The Fortune 100 Demonstrate the Battle Between Perceptions and Reality

A survey about Fortune 100 companies demonstrates the hard-fought battle between perceptions and reality

One of the biggest challenges for leaders in America, like those of Fortune 100 companies, is dealing with false realities.

Consider these facts about “Company X”:

• It gave away $1.4 billion in 2015 in cash and in-kind contributions (including more than $8.4 million to match employee donations).

• It has initiatives that promote US manufacturing, economic advancement around the world for women, the employment of veterans, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

• It provides scholarships for its employees to help them finish high school and college degrees.

• It has contributed more than $43 million in cash donation to disaster relief efforts around the world.

• Its sustainability efforts include progress toward the goal of using renewable sources for 100 percent of its energy in the future.

In a survey of more than 10,000 adults about their attitudes toward Fortune 100 companies, it ranked No. 20 for most trustworthy, No. 8 for most positive global impact, No. 3 for most influential, No. 7 for most worthy of investment, and No. 4 for most caring.

Sounds like a great company, right? But consider this. In that same survey, it also ranked No. 1 in these four categories: Most negative global impact, worst for the country, most likely to be “shut down” by the respondent if the respondent had such power, and most ruthless.

What this tells me is that 1.) people have very strong opinions about this company and 2.) the company is engaged in a huge struggle to manage its reputation.

You don’t have to lead a Fortune 100 company to relate. In fact, anyone who’s held a leadership position for very long has likely faced similar challenges, regardless of the size of the team or the organization. In most cases, there’s no quick fix. But the more transparent a company is the better. Here are three tips to keep in mind:

Embrace the hard truth

Your critics might be wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them wrong about everything. As a leader, you need to recognize your areas of weakness. Be open with those weaknesses and start working to make them better.

Promote reality

Humbly share what your organization does well and what it’s doing to improve in the areas where it needs to improve. If you are transparent about your flaws and demonstrate an active effort to address them, the people around you are more likely to respect your strengths and share them with others.

Let go of what you can’t control

Ultimately, you can’t please everyone. Neither can your organization. For example, your competition will often shape the opinions of others about you – sometimes in ways that aren’t accurate. You can stress out over what might seem unfair, or you can keep leading with transparency and trust that, over time, the truth will win people over. If you focus on doing the right things, it’s far easier to live the results.

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