Spilling Your Secret

Recently I was on a conference call with the president of a business I advise and the business’ attorney. The call was really just to confirm that an issue with an employee was handled correctly. The attorney was a specialist in employment law. That is why he was called.

During the course of the discussion, a question was asked that seemed rather routine. The attorney said, “I’m not sure, let me Google that right quick.”

While I appreciate the candor, the client got a funny look on her face. She (and I) had already done extensive research on the topic before the call, including our own Google searches. And while perhaps the attorney knows better key words for a Google search, we are pretty good at it too.

We called the attorney because he was the “expert” on the topic. After that comment, he didn’t look like such an expert.  The bulk of his effort during this meeting seemed to be what we had already done and at a very expensive hourly rate.

After the call, the client even said, “Well, I can Google for it.” Of course, she realized that he was really just double checking on something obscure and that our call had confirmed that the firm had handled their situation correctly. So the call did meet their needs.

This attorney is an expert and knows many things that are very important in his area of expertise. But perceptions, particularly early on, are easily shattered or created, even through candor and open discusssions.

Be careful as you build your brand and reputation that your actions, including your comments, are consistent with your brand. If you are expert, be the expert.

Naturally that does not mean that you lie about things you don’t know. A good, honest “I don’t know but I will find out” is great. And if research is needed, the odds are that an expert can find many answers faster than the non-expert. And we don’t expect anyone to know everything.

At the same time, be sure that you work to be self-aware of your brand, your message and your reputation.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.