The person you hope to be

By Scott Westerman

Listen to an audio version of this message.

 “Act now as would the person you hope to become and you will become that person.” Confucius 

I’m continually amazed at what people will post on Facebook. The most over-the-top example was the page entitled “John Doe got me drunk.” The page is long deleted, so I changed the name to protect an older, wiser individual.

Tweets are quoted in newscasts. Bloggers are getting sued. Hiring decisions are being made based on posts written years ago.The biggest danger in the social media monster is it’s long memory. Something you may write in the heat of the moment will have visibility long after you post it.

I remember a boss coaching me early in my leadership career.

He said, “think very carefully about what you say or do. How might it be perceived by a future boss, a prospective soul mate, a lawyer or your mother? If you get even a modicum of heartburn when you run it through this test, it’s probably better left unsaid.”

We live in a time where Paula Deen can lose TV show and a book deal because of words she uttered 30 years ago, where a single picture can end a political career, where a cartoon can generate a death threat. I can attest from personal experience that the wrong behavior at the wrong time can be a self inflicted wound that will be hard to heal.

None of this is meant to imply that you don’t be who you are.

Authenticity and transparency are important character ethics. But sensitivity, empathy and circumspection are not just the traits of great leaders.

In the world of instant communication, they are survival skills.