CEO reputation drives organizational health
In 2015, Weber Shandwick published a survey of over 1700 senior executives from around the world (“The CEO Reputation Premium, Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era”). It revealed that 50% expect CEO reputation to be of increasing importance to a company’s reputation going forward. They also estimate that 44% of their company’s market value can be attributed to CEO reputation. Most think a positive reputation is significant in attracting investors, employees, and around half say it influenced their decision to join the organization, and stay. Yet the public has mixed views on the health of CEO reputations. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer finds CEO credibility has jumped by seven points over the past year, with 44% rating CEOs as ‘very credible’. Edelman puts this down to leaders “voicing their positions on the issues of the day.” But 60% still think CEOs are driven “more by greed than a desire to make a positive difference in the world.”
Reputation is a matter of opinion
What would a client say about you, after you leave the room? This will be passed on and over time, coalesce into your reputation. So we could summarize reputation as the opinion formed by different people, with a high degree of consistency, over a long period, about a subject (a person or a company). Experience leads to labels: fast, dependable, performance-oriented, etc. Over time, these start to bear considerable weight for a reputation and brand. Our ‘active references’ – people with positive attributions about us - pave the way to fruitful relationships and business development.
Reputation is a relationship GPS
Reputation reduces uncertainty in evaluating who we choose to interact with. It makes it easier for us to navigate new relationships on the basis of certain assumptions (behavior, quality, etc.). An enormously important factor when it comes to showing up on the radar of potential business partners.
6 factors underpin reputation management
It’s vital to engage in an ongoing, (low-key), evaluation of our reputation. Some drivers:
- The way in which relevant observers perceive us acts as a navigation aid. For example, our values, our credibility, trustworthiness, dependability, authenticity
- The positive motivations of the partners with whom we interact
- Our ability to maximize positive co-evolutions* (when “the possibilities of intellectual energy unfold, and an optimum amount of happiness energy is released”) and minimize negative ones.
- Our sense of our relationship with feedback
- Significant biographical achievements, or missing achievements, and our relationship with these
- Our communication and self-marketing competences.
External communications require caution
The media landscape is changing fast, and all is not as it seems.
The exponential growth in social media has become a modern cliché, but opinions are shifting. 60% of Fortune 500® CEOs are absent from the medium according to a report by CEO.com and Domo (‘2016 Social CEO Report’). And the trust of the general public in social platforms fell by 2 points over the past year (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2018). Social media is a double-edged sword. It allows fluid, agile, deep and wide community-building, and communication 24/7. But when a leader or organization falls out of line, (consider Uber’s Travis Kalanick), negative opinions can spread like wildfire, further fueled by ‘fake news’, rumor or trolling. As writer and consultant Tony Schwartz, author of ‘The Art of the Deal’, recently told Amrop: “Customers can come along on social media and blow up your business overnight if they’re dissatisfied in ways that are compelling.”
Quitting social media may be the new counter-movement.
Tim Martin, Chairman and Founder of JD Wetherspoon, a leading bar and hotel chain in the UK and Ireland, recently announced a stop to all the company’s social platforms, as a distracting, over-rated medium. Instead JD Wetherspoon will focus on (fully controllable) web and print communications. Mr. Martin also focusses on personal engagement and presence, systematically walking through town to visit his bars. This direct contact yields important information, and personal engagement has become part of Tim Martin’s own brand.
For traditional media, too, trouble is afoot. Whilst the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that trust in journalism is rebounding, six out of ten ordinary readers are unable to distinguish good journalism from rumor.
These findings only serve to remind leaders of the importance of carefully evaluating which channels best serve their reputational purpose, and deploying each in a strategic, responsible and authentic way.
The seven Principles of Personal Governance underpin the rollercoaster of public engagement and reputation. The related attitudes and behaviors go a long way to shaping an executive’s image and charisma.
Reputation - 7 self-check questions
- Which biographical events, experiences, relationship etc., shaped my reputation?
- What is its essence?
- Which observers and stakeholder groups are key influencers in building it?
- Which personal characteristics are particularly important?
- What are the different elements of my reputation management?
- How does my personal reputation influence that of my company?
- Which attributes or labels would third parties assign to my personal brand?
In Conclusion: Good Personal Governance is decisive in the reputation of executives and companies.
*(Geissler, 2003). Managers with good Personal Governance inspire and motivate each other in their interactions. This leads to a climate of job satisfaction, and allows potential to be developed.
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