Published on: December 7, 2017
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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I hardly know what to say about the continuing revelations - almost every day, it seems - about men who have committed various acts of sexual improprieties, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The acts are not identical, but they all are awful.
In the media and entertainment business, careers are ending and people are being disgraced. In politics, not so much … even the people who have admitted what they’ve done seem to think that they can find redemption while remaining in office. My feeling is that redemption always is a good thing, but they should find it on their own time and own dime; it is good news that at least in some cases, people are stepping down and putting their constituents before their own egos and ambitions.
I’m not one of those people who obsesses over the Time person of the year selection (unlike my dad, who used to turn the exercise into a month-long interactive civics lesson both at home and the school where he was principal). But I do think it was timely, appropriate and indicative of a cultural sea change that this year, “The Silence Breakers" - women who have “unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s … giving voice to open secrets … pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable.”
As I’ve said here before, people who are used to being in the headlines are the ones who are making the headlines these days, but that is certainly going to change. And let me repeat something I said a few weeks ago, because it strikes me as being even more relevant today:
If you are any sort of leader in any sort of company, it is time for you to step up and say to everyone in your organization, there is no place here for this crap. If you are a victim, here’s my email address and phone number - please get in touch with me now and help me rid this organization of the creeps who are playing this game. I am on your side. And, if you are a predator, get ready to pack your bags ands clean out your office, because there is no room for you here … and I don’t care if you are the biggest superstar in the company. You’re going to be gone, and if we can do it, we’re going to make sure you are going to be prosecuted.
Don’t forget. If living up to your moral and ethical responsibility isn’t enough to get you to do the right thing, remember that you have a fiduciary responsibility to do this. Every suit filed against your company and/or its leadership puts you at risk. You need to get in front of this.
I agree with something Michael wrote on Tuesday - it is the responsibility of every trade association that holds a meeting for the foreseeable future to educate members about the realities they are facing. No excuses. This goes for the Food Marketing Institute, the National Grocers Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, and every regional and/or state association out there. I’m not talking about how to build an effective defense - I’m talking about an assessment of the current climate and how to best effect change in organizations. And I agree with Michael that the Network of Executive Women (NEW) can serve as a tremendous resource in this effort.
The thing I keep wondering about as I read these stories is, who raised these guys? Didn’t they have mothers and sisters and wives and daughters? How did they lose their moral compasses? Who were their fathers? What kinds of male role models did they have who persuaded them that it was okay to abuse women through the abuse of power?
Bret Stephens, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, had a piece the other day that I have not been able to get out of my mind. Here’s how it started:
“Many years ago, I committed an offense for which famous men are now being publicly, and rightly, shamed. I patted an office secretary on her behind. I won’t offer the usual lame defense that I didn’t know my advance was unwanted or that social attitudes were different back then.
“My only excuse is that at the time of the incident I was about 7 years old.
“I remember the moment because of what happened immediately afterward. The secretary, who worked at my father’s business in Mexico City, turned around and slammed a heavy stack of papers on my head. I marched indignantly over to my dad’s office to report her behavior — only so that he could march me over to her desk and have me apologize. He followed that up with a stern warning never to do anything of the sort again.
“I don’t remember the secretary’s name. But what a service she did me by giving me a knock I’ll never forget, one that took courage and self-respect considering I was her boss’s son. What a service, too, that my dad defended her and gave me the talking-to that he did. It’s a lesson every boy should get — loud, clear, and early — from a male role model.”
No excuses. No explanations. No exceptions. That has to be rule for how we deal with the guys who commit these various acts, and in some cases it seems like it may be overreach, that’s the price we have to pay for getting back on the right road.
Stephens adds: “The good news is that, thanks to some brave women, we are at a moment when a great many men are privately re-examining past behavior and wondering how to do better. In other words, we’re thinking about how we might act as gentlemen. For now, it’s an impulse based largely on fear. In time, it should become one based on hope.”
I hope he’s right.
In the meantime, maybe we could just solve most of our problems by putting women in charge of everything. Because guys, we’re clearly not capable.
- KC's View: