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The Board Role In Ethics And Compliance

For compliance programs, "tone at the top" is a frequently used (but little examined) term.  Just how does a board of directors determine and establish a practical system of ethics that will reach throughout the corporate structure?  What elements are needed?  How can the board gauge the effectiveness of its efforts?  What approaches work best-and which lead to failure?

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Topics: Ethics & Compliance, Culture, Leadership, Corporate Culture, Values, Tone At The Top

Exposing Your Corporate Character

Last week the New York Times contained three separate stories, all in a single section (Business Day), that in some way or another, dealt specifically with the importance of alignment between your corporate character and your public capital, i.e. your reputation.

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Topics: Culture, Leadership, Corporate Culture, Corporate Character

Legacy Lost

Those who know me know that one of my great passions in life is scuba diving. I have been diving for well over 3 decades, and have visited numerous wonderful, exotic, remote and challenging places to pursue this passion. Being immersed in the sea in this way connects me at a deep level to this strange and beautiful environment and I feel privileged each time I submerge to be able to experience this part of our wonderful planet.

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Topics: Leadership

Walking Through The Brambles – It’s all about the Mission

Not that long ago I was out enjoying my hobby of photography in a small town near DC. Looking for a better angle on a shot, I realized that the light and framing I wanted required that I hike deep into a patch of woods. Intent on getting the shot, I didn’t pay all that much attention to how thick and impenetrable the woods I was walking through were. I just kept going for a good quarter mile, maybe more, despite some amazingly strong brambles that pierced my jeans and even teamed up with enough force that I had to stop and peel them off me one by one in order to move forward. But the brambles didn’t bother me at all because the thorns and branches weren’t as important as the mission – to capture a particular photograph that I very much wanted to have.
 
Once I got to where I was going however, and I had taken the photo, I found that I was a quarter of a mile deep into a thicket of bramble-infested woods with no logical way out. Suddenly my attitude changed. I didn’t care about the picture anymore. My new mission was to get out without getting scratched or snared (or at least to do so with as little scratches or snaring as possible). 
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Topics: Leadership

Ethical Leadership Without Bosses

Here at LRN we don’t have bosses. We all work for a mission: to help our customers (we call them our Partners) pursue significance by Inspiring Principled Performance. It just so happens that our mission is supported by a company with 18 years of experience in the marketplace.      

It's been two years and here I am after just finishing the exhilarating and experiential journey of my MBA!

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Topics: Leadership

Are You Fighting Fires, or On Fire? Why Leaders with Passion and Humility Prevail

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, Rahm Emanuel once quipped. Along similar lines, leadership gurus are fond of noting the opportunities for change when a “burning platform” presents itself. On this view, sounding the alarm bells can set off a search for a new direction, provided managers can free themselves from the “tyranny of emergency.”  

In situations where complacency rather than crisis rules the day, the “house on fire” play seems like a good call. One can see the point of rousing management from dogmatic slumbers when serious threats appear on the horizon. That said, we should question the burning platform stratagem for igniting change. In the life of organizations, what evidence do we have that fear-based arguments—“if we don’t do X now and in earnest, then Y surely will be our ruin”—lead to lasting change? The evidence seems thin at best. Companies that make a habit of responding to business challenges by jumping on the latest performance improvement method or re-engineering scheme seldom do well over time.
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Topics: Leadership

3 Strikes and ... Be a Leader

Many friends and business leaders – and most recently Dov Seidman, the CEO of my company – have reminded me how baseball is a sport where you can be an all-star even if you fail 7 out of 10 times.  Even Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Yet when my youngest son Drew came to the plate with two outs in the last inning of a recent game, with two men on base and his baseball team down by one run, the last thing on my mind was failure.  As parents we all pressed a little closer to the field, anticipating a game winning blast from one of the team’s best hitters.  But instead Drew swung and missed, and slammed down his helmet in frustration as the parents and players simultaneously gasped in surprise.  But in the middle of heading back to the dugout to collect his equipment, my son suddenly turned, gathered his teammates, and led them across the field to shake hands with the other team.  By the time Drew was back in the dugout, he was already smiling, dissecting the things that went wrong with this at bat, and congratulating his teammates on a well played game.

In spite of his failure that day as a baseball player, Drew succeeded as a leader in three key ways from which we all can learn:
 
1.  Like all great leaders in our increasingly complex 21st century world, Drew embraced transparency.  He didn't hide the reasons for his failure nor try to pass the blame to others (the sun was in his eyes, the dog ate his homework, or he never received the all important e-mail).  Instead he looked at me and stated, "Dad, I couldn't slow down my heart beat!" My son was simply nervous, and the coaches and I were able to use those insights to better prepare Drew and his teammates for the next set of pressure filled moments.  Great leaders are transparent so others can learn from them.
 
2.  Like other memorable leaders, Drew re-framed and re-thought his circumstances.  Rather than wallow in the disappointment of his untimely missed swing, Drew rethought the situation and realized there was more to the game and to his team's success than a single at bat.  In fact, Drew's team has a strong culture of teamwork and "we" above "me" (thanks coaches Chris, Bill, Jerry and Tom) and his quick action to gather his teammates and head across the field shifted the focus from his individual disappointment to a celebration of a great comeback by his team.  Great leaders re-frame and rethink circumstances to propel themselves and others to achieve breakthrough outcomes (which in this case included an even better comeback by Drew's team the following weekend).  
 
3.  Like the most successful leaders of today, Drew lived and shared sustainable core values.  Drew knew generosity, sportsmanship, and humility were values essential to his ability to compete, win, and be a leader on his team.  It's easy to be the teammate who hits home runs, guns down base runners at second base, or closes the big deal, but a true leader carries himself the same way regardless of the immediate circumstances and situation.  
 
Though our team didn't win that game, I left the field feeling like I won so much more in having learned that day from my son's incredible acts of leadership.
 
And in case you are wondering, Drew’s next time at bat ended with a line shot into right field and Drew rounding first base with a solid base hit.  Perhaps his next failure will be a few more games away…
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Topics: Leadership

Let's get on with the hard work of our age

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind."

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Topics: Leadership

The Super Bowl's Inspirational Leader

Forget about winning the Super Bowl this Sunday. New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin is demonstrating to the world what a winning approach to 21st Century leadership looks like.

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Topics: Leadership

Needed: 21st Century Leaders Who Inspire Others and Unleash Creativity

Our leadership development programs are out of sync. We have been developing leaders for a bygone era of stability, orderliness and command-and-control hierarchies. We have thought that soft capabilities like inspiration and creativity are too fuzzy to matter.  As Chief Learning Officers, we have been spending money, likely more than any line item in our budgets, trying to imitate the past rather than help invent the future. Even our words are wrong; the term talent management, for example, implies tight compliance and monitoring that actually impedes rather than encourages creativity. It should be about inspiring and unleashing talent and not restricting it.

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Topics: Leadership