Lance Armstrong: A Lesson in Forgiveness and Rebranding

The quote below is what finally redeems him for me. Jeff was going through his own cancer treatments that started late 2012. I remember him reading Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike”. I remember how shocked and heartbroken we both were watching his interview with Oprah. Jeff and I had very different stances on his degree of guilt and punishment, but we were both disappointed in him.
I didn’t think it was necessary that I forgive him. Who am I? I don’t know him; I don’t bash him, but I don’t praise him, anymore. I just see his name and sigh with a thought of “what might have been” or “what I thought he used to be”. It still doesn’t matter to the world and probably not to Lance Armstrong either that I forgive or don’t forgive him.
“People come up to me and say, ‘Stop apologizing, you don’t need to apologize anymore,’ ” he says today. “I don’t agree with that. There were all sorts of people out there who had my back the whole time, even as the smoke got thicker and thicker. They said, ‘Nope, we believe him.’ For them it was even worse than a betrayal. They felt com­plicit. They’re in their cycling club or at church, and people say to them, ‘Look how foolish you were to have believed this guy.’ That is what I have to apologize for, for the rest of my life. And I am comfortable with that.”

Do we expect or deserve lifelong signs of remorse?

Reading this very lengthy but eloquently written article from Outside Magazine has changed my perspective–not just on forgiving Lance Armstrong.

This is about how we all on earth expect lifelong contrition for something we identify and place on one person–that one moment or series of moments in time for which we will never forget but also never look beyond. Furthermore, what snippets of a person’s life, like Lance’s, have we seen that were not part of this deception, cheating, or any other scandalous name we call it? Will we forever look at her or him and sigh with contempt? Or, will we read and maybe get to know him personally (few will), and see the rest of the man?

We are all more than one or a series of moments.

I would not like to be defined by my less-than-stellar ones.
Don’t well all want another chance?

“It’s not that you fall that defines you. It’s not that you get up that defines you. It’s how you get up.” Pastor Earl, Shoreline Christian Center

We’ve all hear some version of the quote I heard from Pastor Earle in 2007. I love his edit, that last sentence. However, don’t we all get up in some way? Some may “get up” by trying to ignore the mistake or error in judgment–pretending as if it never happened. Is that a definition of your character you’d be willing to live with? The how is key. If you make it right, identify and express the error by name, and change your behavior going forward. That’s the key.

bike race

Rebranding: A.K.A. Recovering From a Negative Experience

Sometimes, businesses have to restart from scratch. For example, poor employee attitudes affect customer service and turn business away as a result. Over time, recovering proves challenging. A complete rebrand may be needed if this problem has been systemic and over a long period of time. More dramatic examples include companies or celebrities in crisis.

“In a crisis, oftentimes the goal is to erase the earlier persona from the public’s collective memory. One recent initiative has been the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s decision to modify its scandal-connected name by rebranding itself as the Livestrong Foundation and disassociating itself from its disgraced founder. To date, it has proven successful, although time will tell.” Kirk Hazlett for PR Week

However, as human beings, our character comprises all that we have experienced, the good and the bad, and all that we have done, the good and the bad. Not learning from our mistakes destroys our character and causes us to repeat it again and again. What redeems us, especially in this relationship-driven economy, is sharing those bad experiences and how we learned and grown. That kind of honesty and transparency develop trust. Turning mistakes into opportunity separates the average from the successful.

How can businesses overcome similar crisis or negative reputations?

Likewise, A business can do a complete overhaul, bringing those former customers back, and even attracting new ones. However, the company must keep in mind the potential for such a rebrand to create suspicion that they are deceiving the public by hiding behind a new name and logo.

With counseling, education, and a rebirth of enthusiasm, and visual design the rebranding conversation can start. It does not start with a new name and logo. There is a lot more than visual presence to rebranding. Find an expert in these areas (based on the studying and courses I’ve taken) to help overcome the crisis, detrimental behaviors, or sour attitudes before you contact me or another branding and visual designer.

Hire the expert for each specific need.

  1. Evaluate and diagnose the problem. This may included identifying problem employees, layoffs, and demotions and promotions.
  2. Evaluate and redesign the hiring process. Learn how you can hire for the best fit rather than skills.
  3. Find an expert in company culture and team building. (This may or may not be the same business consultant for #1 and 2. However, the man who best solves this problem and can change your entire life, not just your business, is Aaron Schmookler and The Yes Woks.) This professional helps to redirect negativity into positivity. Rebuilding a team and company culture can propel the customer experience from good to stellar–skipping the “great” level! Additionally, the changed attitudes and perspectives extend beyond the office walls and create a stronger, more recognizable difference.
  4. Restructure the actual business by evaluating which products/services are under sold and utilized as well as those that are draining resources and not worth continuing. Additionally, what products/services might the business not be providing but should be and can quickly and easily implement. How can the business reemerge in a completely new space, market, or position? (I highly recommend Wild Child Group and Candace Thompson. Her straight-forward, even blunt, approach helps her clients with a realistic picture and understanding of where the business has been and where it can or should go.)
  5. Create a new business plan and rewrite company policies.
  6. Enlist your branding and visual design expert.
  7. Find a PR agent to help with timing the public sharing of the new, improved brand culture and business and how to it should be shared.

Can your business recover from years of deception?

The million dollar question without a short, clear answer! You just read the shortest answer I have. Hire the right team to rebuild. Don’t bring in a rebranding expert and expect her/him to fix the business problems–you’ve heard the analogy “putting lipstick on a pig.” This simply doesn’t work. It’s a process with many steps and experts.

Ultimately, we have seen companies do this turn-around and that has been done with strategic thinking, immediate response, and compassion. If your business experiences a crisis keep this information handy and get started immediately on mitigating the damage and redirecting.