Probably the most hyped media event of the century. On March 27th 2022, Will Smith (53) strutted on stage at the Oscars and slapped the jovial Chris Rock (57) squarely across the face and the world’s jaw collectively dropped. Both men are entrepreneurial industry heavyweights with their own influential media empires. However, their response to extreme pressure was so different. What can entrepreneurs learn from this incident? We compare and contrast Will Smith’s with Chris Rock’s reaction to the Oscars debacle.
Several million eyeballs on you, a seemingly insensitive joke about your wife. We can only imagine what it would be like to be in this situation. Will Smith, initially laughed at the joke about G.I Jane and his wife’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) haircut but for whatever reason, he felt the need in a high-pressure situation to react violently.
Chris Rock on the other hand, when confronted with a high-pressure situation decided to diffuse the situation with humour.
What can entrepreneurs learn? When dealing with a high-pressure situation, an upset client for example, always look to diffuse the situation first. Try not to get into defensive mode and hit back with defensive actions. Ask lots of questions and listen. If appropriate use light humour to get them on side. Try to get to the facts and share them with the aggrieved party. Solve their problem as quickly as possible.
In a professional situation, there are rules and guidelines. Let’s not forget that Will and Chris were at work. Yes, it can be glamorous work at times but it’s still work.
Will slapped a professional colleague across the face. In most places of work that behaviour would result in dismissal and police intervention.
Chris on the other hand, amazingly continued to deliver jokes and punchlines and the show went on despite the oxygen draining from the room.
What can entrepreneurs learn? Always strive to be professional, despite the situation. If a colleague or a customer completely loses it, don’t resort to a slanging match. Continue to deliver and do your job. Keep in mind that court proceedings or even incarceration are possible if things escalate.
It’s Not All About You
Yes, Will Smith is the main man and all eyes were on him. But we need to remember that Will Smith would not be ‘Will Smith’ without his team. All the scriptwriters, cinematographers, fashion designers and business associates are all relying on Will to put food on the table. As a result of his actions shows are cancelled, deals put on the back burner and people lose work. That’s the harsh reality.
Chris on the other hand has no such problems. Sales of his latest tour have skyrocketed and media outlets are clamouring to get his side of the story. Business is booming.
What can entrepreneurs learn? Yes, it’s your baby, you are the boss, we know that. But even if you have a small business there are probably tens if not hundreds of people that depend on you. Be it suppliers, clients, or family, there can be a real impact if an entrepreneur ‘loses it’. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that you can have an impact on the lives of others, try to ensure that impact is positive.
Don’t Forget to Apologise
It was interesting to see that during Will Smith’s Oscar acceptance speech, he failed to apologise to Chris Rock directly. In fact, he managed to name the Academy and others except for the actual victim of the incident. Also, he tried to justify his actions by framing it as an act of ‘protection’ for his family. A few days later Will finally decided to release a formal apology to Chris but the media storm had already begun.
Chris on the other hand reportedly apologised to another host (Wanda Sykes) for stealing the limelight. Yes, that’s right the victim of the act apologised.
What can entrepreneurs learn? We are all human and sometimes we make mistakes. When this happens it’s important to give a genuine apology to those impacted. Don’t try to frame the apology and make excuses as the apology will come across as insincere.
A delayed apology will often be viewed as fake. Apologise immediately after you realise you are in the wrong. Paradoxically, doing this will often give you the respect of those that have been affected. Upset clients may continue to do business with you as they now view you as honest but human. Most will accept a genuine apology. Don’t just apologise with words, give something in return to help make things right.
Beware of the Ego
Denzel Washington reportedly gave Will Smith an inspiring pep talk following the incident. He said, “In your highest moments, be careful; that’s when the devil comes for you “. Will Smith was about to be nominated for best actor but yet, at the pinnacle of his career, he threw away decades of hard work because of a mild joke and a slightly bruised ego.
Chris Rock on the other hand put himself and his ego to one side. While the sting of the slap resonated in his face, he told a joke. While the humiliation of being slapped in front of millions of people bounced around his confused mind he put his ego and feelings aside and ‘simply’ delivered.
What can entrepreneurs learn? At our highest moments, we are standing on the shoulders of many others. Try not to let our ego get the better of us. Yes, we may be the biggest, the best, the highest earner but remember all our success is dependent on others. Without them we are nothing.
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