On the 2nd September 2010 I made a point in a blog post Discuss. Dissect. Decide that Reputation is a mission – critical task and is of such importance that it should be included in every meeting’s agenda and be included as a must in the Company Learning & Development Training Calendar – as a must and not an elective.
My point and reservations have now been vindicated through some interesting research by a company ReputationInc .
Here are the main facts they discovered by examining the curriculums of the leading Executive MBA programs identified by the Financial Times. They were looking to see how reputation was incorporated into the course work.
- 1 in 5 leading EMBA programs teach none of the 10 core reputation disciplines
- Just one of the 50 leading EMBAs has ‘Reputation’ as a core module
- Communications & relationship building skills are taught in less than 20% of programs
- Government & policy relations is covered by fewer than 1 in 5 EMBA program
- Governance and ethics is the most popular reputation discipline being taught to business leaders today (no surprise there)
ReputationInc cites McKinsey research that found that one-half of global CEOs say managing external affairs is one of their top-three priorities. Yet one fifth of the world’s top 50 global Executive MBA programs do not offer any training in the core disciplines of reputation management.
They report that the missing disciplines include CSR, stakeholder engagement, government relations, communications, and reputation management strategy.
More worrying still, just two of the top 50 business schools surveyed offer a dedicated reputation module and 80% offer no training on either public affairs or external communications – the two core “hands-on” skills executives need to build reputation. “The results reveal a frightening gap between the reputation skills business leaders must possess in 2012 and the cursory attention they get in the traditional executive MBA.”
The programs with the highest ranked scores for including reputation are Henley Business School, Essec/Mannheim, and the University of Texas at Austin: McCombs.
I also agree with this statement: “On this evidence, companies and shareholders should be concerned that Executive MBA programmes risk creating ineffective business leaders who leave academia without the skills to actively manage the precious asset of corporate reputation,” said John Mahony, CEO, ReputationInc. “Reputation management skills are vital for today’s CEO who sets the tone and mood for a corporation and must lead from the front in communicating the purpose of the brand and its value to society.
Many managers are not born ready to meet this challenge and will benefit from coaching and confidence building in reputation, something today’s Executive MBA courses fail to adequately provide.”
The problem though is that it is not just MBA modules that lack this, but also Director training programs, Government Officials training, town councillors development programs and Internal Learning & Development programs that suffer from this lack.
The research clearly shows that training in managing external relationships is mandatory for all executives (Again a vindication that my Stakeholder Reputation Management course has filled a very important gap these past few years)
It is my belief that the problem is derived from the past where it was believed that Reputation was naturally an extended PR & Communication function and discipline. And, although communication forms and integral part of the discipline, there is now a realisation that Reputation Management requires advanced systemic thinking skills and thorough understanding of intangible issues, reputation and strategic business drivers.
The report goes on to say that “These findings should be a red flag to corporate affairs directors and those responsible for leadership development in global corporations. Knowingly or not, next generation leaders will be under-prepared
to steward their company’s corporate reputation in the coming decade.”
This statement just reminded me of the conversation in 2010 I had with the Learning & Development Manager of an international bank when they were considering my Stakeholder Reputation Management program for internal use. He was of the opinion that it was not a must, but should be an optional elective for senior executives.
How these words will haunt now. If only the financial services community understood that importance. Just perhaps there may have been less Reputation Damage.
As Warren Buffett, the world’s most astute investor have said many times: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it, and if you understand this YOU WILL DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY”
Funny though that most managers miss the last part of the quote. The research quoted above shows how important understanding this difference is.
The missing difference in the MBA programs – “ If I do this, or make this decision, will it harm my (own) or my company’s reputation?”
Understanding this difference is vital in an Era where Reputation is the New Bottom Line.
Who – or What is right?
Just because you are right, does not mean that you need to exercise that point or view.
We are not fish who have to take a bait. What is more important- Winning the War or winning a battle?
We have choice, and I think that a lot of people have lost that ability to think about the decisions they make. As Postman & Weingartner said in Teaching as a Subversive Activity….we need to become crap detectors.
Even Anthony Robbins indicated that it is useful to sometimes check your own values and beliefs, to see if they are still relevant.
But anyway, I just thought I would share this story.
An old man and a young boy were travelling through their village with their donkey. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked.
As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding.
The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.
Later, they passed some people that remarked, “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.”
They then decided they both would walk!
Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.
Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying “how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey”.
The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.
The moral of the story?
If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass good-bye!
Analyse any manager’s job description and you will seldom find Communication Improvement as a defined job responsibility, task and defined output.
Why? Is it because the process is seen to be elusive? The PR Practitioner or Corporate Communications Manager’s job? Just as a point could be made that we do not need HR managers , since the management of human resources is a line management function, so we can argue the point that to leave communication to the Communications department is to court disaster.
Traditional organisational structures are very good at compartmentalizing functions causing the "traditional silo effect". There is an old saying: " That which is not inspected, will never be respected".
To improve communications flow in your organisation, I have formulated a number of questions for you to ponder over and to discuss at your next meeting.
- Have all managers been trained in the communications responsibilities of their work? I believe that all managers need to receive training in interpersonal, intrapersonal and organisational communication. We cannot assume that people know how to communicate. We must equip them with knowledge and skills to do so. No media will ensure correct communication. People make communication work.
- Who monitors standards of communication and the handling of problems that have communications implications? Too often Labour Relations problems are solved using traditional IR methods, only to later on realise that the real causes were not addressed.
- Are communication responsibilities written into their job descriptions?
- Who is pro-actively and professionally managing internal and external communications in the organisation, and does that person have the professional know-how, responsibility, authority, accountability and status ? And most importantly is that person sharing and coaching the rest of the organisation or is he or she just managing their silo?
Still in doubt? Then ask any employee what breaks down more often than the photocopier or delivery vehicle. They will all say Communication. Why not make it a manager’s responsibility? Why not provide them with the tools to improve it?
Many CEO’s know this. Yet I am still astounded when senior executives come to me after a presentation and say – I never knew that reputation was this important.
Do they not get enough messages about this asset and potential risk?
Surely if some studies show that between 55 – 73% of a company’s share price can be attributed to its reputation, then this is serious.
Surely it is that important that it should be discussed and feature as an agenda item at every single meeting in the organisation?
Surely if it is that important, it should be dissected into those parts that can be managed – tangible aspects and strategies derived to address the intangible aspects?
The parts that are referred by authors and researchers as drivers of reputation – broadly defined categories such as Emotional Appeal, Products and Services, Financial Performance, Workplace Environment, Innovation, CSR and Leadership.
I am still intrigued that this asset only deserves 45 minutes to 60 minutes at a management conference. As a professional speaker, I have to get the message across in this allotted time, yet I run two day Master Classes on aspects of reputation.
I sometimes feel like someone who has to explain a religious text like the Bible or Koran to a layman in 45 minutes. a Virtually impossible task.
Surely the time has come for organisations to discuss this asset, dissect it and decide how they are going to build, sustain and protect this fine yet hard – earned asset that is always at risk.
Managing reputation is a mission-critical task. You cannot leave it up to chance.
Tip - Make it part of every management meeting agenda in the organisation.
Tip - Include it on your Leadership Development & Learning calendar. This makes vital sense as not only is Leadership a reputation driver but it influences very other drivers as well.
Tip – Define Reputation as an asset and as a risk in your organisation. Make sure that you have strategies in place to address both the asset building and the reputation protection definitions.
Discuss. Dissect. You decide. Reputation is not an optional choice.
Here is a story that resonated with me. It reminded me a lot of the crisis consulting I do….
A man is flying a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts, "Excuse me. Can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am."
The man below says, "Yes, you’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above this field. You are at approximately 42 degrees North latitude and 60 degrees West longitude."
"You must be an engineer," says the balloonist.
"I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"
"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost."
The man below says, "You must be a manager."
"I am," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," says the man below, "you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault."
When I speak to managers about the need to plan for crises before they happen, they treat my information sparsely and then when the paw-paw strikes the fan, then they want help.
Only when they are lost.
An article in the Business Day today states that MORE than 200 directors and executives of JSE-listed companies believe Standard Bank’s Jacko Maree is the most trusted CEO of a listed company, according to results of a recent survey on corporate reputation management.
The annual Trust Barometer study by Ask Africa draws a link between strong leadership qualities of the head of a company and its ability to attract talent, customers and investors.
What better way to have your performance and behaviour measured than by your peers in a transparent manner? (This a good example of a 360 degree feedback survey and its value).
The annual Trust Barometer study by Ask Africa draws a link between strong leadership qualities of the head of a company and its ability to attract talent, customers and investors. The Trust Barometer is a corporate reputation benchmark survey that ranks listed and non listed companies across a range of reputation drivers such as innovation, leadership and social responsibility.
“The link between reputation, trust and CEOs are clear, considering that winning companies have winning CEOs and executives,” it says. The study says leadership** is the strongest driver of reputation , and that the responsibility for leadership rests on the shoulders of the CEO, “making his role crucial to the trust and reputation of a company”.
But Ask Africa director Sarina de Beer says reputation management in many companies is not being taken seriously at either board or management level.
Companies only seem to spring into action when their reputation is under threat from a crisis, such as a strike . Management of corporate brand reputation is a distinct management and operational imperative, she says. She faults some listed companies for having a narrow view of who their stakeholders are, limiting them to shareholders and customers.
Read the full article at: http://www.bday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=80578
It is always good when great minds think alike. In my newsletter Powerlines 87 which I sent out yesterday, I made similar observations about the lack of proactive reputation management by corporates.
It is also intriguing that so many executives profess that they understand stakeholders, until they attend my Stakeholder Reputation Master Classes. So often they come to me afterwards and say, we never knew it was this important and complicated.
Reputation is derived from the way an organisation is perceived by it’s stakeholders and how they measure the institution’s performance and behaviour. Standard Bank, by the way have done a lot of work in this area. They have a dedicated Stakeholder Management unit influencing this process.
Well done to Mr Maree. May your example resonate!
**Footnote – It is interesting that the study shows that Leadership is the strongest driver of reputation, yet few companies have Reputation & Stakeholder Management as a subject on their annual Leadership & Management Development agendas. Makes you think, doesn’t it? (Excuse the pun)