I’ve enjoyed following the different opinions on Martha’s situation. From Martha-philes like Rayne who continue to admire Martha for her “can do” approach … to Rusty who says reputation isn’t the problem – but her lack of character is. I just finished reading this week’s TIME magazine account of Martha Stewart’s woes, which ends on an interesting note. It says Americans love to rehab our celebrities after they’ve been trashed and that Martha has a chance for a comeback.
One of the questions I often pose when an executive is in a situation where “a lot of bad water has gone under the bridge” is a litmus test for his or her future. I ask the people he works with if he has a chance. It generally goes something like, “If John makes some genuine efforts to be more honest, keep his promises and quit talking behind people’s backs, does he have a chance to turn things around with you?”
The answer is usually “yes” – although there can be a long pause in front of it. Sometimes I need more clarity, so I’ll ask if it’s a 50-50 chance or a 20% chance. (With some people, there is zero chance but that is rare.) All that is relayed back to the executive, because I think it’s important for them to know their odds. But whatever their odds, it’s a real bad place to be in.
One of the reasons for writing our book was for people to understand the critical behaviors that go into building a credible reputation so they’d never have to be in a place where they hear their odds of successfully digging out of a deep hole. If Martha had read the book, she would have understood that honesty – of all the behaviors – is the most important. Kouzes and Posner wrote that “the dimension of honesty accounts for more variance in believability than all the other factors combined.” The first “lie” caused most all of Martha’s problems, according to the TIME article.
Given all this … do you believe that after I talk about how critical the truth it is to a person’s credibility, there are people in my audiences who raise their hands and ask, “Are white lies okay?”