Avoid Apology Avoidance

Avoid Apology Avoidance

The First Axiom of Successful Victim Management:
Of all things victims want, need, and expect,
an apology is the most important.
The First Corollary to Successful Victim Management Axiom #1:
Failure to apologize when an apology is clearly appropriate
has a huge cost in reputation damage,
prolonged embarrassment,
and often significant unnecessary legal expenses.
Start With What Victims Expect, Need, or Want.

Victims have four powerful needs: validation, visibility, vindication, and most of all extreme empathy/apology. If these four needs are provided promptly, humanely, and with empathy, preferably by the perpetrator—victims will more easily move through their state of victimization and be less likely to call or respond to attorneys or the media, or even to call attention to themselves. The reality is that if the perpetrator fails to meet their needs or does so only partially, victims will find ways to provide for their own needs, often at the perpetrator’s reputational expense. It only takes one victim to be ignored, humiliated, revictimized, or just treated without respect to cause an earthquake of reputational disaster.

If your response starts anywhere else, see first corollary #1 above. 

There is a tragic and all too common failure strategy which happens time and time again. Each of these behaviors, silence, stalling, denial, victim confusion, testosterosis, arrogance, or searching for the guilty and worst of all whining. This is the track to failure, every time. And remember, there is only one career at stake in a crisis, and that’s the person whose running the place.

Profiles in Failure


Victims require validation that they are indeed victims. This recognition is best rendered by the perpetrator. If not, public groups, government, or the news media will do it. Victims will seek it. “I’m not crazy, this really did happen, and someone else is responsible.” Victims rarely sue because they are angry, because their life has been changed dramatically, or because lots of plaintiff attorneys are chasing them around. Generally, victims sue because their situation is not acknowledged and their feelings are ignored, belittled, or trivialized. If they are prevented from publicly discussing what happened to them in meaningful ways, and no one is taking prompt constructive action to prevent similarly situated individuals, animals, or living systems from suffering the same fate, victims will be looking to take more aggressive action.


Visibility involves a platform from which victims can describe their pain and warn others. Preferably, again, the platform should come from the perpetrator or a credible independent organization that can help victims explain what happened for the purpose of both talking it out and convincing others to avoid similar risks or take appropriate preventive action. Some victimization lasts a lifetime. In the case of major disasters, invariably there will be monuments, remembrance sites, even living memorials that victims, survivors, and responders visit, talk about, and rely on. These are permanent visible symbols that recognize, redescribe, and remind the world of the suffering and sacrifice that took place. Name any major disaster dating back hundreds of years, and there is a memorial someplace, perhaps a place of worship, a graveyard, even some extraordinary monuments. And to this day you’ll find tourists, relatives, survivors, and responders at these places, visiting and coping.


Vindication occurs when victims can take credit for any actions the perpetrator takes to ensure that whatever happened to them will never be allowed to happen to others. Victims will describe these remedial actions and decisions as proof that they had an impact and that their suffering will now benefit others because of these new decisions, actions, and practices. Let it happen; let them take credit. It’s part of their rehabilitation and part of the restoration of the perpetrator’s reputation. 

Extreme Empathy and Apology:

Apology has the atomic energy of empathy. If you want to stop bad news almost dead in its tracks, apologize. If you want to generally stop litigation and move to settlement, apologize. If you want to dramatically decrease the newsworthiness of almost any adverse situation, apologize. If you want to demonstrate that you truly care about the victims or the victimization you caused, apologize. While the lawyers may strongly advise against any form of apology because, under law, an apology is an admission, there is a growing body of evidence and data to demonstrate that apologies, promptly and sincerely delivered, virtually eliminate the potential for litigation. This means that while the lawyer’s advice needs to be listened to, if the victim refuses to sue, it may be time to find a lawyer specializing in negotiation, effective settlement options, rather than pursuing a futile effort to deny what the victim needs most— someone taking responsibility through settlement.

How Perpetrators Avoid Apologizing

In my experience, there are five general approaches executives and leaders use to avoid apologizing:

  1. Self-forgiveness
  2. Self-talk
  3. Self-delusion
  4. Lying
  5. Conventional but false “Truths”

You’ll recognize each one by the language these executives use. All apology avoiders deny and deny until they are caught. Then they blame those around them. I always recommend talking about these avoidance excuses, if given the chance, as widely and as soon as the subject, or argument, about apology arises which is usually early in crisis (where there are victims) and reputationally damaging situations. It is crucial that those around leaders and Managers be able to identify, speak up, and call attention to these falsities and fallacies repeatedly as apology denial starts.

The number one excuse is, “The lawyers won’t let me apologize.” Look, lawyers are important consultants, yet they can only advise. It’s always up to the client to decide. In crisis, if you are a trusted strategic advisor, your advice will have sometimes as much weight as the attorney’s, sometimes more. It’s still up to the client to decide. When it comes to apology your leadership advice should at least equal the weight of the lawyers advice. Apologies are leadership decisions. The possible legal consequences are widely known.

The reality is that apology is always a leadership decision, first. Rarely just a legal decision. Wait a minute. Yes, an apology is always an admission whatever the circumstances and has legal implications. That’s one of the reasons we have attorneys.

As always, consult qualified legal assistance in any situation which would appear to have legal implications or where required.

Ingredients of Leadership

The main point of this piece is that leadership, especially top leadership, has far broader responsibilities for making crucial decisions and actions when there are victims: damage or death to people, animals, or living systems. A higher level of compassion, truthfulness, and empathy are required very quickly, to get serious matters settled to the satisfaction of  victims.

Managing the Victim Dimension of Large Scale Disasters

Apology Is The Atomic Energy Of Empathy

Lukaszewski Truism # 2

Let me repeat my definition of apology as the Atomic Energy Of Empathy because, when genuine apologies are given, bad things start to stop happening. Bad decisions are slowed or stopped before they can cause more damage. One of the most common things to stop happening is “get even” behavior and victim-driven litigation. There frequently is litigation over damages, that’s what insurance is for. Following an apology, the tone is different, and settlement becomes the focus, although your legal preparations also continue.

There could still be court time when there is an apology. You will prepare as your lawyer instructs, but here’s another powerful twist. Where there are especially inflammatory or damaging and embarrassing issues, hire a second independent law firm, one specializing in reconciliation and settlement to start settlement talks immediately. No law firm is large enough to litigate and negotiate a settlement at the same time. Give settlement a chance to occur faster than the traditional pretrial defense litigation steps. Besides, the odds of a litigation actually getting to trial in the U.S. are very small (like one out of more than a hundred). Courts encourage and support settlement talks at the earliest possible time. It’s litigators who tend to get in the way.

Note: This is Public Relations Advice. When there are legal
issues and questions, always consult an attorney.

Running settlement negotiations simultaneously with litigation preparation seems to be a novel idea. In the few times when a client I’ve encouraged has used this approach, settlement happened very quickly. High-profile, hugely embarrassing, and revictimizing circumstances were avoided. 

An Effective Apology Has Five Must-Be-Done Components
  1. admission of doing something that hurts of victimizes
  2. explanation of specifically what the harm is/was
  3. discussion of lessons learned and behaviors that will change
  4. direct request for forgiveness from the victims
  5. penance to be performed to atone for the damage done

The Perfect Apology

The Lexicon of Self-Forgiveness

Often, the first refuge of troubled leadership and management.

The Four Apology Avoidance Strategies
Strategy 1. Self-forgiveness:

  • “It’s an industry problem; we are not the only ones.”
  • “This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last time.”
  • “Let’s not blow this out of proportion.”
  • “We couldn’t have known.”
  • “It’s not systemic.”
  • “Don’t our good deeds count for anything?”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t at all times.  

Strategy 2. Self-talk:

  • “It’s an isolated incident.”
  • “It couldn’t have been done by our people.”
  • “Not many were involved.” (Injured or Killed)
  • “If we don’t do it, someone else will.”
  • “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Strategy 3. Self-delusion:

  • “It’s not our fault.”
  • “It’s not our problem.”
  • “We can’t be responsible for everything.”
  • “It won’t happen again.”
  • “It was only one death, in one place, at one time. Why is everyone so angry?”
  • “Life can’t exist without risk.”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t.

Strategy 4. Lying:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “We’ve never done that.”
  • “It hasn’t happened before.”
  • “It can’t happen again.”
  • “We won’t give up without a fight.”
  • “I’m not a crook.”
  • “I did not have sex with that woman.”
  • “I’m not a racist.”

*The “Not, Can’t” Warning: Whenever not or can’t appear in a statement, either are almost always preceded or followed by a lie. Avoid using not and can’t at all times.

Share these lists with every executive so they know all of these excuses are off-limits. Don’t worry the urge for avoidance is so strong they will begin thinking of new ones immediately. As you hear the new avoidance language, build another list and circulate immediately to executives to re-inoculate them against apology avoidance.

Maybe, have the boss call his/her mom (they probably have already) and ask their advice before trying any of these avoidance strategies. We both know what her advice will be. Take it and have a better life, maybe even keep your job. Only the attorneys will be angry, but apology, humility, and compassion are the real work of leaders when bad things happen, and victims are created.

Note: This is Public Relations Advice. When there are legal issues and questions, always consult an attorney.

Though not an attorney, James (Jim) E. Lukaszewski has been one of America’s most visible corporate go-to people for senior executives and their attorneys when there is trouble in the room or on the horizon. Jim was often retained by senior management to provide personal coaching and executive recovery advice for executives in trouble or facing career-defining moments, problems, and succession or departure issues. Corporate Legal Times once called Jim one of “28 experts to call when all hell breaks loose” and PR Week called him one of 22 “crunch-time counselors who should be on your speed dial in a crisis.”

Crisis Management vs. Readiness
Stop Being the Chicken Little of Your Organization

One of the more disabling pieces of baggage that many public relations practitioners carry is being known behind their backs as the Chicken Little in their organization. Getting management and managers attention by referring to any hiccup as a crisis.

The truth is managers and leaders are problem resolvers and issue managers. In every organization, there are bushels of these events active at any given time. But crises are very rare.

I define crisis as a show-stopping, people-stopping, product-stopping, reputation-redefining event that creates victims and/or explosive visibility. The most important word being victims. Problems can be serious, problems can be debilitating, and problems can be distracting, but true crises in any environment, even the most challenging ones, are extremely rare and always produce victims. No victims, no crisis.  

My advice learned as one of the most important lessons that came out of 9/11. 9/11 actually changed the crisis management vocabulary and security, police work, and preparation work. The operative word became Readiness. Readiness is a management word. Crisis management is the PR word designed to get management’s attention and probably a budget for doing something. Hence, the reputation for being Chicken Little after, “The sky is falling” fable. (There’s a similar fable in every culture I have worked in.)

Readiness is Strategic Management Concept

If everything is a crisis then there are no crises. Readiness is self-explanatory and starts productive conversations, triggers more strategic questions, as well as, holds management’s attention and accountability.

Yes, it’s hard to avoid using crisis as a management attention-getter. Trust me when I tell you that it is one of the biggest turn-offs in the relationship that communicators and public affairs staff functions in the organization have with their bosses.

How to Approach Your Boss About Readiness
A Story with a Big Lesson

Let me also emphasize a lesson I learned very early in my career. I gave a speech in Florida to about 200 top security officers in major corporations. When I returned to my Minneapolis office there were easily a couple dozen messages which clearly came from attendees at this conference. My first thought was that I had messed up and said something that irritated or agitated people in the audience or the host organization. But among the names were two or three people that I knew, so I called them. And was I ever surprised.

 The first person I called, Bill, the Chief Security and Intelligence Officer of a Fortune 50 company answered his phone, as he always did, and rather sheepishly I said, “I have all these messages, you were at the meeting, what did I say that is causing my phone to ring off the hook.” Bill said, “I don’t know about the others, but I think you have revived my career with a single sentence.”, “What was that sentence?” I sort of begged. He responded by telling me that, “When you have a concept, especially a really good concept that could involve the survival of the institution and its leadership, go and see the boss first before you write anything down and talk it over with him or her.”, “That single sentence explained why I felt I was failing at my career as a crucial advisor to my boss.” “He would say no immediately or would simply forget what we were talking about.”

He continued, “Typically if I’m going to propose an idea or want to suggest something, I developed a short paper on the subject with some facts, data, and perhaps a couple of suggestions about how to start, and a timeline of expected events.” “My intention was to answer all the likely questions on the first pass.”

“I thought I was being a good staff person”, he continued, “but the truth is I can now see that it comes across as though I thought of everything necessary, the boss has little room to think it through on his own besides what bosses do for a living is decide things fast.” “Then you said this well-prepared approach is often viewed as evidence that you don’t trust the boss to successfully carry out your ideas.”

“You reminded all of us that bosses exist to make the crucial decisions. On major issues they like to be in on it from the start, even before that first exploratory memo is in their inbox.” And then you said, “What bosses appreciate are action options rather than “solutions”.” The Three Minute Drill.

Suggesting options for their consideration is a powerful way of demonstrating that you are working for them rather than yourself.”

As it turns out, that is exactly why everyone else called. They were surprised to hear me say, “Learn to avoid staff work that gets too far ahead of the person who runs the business.” This is a common error among most staff functions.

Staff tend to think it’s generally smart to show how ready we are, by proposing complete ideas. We fail for reasons including lack of trust in a senior manager “to get it” and follow through. Staff fear, of course, is that the boss will say no. The goal always is to leave the meeting with the request for some preliminary thoughts on what we discussed as opposed to, “I’ll think about it.” Which means, of course, you will never hear about it again. People who run successful organizations routinely make other important decisions quickly. They have no time to let ideas pile up. Trusted Strategic Manifesto Link.

Readiness is a critical management activity. It is also a highly strategic activity. Two things most of us in staff functions need to be associated with.

Problems happen often in large numbers every day in organizations. But, if it’s people-stopping, product-stopping, show-stopping, reputation-redefining, or circumstance that can create victims and/or explosive visibility, that is worth an executive’s attention. Lucky for most of us they rarely happen, but we’re busy getting ready to manage other problems in the meantime.

You might find it useful to review the Trusted Strategic Advisors Manifesto, part of which talks about the six mistakes trusted advisors need to avoid making. Especially error #5, pushing ideas that the boss will never buy.

Waging Peace and Winning Means Sitting Down with Critics, Bloviators, Bellyachers, and Back Bench Complainers…Why?
…Because That’s Just the Way it is.

One of the more frequent questions I get in a variety of forms, temperatures, and skepticism is about sitting down with the enemy. “I was wondering whether you think it’s a good idea for us to sit down with a group of people who are the equivalent of the chain-themselves-to-trees people, who have a list of demands which are in some cases reasonable and in most cases impossible.”

The short answer to the question of engaging with these who bother, disturb, denigrate, and disparage you, is yes. 

Too many managements today still look at this idea as something to avoid, unnecessary, onerous, chicken, shameful, and raises the eyebrows and ire of their cohorts from business school or the business community.

Lesson #1: Resolution Only Comes When the Victims are Satisfied

Controversy, conflict, confrontation, and complexity are resolved only when you get everybody possible to a table at the earliest possible time. Keep coming to the table until settlement magically happens, when the victims are satisfied.

In civil litigation, as a non-lawyer adviser, I often recommend dividing a case into the litigation part and the settlement part. Both proceed independently at the same time. Work to establish a mechanism at the earliest possible time to engage and involve the worst of your critics, the harshest of your enemies, especially the victims. Courts always support settlement strategies.

The litigation part can pursue victory or vindication in court after much required preparation and procedure. The settlement part begins by asking a simple question of the victims, “What would it take to settle this matter…what do you really want?” Find out, settle, and win.  

Lesson #2: Failing to Take the Step of Direct Reconciliation, Resolution, Exploration, and Discussion Revictimizes the Victims and Compromises Your Credibility.

Whatever the case, whether there is litigation involved or not, you must meet with those affected – or make serious attempts to do so. In every culture I’ve worked in, when there is contention, reasonable people ask why the contenders haven’t been invited or compelled to sit down and talk. Step up. You have to try, even if the outcome, at first, seems fruitless, which is as likely as not. Yes, you have to sit down if possible because your own supporters need to know that you have tried. You will be criticized by some of your supporters for doing so, for lots of really stupid reasons, but still, you must make the effort.

Yes, it is really hard to sit down and work these things out. Peace ultimately involves face-to-face contact, asking the simple question, “What will it take to settle this matter…what do you really want?”

The foundation of your success is your preparation for these face-to-face meetings. Your preparation is going to include developing key documents that you can post that directly comment, correct, or clarify (CC&C) what others are saying, or advocating about you.

If your critics refuse to meet, post the documents so those who care about you and your goals know of your efforts. If your critics advocate things that are different than that which you expect or have experienced, prepare another CC&C post contrasting their statements and comments against what you expected or experienced.

Take good notes…they do. Send out and post additional communications that continue to clarify, correct, or comment on their postures, purposes, assertions, and allegations. Clearly, you need a platform, find one. So much transpires on a variety of platforms these days. You might establish your own platform. Which is what I usually recommend.

Failure to take these aggressively appropriate and timely approaches is why good people lose. It takes real work and discipline to succeed.

Good People Lose Because They are Not as Committed to Winning as Those Who Oppose are Committed to Defeating Them.

Actually, the negative behaviors by those who oppose benefit us because these negative behaviors and statements give us a platform for our views, ideas, and rebuttal. Good people like to whine about people attacking them, but whining is neither strategic nor successful. There is nothing sillier and sadder than a whiny do-gooder, who is losing.

Yes, but Why?

However noble your cause, you are the one who will have to prove why, how, and what you do matters and is essential every day. Your opposition just has to repeatedly claim or allege something you fail to answer. To be right, to prevail, you need to engage, realizing the truth of these simple questions:

Question 1: Why do good people and good works have to defend themselves and to justify their actions and beliefs? Becausethat’s just the way it is.

Question 2: When do good people doing good get some credit for what they do? Why? From whom? For what? Becausegood people can speak for themselves modestly, humbly, respectfully…that’s just the way it is.

Question 3: How good do good people and their good works have to be to get some credit or a good defense? Depends on how convincing and persuasive the good people and their support base can be on their own behalf.

Question 4: When do we start to manage our own destiny? When we stop waiting for someone else to do it for us. They don’t exist. They never show. The “other guys” are always waiting in the wings to do it for you. Manage your own destiny, or someone else will. Because…that’s the way it is.

Doing good is hard and getting harder… In reality, seems even the best idea gets an antagonist or adversary to prove its value. Look around. No matter what the culture is, it’s good vs. anger, sometimes evil; conservatives vs. liberals; liquid soap vs. bar soap; my truth vs. another’s truth; my data vs. your data; my vaccine vs leave me alone. That’s just the way it is.

There’s Always Someone Out There
Ready to Manage Your Destiny for You.

Sitting down with your critics and naysayers time and time again is actually the crucial strategy for resolution. Yes, the moment you sit down with opponents, you will be criticized by many of those around you. Your friends are going to ask, “What are you thinking?” Fail to sit down and many in your own base will question and reject you faster than your opponents and so-called friends.

Fail to sit down and your mom is going to ask you why you haven’t reached out. She will remind you of what she taught you!

To get to agreement requires contention reduction. Why leave getting face-to-face to the end of a struggle when you could win or lose much faster? Start with face-to-face and win earlier because you answer questions and keep finding better answers; stop whining and start winning.

If you find yourself in a serious game, get prepared for serious opposition.

The Final Lesson: Serious Whining and Suffering are Individual Activities About Which No One Cares but Those Who are Suffering

You’ll suffer alone, whine alone, and lose alone.

Becausethat’s just the way it is.

Who Will Win in November?
Jeff Greenfield has the Answer.
Is it Going to be Bugs or Daffy?

Jeff Greenfield, a nationally known political correspondent and analyst for four major television networks, has a fool-proof methodology for predicting who will be elected president. He forecasts, “To know who will win, keep in mind one clear consistent irrefutable rule: Bugs Bunny always beats Daffy Duck.” Greenfield goes on to explain with many examples, “The candidate who exudes the cool, savvy confidence of Bugs beats the one who projects Daffy’s tightly wound anger.”

Greenfield calls it the, “Having a beer after work factor.” Greenfield reminds us that, despite the hundreds, even thousands of polls and election models when you’re in that voting booth, you will look for the candidate who exhibits the Bugs Bunny factors and the winner of the election, even if you don’t drink beer.  

For the whole story see The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2024 print edition, “Who Will Win in November? Think Bugs vs. Daffy”.

Editors Comment: This may be the only truly funny, but serious idea in this entire 8-month election process. Read it, laugh, and get ready to tough your way to the polling booth on November 5th. Good luck.  

Jeff Greenfield’s quotes are taken from:
©2024 Dow Jones and Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Appeared in the March 23, 2024 Print Edition of the Wall Street Journal as, “Who Will Win in November? Think Bugs vs. Daffy.” 

Helping Hands, Holding Hands

One of the smallest, but truly powerful decencies is holding hands or offering a helping hand.

This gesture is so small we probably hardly ever think of it. But quite often at 82 as I approach a doorway, a curb, or a staircase someone will reach out and offer me a hand even though I have a cane. One of our granddaughters is going to school here in Minnesota. She grew up in New York state. Emily. We have made it a point to have a hamburger or a brief get together almost weekly when she’s here during the school year and this past summer when she was an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. I’ve know her and her twin brother since the day after they were born and lived very close to them for the first eight years of their lives. Then we moved from New York back to Minnesota. So for the majority of their lives we have not been that physically close. But we’ve always been I think emotionally close.

            Emily is finishing her junior year in college and thinking about where she is ultimately be working. Also, looking for an internship this summer. She has opportunities for her last summer internship in Chicago, Boston, New York, and I learned just this week that a position for her may be opening up in Minnesota. I mention this because I’ve noticed during this particular school year when we’ve been together, she’s been extra attentive. I am 82 and a bit unstable and need a cane. So I get to hold her hand briefly, but often when we’re together.

Looking back, holding hands was an extraordinary part of my relationship with my wife Barbara. I do recall in high school on the few dates that I had, for some reason I tried to hold hands and it was not exactly welcomed, it wasn’t shunned, but it wasn’t welcomed. I met Barbara in the summer after my graduation from high school and from our first meeting we were holding hands. In those early years, I would increasingly hold her hand because she was this incredibly beautiful person going around with me, I’m laughing. It must have looked like, “What is she doing with this oaf.” But as it turned out we kept seeing each other, got closer, and ultimately got married four years after we met. During our initial early years together in courtship we held hands everywhere in fact people commented on it and, “Are you always holding hands?” and we would raise our hands, kind of shrug, and son of a gun, we were holding hands.

            During our married life, we tended to do absolutely everything together whether it was grocery shopping or taking the car in to get the oil changed, just driving around. We were always holding hands. There are many pictures of us front and back, holding hands and it was always a subject of conversation. Barbara died of Alzheimer’s in 2019.

            It’s become kind of a point of analysis whenever I meet couples are they holding hands or not. If they are, I comment on it and if they’re not, I sort of just mentally remember that.

            The larger point is that like almost every small decency it’s free, it’s freely given, there is nothing expected in return, but it is among the most affirming thing humans can do with each other.

            If you haven’t done it for a while or at all, it might seem a little uncomfortable to suggest it, but why not give it a try?

            The worst that can happen is that you do it briefly and then you separate, but then even in the same encounter, you do it again, and separate. Eventually, it will work or it won’t.

            In Barbara’s case, it was just a part of our being together and it was just reflective of our lives together. Barbara did things for me constantly, helped me, looked out for me, and literally ran a business we had so I didn’t have to. But always even the 10-minute round trip to pick up a gallon of milk, we went together, and we held hands.

My youngest son Jim and my sister Wendy, and a couple other friends were with Barbara when she passed away in August of 2019. I was holding her hand at the time she died. And as always, she was smiling.

There is a picture of Barbara just moments after she died that Jim took and I’m combing her hair. Barbara was always perfectly dressed, every hair precisely in place. She always enjoyed having her hair combed and always reacted positively, even after she was no longer able to speak. In this photo, she had just passed away moments before, and I was holding her hand at the time. Then I combed her hair for the last time. 

Your Integrity Manifesto
The Ingredients of Integrity and Trust

Credibility and Trust are built on the fundamentally acceptable behavior of an organization and its leaders. The approach advocated here comes from observing hundreds of leaders and managers over 40 years and how they achieved a reputation for trustable behavior.

In general, these managers believed in or had a mantra similar to; “Credibility is conferred on us based on our past behavior.”

Seven Trust and Credibility Beliefs and Behaviors;
The Ingredients of Integrity

These Seven actionable tasks or assignments, when executed by leadership example and emulated by everyone in the organization fosters a reputation for trust and credibility and demonstrates extraordinary integrity.

I call this a manifesto because it contains language publicly professed to motivate, activate, energize, and inspire constructive action. It’s a public commitment to do what you say you’ll do,  proof of your integrity, and a powerful proof of leadership. Employees love to talk about concepts like these.

  1. “When problems occur, we’ll be prepared to talk openly about them and act quickly to respond to them operationally.”
  2. “If the public should know about an issue or problem which could affect them, we will voluntarily talk about it as quickly and as completely as we can.”
  3. “When problems or changes occur, we will keep the community posted on a schedule they set until the problem or changes have been thoroughly explained or resolved.”
  4. “We will answer every question the community may have and suggest and volunteer additional information on matters the community has yet asked questions about, but will.”
  5. “We will answer every question, as long as questions are being asked, no matter how many times a question is asked and answered. When people stop asking questions, we will continue to publicize questions and answers to assure that all those affected by decisions and actions have a chance to recognize the information we’re providing.”
  6. “We will be cooperative with the various news platforms and organizations, but our primary responsibility is to communicate directly with those most directly affected by our actions as soon as possible.”
  7. “We will respect and seek to work with those who oppose us.”

Tough to Achieve,
but Enormously Liberating and Powerful

Authenticity is a self-directed process of continuous analysis, validation, and verification of personal beliefs, practices, guiding principles, aspirations, and operational purposes that drive, direct, focus, and fulfill your life.

The higher you go in operations, and as a trusted strategic advisor, the more your authenticity and that of other senior decision-makers comes into play. The concepts come to the fore when:

  • The truth matters.
  • Tough questions need to be answered.
  • Ideas from beyond the pale need suggesting or defeating.
  • Corrective action and behavior change, especially among leaders, needs to be surfaced.
  • Meaningful discussion of personal beliefs and reasoning are on the table.
  • Serious decisions or important input is required.
  • Trust is at risk.
  • A reservoir of sensible, simple, positive, constructive, and useful options is needed to move forward or begin resolution of serious issues.
  • When you need the boss to really listen.
  • When you are a boss who needs others to really listen.
  • When you are the boss and really need to listen and pay attention to others.

Here is my current authenticity analysis template. Perhaps you might find it useful for yourself.

  1. Please let me know what you think.
  2. Please send this to anyone you might think it could help.
  3. Questions to, subject: Authenticity Template

This is Jim Lukaszewski:
A Personal Profile

Powerful Speaker, Important Author, Inspiring Teacher, Trusted Advisor

Purpose: Through helping resolve the significant troubles of others, find and do what will be the most important things I will ever do in my career and life.

Vision/Aspiration: To be an authentic trusted Communicator, Coach, Counselor and Strategic Thinker; to be the first call when leaders and managers face their toughest, touchiest, most sensitive and devastating situations and questions.

Mission: To be the table, truly strategic; promptly finding those exceptionally achievable, ethical, honorable, powerful, and sensible ingredients for solutions to the most challenging leadership, management and organizational problems.

Disciplines: Gettable, doable approaches; Intuition-Pattern Sensitivity; lifelong learning; Management Perspective/sensitivity; Teach, Coach, Counsel to educate, motivate, and expand  Management and leadership influence and success; Thoughtful, Incremental Achievable Advice; Tomorrow Focused; Trustability; Verbal Clarity.

Values: Compassion; Constructive approaches; Curiosity; Honesty; Inconsistency (strategy); Positivity; Pragmatism; Promptness; Truthfulness, Intentional Inconsistency (the key to novel ideas)

Principles: Candor; Prompt Intentional Communication; Destiny Management; Empathy/Compassion/Apology; Engagement; Openness; Responsiveness; Transparency; Truthfulness.


Bill George, Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Medtronic

  • Author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership with Peter Simms, Jossey-Bass, 2007.
  • He created the Authenticity industry
David Grossman, ABC, APR Fellow PRSA, Founder & CEO of The Grossman Group

Jim Lukaszewski has more than 2,000 recommendations on LinkedIn, is listed in more than 35 editions of who’s who, and is the author of 13 books since 1992 (14th coming out in 2025), hundreds of articles, many book chapters, and dozens and dozens of webinars.

© Copyright 2024, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru®

Please get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder, Subject line: Permissions

Reputation vs. Trust

I’ve always thought that the whole notion of reputation was more a Public Relations construct than a management concern. Leaders learn quickly to care about trust from stakeholders and victims.

During my nearly 40 years in reputation, leadership, and organizational recovery, I can’t recall a serious discussion of reputation in a management circumstance by those running the business until just before they were about to lose or see their reputation seriously damaged. In many cases, the reputation issues were raised earlier and forcefully by public affairs, internal communications, and may be later by business operations.

Trust is a powerful management term. I define trust as the absence of fear. I interpret fear to mean the absence of trust. Trust is a management word; trust is a powerful cultural word. Trust is a word that has its counterparts in virtually every culture on the planet, and trust is understood clearly and immediately by just about everybody. Generally, it’s mom who taught us about trust, so we remember.

Trust = Absences of Fear    Fear = Absence of Trust

Chief Executives of troubled organizations don’t lose their jobs because there’s a reputation problem. They lose their jobs because there is a trust problem, a failure to provide the assurance that prevents the fear of serious adverse circumstances. If we’re talking seriously about our relationship with constituents, stakeholders, employees, the public, and anyone who has a stake in our organization for whatever reason, we’re talking about trust.

Trust defines itself. Reputation? We’ll need to call the PR department for the latest definition.

Your mom is watching.

“What Makes a Fellow, a Fellow?”

An Extraordinary Footprint.

The Most Important Personal Honor in American Public Relations

Spring is the time of year when many of our PRSA senior colleagues are nominated or nominate themselves for election to the PRSA College of Fellows. As I begin my 31st  year as a Fellow ‘93, it’s interesting to reflect on the experiences of all those I have coached or mentored over the years. Just about everyone comes to the process with few clues about what a being a Fellow actually is.

Becoming a Fellow is all about the footprint the candidate has left on the profession, culture, colleagues, and society. There are Fellows who have worked their entire careers in a single market and left a powerful footprint. There are Fellows who have worked in a single state and leave a significant footprint. There are Fellows who work regionally or nationally and, in the process, leave a meaningful footprint.

A footprint is about the quality of practice and the level of influence and relevance to the entire practice rather than how many projects completed, or awards won. This is the hardest part and biggest test of becoming a Fellow. It is a profound mindset shift from counting projects, clicks and likes to really understanding the power of the candidate’s intentional, personal impact, ideas, behavior and ethics that help others to become better and improve as practitioners, citizens, public officials, leaders, more honorable advisors, and people of professional substance; people who have then become more successful and influential among the people they impact, influence and change throughout their professional lives.

It’s also more than the activities within the Public Relations profession. It is about the candidates’ intentions, impact, influence, access, and acceptance in their vicinity, marketplace or practice specialties; it’s about how the candidate uses their influence, experience, insights and presence to make important change happen – perhaps bringing reality and sensibility, as well as reducing contention and bringing peace to important contentious circumstances.

Earning their access, intentions, influence, impact, acceptance, and inclusion in what matters.

Sometimes it’s easy to misread this impact, or mistake proficiency or expertise for leadership, personal impact on others. Those who wish to analyze their careers, to assess their footprint, ultimately go through an interesting and introspective analysis of their lives and work. These are the steps I recommend:

  1. Examine one’s life for the lessons that were shared with others and what others learned from their own perspective. And what the candidate learned from being helpful.
  2. Reach back and make contact with those whose lives the candidate truly affected, seek short real examples of the value to them from knowing the candidate.
  3. Ask those whohave known, worked, and benefited from the candidate’s efforts, presence, and insights the answers to five basic questions:
  1. What is/are/were the most important things, ideas or concepts that these individuals learned from the candidate?
  2. What is/are/were the most interesting things, ideas or concepts learned or remembered?
  3. What is/are/were those things these individuals feel they might never have learned had the candidate been absent from their lives . . . What do they know now that they didn’t know before that mattered because they met the candidate, whatever the circumstance?
  4. What meaningful questions did the candidate help others to confront, consider or explore that might not have happened had the candidate not been present?
  5. How has knowing the candidate changed people’s lives, in the beneficiary’s own words?
4. There are crucial personal questions the candidate must ask themselves.

  1. How have you stepped outside the realm of PR for some purpose larger than yourself? What, when and why?
  2. Can you explain your motivation or your intentions for achieving election to The PRSA College of Fellows?
  3. Can you provide a sense of the purpose of your life, larger than yourself?
  4. What evidence can you share that, rather than on yourself, you put the spotlight or gave the spotlight to others?  Or, how you helped someone else find the spotlight for their work and accomplishments?
  5. How do your accomplishments fit together so we can know your plan or how your career was driven, by personal spontaneous actions, self-motivated activities, or other forces?
  6. Have you systematically shared your insights and learnings based on what you were accomplishing and learning in your practice?
  7. How do you share the principles that drive your practice in  hopes that those you help will retain and apply them in their own practices? In other words, are you already acting like a Fellow?
  8. What are some of the lessons, morals, and self-evident truths about what and why you do what you do or believe what you believe?
5. Can and do you explicitly share the principles and higher purposes, if any, and intentions that guide and influence your thinking and judgment and in turn constructively and memorably influence others.

  1. In simple single words and short phrases, how would you describe who you are?
  2. Should you be elected to The College of Fellows how do you plan to remain relevant to those who will seek your assistance and counsel?
6.  What were some of the surprises the candidate experienced as their access, influence, impact, and professional success expanded?

  1. True success in life is intentional. It may start by accident and often does.
  2. What were the Candidate’s intentions as success and visibility increased?
  3. What can the candidate pass on to PRSA’s leaders of tomorrow?
7. How would the Candidate characterize their career purpose(s) and goals?

These questions matter because once a practitioner becomes a Fellow; all these impacts on others continue and intensify. It is more than an honor to be elected a Fellow. This election turns out to be a public recommitment by the candidate to helping our profession and our professional colleagues find ways to improve their skills, yes, but also to begin to look at their practices and their practice circumstances from larger, more powerful social and cultural perspectives.

Becoming a Fellow is about reinterpreting our professional metrics from a new, higher, and entirely different and more impactful perspective: Helping others become more substantive, influential and insightful practitioners. It’s about understanding what matters, what is helpful, what is sensible and often what is powerfully simple and true. It is about professional integrity, honesty, and having a truly meaningful personal and professional life.

It’s a life dedicated to the recognition of the needs and accomplishments of others and working on issues and questions larger than the candidate that creates the extraordinary footprint, election to the College of Fellows represents.

It’s that Extraordinary Footprint that makes a Fellow, a Fellow.

How extraordinary is the footprint the candidate presents in their application and in their life?

© Copyright 2024, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru®

Get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder, Subject line: Permissions

Action Required This Day -2024 New Year’s Resolution #3

How to Have a Happier Life
Use Barbara’s 5 Daily Happiness Habits Plus
The Platinum Rule

This essay attempts to answer what is probably the most frequently asked question for Barbara and I through much of our married life: “How did you work together and yet maintain and project such devotion, love, and happiness for so many years?” Hope Barbara’s ideas help you change your life. We met in high school and were married for 56 magical years. We worked the last 32 years of her life together.   Jim (Jim for Barbara)

  1. Always find and say nice things about and to each other in private and publicly every day, everywhere. Insist on a continuously positive tone. Just start doing it and keep doing it.
  2. Avoid saying those two or three tired, corrosive, divisive things we might love to mention some days. Suck it up, swallow it, and let it go.
  3. Always be positive or blah rather than negative or inflammatory.
  4. Ditch the downers. Keep negative, irritating, needlessly, and intentionally abrasive individuals and organizations out of our lives. Over the years we did lose a number of friends. Their irritating and argumentative behaviors didn’t fit our lives. We could not change them, so we simply dumped them. Happiness broke out immediately.
  5. Happiness is intentional. Get in the habit of subjecting everything you do or plan to do to these happiness-building tests, is it simple, sensible, satisfying, positive, helpful, useful, and truthful every hour of every day? Skip anything that fails even one of these tests. Give yourself the gift of happiness. No’s are always remembered, and are permanent.

Corollaries to Barbara’s 5 Habits

  1. Find things to verbally compliment each other daily, especially in front of family and other people.
  2. Happiness habits practiced every day become easier. Continued, they strengthen your relationship, your love, and your trust in each other.
  3. When in doubt, say yes. Say yes, a lot! Start with yes, end with yes.

This document, initially published on August 23, 2020, the first anniversary of Barbara’s death, was a way for us to answer the happiness questions which are still asked quite frequently. It is shared here because it seems to have had such a positive impact on so many lives. I, we, hope these thoughts are meaningful and helpful to you.

The Platinum Rule*
Help Others Who Want And Need Assistance
Helping Others Achieve Their Goals And Aspirations
Many Of Those You Help Will Thank You.

  1. This rule is 10 times more powerful than the Golden Rule which only says, “ do unto others. . .
  2. The Platinum Rule says help those who need help to help yet others do what the others want or need by providing the necessary assistance to help others who can’t, by themselves, complete what they seek to achieve.
  3. The Ethical and Practical principles I follow support both rules. Share your own version of these approaches with others who work with you, people you’d like to work with, and people you will seek to work with.
  4. Find ways to discuss these ideas, explain them, and ask and answer questions about them.
  5. Everyone you care about or those who care about you should be aware of ideas like The Platinum Rule. Help them live and learn to form their own principles.
  6. Practice The Platinum Rule helping those you help to help others. All will remember and thank you.
  • PLEASE NOTE: This idea has many advocates. When I first began mentioning it I was directed to Amazon which lists more than a dozen currently available books by prominent authors with absolutely the same idea.

Good luck.