The buzzword of the year in my business has got to be “optics.” At a time when the economy is floundering and executives are being paid millions of dollars in outrageous bonuses, sometimes for NOT doing their jobs, then of course a little retrospective consideration of the “optics” of a situation might be in order. But here’s the things about being overly concerned about optics – it sometimes leads people and organizations to do what LOOKS to be the right thing, even though it’s not.
Case in point, I have had several clients change their conference location to a less desirable location because of what the optics might look like of meeting in a nice, resort-like place while times are tough. But the thing is, they ended up spending more money at their alternative location! What about the optics of that? (“Well, we decided to spend more money and meet in a less desirable place where no one wanted to go and no one felt inspired, but boy, we sure looked good!”)
There have also been stories of companies canceling conferences at the last minute, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars in cancellation fees, all in the pursuit of better “optics.”
Frankly, one of the reasons I left my former management job was the constant concern over optics and the crazy notion that it often appeared more important to be SEEN as doing the right thing, rather than actually, you know, DOING the right thing.
Of course we need to be concerned about our image, and what our actions are saying to our employees, clients or tax payers, but how about trying to first and foremost focus on doing the right thing?
After all, wouldn’t that be the best view of all?
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Veronica D. Bouvier, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Aspen Properties Ltd.
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Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics
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