When personal failures damage reputation

CIA Head
This week we heard CIA Director David Petraeus has stepped down from his role because of an affair with his biographer.

Damage has been done to his family, friends and his career prospects (he was tipped to be a future presidential candidate).

With any crisis like this I try and ask what can be learnt from the mess.

One clear lesson is that the days of the work life and personal life distinction are over.

Howls of protest are heard when recruiters search facebook for drunken photos of applicants. But how naive it was to assume that we can sustain separate identities for separate purposes.

Drunk on the weekend, sober on weekdays. A cheat at home, an angel at work. It doesn’t work like that and it never has.

The truth is our worst moments reflect a part of our true identity just as much as our best.

The only option we have is to be ourselves all the time– transparently. Sure, we can improve ourselves, expect better and try harder.

But in the end it’s the hiding, the lies, double standards and deceit that ruin our reputation.


Work too slow and you fall behind.

Work too fast and you burn out.

A tricky balance, it seems.

The only variable we can change is to work better. It shouldn’t always be about making more or even being more productive.

Let’s do more, but only more of the stuff that matters and will make the most difference for the people that matter.


In the wild, natural selection dictates that only the fittest and strongest survive.

In sport, the fastest, most agile athletes become legends for generations.

In life, it’s not the loudest, biggest or oldest who succeed.

It’s the graceful, the brave and the kind who are never forgotten.

It only takes one.

When it comes to that decisive moment – when what you are about to do changes things for the better – many are too scared to press ‘go’.

There’s a voice that lives inside that cares more about opinion, rumour, reputation and laughter than doing great work. Ignore it. Ignore it now.

If you respond to a crisis, you don’t wait. Pretend your facebook page is being inundated with unhappy customers. Can you afford to wait? To ignore the viral dissent? Of course not.

Silence is deadly. And silence is akin to a crisis in the world of communication.

So say something, make something, change something or do something that someone will appreciate.

The one (it only takes one) who responds with ‘thank you’, will be worth more than the hundreds who say ‘you should’ve waited‘.