Dilbert Can Help Protect Reputation

January 03, 2010

Dilbert Can Help Protect Reputation

  I have written before about different rules or guiding principles that leaders recommend to protect reputation. Warren Buffett’s advice about imagining your planned actions on the front page of The New York Times is a classic. However, here’s another that should carry equal weight. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal, SunGard Data System’s CEO Cristóbal Conde says he’s learned a lot about bad bosses by reading “Dilbert” daily. Now before sending a company-wide e-mail, Conde asks himself, “How would Dilbert react to this?”  Imagining your communications missive or plan as the subject in a Dilbert strip is a smart way to prevent doing something that could quickly go awry.  Try really hard to imagine how what you want to do looks from the perspective of that fellow sitting in the cubicle.
This brings to mind an encounter I had with a CEO awhile back. He asked me to review a memo he wanted to send as his first form of communications.  My response was that the memo was fine but that there were too many “I’s” and not  enough “we’s.” I said that nearly all CEOs use the royal “we” to infer that we’re all in this together and need to collaborate to get the job done. For example, he should be saying “We’re going to set a new direction,” NOT “I’m going to set a new direction.”  The new CEO looked me in the eye and said, “But I’m the CEO and people have to understand that.”  I replied that employees knew that he was the CEO and that it was the CEO’s job to create unity and reduce the distance between the CEO and everyone else if he wanted to be successful.  It truly was a Dilbert moment. Happy new year!

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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