speaker.jpgA new word for the English lexicon — jindaled.

Basically it’s when a lot is riding on you but instead of hitting it out of the park you are publicly humiliated.

Poor Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

He seems like a nice guy, really, and he had aspirations of someday becoming president.

Unfortunately, he’s got major egg on his face after giving the Republican response to President Obama’s speech to Congress on Tuesday.

If you guys didn’t get to witness his self destruction, his speech was dripping with bad cliches, he was sort of sing songy; and he even evoked the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which, if he didn’t remember, was a debacle for a Republican administration.

Here’s a YouTube video of it:

Even his own Republican supporters have been panning Jindal’s performance.

This from conservative writer David Brooks: “I thought Bobby Jindal gave possibly the worst response to a Democratic speaker in the history of democracy.”


People are even comparing Jindal to that dorky guy from the show “30 Rock” Kenneth the Page.

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It seems slightly unfair that one speech can torpedo a person’s career, but sometimes a public embarrassment can do just that, and I’m not talking about just a widespread embarrassment like Jindal’s.

It could happen when you gather a group of colleagues together at your office and try to convey a new project, or initiative and end up falling on your face. You could be giving a speech at an industry event and come off as uninspiring, or worse, dumb. Or it may be your turn on a conference call to update your division on the latest product launch and you end up stuttering your way through.

I have heard stories from employees who say they can link their career demise at a company to one or a series of public embarrassments like the ones I described.

But public humiliation doesn’t always have to be a career killer. Remember Mel Gibson’s drunken display when he yelled at cops and said some pretty nasty things? Didn’t seem to hurt his career. (Well, his movie Apocalypto was pretty crummy.)

So, how can you keep yourself from making a public screw up, and how can you come back from a major reputation pummeling?

“First, go back to your strengths,” says Shawn Driscoll, CEO of Succeed Coaching and Development.

“Where Jindal went wrong is he took on something that wasn’t his natural strength (and is for Obama) a prepared speech without an audience. Jindal is a face to face, informal speaker, much better on the fly than scripted. He put himself in a situation where he was not as strong as the person he was following, Obama.”

Driscoll teaches her clients something she calls the ARC:

Acknowledge and be really authentic. Yep, I know that speech missed the mark; or whatever the embarrassment was.

Reframe it. Basically put it in perspective. “It was one speech. We’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m committed. Here’s how I plan to go about it.”

Choose a different venue/approach going forward. Go back to leading from your own strengths. Do what works well for you. You can quietly work on getting better at the “soft spot” but the truth is, it can be a real waste of energy and effort to put a bunch of time into trying to shore up the weakness or go on the defensive trying to justify what happened. Go back to what you do really well and are known for. Knock it out of the park that way. Play things on YOUR terms.

And Shelley Canter, author of “Make the Right Career Move” says you have two choices after such a blunder:

(1) ignore the public flub but learn from it, prepare well, and dazzle your next audience.

(2) Following the old adage of “the best defense is a good offense”, make a light-hearted acknowledgement of the flub in passing (no long-winded act of contrition), learn from the bad experience, and dazzle your next audience. The strategy is largely the same, the only choice being whether to acknowledge the blunder publicly or not. But the thing that will save a career is owning the mistake (the only way to learn from experience), learning from the experience, and working hard to perform differently and better the next time.

Hopefully there won’t be a next time. Driscoll believes, “People can forgive one misstep. But not two.”

Yikes. That’s a lot of pressure.

I’m willing to give Jindal a second chance. We all should. Remember: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

What do you all think? Did you ever screw up publicly? Did you come back? If so, how did you do it?

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