This morning's news of Matt Lauer's dismissal from The Today Show, due to allegations of sexual misconduct, left me in shock and sadness. Along with recently disgraced media men before him, Lauer's alleged behavior is yet another example of the growing instability of this country's foundation of trust and safety.
The Today Show has been a respected source of news and entertainment for viewers since its debut on January 14, 1952. It was the first of its kind, and is the fifth-longest-running American television series of all time. Viewers have allowed Today Show hosts into their homes upon awakening first thing in the morning for 65 years. If we can't trust those chosen to represent this staple of American journalism, who can we trust?
Savannah Guthrie, Lauer's co-host and friend, was clearly shaken as she read aloud the memo from NBC News chairman Andy Lack this morning. The workplace, even for a national news anchor, is meant to feel safe, as Lack expressed in his memo.
"Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender."
Our trust as a nation has been shaken to its core by this event and the numerous violations that have preceded it. It raises questions about who we can trust, and surrounds us with suspicion. Fundamentally, trust is based on our belief that we are safe. When we trust someone, we are meant to feel safe with them--it's a vulnerable state, and once violated, trust difficult to rebuild. We are simply not meant, or prepared, to live in such a persistent state of sadness and fear.
The Lauer event struck me at a deeper, more personal level than previous revelations of sexual misconduct. After hearing the news, I spent time contemplating why this is true. I think one reason is that Lauer's alleged behavior deepens the growing, strongly negative, stereotype of the press. I worked at NBC-TV for 22 years, much of it spent in the newsroom. I've had the privilege of working side-by-side with well-known journalists and view them as people with integrity and feelings, just like the rest of us. This belief is a part of the foundation upon which I've built my trust--and now it too is shaken.
Many Americans are suffering from similar blows to their foundational beliefs. So how do we manage and eventually transition out of these painful feelings? How can we avoid getting stuck in the mire of this cycle of cause and effect that keeps getting larger and uglier? For me, I cannot move to acceptance--how can anyone accept that this is happening? So, I have to move in another direction.
Begin with hope.
To move through a negative thought cycle it's helpful to shift your attention to something positive to hold on to. For me, that's hope. I remind myself that when something so complex as a nation's integrity and the trust we the people hold for it is broken, it may have to be taken completely apart to repair it. When a car has a horrible noise that the mechanic can't identify, he disassembles it and replaces its broken parts. It's rebuilt, and becomes trustworthy and safe once again. Perhaps that's what's happening to this country?
Talk about your feelings.
When something leaves you shaken, recognize that you're not alone. Holding on to your negative thoughts, fears, and feelings may compound them. Dial the help-line to a friend and discuss how the event has affected you. Sometimes, encouraging words and a different perspective can make all the difference.
Do something just for the good of it.
We can't change someone else's behavior, but we can change how we respond to it. Take your power back by performing a kind gesture or an act of good will. Think about what you can do to effect change, no matter how small. Keep in mind the ripple effect of kindness.
Lead by example.
As an entrepreneur you are a thought-leader and people look up to you. Do what you do so well: find a positive perspective and share your message. This will build resilience--in you and those who respect you as a leader.