In my new book, I mention the importance of “rewinding.” This is one of the four stages of reputation recovery that I describe as a means to restore reputation for the long-term. It basically means looking backwards at what went wrong (and right) to prevent wrongdoing from ever happening again. It sounds so basic but I am always surprised at how many companies and leaders do not look back at the root cause of their undoing as they try to repair their reputations.
Today I was reading The Economist an article on Internet communities (3/22/08) when I came across a quote from Winston Churchill that resonated with my thinking on restoring reputation: “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” A good example was also cited. Philp Rosedale, the founder of Second Life (the virtual community), is said to review old media coverage of AOL’s life history to make sure that Second Life does not make the same mistakes as AOL in not adapting to the web’s open standards.
This got me to thinking about my friend, social psychologist and reputation expert, Joy Sever. She started a business (Tell Me O Muse) a few years ago on the timeless wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey, the ultimate literary story. There is so much to be learned from the past as she has shown me. Listed below are 18 themes that Joy has culled from her tireless reading of that ancient journey back home.
The 18 Themes of Timeless Wisdom
1~Think carefully about what you’re pursuing … and how you’re pursuing it.
2~There is a right and a wrong time for modesty, but never a good
time for hubris. 3~Fear less. 4~Leaders need strategies. 5~Stay awake or
you may pay dearly. 6~ Use power to empower. 7~ Honor the guest-host relationship. 8~ Do not be fooled by disguises, beggars can be heroes.
9~Treat all people with dignity 10~ Accept the guidance of wise women and
the advice of wise men. 11~Honor solemn oaths. 12~Realize the potential
for enemies to become friends. 13~Maintain your vision, even in the face of temptation and despair. 14~When between a rock and a hard place,
select the path that minimizes loss. 15~When in doubt, test
before acting. 16~Take personal responsibility for your actions. 17~You’re
not home, until you’re home. 18~There comes a time when the
fighting must stop.
Unfortunately we are witnessing too many crises and fallen reputations today. Weber Shandwick’s stumble rate of most admired companies only continues to climb. Business schools need to include courses on the most colossal business mistakes of the past decade and on lessons from the classics (contact Joy!) to make sure that our next generation of business leaders realize the power of the past.