Make no mistake: Developing a polished and powerful professional brand is a sound investment that takes time. It means crafting a solid business reputation that involves a lot of moving parts; none of which should be taken lightly. A short list of key components includes expert positioning, a team of expert advisers (also known as “best of breed”) and a bit of art and science that together help to build a brand that can thrive for the long haul.
But, what happens when there is a shift in public perception based on something you’ve done, but wish you hadn’t? A fall from grace can happen overnight. Even the best of brands can experience upsets that wreak havoc on their reputations, ruin relationships, and immediately impact their ability to transact business.
What would you do if this were to happen to you?
Here’s how to handle a fall from grace amid game-changing dilemma:
1. Confront the facts early on. It might seem counterintuitive, but there’s no time better than the present to face the music and confront an uncomfortable situation head on. The problem with hedging your bets and hoping that it will go away is that there’s no proactive strategy involved. More than that, you can usually count on other people scrambling to make headlines of your situation using an uninformed, biased narrative. Get there first. Tell your story in your own way. Take control by being the author and taking the sting out of the revelation. This course of action will also help you to rebuild trust with your audience and re-chart your path toward authentic leadership.
2. Make no bones about the truth. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, especially publicly. However, when you’re in a situation where the truth (and only the truth!) will set you free from misunderstanding, misinformation, and further scrutiny, you have no choice but to be clear, concise, and candid. Choosing to sugarcoat, omit, or outright lie sets you up for further damage to your brand. The onus of deceit has a funny way of rearing its ugly head when you least expect it. So, expect that you will not be able to hide your truth. Instead, choose to embrace it, no matter how difficult it may be. With your integrity already on the line, you don’t want to make things worse by trying to tap dance around the truth. There’s simply no way to make it easier for others to accept. Nothing is more palatable than the value found in the marvelous enigma that is the truth.
3. Turn the page and pledge to make good on it. After you’ve made the decision to proactively clear the air with full disclosure, you’ll then want to consider next steps. Yes, you are eager to put the past behind you, but not without first determining how to avoid making the same mistake twice. How will you circumvent the same behavior that caused you to get off course in the future? It will most certainly involve a change in thinking and behavior, as well as potentially removing any roadblocks to success (people and things) from your path. Whatever the plan, take decisive action and implement wholeheartedly. Share your pledge publicly and increase the accountability for your results.
No one sets out to commit a professional faux pas hoping to damage their reputations or careers. But, inevitably, it happens. Of course avoiding the misstep would eliminate the need to bring in the clean-up committee, but if you’re smart, you’ll want to have your arsenal ready when and if you need it.
To your success.
Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com.