Friday, December 18, 2009

What’s Next for Tiger Woods

I know you’re tired of hearing this stuff, but I couldn’t resist. Tiger and his troubles fit an unmistakable pattern.

His life will increasing resemble being at war—long periods of boring quiet and inattention punctuated by explosive, disclosive, sometimes disturbing events. What do we know for sure?

  1. He'll be back bigger than ever, if he plays the way he has. We love to celebrify criminals and fallen celebrities who strive to rehabilitate and return. (Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy is advertising Gold on national television.)
  2. A whole new Tiger’s Failures industry has been born, “What did Tiger really do?” “What did Elin use the golf club for?” “Tiger’s girls” “Who’s Tiger putting now?” This will “dog” him for the rest of his professional life. He won’t make a dime from it. Many, many show business, sports, political, and business leaders (especially those who have failed gigantically or miserably) become highly visible and famous due to the magnitude of their mistakes or misfortunes. We love the recovering. They don’t even have to be repentant.
  3. The worst has yet to be disclosed.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

What Would Tiger’s Dad Have Done?

Perhaps the way to approach the state of Tiger Wood’s affairs is to ask the question, “What would his dad, the architect of his life, do?” How would Tiger’s father analyze what Tiger has done thus far? Using Tiger Woods’ December 2, 2009 statement (on, let’s walk through his “comments on current events” through the eyes of someone who really cared about him.

1. “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

Comment: What are the transgressions? The first rule of apology is that the admission must contain meaningful specificity.
2. “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

Comment: What are those values, Tiger? Benjamin Franklin had 13 values, ranging from frugality to humility. How do we know what your values really are without specifying which ones you transgressed?
3. “I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.”

Comment: What are those faults, Tiger? What are the imperfections to which you refer?

Note: We’re only three sentences into Mr. Woods’ comments and already there are a dozen questions.
4. “I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family.”

Comment: The problem is that you’ve opened the doors by talking about these things. If you really wanted to be helpful, you would outline what one or two of those personal failings happen to be.
5. “Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

Comment: Why? You’re a brand. Brands are owned by those who trust, use, and benefit from them. It is the brand owners who determine what is private and what isn’t.
6. “Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means.”

Comment: You’ve lived in a highly positive cocoon for much of your life. This tends to make you a virgin when it comes to operating in a real world situation. There is nothing more fascinating to the news media than deflowering someone who lives by the media, but who feels they shouldn’t have to die by similar fashion. Welcome to the real world.
7. “For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives.”

Comment: From the perspective of most of us, you live in the protective environment of what appears to be a wonderful home, a gated community and private property, where you’re pretty insulated from “hounding” by anyone. This is classic arrogant, frat boy whining.
8. “The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious.”

Comment: Now you tell us. How do we know? We need more information, because of how much you’ve already not told us.
9. “Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.”

Comment: Yes, Tiger, it’s only her forgiveness that matters. And it sounds as though you’ve got a ways to go to achieve that.
10. “But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy.”

Comment: There is no saint like a reformed sinner. Mr. Woods has, apparently, sinned mightily and now asks that it remain covered up until he can somehow manage its affects.
11. “I realize there are some who don't share my view on that.”
Comment: Like most of us, Tiger, when you do stupid things you get dumb visibility.
12. “But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family.”
Comment: There’s that comment about virtue again. What are the virtues we’re talking about? The virtue must mean, “Leave me alone when I want to be left alone.”
13. “Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions.”
Comment: When you’re a public person and, more importantly, a brand, every aspect of your existence is open to explanation, debate, and questioning.
14. “Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone.”

Comment: There’s a book in there somewhere, by someone.
15. “I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult.”

Comment: What is that principle? How has sticking to that principle helped you so far?
16. “I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves.”
Comment: Again, Tiger, what does this mean, specifically? What behaviors will you change? What about your virtues and values needs to be repaired? What are the lessons you’ve learned that you will apply in this circumstance? In the forgiveness game, you need to acknowledge, specifically, what the faults and errors were.
17. “For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.”
Comment: What about the rest of us? Those of us who didn’t get to come to the cocktail parties or couldn’t afford to be in the galleries when you were playing, but who admire you just as much? What’s the purpose of limiting your apology to those who know you? When you’re a brand, you need to apologize to the entire universe that your brand affects.
The formula for Tiger Woods, which will still work, is a profound, humble, positive, open, sincere, and conditionless public apology by him, in person, along with an explanation for the questions he’s already raised.

Most public sinners wind up on 60 Minutes talking to Mr. Kroft, the show’s angel of righteousness (prophylactic humiliation).

Maybe this time, instead of the usual cast of 60 Minutes, they should get Frank Deford, who actually knows something about sports and celebrities to conduct the interview. We all look forward to it and to the end of Tiger’s troubles.

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Tiger’s Troubles

He Can Putt 50 Yards But Stumbles, Fumbles, Mumbles, and Bumbles a Simple Direct Apology

What should Tiger Woods really have done?

Within the first 30 to 45 minutes of the incident occurring, he should have given the police a statement and had the police give it out to the public:
"About an hour ago, following an intense argument about a family matter, and upset, I angrily drove my SUV out of my driveway, lost control of the vehicle—apparently hitting a fire hydrant, perhaps a couple of parked cars, and ultimately a tree across the street from my driveway. The incident happened pretty fast, and I got a little banged up. Within seconds of the crash, my wife, Elin, was outside of my SUV breaking a window to help get me out of the vehicle.

This is a silly, needless, three-minute incident, all my fault, which will cause my family and those who know me some brief anguish and public exposure. For that I am profoundly sorry.

I will do whatever the police instruct and humbly ask the forgiveness of my family and neighbors for the disruption I’ve caused in their lives this evening."
Such an initial statement would create four things that, in hindsight, Mr. Woods seems to think he is owed:
  1. Some semblance of privacy
  2. Being able to avoid the embarrassing speculation of others and moderate media frenzy that occurred
  3. The ability to control his personal circumstances
  4. His integrity and brand value largely intact
There has yet to be a true apology from Mr. Woods and, indeed, there may never be one revealed publicly.

The most constructive structure for apology I’ve seen is in The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships, a book by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. Here, with some paraphrasing and modification based on my experiences, are the ingredients of the perfect apology:
  1. Regret (acknowledgment): A verbal acknowledgement by the perpetrator that their wrongful behavior caused unnecessary pain, suffering, and hurt that identifies, specifically, what action or behavior is responsible for the pain.
  2. Accepting Responsibility (declaration): An unconditional declarative statement by the perpetrator recognizing their wrongful behavior and acknowledging that there is no excuse for the behavior.
  3. Restitution (penance): An offer of help or assistance to victims, by the perpetrator; action beyond the words “I’m sorry”; and conduct that assumes the responsibility to make the situation right.
  4. Repentance (humility): Language by the perpetrator acknowledging that this behavior caused pain and suffering for which he/she is genuinely sorry; language by the perpetrator recognizing that serious, unnecessary harm and emotional damage was caused.
  5. Direct Forgiveness Request: “I was wrong, I hurt you, and I ask you to forgive me.”
Do apologies matter? Twenty-nine states seem to think so. These states have enacted legislation exempting voluntary expressions of regret and apology at traffic accidents from being considered by juries when setting auto liability damages. Legislation is pending in Congress to mitigate the impact of liability on malpractice insurance claims against doctors and medical personnel who apologize immediately, or very quickly, and sincerely.

The hard part of apologizing is the admission of having done something hurtful, damaging, or wrong and requesting forgiveness. In practice, skip even one step and you fail to convince anyone of your sincerity or integrity.

My immediate advice to Mr. Woods:
  1. Get better legal counsel; get better communications counsel (they are very different disciplines); then listen up.
  2. Brands (which is what you have intended to be) have no rights to privacy. There are owned by the publics who purchase and trust them.
  3. Abject, humble, meaningful, and sincere words of apology—personally delivered—generate enormous public sympathy. The single most powerful benefit of this behavior is that the media hate it and generally won’t cover it, for long.
Remember the rules for forgiveness:
  1. Silence is toxic.
  2. Candor builds trust.
  3. Openness calms the masses.
  4. Apology is the atomic energy of empathy for your believers, followers, and wannabes; disables the media; and disempowers attorneys.
  5. Public repentance is required. Some extraordinary act of generosity affecting a wide variety of people and places is called for, something that preferably really hurts.
In my next blog post, I’ll take Mr. Wood’s most recent statement and specifically, sentence by sentence, describe what he should have done.

If you’re interested in reading more about apology, visit Who's Sorry Now: The Growing Art of the Apology.

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