Effective crises management can mitigate risk and exposure due to damage to your brand caused by executive and employee misconduct, bankruptcy, disasters, cyber-terrorism and as my children’s preschool teacher would say, “bad choices.
Most companies have insurance coverage that is intended to insure their company’s assets and protect the company’s brand. But for politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, their only insurance is their reputation and the relationships they have worked so hard to build to get them where they are.
Christie and his staff made bad choices. Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, ignorance of the actions of your inner circle is no excuse not to stand as a leader, accept their action as your own, apologize and work to repair the damaged caused by your administration -- Whether you knew about it or not.
But Governor Christie waited to long to act. He waited to review the findings of an investigation, saw the potential damage the findings will cause him and then decided to step up. He apologized and is working to rebuild his reputation, by firing key staff involved and making a very public apology to the Mayor of Fort Lee, NJ -- in person.
While his opponents will continue to keep the focus on the Governor and the bad choices of his staff, they should really let the investigation take its course and respond to what emerges from that to give their efforts additional credibility rather than making this purely political.
Time, however will help heal Christie’s reputation. If he has national political aspirations, he then has time to re-focus his energies and rebuild any loss to his reputation. His advocacy following Hurricane Sandy and the other promises he will deliver on over the next few years will outweigh the damage done in closing The GW Bridge. Time repairs ones reputation if you take the time to do it right.
But for those who took the fall in Christie’s inner circle, that road will be more difficult to recover. We all need some insurance to protect our reputation and our livelihood. We all need to take steps to build our own inner circle of trusted advisors and a community of friends who can speak out in our defense, hold our hands in times of difficulty and help us out of a difficult situation. His former staff member’s now must work to re-build their reputation while their former boss continues on an upward trajectory. They must re-evaluate the lessons they learned from this situation and try to turn it around into a positive direction so that they too can move forward.