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Advice From the CEO How to Address a Scandal and Get Your Company to Move On

Take it from someone whose company was at the center of an ethical firestorm, survived and prospered: The only way to confront a scandal is head on, with honesty and openness.

March 23, 2007
Related Topics: Ethics
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Putnam Investments CEO Charles "Ed" Haldeman knows firsthand what it takes to turn a company around in the wake of a scandal. He provides five tips that every executive—and not just the CEO—in this situation should know:
  • Be honest with everyone. "This can be tough for CEOs because you also have to be positive and upbeat all the time. The morale of the firm is established by what the CEO says. So you can be optimistic, but you can’t deceive people. You can’t do anything but tell the truth, even if the result is less positive in the public’s mind."

  • Talk publicly in sound bites. "Unless you speak in sound bites, people won’t remember what you said. That’s why when we talk about Putnam, we say we are in the business of taking care of other people’s money."

  • Be visible, be available. "It’s possible to stay in the office all day long, but seeing the CEO walk around and talk to employees in the cafeteria has a powerful impact on the company."

  • Even in periods of crisis or difficulty, make sure to delegate. "Every leader needs good people who can represent you and your same values and thought processes. Make sure to have others who get involved and make sure those people get credit and visibility. In today’s society, the CEO gets too much credit and too much blame."

  • Recognize that small things become symbols. "That means even the smallest details, like where your office is located, how big it is and how many administrative assistants you have, all send a message. People react to those things, and it can detract from the work the company is doing."
     

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