Tag: Business Integrity

Football Leadership Follies

September 21st, 2014   •   no comments   

The recent headlines regarding the National Football League’s handling of domestic abuse issues certainly create a visceral response in just about everybody. Emotion is front and center, whether in support of the victims or the players. After the emotion is set aside, we are faced with a variety of issues and nuanced arguments.

Many of these issues are consistent with those faced by business owners of all sizes every day.  They include core values and the behaviors that support them; decision making and critical thinking; leadership and communication; protection of the brand and aligning brand with corporate culture; and juggling multiple agendas.  They also include considering the needs of all stakeholders, both internal and external.core values

In an ideal business world, vision, mission, values, culture, brand, strategy and tactics are all aligned. All employees know what the company wants to achieve and they know how to go about doing it. They know there are consequences for actions, and they expect all to beheld accountable for their behaviors. There are few gray areas. Obviously, that is not the case in the NFL.

From watching and reading of all that has been going on, it appears that:

  • Issues of domestic violence have been around for a long time. (fifty plus cases in recent years)
  • The NFL has handled those that have been publicized on an ad hoc basis, without having a strong policy or making a strong stand against it. The NFL has probably swept a number of such instances, especially where charges were never brought, under the rug. It seems that the NFL’s large security department learns about, investigates and reports back to the Commissioner on these instances, and as little as possible is done about them. Clearly nobody has thought about the messages being sent by the subjective manner in which these cases are being handled.  Behind the scenes, there is probably much conversation and negotiation by the teams to minimize the punishment dished out by the league.
  • The primary agenda of the league is to make money for the owners. The Commissioner is the point person for the owners, who  are all about money.
  • In order to maximize the earnings, the Commissioner must protect the brand. The brand is tarnished by bad publicity, thus the hard work of minimizing that publicity is crucial. Of course, he could protect the brand by strictly punishing bad behavior, but he has chosen another tactic.
  • The NFL does not seem to have its own moral compass, so that even if they have core values, they do not consistently live them.  moral compass
  • The messages coming from the league and the individual teams are not consistent, vacillate wildly and change from day to day.
  • Each team handles matters differently. Each talks about protecting the individual rights of the players who “are innocent until proven guilty.”  But they are really thinking about winning and making money.

Everyone has rights. The victims have the rights afforded them by the law. The accused have rights. And the teams (i.e. the company) have rights. How can they all be jived?  Where does fundamental fairness to all reside?

Under the law, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But companies should be guided by more than just the law. There should be company policy that reflects the core values of the organization. If someone is accused of something that is felonious, how should the organization behave? It needs to show its stakeholders, both internal and external, its values and beliefs. The first action should be by the team and it should be based on company policy. That action should be clear and it should be quick.

In the case of football, the league also has disciplinary and regulatory power. The league should have its own code of conduct which comes into play as well. It may not always be exactly consistent with that of each team. Perhaps it should be stronger. And the commissioner should be vocal and should be a leader, stepping up and stating unequivocally what the decision is. Commissioner Goodell’s  statement was unsatisfactory because,  while he admitted making a mistake, he provided no information that could really be used to ascertain how the league had actually behaved.

All of the apologies seemed to be based on the fact that the press presented evidence of poor handling by the teams and the league.  They were sorry they got caught, not sorry they had acted poorly. Nobody behaved well.

Organizations need to examine their core values and determine exactly what behaviors are acceptable and what are not.  They need to consider how employees accused of crimes will be handled. And they need to consider the impact on other employees, customers, vendors, shareholders and the public. They must think about their culture and their  brand and how their decisions impact the perception of both.

Issues such as this are complex ones for organizations, especially if they try to juggle the rights of all of the parties. They are made easier if there are strong policies based on clear core values. Zero tolerance policies carry teeth. And tough consequences.

Business owners need to stand up and show courage and integrity. It is part of being a great leader. It is part of setting a tone inside an organization. It is part of creating and building a powerful external brand.


Get in the Arena

July 25th, 2014   •   no comments   

The Man in the Arena, an excerpt from the speech “Citizenship in a Republic,” in Paris, France, 2010 was delivered by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.  The following words of inspiration can serve as a virtual kick in the butt for those who are sitting on the sidelines as spectators, or, for those leaders in positions of power and control that spend time talking and blaming, rather rolling up their sleeves, getting the job done.

July25_2014_The Arena

Impacts on the Arena:

  • Distance from the Action.  At every level, every day most leaders and many employees are cloistered in meetings, talking issues to death, looking for the source of the problem, and  generally believing it is outside of the room. Interestingly enough, they are venturing to investigate for themselves and most information is anecdotal. Being so far removed from the “arena“, decisions are made, or not, based on conjecture and assumptions. No one is really close to the “arena.”
  • Worthiness of the Cause.  When the purpose, vision and mission are not clear, people fail to engage.  They are not readily enticed to be creative or pursue innovative ideas and approaches.  The “arena” is viewed as a place to visit, put in time, offer mediocre performance and sometimes even undermine.  No one knows the “arena”
  • Being afraid of Failure.  Safety and security seems to be huge motivator today. Businesses and individuals find it almost impossible go-all-in no matter the risk.  At the end of the day, the person left standing in the “arena” is so fearful of being called out or blamed that they keep their “arena” small,safe and private.

The Challenge – Get in the Arena

July_25_2014_standoutIn order to find the courage and motivation to resolve the above issues now is the time to answer the following questions:

  1. Are you a person sitting in meetings hypothesizing and making conjectures about the future of the business, project or situation? or  Are you the person who’s willing to forgo the meeting to walk, among the people,  and actually get into the “arena” of production or service?
  2. Are the purpose, vision and mission of the business, the endeavor, the initiative so unclear and uncertain that no one has any intention of being average or less?   or  Is the purpose, vision and mission so compelling that you can’t keep people out of the “arena”?
  3. Is fear such a big motivator in the culture that no is willing to standup and standout? or Are you a person who is willing to stand alone in the “arena” in spite of huge resistance and be willing to win or lose?


Mining Your Personal Brand

July 9th, 2014   •   no comments   

Is your personal brand a diamond in the rough?

Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Once you label me you negate me.” And, although it may not seem important to worry or care what others say or think about us, perceptions are reality and perceptions brand us.   One may like to believe that it doesn’t matter what others think or believe about them, and perhaps it doesn’t, if they don’t need the relationships or the business.

Then, it is perfectly fine to behave in any manner that supports or serves their self-interests.  After all, they don’t really want or need anyone to ensure success in life or business.  They can go on their merry way and the rest of the world will have to reach out to them. 

If they own the business, their staff will need to accept their behaviors or find another job. If they are employees, they better be absolutely fantastic or they can easily be replaced. If they are looking for investors, they better have the most fabulous product in the market or financing will evade them.

However, most individuals need to develop a brand that attracts and doesn’t repel.  Fully understanding and creating a personal brand is an integral part of success.

The question now becomes, how does one build a personal brand that supports not detracts from success?

Finding the Right Tools

July7_2014_brandThere are numerous tools and tactics that can be used to help individuals determine their personal brand. Here’s a few simple suggestions to get started:

  • Take the lead and invest time in self-reflection. Robert Frost once wrote, “We all sit around in a ring and suppose, while the secret sits in the center and knows.”  Only the individual can honestly know what is image or brand they would like to project. As mentioned in the previous post, Developing Your Personal Brand, only 15% have truly defined their personal brand. 
  • Proactively Seek Feedback. There are many formal and informal ways to elicit meaningful feedback for how one is viewed by employees, employers, boards, communities, investors.  One needs to keep an open mind when asking for others feedback.  This is not the time to take things personally, easy to say, often hard to do.
  • Be Adventurous and Brainstorm.  Even though finding one’s personal brand is serious business have some fun with friends, colleagues and trusted advisers to keep is safe and creative.

An Opportunity for 720thinking

Appreciating that going it alone is not the ideal, 720thinking recommends finding the right resources to help discover your personal brand.  If one is serious about developing a personal brand that projects a positive, powerful image, than taking small consistent steps can make significant incremental changes to decrease the overwhelmed feeling.

WheJuly7_2014_diamondn one seriously mines their brand, they just might be hiding scores of talent and skills that can lead them to discover a wonderfully polished gem that needs to be revealed to the world.

It’s up to you. Are you interested in mining your personal brand?  If the answer is yes, then there is no better time than the present to get started. Please keep us posted on your progress.


Developing a Personal Brand

July 6th, 2014   •   no comments   

Most leaders go through their careers trying to get ahead, working hard to move up the ladder. Most entrepreneurs start enterprises with visions of building their idea into something bigger, something sustainable. They are basically building their career.  At the same time, whether they are thinking about it or not, they are building their individual brands.

Personal brand is an interesting topic. Some folks allow the brand of their organization to stand in for their own individual statement. If they work for a powerful law firm that is known for its “take no prisoners” reputation, they may be more than willing to bask in that identification, especially if they do not quite measure up to it individually.  The same may hold true for someone working for a company known for corporate social responsibility and a caring attitude. He may shoulder that image, even if he doesn’t fit it.

The individuals discussed above may survive faking their individual brand for a while, at least as far as the external world can see. But internally, those in contact with those individuals know they don’t fit the brand they are trying to adopt. It ultimately will not work.

At the same time there are those who have never given personal brand any thought at all. They just act the way they choose to act or according to their company’s norms without philosophizing about it.  Upon retirement or at a point when they achieve an “AHA!” moment, they may try to piece together a story about who they were. Wouldn’t it have been better to have thought about it in advance and acted accordingly? Better, but not easier.

There are a few simple questions one can ask oneself early in a business career to begin the process of building a personal brand.  They include:

  • When I retire or die, what do I want my colleagues, employees, bosses, customers, vendors and community to say about me?  Or put another way, how do I want to be remembered?
  • What unshakeable values do I want to embody?  Have I thought about the behaviors that exemplify those values and my absolute willingness to act in alignment with those values?personal brand 2
  • What group of skills, knowledge and competencies make me different, special and of value?
  • Based on my values and skill set, how would I describe my personal brand?
  • Based on being around me, could those groups of individuals mentioned in the first question currently identify my personal brand?

Let’s just take a single value, integrity.  Many people say they want to be known as having integrity. But integrity is a very broad, nebulous concept. Some would say having integrity means being honest and open, some might say ethical, others might say it means always doing what you say you are going to do. To satisfy everyone that integrity is a core value, Joyce really has to meet everyone’s definition- she has to be honest in her dealings with everyone, win or lose. That means no sneaking, spying, corporate espionage, etc. It means not using informers to find out what employees are up to, not showing favoritism, etc.  It means always doing the right thing, no matter how painful or costly.  And it means always following through on promises. You say you are going to get back to someone- you do.  You promise to return a phone call, you do- always. You say you will follow up- you will. You will and you must if you want everyone to believe that you have integrity.  You believing it is not enough.

There are some amazing numbers that come out of a recent survey. Seventy percent of professionals believe that they have defined their personal brand and fifty percent believe they are consistently living that brand. In actuality, only 15% have truly defined their personal brand and only 5% are consistently living it. So clearly, most are not doing a good job.look in the mirror

Nike has a big brand, as does Tom’s Shoes and Zappos. They all sell lots of shoes, but they all have very different brands.  In the same sense, individuals should develop their own  individual brands that make them stand out from others.

Smart leaders want to have an impact on others and to influence events.  They must develop the personal brand that tells others that those leaders are the right people to trust and to follow.  This is not a small thing.  One looking back at the end of a career can see a winding path with lots of odd stops along the way, but can still view that career as a success if they had a strong brand that defined them and their actions. Those that exhibited “elastic” values and justified behaviors that were not aligned have rendered their brand useless, or worse, have defined themselves as someone who could justify any action to achieve a desired end.  Now, there’s a brand.

Personal brand is a big deal. It is a unifying concept that gathers data from, friends, family, colleagues, employees, customers, vendors and the community and distills it into a single description of an individual and what it is like to interact with him or her.  It can range from something simple like “He is a mensch”, which says a lot; to “Count your fingers after shaking hands with him”, which also says a lot.

Building a personal brand is very consistent with the 720thinking methodology that applies values and behaviors to skills and competencies across individuals and organizations.


Stop Getting Spammed

June 26th, 2014   •   no comments   

We are swamped with undesired information on a daily basis. We unwittingly get on e-mail lists that bury us in offers of low interest rate loans and mortgages, Canadian pharmaceuticals and irrelevant consumer products. Somehow, despite the no-call list, we still get numerous calls from “charities” and others. Cold callers reach out for investment managers, insurance companies, alternative electrical service providers and those trying to get us to switch our ISP. And those are just the obvious spammers.spam

We constantly get spammed at work. Think about how that egalitarian “open door” policy works.  It allows anyone to stick their head in and interrupt you at just about any time. If you decided to create some data around the subject, you could keep track of the number of interruptions per day or even per hour, and of each, ask the simple question “Was dealing open doorwith that more important than what I was doing when I was interrupted?”  You just might discover that your co-workers are spamming you most of the time- and you are signing up for it.

In conjunction with the subject of spam, think about how it can cause you to become distracted or switch tasks. Then think about the number of times you take phone calls while working on something important; the number of times you stop to check e-mail, texts, etc.  Much of the data you get is spam cloaked as something else.  We are spamming ourselves!  And it is constantly distracting

There is a lot of noise out there.  Multiple voices are trying to get your attention.  Out of all of them, producing a huge amount of static in your life, it is getting tougher and tougher to find the true signal, the information you really need to function effectively.

Everyone is always talking about widening bandwidth, being able to handle more tasks faster. Maybe we should be thinking about handling fewer tasks better and more efficiently.  We are already a distracted society. Look around you as you drive.  Other drivers are on the phone, texting or e-mailing, finding music, putting on makeup or eating.  Research clearly shows that if you do two things at once, both suffer.  That means your driving does suffer!  That means that e-mailing while on the telephone creates a greater risk that you will say or write something you did not intend or something that can be misinterpreted.

Spam and multitasking are distracting. Clifford Nass, who is a scientist at Stanford University and one of the leaders in research on multitasking, has said that those who feel compelled to do two things at once are “suckers for irrelevancy.”  In an interview with Ira Flatow of NPR,  Nass said, “The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits.  They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking….People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted….So they’re pretty much mental wrecks.”multitasking

Gloria Mark, professor at The University of California, Irvine, has noted the additional stress caused by switching rapidly between tasks.  She says “I argue that when people are switching contexts every ten and one half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way they can achieve flow….This is really bad for innovation.”

As leaders, we have t own our own schedules and our time, not let others own it. That means limiting access at times. That means showing discipline in checking e-mails and taking calls. It means making it okay for our direct reports to do that too. Flooding people with a constant influx of data and expecting them to remain current to the moment while still managing important tasks that require concentration and full attention is a formula for failure.  Is doing ten tasks poorly really better than doing three really well?

Smart and effective leaders should figure out how to limit the spam that gets in their way. They should find the signal amid the noise. They should limit distractions from others and from themselves. And they should think more about quality than quantity.  This is not easy, and for some, maybe not even possible.  But thinking about it and making an effort in these directions should lead to positive results.  It takes courage to step back from the precipice.

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