Reputation – Iago or Cassio!
“Oh I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation Iago, my reputation!” William Shakespeare’s Othello Act II scene 3.
This quote from Cassio indicates very clearly the value he puts on his reputation, it is without ambiguity.
Iago however, has quite a different take:
“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” William Shakespeare’s Othello Act II scene 3.
Though written around 1599, these lines taken together, teach us much about the value of reputation. How to treat it, how to think about it, how to treasure it and particularly the circumstances under which it can be easily lost.
Pretty much every week in the news we can see examples of reputations being made and broken on the strength of a single Tweet. A well known example of a comment out of place I think was made by Gerald Ratner in his televised 1991 speech to the Institute of Directors. I won’t go into the details here, but the incident gave rise to the phrase “doing a Ratner".
Though 25years ago, the trend continues, and I thought I would offer up a couple of new "short forms" that describe damaging a reputation, how about "doing a Donald" or "doing a BA".
The companies who are best at defending their reputation, generally turn out to be the ones that take Cassio’s view on the subject. They are: quick to act during a disruption, seen to be leading the response, manage the media from the start and appear to recover in what seems to be a short period. Whilst these protocols are not a guaranteed formula for success, they are common enough to companies who do recover well after a disruption, and so are worthy of our attention.
Building and maintaining company reputation is a complex affair, and needs the active participation of the entire workforce. It takes leadership, time, patience and the right mix of people.
Machiavelli offers some advice for those trying to engage the workforce in such a way from his book “The Prince”, written in the 15th century:
"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them." Machiavelli’s The Prince
Anyone who has been given the Business Continuity programme or plan to develop will know exactly what Machiavelli is talking about here, yet the application of this process has the power to prevent the undeserving loss of your reputation, and even enhance it.
Have a look at your existing business continuity plans and see if they properly reflect how you feel about your reputation – Iago or Cassio?
Reputation - defend it jealously, protect it vigorously and be rewarded generously.
John BALL AFBCI.