Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ouch! Did someone yell "FOUR?"

I tried, heaven knows I tried, to avoid a golfing metaphor, but I'm just too weak!

It has been almost as fascinating to hear and read all the different points of view about Tiger Woods and his lack of public response, as it has been to see the details trickle out, one morsel at a time, day after day.

Every day we work with intelligent men and women -- well educated, well read, well financed, used to authority and power and deferential treatment from almost everyone around them. And I still am amazed out how naive, self-centered and "above it all" some of them can be.

If you are a super star CEO, actor, politician, President of the United States or even the best golfer in the world, how can you convince yourself that you can do whatever feels good, or strokes your ego and no one will ever find out?

How many tell-all books and "exclusive" interviews are done every year by groupies who give themselves to celebrities and then try to cash in on it?

The first big name client of ours, who was about to be exposed by a woman, did not take our advice and ended up in the headlines for months. When he decided to ignore the threat and take his chances, I offered him one more bit of advise: "When you get ready to go to sleep each evening, make sure all the kitchen knives are locked up." He must have taken that advice. There was never a noticeable change in his voice after his wife found out.

When the tabloids broke the story about Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton, he dug in and denied knowing her and for months the story was in the news daily. It distracted him and Congress from dealing with serious national and world issues and went on until early the next year when he conceded he DID know "that woman."

After months of constant scrutiny and negative public attention, he finally took responsibility for his past misdeeds and the country got on with business, but his legacy will forever include an asterisk noting his dalliance with a White House intern.

Tiger is a lesson for any man or woman in the public eye. If you know anything at all about the Institute for Crisis Management, you know we study and track business and organizational crises. And for at least the past 20 years, we have documented that two-thirds of all crises are preventable. If you run a business and want to avoid losing it or having it badly damaged, keep an eye out for all those things that can smolder and simmer and eventually grow into a public disruption.

The same is true for Governors, NBA basketball stars, university basketball coaches and Congressmen.

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