Archive for the 'Web 2.0+' Category


Five Key Ethical Breakdowns

Businesspeople are facing an ethical crisis in their profession. Our public esteem is at an all-time low with no signs of rising. It will take all of us working together to fill in the hole we have made. Ethics have never been more critical – or more precarious. 

One of the issues we all face is our ability to assess ethics – our own and others – under changing conditions. In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, Max Mazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel show how any of us can go astray. In their article “Ethical Breakdowns,” they outline five critical factors that can trip anyone up:

  • Ill-Conceived Goals. Inadvertently setting goals that promote a negative behavior. The pressures to maximize billable hours or revenue per customer are both examples of goals that can promote negative behavior.
  • Motivated Blindness. We can overlook the ethical behavior of others when it’s in our interest to remain ignorant. Baseball officials ignoring the spread of steroid use in their game is a good example of that phenomenon.
  • Indirect Blindness. We hold others less accountable for unethical behavior when it’s carried out by a third party. A drug company licensed one of its marginally profitable specialty drugs to a third party, then raised the manufacturing price, which in turn led the licensee to raise the consumer price. The company used the licensee to impose a 1,000% price increase, deflecting attention from itself.
  • The Slippery Slope. We are less able to see others’ ethical failings when they happen over time. Auditors may fall prey to this if a company’s questionable practices accumulated over time, rather than all at once.
  • Overvaluing Outcomes. We give a pass to unethical behavior if the outcome is good. A researcher with fraudulent clinical trial entries is more likely to be given a “pass” if the drug works than if it doesn’t.

We all face examples of these conditions in our everyday business roles. The article does a great job of pointing out how these biases can cause even the most ethical person to slip into an unethical position. It’s often not the clear-cut decision between good and evil that trips us up. Rarely is it that simple, clear, or visible. 

Almost all of us aspire to high ethics and the best of behavior. If that applies to you, I encourage you to read the article. You will be surprised how our internal biases and can throw us off that high road!



Changing Capitalism — Part 1

We face a major crisis as we move through this time of change. The Great Recession highlighted the role of businesspeople and our collective ability to impact the world’s economy. We came up wanting in this review and are now on the defensive, fighting for our ability to retain the same control over our world. Trust in business leaders is at an all-time low. We need to change the game.  

It’s time to take a stand for capitalism – a new type of capitalism. It’s an all-inclusive form of capitalism that goes beyond financial statements. The new capitalism takes a long-term view of business and a broad view of our impact. The new capitalism watches the bottom line and the impact business has on all stakeholders. It requires a new structure and a new ethical perspective. This week we discuss how to change the game structurally. Next time we will explore the ethical impact of our actions. 

There’s a great article outlining the structural changes necessary to change the game in the March 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Dominic Barton of McKinsey wrote “Capitalism for the Long Term.” In the article, he outlines three structural changes necessary to reposition capitalism:

  1.        Overcoming the tyranny of the short term;
  2.       Serving stakeholders and enriching shareholders; and
  3.       Acting like an owner.

Business leaders must take action to change the game on all three fronts.

We have been caught up in a self-perpetuating cycle of the short-term. Short-term returns from short-term owners have driven executives to focus on short-term results. The cycle continues to tighten as the pressure for higher and faster returns accelerates. Ironically, the focus on results actually reduces the enterprise value. New leaders must uncouple this cycle and have the courage and foresight to position the enterprise for the long-term. 

Adam Smith

Serving stakeholders and enriching shareholders have traditionally been seen as mutually exclusive. The new capitalism requires a return to some very old values – values outlined by Adam Smith in 1759. “All the members of human society stand in need of each others assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries…” Smith wrote outlining the interdependence between business and society at large and it never echoed as loud as it does now. Business needs a healthy society and vice-versa. It’s our responsibility to make both prosper. 

Acting Like Owners

Finally, there’s a need for all businesspeople to act like they own the place. Not just in the superficial way improvement consultants want us to approach day-to-day decisions, but also in the way we align our rewards with true ownership. That means a more sensible approach to pay, including real downside for top managers’ incentive plans. That also means stronger boards and a redefinition of shareholder democracy that rewards long-term ownership. These are all courageous stances – and all necessary to make a difference. 

These changes require new leadership. The traditional skills are still necessary, but no longer sufficient. New leaders must be able to lead from the rear as well as the front, integrating their entire teams into their activities. These three changes are just the start. In order for the changes to take root and grow, our ethical stance must also change… 

…but that’s next week’s blog!




Balcony Person or Basement Dweller?

Two weeks ago we talked about Balcony People – those people who are raving fans. They always find a way to support you and you always find them in your corner. Balcony People are there in the balcony of your life, cheering madly, and finding any possible way to make your life better. 

Let’s flip the proposition around: Whose balcony are you in? Who do you admire in your life? Is there someone you respect for what they do? Do you appreciate the difference someone makes in the world? Maybe it’s just someone who could use your support. If so, then it’s time to climb in their balcony. 

Are you one of their Balcony People or are you a Basement Dweller? Balcony People support you where you are. Basement Dwellers are generally looking to make a change for you and are ready with some “helpful” advice to improve your situation. Which role do you fill? 

Basement Dwellers aren’t necessarily bad people. Most of them genuinely want to help. Unfortunately, most of the time they act as energy drains, offering unsolicited advice and letting you know exactly what’s wrong with your situation. They reinforce and underline the bad things in our lives. 

On the other hand, Balcony People reinforce and amplify all the good things that you are. They are great listeners and usually hear what isn’t said. Balcony People always provide exactly what you need – sometimes even things you don’t know you need! They are always cheering, supporting, and lifting you up. Their actions provide that extra energy you need and seem to fire them up as well. 

What’s your choice? Are you a supportive Balcony Person or a helpful Basement Dweller? If you are a Balcony Person, whose balconies are you in?  

Make sure those people know you are there. Go out of your way to visit, make a call, or send an email. You will make a difference. I found that out when at lunch with one of my friends – a powerful man with many resources at his disposal – told me how my (unknowingly) well-timed email helped him get through a very tough time. Don’t be silent! Your job is to cheer wildly from the balconies of those people you support. 

Balcony or Basement, it’s your choice. Are you ready to make a difference, or do you want to stay on the sidelines?





How WikiLeaks Will Change Your World!

 It was an interesting week as WikiLeaks continued to publish a steady stream of new documents and tidbits from their massive download of classified files. The reactions have covered the entire spectrum from “How dare they compromise national security” to “These are agents of change for an electronic society.” All of the points and counterpoints are very interesting. Still, I’m not hearing the right discussion. 

The leaks continued last week, unabated and uncensorable, as clone sites made sure any published information remained available on the Internet. “Old White Men” reacted in traditional, predictable, and outdated ways: attempting to shut down the site, cutting funding sources, and threatening legal action. 

All of this was largely ineffectual as unintended and unanticipated reactions cropped up. Other sites published the material. Hackers disrupted sites that opposed WikiLeaks. Other unknown cyber attacks were threatened as non-traditional sources of opposition arose. The technology and escalating consequences made it difficult and unlikely that any traditional reactions would slow WikiLeaks or their supporters in any substantial way. 

It’s been fascinating to watch the furor and discussion around the leaks. Everyone is much too focused on the leaks themselves. The perpetrators have been painted as traitors and criminals for what they have done. Very little of the discussion has been around the unprofessional actions and comments of our diplomats. That should be the real discussion. 

The extension of this discussion is what it means to your organization and how it can change your world. Your company is not likely to suffer the massive data loss from one source involved in the WikiLeaks episode. It’s more likely to be a slow drip of data from multiple places throughout the organization. It will happen and probably already is. The  Internet and social media platforms make it possible to discover almost anything. your organization should be discussing how outsiders view your organization and whether that’s the message you want delivered.

It’s imperative to engage in this new discussion. You have the ability to change the tone of the discussion and innoculate your company against future negative discussions. Have candid discussions in the open about your operations. There is plenty of data available. Find it and use it to improve your situation. Engage in constructive discussions.  


Can you engage in these discussions and make transparency and authenticity a way of life? These qualities are essential in the new economy with the free flow of information that is available to anyone with a PC or a smart phone.


Are you ready to learn from WikiLeaks?




WikiLeaks Drives the Need for Transparency Home

We all know social media changes the game – both offensively and defensively. Offensively, the technology provides the opportunity to reach more people with more information faster and cheaper than ever before. Defensively, we can now hear people’s comments in real time and know what is being said about us. Mass communication is a much more democratic process. That means messy and accessible.

In this environment, transparency and authenticity becomes critical. Information travels quickly and freely between people and organizations. Nothing is secret anymore. Social media platforms make it possible to learn anything you want to know with either a PC or a smart phone. It’s impossible to manage a story or create a façade.

 WikiLeaks is driving that point home. In their latest high-profile leak, the website revealed internal State Department communications. Our diplomats thought their conversations were confidential and they made unflattering and unprofessional comments about foreign dignitaries. Those communications were discovered, disclosed, and posted to the Web. The reaction left our government scrambling to recover. 

Can your organization survive a similar incident? Do you embrace transparency and authenticity within your company? Personally? What if your confidential communications became public? Would those communications reveal professionalism and ethical conduct…or something else?

It takes hard work and consistent effort to create that environment. Leaders must set a clear vision and actively reinforce and clear set of values. They must consistently put in place the systems and practices to create a force of engaged and constructive employees. Finally, the entire enterprise must be kept on-track with constant, consistent, and multi-lateral communication.  

The game has changed. Have you put yourself in position to take advantage of the new social networks?



Old White Guys Rule the World

I remember the conversation clearly. 

It was back in 1981 and one of my Professors was talking about my career options. We discussed various alternatives and explored the possibilities of many different vocations, picking the most likely prospects. Then, came his final encouragement. “You have a great education. You are intelligent. You are a white man and the world is run by white men.” 

Now, this was Madison, Wisconsin and not Madison, Mississippi. It’s a progressive northern town in modern times, and here was a professor telling me that old white men rule the world.  

That conversation came back to me last week. I was in a meeting of senior executives and directors for companies throughout the Twin Cities area. The room was full of – you guessed it – old white men. I was the youngest in the room, no men of color, and only three women. The strangest part was that I didn’t notice the mix right away. 

Instead, it was an outdated discussion on social media that woke me up. The room was discussing the impact of social media on senior management. They were grumbling about how difficult all the different platforms made it more difficult to control situations. It seemed like everyone would be happy with the status quo. Then it was obvious that I was in a room of old white men.  

This was a blatant example of the lack of diversity. Most of these situations are much more subtle. Look around. Do your groups all look like you? Are you comfortable? You’re probably reinforcing the status quo. This is an era of accelerating change. It’s an exciting – not comfortable – time.  

These times are creating major opportunities. Finding those opportunities requires fresh perspectives – not a strength of old white men! My friend, Lisa Foote, is creating her own opportunities. After a successful corporate career, she stepped out on her own. Lisa embraced the new social media platforms and used the unique perspectives of a diverse audience to create a new marketing outlet. Her company, MixMobi, is now the premier mobile marketing company in the country. You rarely find Lisa in rooms of old white men. 

How about you? Are you breaking away from your comfortable, traditional approaches to find new opportunities? It’s time to lose the old white men in your life – or risk becoming one!



Networking Changes Your Life!!

The latest research shows that networking can be a matter of life or death. Networking can also change your world. It can change your health. It can change your happiness. It can change your career. Networking can change your life.

Research shows that networks share key health characteristics. Healthy people are members of networks of healthy people. The reverse is also true. Networks share habits and reinforce each other’s behaviors – for better or worse. How’s the health of your network?

The same applies for happiness. Everyone decides for themselves just how happy they will be. Still, happy people have happy people in their networks. Again, behaviors and attitudes are reinforced and encouraged. Do you network with upbeat, optimistic people? Or is your network bringing you down?

Finally, networks are crucial to your career. The world and our places in it are changing too fast for any one person to keep up with all the developments – even the important ones! Building a solid network enables you to stay in a learning mode and remain on the cutting edge of changes in your business. Active networking makes it more likely that you will see the major opportunities created by those changes and be ready to take advantage of them.

Networking is a matter of life and death. It affects health, happiness, and the success of your business. Develop a network that reinforces the life that you want to lead and helps you reach the critical goals in your life.

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July 2018
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