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How To Repair Your Damaged Reputation

Author and leadership expert Keith Wyche dishes out wisdom on how to get a second chance after a transgression.
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You can rebuild your reputation as a leader, Keith Wyche says, but only one time.

"We are a country of second chances, but we are not very fond of third ones," Wyche a leadership expert and former CEO of the ACME Markets grocery chain, tells Inc. "When leaders come out and say they are reformed, and it's found there is a relapse, you very rarely see them again. You can only make that mistake once."

In his most recent book, Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life, Wyche writes that your reputation is a form of currency you use to sustain your advancement.

It is your job as a leader to protect your reputation. Wyche says as a CEO you need to realize "everything you do, say, or write can be viewed at any time." Because of this, he follows a few rules: He never drinks alcohol during work-related social settings; in most cases, he doesn't hold closed-door meetings with female executives; and he's careful of the kinds of venues he goes to while on business trips (especially in Las Vegas). "I don't put myself in situations where my behavior can be misconstrued," he says.

But what happens when the value of your currency crashes? Whether you're embroiled in a scandal, or have suffered a quick-but-damaging bout of clouded judgment, read Wyche's six steps for leaders who need a second chance below.

Admit It.

Wyche says you need to admit wrongdoing right away. Be honest, "even if it was just a transgression of bad judgment, you have to start with admitting your bad judgment."

Be Humble.

Now it's time to throw away your ego. You may be top dog at your company, but right now it's about earning your coworkers' trust. "Humbly accept the feedback and the consequences. Maybe it comes in the form of a performance review, [or] a formal letter in your file, but you have to do it," he says.

Take a "Career Selfie."

After accepting the consequences, you have to turn inward and take a look at yourself. "I call it taking a career selfie: Go back, revisit the situation, and find out what went wrong and what you should have done differently," he says. "I tell people that I am inspired by my successes but I learn from my failures."

Commit to Reform.

Write out a plan for how you will change yourself to make sure the transgression does not happen again. "You now have to commit to do all that you can to be the poster child for integrity in your organization," Wyche says. "Share the plan for how you will behave and act differently."

Walk the Walk.

This step is about implementing your plan for positive change. "Practice what you preach," Wyche says. "Once you say what you are going to do, you have to demonstrate that you can walk the walk--'This is what I said I was going to do, and now I am actually doing it.'"

Have Regular Behavior Check-ins.

After you have started to act better, ask for feedback. "This step is focused around having regular, quarterly feedback sessions with the powers-that-be to talk about your progress," Wyche says. "It shows a willingness and commitment to be better. It proves you are someone who is committed three, six, nine months after." Most importantly, he adds, "be positive throughout the entire process."

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 13, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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