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Three questions you should ask to protect your personal reputation

Three questions you should ask to protect your personal reputation

In this day and age what prompted Australian tennis legend Margaret Court, in an interview on Christian Vision Radio, to say transgender people are influenced by the devil, LGBTQ rights activists are brainwashing children like Hitler did and the sport she once championed is full of lesbians?

Bear in mind these comments follow closely on her public boycott of Qantas after its CEO Alan Joyce voiced his support for same-sex marriage.

Not only has there been a public backlash against her comments and social media outrage, but there is a petition running on change.org calling for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed — a call supported by another tennis great, Martina Navratilova.

Public figures like John McEnroe have also lambasted Court. McEnroe, never short of an opinion himself, went as far as saying: “I will personally call my good friend Elton John to host the biggest same-sex mass wedding ceremony every seen – in Margaret Court Arena“.

Another Australian great, Dawn Fraser also attracted the sting of a public backlash for her comments two years ago saying Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic should go back to where their parents came from after the two had once again shown their petulance on the court.

In Court’s case, was hers an acceptable democratic right? And when is “free speech” free speech? Or when does it cross the line into crass, racist, insensitive, hurtful and the like? In Court’s case, was this an error of judgement on how her comments would be construed, or were they based on a fundamental belief that she was in the right and they aligned with her religious beliefs — after all, she’s a senior minister at the Victory Life Centre in Perth.

When does your point of view damage your personal reputation?

If you are going to pronounce your view on an issue to a group at work, in a presentation, in a blog, in a media interview or via any one of the myriads of social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — how do you decide whether it will build or damage your reputation?

For 30 years I have worked with individuals across all types of industries and helped them navigate numerous issues and crises.

In these situations, when the court of public opinion decides whether you are a villain or good citizen, often what is said and the actions taken in times of stress and pressure can have a profound impact on the reputation of the CEO, the board and the brand.

I have learnt from bitter experience, there are three questions I can ask which often means the difference between a good or bad decision in terms of the actions the company takes or what they say.

The most important questions to ask before you act or say something:

1. What am I saying/doing and why?

2. Who will it impact?

3. In what way will it impact them?

These questions can give you that all-important compass to inform a more measured approach.

And the same but slightly different question can be asked by any individual concerned about the impact their actions or what they want to say could have on their personal reputation:

A week, a month, six months or a year from now when you are asked, knowing the impact of what you said previously, and the reaction of your family, friends and others to your comments, would you say them again or would you change it?

By doing this you give yourself the time to analyse your decision before you do or say anything – and walking in the shoes of others is often a great way to help guide your decision-making.

Never before have we been able to build a personal brand like we can today. The web and social media have given us the power to build and defame reputations, have a consumer voice, build an online presence and personality — but with it come risks. Your behaviour and what you say on social media is your digital footprint — one that will not go away easily. It impacts what people think of you, how they perceive you and it may even impact future job prospects.

Today the stakes are high when it comes to personal reputation as Margaret Court has found out. To this end I love this quote from English Bishop, satirist and moralist Joseph Hall:

A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes where the crack was.

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