Wednesday, June 23, 2010

McChrystal Had To Go

General Stanley McChrystal resigned his job because of indiscretions in the presence of a Rolling Stone magazine reporter.

What happened to Gen. McChrystal is the same thing that should happen to any corporate executive who is careless in speaking in front of a reporter, a share-holder, employee, or anyone else who has an interest in the company or organization.

When the first snippets of the Rolling Stone article began to circulate, I was astounded and could not imagine how senior staff to a Four Star General could be so reckless as to make statements criticizing the nation’s leaders and other high government officials that they had to work with.

I imagined the senior staff to the CEO of General Motors bad-mouthing the Chairman of their Board of Directors and federal officials and regulators, in front of a reporter from Forbes or the Wall Street Journal.

Then, when I read the complete article, I discovered they had been drinking heavily, as a group, and with the Rolling Stone reporter present when some of the most outrageous remarks were uttered. Intoxicated people are usually not in control of their tongues or actions and that raises two more questions.

Why did they (1) knowingly take the reporter with them and, in his words, (2) "get hammered" in his presence?

I worked in an Air Force Wing Information office in the late 60’s and we supported a one-star and a two-star general. I’m sure some of the staff had a drink, or more, on occasion but never with a reporter. Reporters get drunk, too, but rarely when they have access to a major news maker and not when a career-making story is on the line.

Losing control of their senses, one time, would have been bad enough. But, the reporter ended up spending several days, off and on, with Gen. McChrystal and various members of his leadership team. If they ever did think about the risk of talking to and in front of a reporter, they apparently got so used to him being around they really let their guard down.

I suppose they might never have cared what they said, and if that’s the case, they should be locked away somewhere!

All of this is NOT intended to discourage executives and leaders of business or other organizations from giving access to the media. Just know the rules. Reporters are always “on duty” and you should be too, when they are within earshot.

And, if you are involved in communications for corporate executives or the leadership of any organization, never assume they know how to conduct themselves with reporters, or understand how reporters work. Remind them that just because the camera has been turned off, or the reporter has put her notebook away, the interview is still going on as long as the reporter is close enough to see and hear them.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading this post with a vodka in one hand and a bourbon in the other. I'll have my wine later. Then I'll call the media and my crisis communications clients about -- oh, I don't know. Maybe about how he/she fixes his/her hair or about the way they dress or their politics. You're right, Larry. The need for McChrystal's departure was Mccrystal clear.