Leaders Know How To Act In Public

Gerwig 2015-12-11

Do you ever think about how you look and act in public? Some of you obsess over your looks, taking hours to prepare for a trip to the gas station and supermarket. On the flip side, some of you should at least comb your hair and brush your teeth before running to Starbucks for a cup of joe. And what about behavior? Do you tell inappropriate jokes at the company Christmas party? Or drive recklessly while sporting a “God is my co-pilot” license plate on the front of your car?

Earlier this week, I decided I was going to roast a chicken on my grill (Pit Barrel Cooker). My grilling technique was simple. Get a chicken. Rub it down with extra virgin olive oil. Apply my special rub. And hang over low heat in my vertical cooker until done. I prepared my special rub (Slap Ya Mama’s Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, plus other secret ingredients), cleaned my grill and was ready to put my temperature probe in the bird when I realized that I’d forgotten to buy the chicken the day before when I was at the store. So I jumped in the car and headed to Stew Leonard’s because they had a great deal on fresh, all-natural roasters that looked really good. And I love Stew Leonard’s.

While driving home, I ended up behind a car that was used by a local driving school. They had a big sign on top of the car with the name of the school, their website, and phone number. They had decals on doors that displayed the name of the school with a safety logo that said something like, “Safety is #1.” They even had a customized license plate proudly displayed for all to see. In sum, it was quite a display. It was clear who they were and what they were all about, a top notch, safe driving school. Send your precious child to us and we’ll teach them how to safely drive.

Only one little problem. The driver of the car was holding a big phone (you know, those kind that are almost too big for your hand; just get a tablet already!), texting, chain smoking, and looking down as if she’d dropped her cigarette lighter. And this went on for about 3 miles until I was able to get around her!

It was kinda funny in a superficial way. I actually laughed out loud initially at the irony. But in truth, not only was it terrible advertising, it was dangerous. First, the texting alone was a major problem. Not at a stop light, while driving! Second, the driver only had their eyes on the road half the time. The other half they were searching for something between the two front seats. Third, while I’m not condemning smokers, it’s not politically correct to smoke in public (in the US anyway) because of second-hand smoke concerns. Having a daughter that just recently went through driving school, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t want her to drive around in a car that reeked of smoke while learning to drive. If someone wants to chain-smoke in their personal car, no problem. If someone wants to chain-smoke in public transportation or in a vehicle that represents a business, problem. Yes, it’s possible that the driver was the owner of the driving school and didn’t care. Possible but unlikely. Even if she were, I’d argue it’s not a good business practice because many potential students (i.e. customers!) don’t want to get in a smoke-filled car.

I got home, put my chicken (turned out delicious!) in the grill and monitored the internal temperature via my iPhone. But while I was waiting, I kept thinking about the driver and the driving school. What was she thinking? In truth, she probably wasn’t thinking. She wasn’t thinking about the reputation of the school. She wasn’t thinking about the lost revenue. She wasn’t thinking about how her public behavior was on display (and it’s always on display and there’s nearly always a permanent record of it nowadays with smart phones that easily take pictures and videos clips).

Hopefully, you’re smarter. You’re aware of your reputation and the impact your public appearance and behavior have on your reputation, your brand so to speak. Yes, you have many freedoms. But does exercising them in public always make sense? It may be a protected right in some instances, but that doesn’t make it a good practice. Be thoughtful. Be careful. Exercise judgment.

Does your behavior appropriately reflect who you are? How is your reputation impacted by the behavior you demonstrate in public?

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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