Like many of you, I was startled by the news that Tiger Woods had been in a “serious” accident. Fortunately, the accident itself wasn’t very serious and Tiger is supposedly OK physically. Unfortunately, the accident’s aftermath is very serious indeed and Tiger is making it even worse.
By now everyone has heard the basic details and I won’t dwell on them. The lessons which are emerging as a result of this are applicable to all businesses as well as to athletes in trouble. Tell your story the way you want it out there and tell it quickly. Rest assured the story isn’t going to just go away because someone is going to be telling their version of it. Be honest – admit to anything that the various audiences – the public, clients, sponsors, etc. – might find questionable but which you, in fact, did do. Don’t hide behind your desire for privacy. Yes, you’re entitled to it but you are a public figure.
In this case, rumors of Tiger being involved with someone besides his wife have been out there for weeks. In general, the responsible folks don’t print the rumors except now they have a reason to so you need to act. They are however, asking questions: Where he was going at that time of the night? How did he lose control of his SUV at such a speed that the air bags didn’t deploy? Why were both rear windows of the Cadillac Escalade smashed? If it was a careless mistake, why not speak to state troopers trying to wrap the investigation? Little tidbits are popping out – affairs, painkillers, physical altercations – that need to be placed into YOUR context and at the moment, others are doing that for you.
Contrast what Tiger is (or isn’t) doing with Kobe Bryant‘s case. He admitted the affair and denied the potentially criminal action. He cooperated with law enforcement, they got to the facts, which, while embarrassing, haven’t had long-term repercussions. Look at how Andy Pettitte handled his HGH use. He admitted it as soon as it was pubic and explained why he did it. He told the story his way before others told it for him and that story corresponded with the facts. Case closed.
Tiger has more advisors around him that I have hairs left on my head. One would think that someone would remind him of Kobe and Andy and get him to tell the truth. How this plays out from here will continue to teach us the lessons of handling mistakes as people and as businesses. So far, this has been a great lesson in what not to do. Stonewalling hasn’t worked since Nixon.