Classy. Conan O’Brien’s final evening with NBC he spoke directly to the audience sharing with them that on this last night he could speak in whatever manner he wanted to about the network with no ramifications.  After the last show, he was then in a legal agreement to not say any disparaging remarks about the network.  He literally had a “get out of jail free” card to say whatever nasty, anger felt, ugly remark he wanted to say about the network and this huge debacle they created.

Instead, he shared how he had spent most of his adult working life with the network.  From beginning as a writer with Saturday Night Live to this last moment on the Tonight Show, he shared with great sincerity and transparency that he felt great gratitude for NBC.  “It’s every comedian’s dream to host The Tonight Show and I’ve done it for 7 months – I’ve lived my dream for 7 months”, O’Brien shared.  He expressed heartfelt appreciation for the rallies, the kindness and the support from fans.  Almost brought to tears, he shared his disbelief that they stood in the “pouring rain” to support him and attend these final shows.  Then, speaking to the young people watching, he looked directly to the camera and said (paraphrasing)“do not be cynical – it’s the trait I like the least.  I have lived my dream.  If you work hard and be kind, amazing things will happen.”

Wow.  How many of us can depart with such class and professionalism?

I was never a fan of Conan’s on his “Late Night Show” but it was always on after Jay Leno so I listened in as I finished up my day and tasks.  The move to the Tonight Show and then now this has brought the “who” behind the comedian out and I am solidly impressed.  The man emerged last night – victorious in showing the world his wonderful, caring personal brand.

How many of us can leave or have left like that?

Leaving employment, a business, a client, a relationship always comes with some sort of emotion.  Some of us leave gracefully, some quietly and some with great fire “burning bridges” all the way.  One of my top five personal brand attributes is passion.  It’s my strength and as a professional speaker it’s the energy that draws in, feeds and sustains my audience.  Yet, any strength taken to the extreme becomes a weakness. I’m fiery and passionate so when I leave I lean towards the “bridge burning” because it fits my style.  It’s something that I’ve worked on redirecting in a way that lets my great passion show in a way that is productive.

Do you leave well?

You hear that any publicity is good publicity.  We all have to deal with negative situations at some time – yet, we don’t have to create them. Leaving any endeavor, thing or person, we become “more visible” at a time when we don’t want to be visible.  Our personal brand can shine or be tarnished and we are the ones that walk away with that label when it’s all said and done.  How can you ensure in this “moment of fame”, this very visible moment, that the sampling of your character and competence is on brand?

  • Know your personal brand – when you know it you can manage it. If you’re quiet (which might come across as snobbish or self-centered), know that and how you can manage that in engaging with people.  If you’re fiery (like me), manage it.  (i.e.  I write when I’m angry or want to say something to someone, then with great effort, I set that writing aside for 24 hours and read it again.  Sometimes “talking” to the paper is all I need to get my mind around what to do next.  And, yes, it takes great effort not to hit “send” because every bone in my body wants to send it at that exact, passionate moment.)
  • Keep in mind you really never know when you’ll pass this way again. Building a bridge that you’ve burned is one of the most humbling and difficult thing to do.
  • You never know who someone is, who they will become or who they influence. In Conan’s case, the screen world is ladened with deep connections.  Would you refer someone who publicly left  their last network in a public “huff” or would you take a chance knowing that if something happened, at least, it would be dignified?  While saying what’s on your mind, might feel good, does it really “inspire others to speak positively on your behalf”?

At this highly visible moment, what are they sampling in your character and competence? I hope that they find a professionalism and brand that keeps them coming back for more.