The leader’s role in managing reputation with Laurence Duarte

Individuals and companies invest years in building their reputations. It happens that at a time, one thing could dramatically damage it.
Laurence Duarte is a Global Management Consultant, she is a business fixer, she helps you to protect and grow your business. She is also a business writer, a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review. She worked all over the world, especially in Europe, China, and the US.

What a joy to listen to Laurence in this episode. She makes reputation and how to manage the reputation of your company so easy to understand.
In the episode, you will learn:

  • What is reputation,
  • Why it is important for your company,
  • What are the reputational risks,
  • What are the steps to manage the reputational risks,
  • How to build your shield,
  • The critical trait of a leader.

Find Laurence Duarte’s latest report here: The Beauty Industry Oath Of Protection.

Listen to the episode here:

You can listen to this episode on your favorite platform: AnchorSpotifyBreakerGoogleApple

Here is the transcript of the episode

Alexis

Hey Laurence what is your role and how would you describe it to someone. You just met.

Laurence

I like to define myself as a business fixer. So most of the time my clients call me because they don’t know what to do and so my job is to help them to protect their company and to grow. Sometimes we need fresh eyes and that’s why I am here. So yes I think this is how I like to define myself as a business fixer and as also a protector, I like to protect business. That’s why for the last six years I developed an expertise in criminal risk and how to protect the most important assets of a company. The most important assets of any company are property… people. I should have started by people. Of course, it’s people first after you have properties you have proprietary information and of course reputation, I think it’s where why we are here today to talk about reputation.

Alexis

So tell me more about that. Why is corporate reputation really important?

Laurence

I mean um because it’s ah what will define as a willingness to your cop consumer but also your investors your um, your employees to work with you to buy from you. Ah, it’s ah how is it perceive you and so that’s why it’s um, it’s so important reputation. It’s um, ah, it’s yes, it’s how they will their willingness to work with you.

Alexis

So tell me a little bit more about what is reputation and what difference you make between the brand and the reputation?

Laurence

Most of the time the issue comes from this. We think we own reputation and actually, we don’t own reputation we own brand. It’s us. It’s like you Alexis. You are Alexis and what people think about you. It’s your reputation and this is what it is. It’s a perception and so that’s why we don’t own reputations. That’s why it’s sometimes very difficult for people and that’s why they don’t really want to talk about reputation. You know they wait for to meet reputation in bad situation and suddenly it’s like oh my goodness I have a reputation but most of the time it’s a little bit too late because it’s very difficult to grasp and to control and we know how much we love to control things, especially in the business field. But. Fortunately, they are ways to understand to monitor and in a way to I would say not control but at least to protect from reputational risks because reputation has so much impact in company. The first thing that most of the time we think about reputation, is reputation equity when you have a crisis, it will be some kind of a goodwill and it will act as a buffer so you have a crisis that suddenly, because you have a good reputation. It will help you to recover far more quickly. But it’s not only about that as I said, it will help you to attract a better employee. It will help you to achieve premier premium prices, to retain higher customer loyalty, and also to have better market value and also which can be a really huge advantage it will help you with the credibility of your communication. So see, when you talk about a good reputation, It’s like you are welcome everywhere and it’s really something that matters a lot.

Alexis

Let’s take examples. I would like to pick 2 examples and tell you how I felt about those company and their reputation and you can help us with that. So when Facebook… We heard about what they did to help manipulate elections. That’s my understanding of it, I closed my Facebook account and I said okay I don’t want to have anything to do with that company anymore. I’m not saying it’s rational. That’s what I felt that’s what I did.

Laurence

Yeah.

Alexis

That is what happened now when Spotify more recently. There was all that the discussion around Spotify and what they were doing and what they were not doing I realized that I was in a conversation with friends and I was advocating for Spotify. And I was thinking. That’s really interesting. What is going on there? What is happening is that reputation equity that you’re talking about.

Laurence

Yes, so thank you for sharing these 2 examples and to see how mature I would say a conscious consumer you just and you are not the only 1 more and more you have a change in the culture and the society because of hyper transparency the fact that now we know everything very quickly and suddenly we have to if the company is not able to make a clear choice. We will make the choice. In terms of Facebook, It’s exactly what you decided to. Do you decide? No, I don’t want to put some money in a way even if it’s free. We know that as they use our data so it’s not free and you decided to close. For Spotify, It’s another example and it’s a tricky one because, reputation works at several levels. It’s also, it’s like how you like the company and it’s like being in love. So if you are just in love for two days it will be easy to drop. But if you have been in love for a long time. It will be of course more difficult to drop I have the same issue with Spotify like you. It’s like I was thinking I should stop because I don’t like what they do but I am so used to Spotify so I feel that I don’t know what to do is it easy to switch to another company and it’s really where we stand as a consumer with our consciousness and also with our activism and it’s exactly what the company needs to monitor where we stand. And that’s why it’s very important to know one part of understanding our how I can say it risk exposure. It’s like you have to understand what is going on in the society. And so it’s good to see the expectation of your consumer and how we change over time as well as ah, knowing the outrage most of the time we think that it’s not our concern like outrage like we have metoo movement. We have black lives matter. We have the climate youth movement. You can’t say that you haven’t seen them coming. So, of course, like for Spotify. They knew that at some point it will come and so if they have this type of very armful content, violent content for many people they have to do something about it. And so if they don’t do something about it. Suddenly it’s our responsibility and I am not sure that we really like to take this responsibility because we buy a service and we don’t want to have more disruption from this service about our ethical behavior.

Alexis

So companies can work on that, companies and individuals can work on that to look at their reputational risk. Okay, what are those determinants of the reputational risk?

Laurence

The reputational risk. First, the main thing it’s like you need to check your what we call the reputational gap and it’s like as I like to define that as is if your true character exceeds your reputation. It’s like too much love or too much hate or, high expectation or lower expectation, and at some point, it has to. it’s like the 2 polarities and so you need to be sure that what the people are expecting from you is what you can offer. And so it’s not if it’s not the case and sometimes we may see oh they really love ah so much and so this is good.

Laurence

It might be not good because if it’s not a reality at some point they will feel betrayed and if a consumer feel betrayed, especially the most supportive one, there is no comeback from that. The backlash is far more violent for this type of consumer. So this is the first thing it’s what we call the reputational gap. Then there is another thing that you have to check. It’s like a criminal attack because it’s how your reputation can be harmed as well. So if you have cyber attack. If you have counterfeiting projects, if you have a toxic environment. It will create a lot of bad conditions to create in a way reputational risks. So it’s the same. It’s necessary to be seen then as we talked already, it’s important to check as well as the change in the beliefs, of your consumer and what they are, what they want from you. Before we wanted just to have a product that works well that’s it. Now we want a product that is guilt-free and that it’s not it has to work well, it has to feel right. It’s exactly what happened is in a way with Facebook and Spotify. You don’t want to use or to buy products that can harm the planet that can harm other people so it’s what are the most important things to check. And of course, it’s also important to see what people are thinking about you in terms of stakeholders. It’s not just about your consumer It’s also about, your usage of the media, the social media. It’s also about the government, the regulators, the ngos. Can be a really good signs kind of even if most of the time we think that ngos bother us but actually they are not, because they will show you where you have to work in order to build up and protect your reputation.

Alexis

This is really interesting that you look at all the stakeholders I can always imagine that we can draw an impact map looking at all the stakeholders Do you include in that analysis of the reputational risk the employees themselves of the company.

Laurence

Oh yes, employees are very very very important and you can see, it’s like tons of little weak signals, it starts always by small signals and it’s like are you able to catch them before it’s too late or not. So when you are able to catch them. Employees are very important. Of course, we have an issue. For example, it’s what we call a reputation company bias. So, if you’re in a company that is most of the time very aggressive, very competitive and they don’t allow failures they will hide a lot of things so it will be always everything is okay, everything is all right. I am working for the best of the best of the company. The problem with that, it’s not the case, most of the time it’s not the case we always have some issue here and there, and the fact that we can’t see it’s like you protect a toxic environment, you protect failures, you protect mistakes and missteps, management missteps and at some point, it becomes too loud and as we know a company is not a black box. It’s a glass box so everyone can see inside the company but it’s too late. It’s too late. That’s why it’s important to check and create a healthy culture in a company because as I say employees are the first reputation shield when you have a crisis. You know they will be the first to protect the company. So it’s better to have a healthy culture in the company because it will help you at so many levels.

Alexis

This is really fascinating. So ah I’m really interested in looking at that gap, the gap between reputation and reality, and if I take that from an employee’s standpoint I remembered working with company as a consultant where there was on the walls really inspiring statement about transparency and great really great values. But when you were looking at the people. Ah, they were all, in a way scared. They were really managed under high pressure and lot of fear. So It was completely disconnected from what was written on the walls. Ah, that’s those kinds of gaps between what the company wants to say and reality?

Laurence

Yes, I mean how you build trust I like that because trust it’s also another major reputational shield. But trust you don’t buy it. Trust you have to prove trust and so it’s this. You don’t have to have a gap between what you say and what you do and it’s very important to know that and I think it’s it depends on the true character of people. But of course, it starts with people, a company is nothing without their people. So It’s unfortunate that what I call posture slashing. It’s like you have all this bright things, you all this bright content, all this beautiful communication. And suddenly you have a crisis or suddenly something happened and you can really see that actually it was just like a posture and there is nothing. You know it was empty words and we can’t have that now in our society. During this time people with just empty worlds. It will not Work. You will be called out and of course, for you as a consultant, you have seen that because you can see a discrepancy between what was written on the wall and the reality of the leadership and the management and it’s very unfortunate because it creates a lot of damage in terms of leadership and this is not good.

Alexis

So that’s not only what you say that’s of course what you do, but it’s also what people expect from you.

Laurence

Exactly! You know it’s like that’s why you have to be sure that your consumer, your stakeholders what is going on in the society because it changed so that’s why. Sometimes, people say, oh I am doing all the right things, so it’s enough. It’s not enough. You also have to create some kind of environment that enables to see what is going on in order to adapt. That’s why I think most of the time people think about reputation risk and management as a cost. It can be also a very good competitive advantage because you know what is going on. You have a lot of data. A lot of intelligence and if you are able to understand and to seize the issue before your competitor in a way and to add that in your strategy in order to fix and to develop you will protect but also grow your business far better and in a far more sustainable way than others that didn’t do the same type of work. So it’s like strategy seeking as well as situational awareness you know it’s both the 2 ways that need to be implemented.

Alexis

You mentioned it just before and also in your latest report, you talk about reputation shields in companies. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Laurence

Yes, I found that we need to implement some anticipatory issue management. This is very important. You have to see and to anticipate, to identify, evaluate and monitor the risk and then you also have to have the reputation shield and there are 2 that are the same for everybody. The people, your culture that will work as a very good reputational shield when you have some crisis. It will help to what I noticed studying all the criminal risk, It always comes from people. So if you have a good culture, a good culture and your employee will protect you, will protect your business. Then Trust, you need to build. Trust you need to build transparency. You need to have at every step of your company people who say okay I say that I do that and I prove and you can see you can verify that I did it. So This is very important and then it will adapt. You know of course sustainability. It’s very important. It’s another reputational shield and in my latest report because it was a beauty industry I Also said that the fact that you communicate a definition of beauty that is non-competitive non-hierarchical, non-violent is a very good reputational shield because it’s what the women consumer want and it’s what they need and they will call out if you don’t do that.

Alexis

This is really really interesting. That means all your relationships with all your stakeholders including of course your employees. That’s the shield that you can build and that will protect you in case of crisis. And that’s not only the convenience of having a job or using a service that’s really building that shield over time that will really protect you.

Laurence

Yes, and as well as I think what is the most important thing for people who listen to this podcast. It’s like they need to see as leader that everyone have a responsibility for the reputation of their company. Most of the time what I have seen is like: we think that reputation belongs to Communication, It belongs to the legal affair but actually, it’s not the case, everyone has a say and has a responsibility. Even the people who are in charge of the supply chain, for example, they have a responsibility. Because when you build the global supply chain, it’s the same. You will have to choose some countries and you have some countries that might be better in terms of accountability but might be a big risk in terms of reputation and so that’s why I really think that everyone has to be aware and understand their role in the reputation building.

Alexis

Excellent and so you work with CEOs and Leadership Teams to help them manage that reputation shield.

Laurence

Yes, so the first thing is to understand what is reputation, then to implement a framework to be able to monitor the reputation and to see the risk. To understand the risk and to mitigate them of course to prepare when you have some crisis because I mean you always have some crisis, especially in a big company. It can happen. And to build the reputation shield, so it’s a lot of awareness that I am developing with CEO and the leadership team around this issue. Because what people tend to forget, It’s like 90% of the market is made by intangible assets that are brands and so you can imagine the damage of crisis of scandals, the disruption, the loss of market value when you are hit by a scandal and so suddenly you suffer from a bad reputation.

Alexis

That’s excellent and speaking of leadership and helping leaders, you worked with a lot of leaders and among those you admire, what’s the one trait that stands out to you. And how is that trait important to you in the way you see leadership.

Laurence

I would say Self-Awareness. I really think it’s the base. The base of the base. You can’t be a good leader if you don’t know what is happening inside you. Because what is happening inside you will drive your decision and sometimes you will have good decision or bad decision. And I have seen that so many times we CEO at the big company and suddenly, It’s not suddenly actually, because of their success and I always think that in the success you have the seed of Failure. So If you’re vulnerable to see and to continue to ask some questions like why, why and to avoid as much as you can the blame and self-pity when bad things happen and so for that you need to be self-aware. You need to ask a question from the inside. What is happening inside? What are my drivers? How do I feel about this and that and to be able to take a step back and to think and to see what is at play? I think we take far better decision and we realize that our actions have always consequences and that’s why I mean it’s strategy seeking in a way. So but it’s very important and then it’s I think it’s it goes far better far beyond that skills. I think Self-awaness. It’s very important because It’s a source and when you have this source after you know you will have authenticity you have Integrity. You will have honesty, you will have courage and so on.

Alexis

Beautiful. Ah, tell us one action you’ve taken in the past to develop yourself as a leader and what did you learn from that?

Laurence

I think self-awareness. Ah I think it’s ah, always important to see what’s going on. So my action has been to work around that you know to learn, to read books about what is happening inside, to understand more about emotions, where does it come from. For example, shame, guilt, and fear. And the checking. I found the embodiment movement. Very interesting. It’s like suddenly you realize that you have a body and so the body has some information for you and most of the time we cut from the body and I think it’s interesting to see oh I am feeling fear at the moment. Why? And so it helps to balance and it helps also to be more conscious as a leader it creates a level of consciousness and I think when we raise the level of consciousness we take better action and I think we are more free and so I think happier.

Alexis

really interesting and I guess a lot of food for thought there. I assume ah people will think about that pain in their back or in their neck in a different way now. Okay, thank you very much. Thank you for having joined me on the podcast today Laurence.

Laurence

Thank you very much Alexis.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Author

  • Alexis Monville worked in multicultural and distributed environments for years, coming back from the US and now based in the southwest of France. When asked if he misses the work in the office, he usually answers that he spent half of his 30 years of management experience in diverse sectors outside of the office and a lot of that working from home. Alexis is Chief of Staff to the CTO at Red Hat, a long-time hybrid open-source software company with more than 100 office locations in 40 countries, where half of the 20,000 people work remotely. Alexis is a firm believer that change starts with the self. He is the author of two books: Changing Your Team From The Inside and I am a Software Engineer and I am in Charge. Alexis facilitates successful playful collaborations. He designs and builds sustainable and high-impact teams and organizations.

Leave a Reply