Derailment in Prime Time

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely been hearing about the Mel Gibson audiotapes lately in the news. There’s no need to recount specific quotes in this family-friendly blog, but needless to say that Mel’s language could make a seasoned sailor blush. We’re obviously hearing Mel at a low point. He’s stressed about his finances, some negative publicity, and a recent divorce, not to mention that things clearly aren’t going all that well with his new love interest, who is recording their conversations. So it’s a tough time, and his behavior during this period is unfortunately playing out on a very public stage.

So what does this have to do with assessments and business results? The Mel Gibson thing is a prime example of how critical our behavior is when we’re stressed, under immense pressure, or just fatigued enough to let our guard down. In Hogan parlance, he is “derailing.” His behavior under duress has invited a heap of embarrassment and bad publicity, and his career is in jeopardy. His long-time talent agency has dropped him. The film studios, producers, financers, and other assorted movie-industry folks that have invested in the Mel Gibson brand are watching the value of their investment plummet.

In our world, I see this as a parallel to the growing movement to “focus on your strengths.” Such a perspective emphasizes what we do well, and essentially tells us not to worry about our weaknesses. Intuitively this is an attractive proposition – nobody likes to spend a bunch of time worrying about things we don’t do very well. But the reality is that these moments often occur during crucial periods such as when we have to make a critical decision or during a time of crisis. It is our behavior in these circumstances that can ultimately dictate how well we perform, how we are evaluated, and determine our reputation among others. People are quick to forget how we behaved when everything was going well.

At Hogan we promote the view that strengths are important, but that it is essential to be aware of one’s derailers and to target risks to performance. Indeed, any list of figures who have derailed in spectacular fashion will be populated with immensely talented people. They have ascended to positions of influence and been granted wide latitude and discretion based on impressive bodies of work and dazzling talent. But left unchecked, their derailers eventually led to poor decisions, inexcusable behavior, or other things to initiate their fall from grace.

Tying this back to our current subject matter, what were the first things that you thought of when you saw Mel Gibson at the top of this post? Was it a string of blockbusters? An impressive filmography that has grossed over $2B? An Academy Award for Best Director? Or was it a series of rants being played on the evening news? These brief periods of derailing behavior have dimmed what was otherwise one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Jarrett Shalhoop
Senior Consultant
Hogan Assessment Systems