Representing

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Time. Sometimes I wish I could turn it back. You know, hit rewind. Why? Because I make mistakes. Of course I never TRY to make mistakes, I just make ‘em. Sometimes they’re due to events beyond my control. Sometimes they’re within my control. OK, usually they’re within my control.

I traveled to Hawaii a few years ago for my wedding anniversary. It was great!!! The weather, the location (the Big Island – Kona and Hilo!), the company (in addition to my wife, we met her parents there – truly a good time!), the food, the sunsets and sunrises, the sand, the water, the people, the coffee (I was in heaven!), etc. It was wonderful. I’d go back anytime for any length of time.

One morning while at a local supermarket, a cashier got the best of me. Regardless of whose fault it was (ok, it was mine), I got upset. I didn’t yell and scream. No foul language. But I did say a few things that weren’t kind. I certainly showed my anger. I caused a few people to turn and look at me. You know THAT kind of conversation.

As I was walking out the door, a gentleman came up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Robert Gerwig?” My first thought was – I hope he didn’t see me acting like a jerk to that cashier. “Yes, I’m Robert.” … “Well,” he said, “I used to go to church with you in Tennessee. … Didn’t I hear that you just moved back to South Carolina and got a job as the new director of manufacturing …”.

We talked for a few more minutes, exchanged pleasantries, and business cards. Turns out he had moved from Tennessee to Los Angeles and was a sales executive who covered Hawaii and was taking a few days vacation at the end of a business trip. Small world. … Had he seen me act like a jerk? That was the big question.

Regardless of whether you’re a corporate executive, a stay-at-home mom, a student a pastor, or anything in between, you’re representing “something.” Usually, you’re representing several things. I represent my company, the people in it, those who work under my formal leadership, my family, my country, my Christian faith, my hometown, etc. How I behave in public (and private!) is a reflection of, not only MY reputation, but that of others. If I act like a jerk, others can get hurt. … We see this in the headline news every day, in all parts of the world. Church leaders, corporate leaders, academic leaders, athletics leaders, parents, children, et al – who make poor choices that negatively impact others!

In “real life,” you can’t hit rewind. You can’t take back words or actions. Sincere apologies help, but there is still lasting damage. It takes years to build a reputation, seconds to destroy it. Clearly, we aren’t perfect. What I’m getting at is to simply think before you act and recognize that you’re always “on stage.” Others are ALWAYS watching. Your kids. Your boss. Your friends. Your spouse. Your parents. Your colleagues. Your subordinates. And God. … There is no hiding.

One final note. In today’s world of digital cameras, webcams, smart phones, ipads/tablets, and so on, there is less privacy that ever. This means the bar has been raised. You can’t get away with anything. There’s less room for error. Though we should be well-behaved in private as well as public, the line is being blurred in front of us – it seems like there is always a recording device of some type around (and “recording”). So, be well-mannered, assume you’re always “on stage,” and represent well.

Recognize that the reputation of OTHERS is impacted by YOUR actions.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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