How you manage your brand (reputation) in the workplace is just as important as promoting it in the great outdoors that is the court of public opinion.
You cannot separate your “inside” brand — how you treat your employees, your vendors and customers — and “outside” brand — how you interact with business and civic leaders. This is especially true if you are a CEO or a member of the senior leadership team. You would think this idea would reflect some basic common sense. The problem is that when it comes to self awareness about their reputation, common sense can be one of today’s biggest misnomers for some executives. For those who think that this does not matter, I have a book I think you should read: “The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” written by Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, PhD.
If you are an up and coming executive with a promising career ahead, this is an important lesson to learn now: you must protect your brand, your reputation — not at the expense of your employees — but for the good of the organization and your future. If you sense that people are afraid of you, or that your direct reports or peers are standoffish, now is the time — not next month, next quarter or next year – to nip the issue in the bud. Bad news about a leader’s reputation travels fast and lasts long.
One board chair who was recovering from a recent executive mis-hire that disrupted his organization told me, “Yes we face some very real challenges as the result of a destabilized reimbursement environment and increased competition but we are not interested in blowing up the organization to ‘save’ it. We believe there are nice people who are great leaders. That is what we want.”
As an executive recruiter who specializes in searching for CEOs and other senior executives for community hospitals, I have seen far too many talented men and women who were producing impressive results but were waylaid, not by some big action or decision, but rather death by a thousand cuts due to their bad or abusive behavior or unchecked arrogance. Three or four decisions or actions that the powers that be did not like is not what I am talking about. Those types of situations are quite common at all levels of management. Rather, it is the continuing lack of reputation awareness that can derail a career. That you nailed it with your operational or financial performance will not mitigate the damage to your brand if your brand is one of rudeness and demeaning behavior towards those you work with. Those two issues seem to travel separate paths with the latter winning out in the so-called court of public opinion.
In times of a crisis turnaround situation a board may be willing to take a chance on a brilliant producer. However, more often than not, recruiters, internal or external, are notoriously risk averse and employers almost never want to bring in an executive that will wreak havoc on the organization’s core values in hopes that the operational and financial results will outweigh boorish behavior.
The challenges that face healthcare organizations are significant and expanding each day. The industry cannot afford to hire talented leaders with reputations for producing great results but who cannot treat people with dignity and respect.
You do not have to act like an a**hole to get good results. There is enough empirical evidence to scuttle that myth.