The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 2, Outside

I was consulting a division of a company in the hospitality industry.

Before I began working with the senior executives, a major event occurred and was represented in the news.

The Warning Signs and External Signals of trouble in the Court of Public Opinion were everywhere:

I watched as the executives, and in particular the CEO, “whistled in the dark.” You know—if you’re walking down a dark and menacing road at night, if you whistle a happy tune, everything will be ok! Right?

They did not address this honestly in the public domain nor in employee meetings.

I watched the impact on stock price, revenue growth, and internal defections of valuable personnel.

CEO’s and other C-Suite Executives, BEWARE!

There is something all around you that can sink the best of intentions and plans! You must attend to it or face dire consequences for your company: the Court of Public Opinion (COPO).

At first, it may be invisible, like air to a bird, until we intentionally become aware of it.

There is  a human tendency to avoid what is unpleasant, disturbing, threatening, disruptive—what appears to be “bad news.” So it is counter-impulsive to take on COPO and have an effective and even masterful relationship with it. And, this is crucial to effectively lead and to succeed.

Four aspects of COPO and their corresponding registers/dashboards are:

ASPECT

    1. The internal rumor mill
    2. Marketplace reputation and perceived 
company future
    3. Customers and general public
    4. News media

REGISTER/ DASHBOARD

    1. The company culture
    2. Stock price
    3. Sales and market share
    4. All of the above

An additional complexity is that these four aspects influence each other.

To deal with COPO powerfully, you must begin by understanding what it actually is.

What is the nature of it? What is the DNA of COPO?

Very specifically: it is what people are saying and what people are hearing.

So the key is listening. Not to the noise of our own internal dialogue, our interpretations, judgements, and opinions. The CEO needs to listen outwardly and vigorously to her/his executives. And the executives need to listen outwardly and vigorously to each other. And the entire C-suite needs to listen to the workforce, the public media, customers. How can a leader effectively respond to others in an authentic and persuasive way if that leader has not fully heard exactly what people are actually saying?

No question that there is certain information that cannot and should not be said outside the  C-suite and/or Board room.  However when an event occurs, such as a critical change of leadership, an SEC investigation, a security breach, a crisis, etc. if you do not manage The Court of Public Opinion consciously and intentionally, then it will go its own way and you will be subject to it and the victim of it.

As the leadership of the company, what guides you in your response?

Shakespeare gave us this sage advice:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

What do the executives on behalf of a company stand for?

Every company these days has mission-vision-value statements.

Are these alive and practiced in the daily life of the company?

Are they the basis for actions, for strategic choices, for dealing with breakdowns?

Or are they wall-paper: good intentions but not actionable? We all know the proverb ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

We make sure our clients learn to listen deeply and thoroughly, and to respond effectively and powerfully to the Court of Public Opinion.

 


Want the “Warning Signs • External Signals” for The Court of Public Opinion?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

 

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

The Court of Public Opinion | Part 1, Inside

I was asked to work with an executive team to help them cause a breakthrough in their company performance. They said they were up to transforming the company to do this.

I told them that the transformation of the company needed to begin with a transformation of themselves. Each person committed to this, though they weren’t entirely sure what “transformation” meant. 

But the “Court of Public Opinion” was in full session inside the team itself…

What I saw immediately in our first morning session together was a certain level of suppression in how they interacted with each other.

When someone spoke, it was as though they were speaking in court—in fact, it was the Court of Public Opinion. In different degrees, each person was trying to be pleasing, to be approved of, to not look foolish, to appear loyal.

The president was a veteran in their industry. His education had been in finance, so he was at home with the logic of numbers, but when it came to the “human factor” he was in unfamiliar territory. His Achilles Heel was in being judgmental in a subtle, undermining way. People didn’t operate according to the rules of finance and numbers, and when he was frustrated with someone, they knew it. Once he formed a judgement about you, you were “sentenced.” You were “wrong.”

As the leader of this team, he had created an environment of judgement when someone didn’t perform to the level expected. His team adopted this and did the same.

This was “the culture.” The old adage held true: the fish stinks from the head.

Crucial point: the more people believe something to be true (even if it is not), the more real that something seems.

Once the president/team had an opinion about a team member, it was only a matter of time before their results would gradually deteriorate and they would leave or be fired. The mood of the team was caution and fear. It was palpable.

At a strategic level, they also had opinions about what was possible and not possible regarding their future, and the future of the company. Again, these opinions were reality for them. Because they were enculturated in this and used to it, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Almost like a kind of being asleep to what was limiting them.

The Court of Public Opinion was the source of the suppression I saw that first morning.

The Warning Signs and Internal Signals of trouble ahead were everywhere; their invisible— yet noisy— gavels passing judgement. Setting all that to the side, I got them started…

Out of our work together, everyone on the team gradually “woke up.”

They increasingly discovered that their judgements of each other were not necessarily “the truth.” And they saw that their opinions about what was possible in the future were also not “the truth”. They saw that when enough people subscribe to an opinion or point of view, it becomes “solid” like an object. It appears to be “the truth” and has a self-limiting force.

A profound set of “ah-ha” moments set them free. They increasingly gave up judging each other negatively. They started to discover the unique gifts and contributions of each other, the value of each person. They saw that the future was wide open. They began to stand for each other and for what was possible.

We transformed the “Court of Public Opinion” into a Space for New Possibilities.

Over the next 2 years, the company produced miracles in critical measures of performance.

 


Want the “Warning Signs • Internal Signals” for The Court of Public Opinion?

Click here to get yours, free, from our Edgevantage Guides series.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/barry-pogorel/