Have you noticed how often CFOs are forced to step down or resign because of some unethical or questionable behavior? True or not, once that story hits the Internet it goes viral … within minutes.
And what happens to the career of that Senior Finance Executive, who is a) innocent and has a very accomplished track record or b) despite a brilliant career made one bad decision … once the first 3 pages of Google are full of nothing but every single negative thing that has ever happened in this CFO’s life – relevant to the charges or not?
If there is no foundation of credibility already established, it will be very difficult and take a long, long time to recover from the viral assault of digital dirt. And, it is quite possible that this Chief Financial Officer would find his finance career finished. If the only public information available is negative … regardless of whether or not it’s true … what will most people believe about him? What “he” says on his resume or what “everyone else” says?
On the other hand, if this same CFO finds himself hitting a bump in the road and has a strong record of both visibility and credibility, his chances of recovering, and recovering relatively quickly, are much, much better. His long record of accomplishments already owned the first 3 pages of Google’s high-value real estate, and perhaps even extended to the first 5-10 pages. Any negativity can be countered, or at least balanced, with all of the positives that already exist. And, because his name is already friendly to the Google search engines, he can quickly begin supplanting the negative comments, innuendos, and charges.
As in every other phase of career management, it is much easier to build and control your reputation now, while you are gainfully employed and delivering solid contributions, then it will be if you find yourself in crisis mode.