Monday, July 30, 2007

Stay Silent or Take a Stand?

The leaders of the NFL and the NBA recently came upon two public relations minefields. Unless you never watch any TV news and have no access to, say,, you’re aware of the Michael Vick/Dog Fighting issue in the NFL and the Referee-in-the-Back-Pocket-of-the-Mob issue in the NBA.

These negative issues cut to the core of some fundamental social and professional ethics. How did NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA Commissioner David Stern respond? Both commissioners, as the leaders of their respective organizations, had a small window of opportunity to demonstrate exactly where their organizations draw the line between right and wrong. But days went by before either leader made any semblance of a leadership move.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, a leader of any organization – much less one as public as the NFL or the NBA – doesn’t have the luxury of days to formulate a response to scandal. Customers and employees are looking to the leader to “tell” them just what the organization stands for. To do this quickly, the organization and its leadership must have already-at-hand declarations of their core values. Any delay in publicly responding to these situations means one of two things: either the organization doesn’t really know what it stands for, or the organization is afraid to take this stand.

My father believed that you never get a true measure of a human being (or an organization, for purposes of this post) until you see how he or she (or it) performs during stressful situations. It’s easy to say you’re for or against something when nothing’s on the line. But how you speak and act in times of crisis is the real test that determines what customers, employees and the public think about your values.

It’s a pass/fail test, one that Goodell and Stern have failed. You can, and should, do better.