Image Consultant Viewpoint: Ethics

Posted on 23. Jan, 2009 by in Internet ethics

Sandy Dumont asked:

Written by Sandy Dumont

“Expertise is of more importance to a successful career, while ethics is of the least significance.” This was the feedback of a study group at a well-known American university. This group recently completed a nationwide survey of university graduate program directors in the field of communications. They were commenting on the importance of the four professional competencies set forth by the National Speakers Association (NSA): Expertise, Eloquence, Enterprise and Ethics.

I was interviewed and asked to comment on some of the findings of the study group. My reaction to the above statement was shock. After all, if “ethical communication” is insignificant, does that mean that we needn’t tell the truth? What would George Washington have to say about that? And where is our country headed?

As an image consultant, I teach a workshop entitled “The Expert Impact,” a term I have trademarked. In essence I tell my clients that I cannot supply expertise, because that is up to them. What I can do is make certain they are immediately perceived as a highly-credible expert in their field. Credibility implies believability. We believe the other person is an expert and that he or she is professional and, therefore, can be trusted. Trust is one of the tenets of branding, and it is one of the most important. Ethical behavior produces trustworthy decisions and actions. The two are intertwined.

My experience indicates that the image of most clients does not keep up with their résumés. I do not teach others how to be credible. If they are truly experts, they already have credibility in terms of performance; they just don’t know how to convey it non verbally. And according to social psychologists, non-verbal communication surpasses verbal communication in terms of credibility.

For the interview by the university’s study group, I was asked to comment upon several other findings from the interviews of professors. For example, the majority of university faculty reported that their curriculum was the most effective in the area of expertise and least effective in the area of enterprise. This seemed a jarring contradiction to me, since the internet and the World Wide Web literally require an enterprising nature. Furthermore, the safe corporate jobs of a lifetime are a thing of the past, and the enterprising spirit of recent generations brought it about. Students who are enterprising, it would seem, surely have an advantage in getting on the fast track to gaining expertise. Perhaps universities need to take a close look at their curriculum.

Furthermore, a college degree does not necessarily bestow expertise upon a graduate. Knowledge, yes; and it sets him/her on the way, but expertise ultimately comes from experience. Four years of university studies should, however, give graduates a great deal of knowledge in various subjects. An enterprising nature puts the student on the fast track to becoming an expert.

One of the problems with new hires is their lack of experience, and most of us don’t want our account to be handled by a greenhorn. So how is a recent grad going to get that first job. My 30 years experience suggests that the answer is to look experienced. Social psychologists have proven that if you look good, it is assumed that you are good. They have also shown that in order to be trusted or believed, you must be consistent with both

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