from WWII and Korea, and then many more much younger from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, there are far too many wounded, with countless wheel chairs and canes. Yet all of us are proud, very often wearing the hats that carry the patch, logo, or name of the unit where we served.

Today’s VA is there for us: nurses, doctors, and medical technicians who smile, reach out to shake hands, and say “Thank you for your service.” You can quickly tell they care. Each time it's a heartfelt moment.

So, take a fresh look. Not just the VA. There are plenty of other situations where change has taken place and old perceptions might not be valid any longer.

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Body Language Feb 25, 2012
What is the relationship between body language and reputation?

Watching the four remaining Republican presidential candidates walk onto the stage during the opening of the debate hosted by CNN this past week was interesting. Each of the candidate’s body language was very different.

Newt Gingrich was first to step onto the stage. He walked boldly with his chest out. Late night comedians might make jokes about penguins.

Mitt Romney was next. He took relatively small steps and seemed to take advantage of his height. Some might say that he walked slowly on purpose so that people would notice his height and, as some researchers believe, thereby presume that he was destined for greater success.

Rick Santorum walked the fastest, apparently eager to get out there. His energy and aggressiveness would seem to carry him to the issues and the answers the fastest.

And Ron Paul seemed a little more cautious in his gait, belying his strong views.

So does someone’s walk tell us anything? Probably. Directors coach actors in their walk. Models have a definite pattern of how they put one foot in front of the other. And there is no doubt that those running for office are advised as to how they should stand, run up steps, and hold their head high. The same holds true for business leaders.

Before drawing conclusions about the presidential candidates, though, you’d have to take close notes and watch the candidates through that kind of prism for quite some time. One debate walk-on can’t be enough.

But the fact is that body language is an indicator of truth or lies, strength or weakness, empathy or disdain, and aggression or laissez faire. In my book, I talk about body movements, especially what goes on with your face – such as the “smirk” or the “swipe,” the “slouch” or the “squirm,” the “eyeballs” or the “hands.” Those are very important to reputation

So what about the walk? Is it any less of indicator of what you are really like and what to expect from you? Therefore, signaling your reputation?

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Reputation and Recovery Feb 20, 2012
With the launch of “Sun on Sunday” this coming weekend, Sunday, February 26, there are two very interesting things to consider as it relates to the recovery of Rupert Murdoch’s reputation after the phone hacking revelations forced his apology to Parliament and the subsequent shuttering of “News of the World.”

First, according to a report in today’s “Telegraph,” he has told staffers that he “will be staying in London to oversee the launch.” This is a very smart move. In my view, this is a key moment and the opportunity for him to put his personal stamp on the new paper and, more importantly, his “signature” on how it will do business going forward.

Second, this is the moment for him to assure everyone that he does want a paper to have great success without falling to the temptations of getting the “scoop” through means that are illegal and clear violations of individual privacy. He himself has said, “Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.”

While Murdoch tweeted: “Newscorp shares up 60 cents on news of the Sun on Sunday,” other skeptics online and in blogs are not so sure it will last.

What we know is that reputations can recover. But it takes time and consistency. Let’s hope that Murdoch’s personal stamp will prevail and those who would be overzealous in their chase of headline stories have come to understand that values and integrity do make a difference.

We hope so … but time will tell.

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Your Personal Side Feb 11, 2012
The past week’s commentary and blogs that have followed the article by Sarah Palin in Newsweek, entitled “Life With Trig: Sarah Palin on Raising a Special-Needs Child,” have echoed much of the same polarized reactions as other opinion pieces by politicians usually do.

But there is something more. Regardless of whether you like or dislike, admire or disdain Palin, some of the reactions are very insightful, pointing to the importance of not being afraid to show your personal side, talk openly about sadness and joy, and acknowledge that there are challenges we all face in life.

Mark Whittington, a member of the Yahoo Contributing Network, writes online (February 6, 2012): “Her story is touching and sometimes sad. It humanizes a woman who has become, in her own way, the most powerful female politician in the world, beloved by many, reviled by some.”

The fact is that none of us are one-dimensional. We each have many sides. And those who interact with us – and in many cases, have an influence in how we are perceived – need to see both our professional and our personal sides.

If we want people to support us, they need to believe that what they see is the total person, not just a façade that appears when they sit behind a desk, stand in front of a group to make a speech, or communicate a decision.

For that to happen, we need to be strong enough to share our joys and sadness. Open enough to let others see how we feel.

It is an endearing quality. In Midwest America, they call it, “Wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

When people see both sides, they are more likely to believe, support, and make the kind of decision that helps us succeed.

Being seen as genuine and human is simply a very important part of a strong reputation.

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Twitter Feb 02, 2012
Talking with a field producer for CNN very recently, I asked him whether he felt Twitter was here to stay. His unequivocal answer was, Yes. And, chatting with a group of reporters covering a story the other day, it was clear that Twitter had become the new instant message for sharing information, ideas, and reactions. Every reporter there had at least three jobs: file a story, take photos with their iPhone to accompany the story, and Tweet to keep people informed, moment-by-moment.

Whether it is due to a vicarious nature, multi-tasking talents, or eagerness to prove themselves as they move along their career path, Tweeting has become the norm. In fact, it is proving to be a way that people share their own reactions instantly and read insights from other people’s thoughts and reactions to any situation, ranging from the commonplace to the dramatic.

My frame of reference is not the use of Twitter to share the latest sightings of movie stars or read about the recent charades of those who want to be famous, but rather the insightful short comments by those in the know.

Take Rupert Murdoch, for example. If there is anyone who knows the media business well, it is he. And he is one of those whose reputation has taken a hit because of the phone “hacking” scandal in the UK. Ironically perhaps, at the same time that a deleted email was recently disclosed warning his son, James, of a “nightmare scenario” from phone hacking, his father was taking to posting to Twitter.

Regardless of whether email or Tweeting is more effective – or potentially damaging – the fact is that Rupert Murdoch knows how news and information travels. And he is one to get on the band wagon.

So, Twitter is here to stay. Those who shape the news are making it so.

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No Spin Jan 26, 2012
NOTE: The "manipulated" photo has created quite a stir. Mr. Cleo Berry, the aspiring actor whose photo was "photoshopped," has chimed in. In an interview in "The New York Times" (January 30, 2012) his view was reported this way: "Mr. Berry, 27, said he supported the city's efforts to educated people about the dangers of diabetes, but he said he disagreed with the use of a manipulated image of an able-bodied person, instead of an image of a real victim of the disease." The article went on to quote Mr. Berry: "You are New York City, for God's sake," he said. "Give it to us the right way or we won't believe you at all."


Simply put, the idea of “spin” is disrespectful. In short, it implies that you think others are ignorant enough that you can tell them only what you want them to believe, thereby fooling them by what you say or how you present things. The goal is manipulation.

When it comes to reputations, spin is the antithesis of straight talk. And it often can be self-defeating. Like the Italian proverb tells us: Deceit has short legs. Or more colloquially: You can’t run from the truth.

We see spin at work all too often when we hear publicists’ early statements from those accused of some sort of wrong-doing and from movie and rock stars about erratic behavior. We’ve come to chuckle and shrug off what we hear because we just don’t believe it any more. What they say – and thereby their reputations – become suspect.

But, yesterday’s “New York Times” (1/25/2012) had a story of a different kind of spin gone bad. In this case, tragic would be a better description. The story on page A22 was headlined “Blame Photoshop, Not Diabetes, for This Amputation.” The story is of a well-meaning New York City poster campaign warning of the dangers of diabetes that used a stock photo of a man sitting on a stool. In the original photo, the man has two legs. In the manipulated photo used in the campaign, his right leg looks to have been amputated at the knee, clearly as a dramatic and graphic portrayal of one of the dangers of not treating diabetes.

Yes, without a doubt, the campaign is a very important effort by the Bloomberg administration because not treating high blood sugar levels can be very dangerous. I know. One of our sons is a Type 1, insulin dependent diabetic and has been since he was diagnosed at 10 years of age.

Yet the real question is: Why use any photo that had to be altered? Someone was bound to have found out. Plus, I am sure that there are diabetics who tragically have learned the dangers first-hand and would have volunteered to appear in that ad in order to help make that kind of strong statement.

It’s sad … spin by photo, eventually discovered. And, speaking as someone who has helped raise money for diabetes research, it can’t help but be a distraction and, at least for a time, undermine the otherwise very important message of the campaign.

So, when the message is so important, take the time to be straightforward. No games. Above all, respect those with whom you communicate, whether by words or by photos.

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Facing the Unexpected Jan 21, 2012
“Captains Courageous” – The Rudyard Kipling story, “Captains Courageous,” tells the adventures of a spoiled young man, Harvey Cheyne Jr. Joking around while on board an ocean liner, he falls overboard and is rescued by passing fishermen. When he can’t convince the Captain of the fishing boat to bring him straight to shore, he has little choice but to work as a deck hand. Faced with that challenge, the experience becomes the catalyst for accepting responsibility and living up to his potential.

“Captain Coward” – Eric Reguly, reporting this past Thursday from Rome in the Toronto “Globe and Mail,” dubbed Captain Francesco Schettino “Captain Coward.” The point being, of course, that the Captain of the Costa Concordia did what no maritime Captain or man of courage should do: he abandoned ship, leaving his passengers and crew to fend for themselves after he sailed too close to shore and the cruise ship hit a rock in the Mediterranean. When challenged, he chose to run away and put lives at risk. Some died. Full of lame excuses for his behavior, he has been pilloried and called “a national embarrassment.” (

From any perspective, the choice between courage and cowardice couldn’t be clearer.

But aren’t we hearing something else that has a bearing on our character and, therefore, how we behave?

Yes. It is this: We are often tested when we least expect it and in situations we rarely anticipate. Our actions under pressure determine our reputation and our future. The challenge for each of us is not only how to behave when the going is easy but how to behave when the going gets tough.

How we respond when put to the test and tackle the unexpected speaks volumes about our character and our values. Above all, we need to be sure of what we hold dear and have the strength to ensure that the right values guide our behavior.

This is the test that all of us undoubtedly face at some time. And if we fail, success will not be ours.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jan 18, 2012
This week began with our nation’s celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an extraordinary man and leader. In my humble view, three critical qualities stand out:

1. Intellect and recognition of social injustice
2. Force of character in galvanizing opinion and taking action
3. Powerful use of words to express his conviction and empower others

As The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, known as the King Center – founded by his wife Mrs. Coretta Scott King – writes:

"While others were advocating for freedom by 'any means necessary,' including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly-impossible goals." (

Just think about the words he chose. Think about their simplicity, only possible because of the clarity and conviction of his own thinking.

His most powerful four words: "I have a dream." Followed by the dream itself in very personal terms: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

His definition of character and courage: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

His determination: "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live."

And his view on the importance of truth and trust: "A lie cannot live."

If we think about the importance to our careers of having a strong and enduring reputation – one that has the ability to create change and influence other lives – Dr. King is one of our greatest examples.

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The Mistake and the Apology Jan 16, 2012
It’s very interesting. Years ago, kids thought it a fashion statement to wear t-shirts with the image of the infamous Che Guevara. Perhaps they thought of themselves as anti-establishment, something of a revolutionary, or they just liked the long hair and beret. Regardless, they were criticized for extolling the virtues of the revolutionary Che. Clearly, they didn’t know a single thing about his ruthlessness or the countless men, women, and children he reportedly executed in Cuba and Latin America.

So, here we are in 2012, and Daimler AG, manufacturer of the Mercedes Benz, decided to use the image of Che at a promotional event, adding the Mercedes three-cornered star logo to Che’s beret and the words “Viva La Revolucion” in the background. The outcry was loud. The mistake was acknowledged and the Daimler CEO issued a statement: “We sincerely apologize to those who took offense.”

Is there a lesson here about reputation … about your personal reputation, the t-shirt you wear, or a corporate reputation, the presentation you make?

Yes, quite a few. But four to start:

1. First, do your research. Don’t make assumptions or act on incomplete information. Make sure you are on strong footing.
2. Second, understand the image you are projecting and how others will see it. Engage with those who will make judgments about you, what you say, and how you behave. And then take all perspectives into consideration.
3. Third, “when in doubt, leave it out.”
4. And fourth, an apology is powerful. Mistakes get made – we are all human – but admitting when we are wrong is critical and gives you ground for a recovery.

The bottom line is: Don’t take chances with something as important as your reputation. And be ready to apologize if a mistake is made.

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Your Brand Jan 11, 2012
It never ceases to amaze me how some people insist on broadcasting some of their less-than flattering qualities. I can only guess that they will do just about anything to attract attention. I have to admit, though, that some have made a career of it and a lot of money in the process. Just witness reality television.

But, if it’s not in search of a new reality show, why would a twenty-something woman put a bumper sticker on her new silver Camaro that says, “Spoiled Brat”? Or why would a young man put a sticker on the back of his show-room shiny 370Z that reads, “Daddy’s Gift”?

Perhaps I simply don’t get it. In my view each of those bumper stickers is like blasting your personal brand for others to see. It says something about how you see yourself or want others to see you. It says something about you, your brand, and your own reputation.

Some might slough it off and say that a bumper sticker is only a little bit of humor and we all have to be able to laugh at ourselves. Yes, we do need to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously. Self-deprecating humor can be a valuable skill. But remember, as my mother said, there’s truth in jest.

If you are one of the very few who never need to get a job, use all the bumpers stickers you want.

However, if you want to build a career, your personal brand should be treasured as something special. If you want to joke, be careful when you do. Don’t risk how others see you and jeopardize your reputation.

Of course, you realize we aren’t just talking about bumper stickers here. In today’s nanosecond world of social media, your brand moves at lightning speed on the Internet, your electronic pad, digital mobile device, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It includes that casual photo, text message, and each word you use. And those online words and images last forever.

Your brand and your reputation are transmitted every day, in every way, by everything you do and everything you say. And faster than you can snap your fingers.

The fact is that what you say and how you say it just might be seen and remembered … and by someone who could make a difference to your career.

Think about it. Be smart.

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Your Resume Dec 28, 2011
By the time New Year’s Eve has come and gone this year, many revelers will have turned their thoughts and aspirations from champagne to resolutions in search of that dreamed-of new job.

If you’re one of them, don’t wait. Get an early start. Beat others to the punch. Start by taking an objective look at your resume. Rethink every word, ask yourself some tough questions about your goals, and, equally important, ask yourself what values you bring to that new employer.

Remember one thing: your resume is a portrait of your reputation. It should describe you and why you are special. It should retell not only what you did but also how and why you did it like you did. After all, that resume may well be the very first picture or introduction that someone looking to hire might have of you. And they need to see why you are special.

For objectivity, get someone you respect to give you an unvarnished opinion. The more discerning and insightful you are – and the tougher others are – the better your resume will be.

When you review your resume, ask yourself some critical questions:

1. What values do you hold dear and what qualities will you bring to an employer?
2. How will you go about adding something special and a new dimension to the workplace?
3. Why should someone look twice and even think about hiring you?

Be sure to find a way to share your answers to those critical questions when you talk about your goals, work history, and accomplishments.

Sound easy? Not really. But it’s crucial and can make the difference in getting that coveted first interview when you compete for that new job.

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Mentors Dec 22, 2011
Another college football coach at a big-name school bites the dust. But the tragedy in the deceit by Yale football coach Tom Williams is not his own resignation because, ultimately, he alone is responsible and accountable for his own behavior.

Of course, the fact that he lied on his resume is bad enough, a key element in destroying his own reputation.

Yet, the real tragedy is not what he did to himself but rather the fact that he abused the trust of one of his star players who saw him as a mentor and came to him for advice when faced with a career decision.

Beyond embellishing his own lie about being a Rhodes Scholar candidate himself and about facing a similar kind of decision, why did Williams deceive one of his top players? Was his real motive selfish … in other words, to make sure that the champion Yale senior quarterback didn’t choose to go to his interview for a Rhodes scholarship and thereby wouldn’t miss the big game against arch rival Harvard?

What a disgrace. The role each of us has in being a mentor or a champion for someone who trusts us is a precious responsibility.

Not only do we as mentors help others learn the skills they need to do the job well – as in the role of a coach – but we also have the responsibility to provide objective, thoughtful career guidance. After all, it could be just that one piece of advice that will help someone else make an important career decision … albeit, perhaps even a life decision.

To violate that duty – whatever the reason, selfish or not – is hard to understand.

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Punctuation Points Dec 21, 2011
Venturing into the realm of politics and reputation can be like trying to walk on quicksand. But there is no separating the two.

Here in the U.S., as the Republican field continues to narrow, the back and forth between two candidates -- former Massachusetts Governor Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Gingrich – seems to be more about the reputations they have built based on their actions in the past rather than what policies they would pursue if elected President. And with those reputations, trust plays a key role. Many just don’t seem to trust Gingrich, in part it seems because he has always been a politician even though some say his key credential is that he has been an outsider in DC and, therefore, can make real changes. Others don’t know whether they should trust Romney because they don’t sense the passion they are looking for – they simply don’t “feel” commitment.

Across the globe, the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has sparked controversy about whether the ruthless dictator really died while on that train as was reported. Or did he die in a less dramatic way, not in keeping with the reputation he sought as being hard working and the “dear leader,” devoting all his energies to his people. It goes to show, once again, that a reputation built on deceit leads to further deceit … even when you’re no longer around and others turn to desperation to keep the image alive. Perhaps the next step will be reports of “sightings” – like Elvis – raising a slew of questions about whether he really is in that glass coffin, surrounded by his personal brand of “kimjongilia” red flowers.

As distant as these may be when measured by geography and political philosophy, they are both punctuation points in any discussion of reputations.

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Reputation and Careers Dec 01, 2011
NOTE: Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno passed away on January 22, 2012. "USA Today" put it best in its headline the following day: "Paterno's death leaves heartbreak and questions about legacy."


This is my first blog posting dealing with issues of reputation and careers. My goal is to share thoughts periodically and I look forward to hearing yours.

This past July and just last month, two legendary people – one from the world of global business and the other from college sports – have been humbled. Their reputations and integrity have been thrown into doubt.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, in reading his formal statement to the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in London on July 19, 2011, was forced to acknowledge: “This is the most humble day of my career. After all that has happened, I know that we needed to be here today. James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened, especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime.”

Famed college football coach Joe Paterno – whose nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom has now been withdrawn and whose celebrated life-long career at Penn State has come to an abrupt and humiliating end – had no choice but to tearfully announce on November 9, 2011: “I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief. … This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Few things hit harder and are more devastating than when your reputation is questioned. Your life, your career, and your families are immediately in disarray.

These dramatic and sad examples serve as reminders that our character, our decisions, the values we demonstrate by our actions, and the trust others have in us are the foundation of a strong reputation built on doing what is right. Every day, we need to take that mandate very seriously and think very carefully about what we do and why we do it if we are to have successful careers that stand the test of time.

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