Archive | July, 2011

Who is Responsible for Corporate Governance?

The fallout from the News of the World tabloid’s closing due to the phone-hacking scandal continues.

In recent testimony to a committee of Parliament in London, the stance taken by News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, News Corp. deputy COO James Murdoch, was concise and consistent. To many questions asked by committee members, the Murdoch’s provided different versions of one primary answer: “We didn’t know.”

They claimed they didn’t know (among other things):

  • Who signed checks ranging up to 600,000 pounds for what one committee member characertized as “hush money.”
  • That the company was paying legal fees for the convicted felon who actually hacked into the voicemail of a 13-year-old murder victim.
  • That bribes were paid to police staff for information about news “targets.”
  • That phone-hacking was a wide-spread practice across their journalist population.

The single theme to the Murdoch’s testimony was that they didn’t know about any transgressions at News of the World until recently, and they are, therefore, not responsible for anything.

Committee member Tom Watson stated his belief that Rupert Murdoch “is responsible for corporate governance, and it’s revealing in itself what he doesn’t know.” The Murdoch’s lack of connection to day-to-day operational activities and norms created a News of the World culture that delivered exactly what they should expect it to: invasion of privacy, corruption, un-ethical practices, and, ultimately, the demise of the organization.

Who’s in Charge?

Who is responsible for corporate governance? The best case scenario puts this responsibility solely on the shoulders of the senior leader – be it the President, CEO, or whatever that person’s title. The senior leadership team shares in this responsibility but ultimate authority falls to the senior leader at the top of the organizational hierarchy.

The proactive senior leader and his/her senior leadership team put core agreements in place about “the way things will be done around here.” This compelling vision statement answers these questions:

  • Who are we (our organization’s purpose)?
  • Where are we going (picture of our desired future)?
  • What do we stand for (our values)?
  • What is our strategy (key success factors)?
  • What should we focus on right now (our goals)?

With these agreements in place, proactive senior leaders spend time and energy communicating the vision, values, strategy, and goals constantly. They spend time and energy wandering around the organization regularly, observing how the organization operates. Based on what they observe, they praise progress and citizenship, and redirect behaviors that are inconsistent to the desired vision.

In the absence of such agreements, with possibly only the “making of money” as the organization’s purpose, any number of approaches – legal or not – may serve that purpose.

Align Your Team

Even if you’re not the President or CEO, these suggestions can help you create clear agreements and desired outcomes for your team. Creating a compelling team vision is a terrific activity for engaging team members in the core work of the team. Clarity of vision, values, strategy, and goals enables team members to praise and coach each other during fast-paced, day-to-day activities.

The Buck Stops Here

US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said, “The Buck Stops Here.” What the world needs today, more than ever, are senior leaders that take this advice to heart. Set organizational standards, coach to them, hold staff accountable, and enjoy the benefits of a high performance, values-aligned workplace.

Have you downloaded your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Clear Your “Filters”

Early one recent morning, I turned on the hot water in my sink to shave. The water was hot and, um, rusty. I checked the other hot water outlets and found the same, copper-colored water. It was time to bring in Matt, our trusty plumbing & heating expert.

Matt came by within the hour and verified what we suspected: our water heater was on its last legs. It was nearly 20 years old, installed when our mountain abode was first built. Sediment and rust had built up over that time. We gave Matt the go ahead to replace it.

When Matt and his assistant installed the new water heater for us a few days later, Matt asked us what the two tanks were “in line,” feeding the water heater. We had no idea. There were no markings. He opened one up and found charcoal bits in a filter system. Apparently these tanks were also installed when our house was built. Designed to clean up the water from our well, the charcoal elements needed replacing regularly. We had never done that, and it is unlikely that the previous owner did anything with them. The filters had (probably) worked well early on, then did very little cleaning of the well water as it went through them.

Matt pulled the clogged tanks out and finished the installation of the new water heater. The next morning we I enjoyed not only sparkling hot water but amazingly strong water pressure. It seems the two old charcoal filter tanks robbed us of decent water pressure the entire six years we’ve live in this house. We never knew the water pressure that was possible! Once those clogged filters were removed from the process, water flowed efficiently and vigorously as we directed it.

What “Filters” Inhibit Clarity in your Organization?

In my work with senior leaders with culture initiatives, I find many times that their view of their organization’s “cultural reality” is not very accurate. They do not know what employees think about “how it is to work” in their organization. They believe that the information given to them is accurate, but they really don’t know if it is fully accurate or not.

They have many “filters” in place, including people, systems, and structure. The filtering that occurs is usually not intentional – but it is powerful. Filtered information may not give a complete picture of a situation. Decisions made based on filtered information may not solve problems, at all.

Three Ways to Reduce Filtering

Leaders at all levels validate the information they receive when they:

  • Increase the Information Channels You Scan.
    Seek data from a variety of direct sources. Learn about processes from the vantage point of suppliers, employees, and customers.
  • Measure What’s Really Important.
    Sometimes the metrics that are easy to measure aren’t the right things to measure. Decide what metrics are truly worth paying attention to, then do that. Day in and day out.
  • Manage by Wandering Around.
    Connect with individual leaders, supervisors, and staff regularly. Wander around and “buy coffee” for individuals and learn what they see as opportunities for improvement.

Clear your filters. Learn what’s really happening, day in and day out, with employees and customers. Get a clear view and change systems, policies, and procedures to remove frustration and enable action and service. Then, keep cleaning those filters . . . and modifying systems . . . and cleaning filters . . . regularly. Your employees and customers will love you for it.

Have you downloaded your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Shine The Light on Poor Ethical Practices

“Thank You and Goodbye.” So signed off the British tabloid, News of the World, with it’s last cover this weekend. Brought down by a phone-hacking scandal, Rupert Murdoch’s infamous newspaper faces scrutiny and legal battles over accusations of illegal practices.

News of the World “journalists” apparently eavesdropped on the phone messages of murder and terrorist victims, politicians and celebrities. Claims have been made that newspaper staff bribed police officers. The organization’s staff have faced similar charges in the past (one was jailed over phone hacking in 2007), so we really should not be surprised.

Prime minister David Cameron has called for an investigation into the ethics and standards of British journalists. I certainly support this investigation but feel that this “horse left the barn” a long time ago for tabloid journalism around the globe.

Just because this tabloid shut its doors does not mean such practices will end. Just like the poor attempt to solve a road “pot hole” by shoving used tires into it, closing down this tabloid does not address the root issue: a lack of accountability for ethical behavior.

Defining Ethical Behavior

I believe every organization faces ethical temptation on a regular basis. To ensure that your organization is proactive about what behaviors and practices are desired, you must be specific about ethical requirements for day-to-day business operations.

I work for a very values-aligned organization, the Ken Blanchard Companies. Our values are published on our website. Our number one value is “Ethical Behavior,” defined as follows:

  • Be truthful and fair when dealing with others, legal in our practices, and proud if our actions were publicized
  • Be committed to the conservation of natural resources
  • Practice what we preach: Our behavior models our products and services

This definition sets clear parameters and boundaries for “what a good job looks like” when demonstrating ethical behavior. Note that I indicated that ethical behavior is our number one value. The family and leadership of the Ken Blanchard Companies decided years ago to rank order our values so that employees would know which value to act upon FIRST. For us, that primary value is ethical behavior.

Holding Staff Accountable for Ethical Behavior

Defining ethical behavior is a vital foundational step. The most important process is that of holding all staff – at all levels of the organization – accountable for “modeling your ethical standards.”

To reliably monitor ethical behavior, your organization must create feedback systems that provide insights on the degree to which all staff model your desired ethical behavior. Just as you have metrics and dashboards to monitor performance progress & accomplishment, you need metrics and dashboards to monitor ethical behavior alignment.

Our clients have found the following approaches highly useful to “stay connected” regarding ethical behavior in their organizations:

  • Regular all-employee values surveys, completed twice a year. Results are tallied and given to all staff (all-company summary plus detailed information for intact teams).
  • Exit interviews with staff who leave the company, featuring questions specifically about ethical behavior.
  • Small, informal group meetings with senior leaders to inform & inquire about values alignment.
  • Genuine “managing by wandering around” by senior leaders, making themselves available for open, honest one-on-one discussions.

Shine The Light On Poor Ethical Practices

The only way your organization and it’s members can consistently demonstrate ethical behavior is to 1) clearly define what you mean and 2) relentlessly hold all staff accountable for those behaviors.

What is your experience with accountability for ethical behavior? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Get your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What I Believe

235 years ago today our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence from foreign rule. Today is America’s birthday! Despite it’s foibles and flaws, I love this country.

The freedom embedded in our country’s roots enables me to have clear beliefs and to act on them. If, over time, they serve others and me equally well, they’re probably good beliefs to hold and act upon. In this post, I share my beliefs, as I see them at this point in time.

Your beliefs may be different. However, life experiences have taught me that many of the globe’s inhabitants share these beliefs. We may define those beliefs differently but the core foundation of our hopes and dreams are very similar.

My Beliefs

This is not a prioritized list – these beliefs are all “tied for first place.” They exist in dynamic tension as I try to act upon each belief, in unison, in every interaction, moment to moment. (I didn’t say this was easy!)

Freedom – I believe in the freedom for others to choose a different path, a different career, a different lifestyle, a different viewpoint. I believe that my freedom must not inhibit others’ freedom. I live and let live unless my or my family’s freedom or safety is compromised. If I learn that your beliefs and actions cause me distress, I simply choose to no longer interact with you.

Alignment - I believe that the best outcomes occur when we share common goals and values. I choose my friends & co-workers based upon demonstrated alignment of goals, values, and valued behaviors (the observable, measurable indications of my values “in action”.) When I surround myself with values-aligned folk, life and it’s complexities are MUCH more tolerable.

Service - I believe that my “lot in life” is to serve others. I find grace and comfort in sharing time, talent, and treasure with others. When my servant heart leads me, I learn, I make connections, and find peace in that service. If my logical, self-serving brain leads me, I isolate, judge, and create anxiety for myself.

Education - I believe that the knowledge I have gained about life & organizations (particularly about organizational culture) helps create more satisfying, engaging work environments. I have a career that enables me to educate others and (mostly) inspire leaders to create more graceful, loving workplaces.

Accountability - I believe that accountability is the most pure form of service to others. If I do what I say I will do, you can trust me and depend upon me. If you do what you say you will do, my trust and respect for you grows by the minute.

Karma - I believe that what I believe – and how I act on those beliefs – comes back to grace me or haunt me. When I serve willingly, when I enable others’ freedom, when I hold myself and others accountable for our promises, good things come our way. I have no scientific evidence that “A” behavior led to “C” outcome – but I believe that this happens, a lot.

The similarity of our beliefs – and, therefore, of our hopes and dreams – makes me optimistic that we can move past the polarization of today, learn to treat each other with civility, and together create a sustainable, positive life force for all in our future on this planet.

Are your beliefs similar to these, or vastly different, or somewhere in between? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Get your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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