■ Sans the Sex, What if a Kavanaugh/Ford-Like Incident Strikes Your Organization?

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The allegations, recriminations and public spectacle have subsided after the messiest Supreme Court nomination proceedings in more than a quarter-century, and the court has seated a new justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

But with Democrats potentially poised to take the U.S House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 midterm elections, and multiple national mainstream news organizations reporting that, if victorious, the new majority party will renew its investigation and possibly move to impeach the junior justice, it’s likely the controversy that surrounded his confirmation is far from over.

In the meantime, what can business and organizational leaders take away from the episode? What lessons emerged that can help them protect their organizations and ensure their employees and organizations aren’t marred by an analogous incident?

Let’s consider a hypothetical devoid of the sensationalism of alleged sexual misdeeds. Susan is a trusted lieutenant who has spent her entire career in your organization’s finance operations. On the eve of a major promotion to the organization’s senior leadership ranks, Susan is accused of embezzlement more than two decades ago. At the time, Susan was an entry-level employee, and the organization was fledgling, with few systematic financial controls. Managerial and operational changes since then make it impossible to prove the most serious accusations. However, it’s clear from recollections of former employees that Susan’s record-keeping was shoddy, and her proclivity for providing over-the-top entertainment and gifts for customers and vendors would violate the organization’s current policies. Although she’s had her detractors regarding management and policy issues, Susan has had a solid performance record, and been regularly promoted.

Almost more concerning than the initial allegations, however, is Susan’s reaction to them. She was loudly defensive and belligerent when asked about with the accusations. She forcefully responds that this is the work of a powerful minority within the organization, set on taking down one of the highest-ranking women in the company. She vehemently denies all negative assertions about her behavior, including recollections several former co-workers have about drunken junkets with customers. She offers seemingly disingenuous explanations for a few of the lesser, but still troubling, anecdotes. Her response doesn’t appear to be about setting the record straight, but about saying whatever she thinks will salvage her reputation and position of authority within the organization.

The way the episode has unfolded means it’s well-known through much of the organization. The executive team must decide how—of even if—the allegations will be addressed, including whether Susan receives the long-expected promotion to the organization’s highest ranks.

Avoiding “Willful Blindness” in Responding

Even if it becomes clear that it’s impossible to conclusively prove that a crime occurred, organizational leaders still have a responsibility to consider what did happen, and weigh what their response will communicate about the organization.

Enter the concept of “willful blindness,” which businesswoman and author Margaret Heffernan popularized in a best-selling book of the same name. Heffernan defines willful blindness as the complex process by which people choose not to see troubling or difficult behaviors because it’s more comfortable for them at the time not to know, a form of plausible deniability that makes them equally blind to the possible consequences of their inaction.

When institutions and organizations evaluate situations like Kavanaugh’s and Susan’s, their analysis can boil down to a two-part question: When is a person’s defense a white lie—a negligible untruth told to spare feelings or prevent embarrassments? And when is it a misrepresentation or obfuscation—including events that may be less serious than those initially alleged, but are still very troubling, and which call the individual’s judgement and veracity into question?

If it’s the latter, the episode provides important insight into a person’s character that should not be ignored, and certainly should not be rewarded.

Susan’s employer may determine that, given her performance over the bulk of her tenure, that her career and reputation should not be destroyed by these belated revelations. However, rewarding her defensiveness, anger and belligerence, and overlooking the less serious, but still troubling incidents that subsequently came to light will ultimately cost the organization more than the benefits of promoting her.

Senate leaders and President Donald Trump made the calculation that the political payoff of confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was worth the reputational damage his ascendancy will do to the Senate and the court. History will be the final arbiter of the wisdom of their decision. If you take a similar tack, first consider whether the fallout for your organization ultimately may be more existential.

■ Hurricanes Florence & Michael

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As natural disasters become more frequent and powerful, response efforts are always increasing.  To assist the Red Cross in aiding victims of Hurricanes Florence and Michael WPNT Ltd. is providing on-going financial support. Even weeks after the hurricane carrying record amounts of rain made landfall, rivers continue to rise and flooding has ensued.  Tens of thousand of residents have been displace in the Carolinas and Virginia. Entire livestock populations have been decimated. Officials say it will be months before the economies in those states are normalized.

■ 3Q18 Highlights

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“Amazing learnings.”
market development leader, North America
global science & technology company

“We were awarded the work! The training with you couldn’t have come at a better time. We used it to prepare…including using the message model.
- senior consultant, Europe
professional services firm

”It was phenomenal and completely changed my perspective”
- journalist, financial e-publisher

  • In preparation for a motivational talk circuit with high school students in economically challenged cities, this well-known investor and philanthropist received WPNT Ltd. coaching during rehearsal. His rags-to-riches life story was made famous in an Academy Award-nominated movie.

  • Select members of this international leadership development program representing Mexico, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, and the UAE took part in WPNT Ltd.’s Executive Communications Coaching has they prepare for presentations in 4Q18. The coaching is one component of a year-long professional development program at this global chemical producer.

  • With its acquisition of a European partner, this professional services firm is beginning its evolution as a global player. WPNT Ltd. provided Executive Communications for Teams to help standardize some of the selling processes between leaders of the UK office and members of the healthcare practice. 

  • Wrapping up their summer internships, MBA interns at this worldwide specialty materials company were prepped for their presentations to senior leadership by WPNT Ltd.

  • As it continues its strategy to reposition its accountants and IT leaders as best in class consultants with internal and external stakeholders, WPNT Ltd. worked with ten managers of this asset management company. Four programs were conducted and include team and private coaching components.

  • WPNT Ltd.’s Janice Hayes served as press corps during an Executive Media Training for the Content Expert program for a quartet of journalists.  The reporters are extending their financial consumer website’s brand by serving as subject matter experts on business cable channels.

  • Look for “Helping Kids with Communications Skills in Today’s Screen- Driven World” which will be featured on Nextavenue.org. during October 2018. Authored by WPNT Ltd., the article addresses the obstacles and opportunities in finding ways to teach children interactive communications skills in a tech-dependent world.

■ 2Q18 Highlights

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“The communications training session with WPNT Ltd.

was the most useful I have ever had on the topic. 

Really outstanding.”  

Global business unit leader, medtech

 

“Game changing. I’m an avid user.”

C-suite executive, technology

 

  • WPNT Ltd. supported a number of clients during May, a traditionally busy month for investor conferences.  On the west coast, leaders of a technology firm and an asset management firm underwent Executive Communications Coaching & Rehearsals over the course of a month in advance of their meetings.  Elsewhere, a well-known global medtech company’s team of eight senior leaders participated in a similar coaching schedule in anticipation of their New York meeting with investors.  Share price at both public companies rose following the conferences.

 

  • Having a ‘tsunami of scenarios’ to which participants had to respond, WPNT Ltd. created this specialized program for a Pennsylvania-based energy company called Communicating in Crisis & Controversy.  Four WPNT Ltd. Associates with backgrounds in transportation and improvisation assisted with the day-and-a-half long program.  A round robin of eight crisis scenarios were created involving various stakeholder audiences and venues.  Participants had limited time to message and respond to each one.  One participant, whose Fitbit stress feature was triggered remarked, “Thanks for putting together the incredible training.  This accomplished exactly what I wanted.”

 

  • Physicians with immunotherapy and organ transplant expertise at this Mid-Atlantic health system participated in an Executive Media Training for the Content Expert program designed by WPNT Ltd.  The doctors not only addressed new disease treatment technologies but are working to raise awareness of living donors as a first option when considering organ transplantation.

 

  • Continuing its commitment to enhanced communications skills to drive performance, WPNT Ltd. made two visits in the quarter to this Texas investment firm.  Each four-day run Included Executive Communications Coaching, WPNT Ltd.’s predicate program, Communications Clinic for those seeking continuing development in a private setting, and another day for Performance Review Coaching which provides a format for managers to effectively critique their teams.

 

  • Summer internships for the 2018 roster of MBAs at this global science and technology firm have begun.  Representing Harvard, Michigan and Northwestern, the MBAs kicked off their internships with Executive Presentation Skills Training conducted by WPNT Ltd.  Our firm will support them again two more times this summer.

 

  • Speaking to approximately 25 graduate students at Northwestern University, WPNT Ltd. addressed crisis communications as a component of the integrated marketing communications program there. In addition, each student was interviewed to better understand the real life pressure of messaging in an emergency.

■ Safeguarding Marine Life

West Papua, Indonesia—the epicenter of global marine diversity—is home to more species of fish and coral than anywhere else in the world. This largely untouched region also supports the second largest rainforest and the largest mangrove forest—a critical buffer to climate change.  But, its riches are a constant attraction for exploitation and recently, the region has come under increasing threat from marine and terrestrial pressures. Blue Sphere Foundation—in partnership with Conservation International— is working to engage local communities and politicians to protect the area.  WPNT Ltd. is providing financial support to the cause.

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■ 1Q18 Highlights

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“The opportunity to work with you was truly a gift.”  -vice president, investor relations Fortune 300

“This (coaching program) was a game changer for me.”  -consultant, professional services firm

 

  • WPNT Ltd. provided coaching and rehearsal to almost a dozen senior leaders of this global pharmaceutical company during its annual sales meeting. More than a thousand attendees gathered in Dallas.

 

  • In advance of his participation at the SXSW conference in Austin, WPNT Ltd. supported this panelist with Executive Communications Coaching & Rehearsal. His remarks and responses focused on balancing quantitative and qualitative information in digital transformations and product development.
     
  • WPNT Ltd. conducted a strategy session for a professional services client for the formal roll out of a new service category. The session focused on audience analysis and product differentiators and benefits.
     
  • Effective Communications for the Written & Spoken Word is a new WPNT Ltd. workshop for staff and aspiring professionals. Despite the ubiquity of email, few have been counseled on how to maximize its effectiveness. This intensive and interactive workshop provides the architecture and skill-building for improved emails and spoken communications with supervisors.
     
  • “What if Trump Led Rather than Bullied, Blamed and Boasted?” That’s the title of a commentary in CEOWorld by WPNT Ltd.’s Stephanie Nora White. The piece is a cautionary tale for business leaders about the importance of developing and protecting credibility. “Teaching our Kids to Talk in a Screen Driven World: Practice” also authored by Stephanie emphasizes the urgent need to ensure practice opportunities in everyday life for children. 
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  • WPNT Ltd. is pleased to announce a new partnership with Bruce J. Zanca. Bruce is an award-winning strategist, message architect and consultant. He has counseled C-Suite and corporate board members on investor relations, crisis communications and corporate marketing issues. He worked as a C-suite executive himself at four publicly traded businesses; assisting three of them to complete initial public offerings and helping to bring one public company private. Bruce served as a White House spokesperson and advisor to three presidential administrations.

■ What if Trump Led Rather than Boasted, Blamed and Bullied?

A Cautionary Tale for Business Leaders On the Value of Credibility & Empathy. From the size of his hands to the size of his first “State of the Union” TV audience,  President Donald Trump has spent the two-and-a-half years of his candidacy and presidency getting caught in outright lies, maligning everyone from American immigrants and Red Star families to a former Miss Universe, and taking credit for successes over which he had little control.

“President Trump has, so far, tarnished the reputation of business experience in public service, but good business skills are about sound leadership, which is consistent with good politics, and a quality that is badly needed in American government,” Dan Glickman, vice president of the Aspen Institute, and a former Congressmen and U.S. secretary of agriculture, recently opined. 

■ Teaching our Kids to Talk to People in Today's Screen Driven World: Practice

Lack of human connection now cuts across just about every aspect of our lives—from receiving health care to buying everything from groceries to gas. And the implications can be especially unsettling for our children, who are growing up with fewer opportunities to practice and master the art of face-to-face interaction.  Read more about what WPNT Ltd. managing partner Stephanie Nora Whitesays are everyday opportunities for kids to get practice for these life dress rehearsals.

■ Don't Count On An NFL Defense; Free Speech Rights Aren't Guaranteed In The Workplace

ESPN host Jemele Hill, Goldman Sachs president-turned presidential economic advisor Gary Cohn and fired Google engineer James Damore have all learned the same painful lesson in the past few months. Despite what many Americans may believe — and what unfolded at the start of a number of NFL games this past weekend — there are few, if any, freedom of speech rights in the workplace.

■ Weathering the Trump Presidency: Be Your Stakeholders’ Go-To Source

The Trump Administration’s on-going political drama makes it easy to forget that not long ago, companies were the almost-daily subjects of Trump Twitter tirades. But corporate executives who assume they and their organizations are now off the hook should consider Trump’s mastery at creating distractions – and take this breather to plan for the real possibility that they could soon be back in the president’s Twitter crosshairs.

■ Need to Rescue Your Online Reputation? Here is What You Can Do

If a person likes your service, they will recommend you to a friend; if they leave dissatisfied, they will tell ten friends. That’s how the old saying goes, but that is no longer the case. With the increase in social media popularity, the number of people who can potentially learn about your bad reputation can count in thousands or even millions.

■ Is the Self-Serve Economy Costing Businesses More than It Saves?

Although consumers have grudgingly grown accustomed to providing their own customer service—whether at the bank, gas stations, grocery stores, public transit systems, airports and now even at restaurants, post offices and hospitals—there’s mounting evidence that this trend isn’t as good for business as many organizations bargained for.