Monday, July 31, 2006

LEADERSHIP--In Vino Opprobrium...

...which is Latin for "There's a scandal at the bottom of every bottle."

If you ever wanted a good reason why it's important for you as a person of influence to keep your public presence pristine, I have two words for you--Mel Gibson.

According to the AP, Mel was stopped by Malibu police Friday night for drunken driving. The entertainment Web site TMZ posted what it said were four pages from the original arrest report, which quoted Gibson as launching an expletive-laden "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks" after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway. (You can read the whole story HERE.)

Hollywood really doesn't care what their superstars say or do as long as their movies sell tickets. But Mel's reputation--which took some unfair hits during the filming ofThe Passion of the Christ--is now squarely in the crosshairs. And he deserves everything he gets.

The good news is that Mel immediately apologized for the incident, saying "After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed...I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable...I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry." The bad news is that it may be too late to salvage his standing with the public.

For Mel Gibson fans, that mea culpa may be enough--but for most other people, Mad Mel just became a party joke at best and a fallen star with a shortened career at worst. Being in a position of any power or influence makes you a role model, whether you like it or not. Unless you want your private life to become the hot topic around the water cooler, practice moderation to avoid humiliation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

MEDIA MATTERS--Talking Trouble

I'm just starting a consulting job with a client who is dealing with a reporter who is literally hounding its executive director for comments on negative stories planted by a politician whose agenda is pretty obvious. Whew. Forget a crisis plan--this organization has no media plan whatsoever! So what's the first thing I recommended?

Hire a media spokesperson. Someone to manage an effective media plan while handling all communications, so that the executive director can actually have time to perform the duties they were hired to do. Train the spokesperson to handle whatever journalistic storms are rolling through until you can get a short-term media strategy worked out with a professional. (By the way, I'd be happy to help you, too--check out my seminar, Managing The Media--Getting The Press You Want When You Want It (And Handling The Press When You Don't,) on my website at

It doesn't matter how good you are at dealing with pesky reporters. Your job is to run the company, not run from the press. Hire a spokesperson you can trust to handle your message and let them do the heavy lifting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

LIVING SAVVY--Get The Funk Out...

It seems I've been a little depressed lately, which is pretty unusual for a positive, motivated guy like me. Mom passed away only two weeks ago and I thought I was handling the loss well enough...but apparently I'm the last to find out that I've been acting mopey and distant.

I struggled with the news. I felt lazy and apathetic and thick, in that large and lumbering way you get when you feel like a big brick of cheese. My wife told me, "Physician, heal thyself." I'm supposed to be the guy other people turn to when they need to be lifted up--how on earth do I break out of this funk?!?

The answer was typically strange and wonderful...I decided to run. Hard. Like those PT runs back when I was a first-year "doolie" at the Air Force Academy. Problem was, it was screaming hot outside. (I don't know if you've been following the summer heat wave news, but Sacramento has been broiling for a record 9 straight days with highs over 100. It's been so hot that Star Jones actually hugged Barbara Walters just to get the cold shoulder.)

The thermometer read 107. I was undaunted. I hit the road to sweat this swampy feeling out of my system. I focused on nothing but the sound of my breathing and after a mile, I ran back into the house, hit the showers and thought, "Now what...?"

It turns out that exercise is an excellent way to break depression. (Especially exercise performed by a deranged life coach.) That 10-minute run was just the thing I needed, a really intense workout in extreme conditions to shake out my sensibilities and put life back into perspective.

I don't recommend this remedy for everyone, especially if you're adverse to sweating buckets. But I do recommend shaking up your status quo if you're feeling depressed. See an outrageously funny movie, buy something you'd normally never dream of, maybe get out of bed an hour earlier and treat yourself to a fancy breakfast.

Life is hard enough. Don't vote yourself off the island. Zig when you usually zag and you might find a bright new day waiting for you.

Monday, July 24, 2006

LEADERSHIP--Determined To Win

One of the most inspirational stories you'll ever hear took place last week in the Tour De France. American cyclist Floyd Landis won the coveted "yellow jersey" after a roller-coaster week where he recovered from a disastrous mountain ride to stand on the victory podium on the Champs-Elysees yesterday. His journey to victory is a testament to determination...and a great leadership lesson.

Landis grew up in rural Pennsylvania where his Mennonite family discouraged him from becoming a cyclist by filling his days with strenuous chores. He defied them by riding his bike after dark, sometimes until 2 a.m.

He spent a few years as a member of Lance Armstrong's championship Tour De France team, until he jumped ship to become the leader of his own team. Experts told Landis he had no chance to win.

To complicate matters, Landis developed an arthritic hip so painful that he scheduled surgery immediately following this year's Tour, a procedure doctors told him could end his career.

But Landis perservered, hearing a voice that urged him to press on, even after a devastating performance on the second-to-last stage in the mountains where he lost the yellow jersey and fell to 11th place, more than eight minutes behind the leader. An insurmountable margin.

Floyd gathered his team, told them he didn't race to lose, and gave them an impossible strategy--break out of the pack at the first uphill mountain grade and literally sprint up the slope to break the will of their competition. It worked. Landis picked up 7 1/2 of the eight minutes he'd lost the day before with a performance that every Tour De France expert said was the greatest individual stage victory they'd ever seen.

Landis eventually took back the lead and won the Tour, much differently than his former boss. Lance Armstrong was the picture of preparation. Floyd Landis is the face of determination.

Having one without the other can still produce excellence, but as a leader, doesn't it seem that having both is ideal? I'll add another key element--that first, inspiration, followed with preparation, then finished with determination, is a sure formula for success in any organization.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

RELATIONSHIPS--It's All About The Follow-Through

My mom passed away on July 7th (one of the big reasons my blog entries have been sparse lately.) While I miss her smile, her strength, and her nobility, I will never forget the many surprising life lessons I learned during her final days.

Mom had a way of getting right to the point, and she reminded me many times that you build a successful life by taking care of every relationship you have no matter how small. The lessons must have rubbed off on my dad, who put Mom's leadership theory into practice in an impressive way.

One of Mom's great joys was singing with the Sweet Adelines. For over 15 years she practiced, performed, competed, and shared life with these special ladies, even up to a month before her it was only fitting that Mom was buried in her favorite Sweet Adelines' shirt. We asked her group to sing at Mom's wake and the sound they produced that night still gives me goosebumps.

Days later, after the funeral when all the family and friends have gone back to their regular lives, Dad drove over to the Sweet Adelines' rehearsal space. It must have been a lonely ride, the first time he had made a visit without Mom there, but he had a purpose. He went there to say "thank you." Thanks for so many things that were good and real and true in their relationship. Dad was just following though for Mom.

It was a simple gesture that profoundly shows how important the "follow-through" is in our everyday relationships. A quick visit, an unexpected compliment, a promise kept, an offer to help when your time is precious--these are the gifts that others appreciate far more than the trinkets and toys that typically define our relationships' worth.

Think about the "follow-through" with your family, friends, coworkers, even customers. I'll guarantee that you'll be long remembered.

Monday, July 17, 2006

SPEAKING SKILLS--Is this thing on?!?

President Bush uttered an expletive at the G-8 summit. And a microphone caught it.

Now, the fact that the leader of the free world was tossing out some salty language isn't very surprising, but it IS news. According to news reports, President Bush was engaged in a little light luncheon banter on the subject of Israeli-Hezbollah tensions when one of the microphones at his table picked up the following:

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over..."

Okay. The Prez said the s-word. It's not the first time (remember the "major league" A-bomb that Bush/Cheney dropped on NY Times reporter Adam Clymer?) nor will it be the most famous (Ronald Reagan's "We start bombing in five minutes" is the all-time oopsie moment.) Remember:
  1. The microphone is ALWAYS on (never trust a sound engineer to turn things off.)
  2. The camera is ALWAYS pointed at you (and you'll always be doing something embarrassing when it is.)
  3. You're ALWAYS "on the record" with a reporter (no matter how many times you tell them otherwise.)

Keep those rules in mind when you're in a public forum and you'll never have to worry about about what you did or said winding up as the lead story on the news.