Could Your Career Survive Being Juan-Williamsed?

Who hasn’t seen or heard about the very public and very ugly firing of NPR’s news analyst Juan Williams over “controversial” remarks he made on a competitor’s show? Williams will be fine. In fact, this might be a far bigger boost to his career than he could ever have imagined.

But what would happen to your career if such a public and contentious firing occurred? And today, the Internet insures that if there is even the slightest bit of controversy, it would be public! Politics aside, here are a couple of things I think worked to Williams’ favor …


What an interesting word. What we do when no one is watching. Can we have integrity when the situation warrants and then leave it behind when facing a tough decision?

In the latest SmartBrief for CFOs poll, readers were queried on what they would do if they were asked by the CEO or board to do something illegal or bordering on it. Almost 5% were unsure and almost 30% said it would depend.

I believe Williams exercised integrity on the job and after he was fired. In fact, I believe integrity was part of what allowed him to get pushed right out of the NPR door and into a $2 million contract with Fox News.

If integrity is a high value of yours, you won’t violate it because you know the emotional and mental consequences that will follow. If it isn’t, you might. Regardless of whether it is a high value or not for you personally, if you do violate integrity professionally, it might end your career.


Williams’ reputation was (and remains) very visible to both his targeted and un-targeted audiences. Sure you say, he’s on TV. Yes, and the fact that you, Mr. Chief Financial Officer, are not … shouldn’t be the excuse to be invisible to the companies where you would love to work and who could use your skills and talent.

Could you move from fired, to unemployed, to employed within a day? What about a few weeks? A couple of months? Or today, would it take years? To make a transition as short and as smooth as possible, your network – and target audience – need to know who you are and how accomplished you are.


Do you stand for something or do you stand for nothing? No one has to guess about Juan Williams’ brand. If each of you submitted three words to me that best describe him, I’m sure many of us would choose the same or very similar words.

What about you, though? If you asked 30 people to provide three words that best describe you, would you find consistency among the responses or, would those responses be all over the map? Your brand has little to do with who you believe you are unless it aligns with the perception of everyone else.

Whether you agree with Juan’s politics or not, the man has integrity; maintained a high-profile reputation; and was, and continues to be, well-branded. These three things contributed to him moving from fired, to unemployed, to employed within the space of a breath. What are you doing to insure your career could survive being “juan-williamsed”?

If you’ve never assessed your values and would like to, email me and I’ll send you a brief worksheet. If you’d like to discuss “integrity” or anything else CFO Careers-related, please consider joining our private Linked In group.