Tag Archives: business ethics

No More “What’s Next?

3 Oct

For most of my life I’ve been aspiring to get to whatever was next. High school. College. Career. Marriage. Children. Always looking to that next point on the horizon. Not ever perfectly content with where I’ve been, always pushing forward with the thought in mind that whatever was next would be better than what came before.

Now, what’s next? The major milestones have been met. I’ve been restless the past few months and am just now realizing why.

I am at a midterm point. A crossroads. Middle age. I can now look backward and forward with some perspective on life. This is a point of dissatisfaction and “midlife crisis” for some. I’ll admit I went through that a few years ago and after an honest self-assessment determined that I am quite fortunate to be loved by a husband and family that are sometimes too patient with me. I am not perfect, and they love me anyway. This is a blessing that not everyone fully appreciates.

Now, the life decisions are more nuanced. Not about what I have, but about how I want to live in this world. More about form than function, such as:

  • Will I continue to do things the same way I’ve always done them, or will I change?
  • Will I truly know myself — my limitations and strengths — and accept both?
  • Will I make conscious choices to have the experiences that are most fulfilling, with the people in my life who can best share in that joy?

I think that adolescence is about determining the who am I and the why, young adulthood is determining the what and middle age is about the how and the with whom. I am feeling like the next decade or so will help me to learn more about people, care about the human interactions that energize life,  change the habits that are no longer helpful for me and accept the things about myself and others that are never going to change.


More on Manners: SMetiquette

13 Sep

Judging from the traffic to this little blog, people like to read about manners. And they like to read about social media. This post is dedicated to a topic that I will call “SMetiquette,” or etiquette for social media.

Whether you’re just starting to use social media or have been out there as an “expert,” everyone can use a little reflection on proper adult ways to interact through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.

Here are some thoughts, based on what I’ve seen on the business and life sides, for what works and what doesn’t:

  1. DO share. Giving of your true self—including your thoughts, opinions, contributed content of all sorts—supports the social media ethics of authenticity and mutuality. Holding back, by only showing your business perspective and approaching social media simply as a way to make money, will not get you anywhere.
  2. DO be there. Now. But not 24 hours a day. If you are out there on Twitter all the time, then I’m going to think that you are lurking, at best, and stalking, at worst. That’s just weird. A few times a day is fine, but realize that your posts should be reflecting what you are learning about living life—which is not the same thing as being online all the time. Go out there and be offline to enrich your life, PLEASE! But when you are online, by responding to my posts and being fully engaged, I count you as a valuable contributor in the conversation. This is why I’m not a fan of automated posting through the variety of tools that are out there to support the omnipresent ideal. If it’s not really YOU out there putting up the post, it looks to me like you are not committed to genuine interaction.
  3. DO know when it’s time to DM or chat, or just plain talk in person. Everybody doesn’t need to see all of the back and forth—or inside jokes—that you think are hilarious. Use some judgment and take the conversation away from Everybody mode when it gets to a certain point.
  4. DON’T auto-DM or self-promote. If you do this when I follow you, I’m apt to promptly unfollow you. If you are just looking to drive traffic to your blog or Web site, I will care about you much less than I used to. It’s just rude and is the social media equivalent of jumping up and down or doing the “ooh-ooh” pick me thing that Arnold Horshack did on Welcome Back, Kotter. Looks and is desperate for attention.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing, but it should get you well on your way to being an appreciated contributor and practitioner of good SMetiquette.

Social Media Musings

13 Aug

This summer has been an interesting set of firsts for me in social media:

  • I got my first “commercial” offer on the blog–an incentive to run a contest. Gratifying to get asked to help promote a publication as lofty as Harvard Business Review.
  • Just a few weeks ago, I friended my mom on Facebook. It’s been interesting. She will not let me help her to post a picture of herself, but she was very interested in joining the fan page for Elvis and her church. She’s a bit lonely out there right now. I don’t think that there are many septuagenarians on Facebook. But my mom is not afraid to try new things, and I am quite proud of her.
  • I made the decision to “defriend” some people on Facebook who don’t interact with me anyway, in person or online. I am all about having quality interaction with the people that share back with me—not those who share nothing or just include me in push messaging that I’m not interested in. Life is too short to waste time. This defriending lightened my load in terms of friends but gives me more time to read and enjoy content from people where the friending is reciprocated. In case I accidentally deleted someone who really does matter to me, I made sure to let folks know that they should give me a shout to refriend–just as a safety net.

Nothing revolutionary here. Just some social media musings.

Snake Oil in the Social Mediasphere

13 Jul

imagesSo many self-proclaimed social media gurus are full of it. They confuse quantity with quality, and juvenile behavior with “authenticity.” Use of social media does not equal expertise in leveraging the medium for business purposes.

These days, there’s a fair dose of snake oil being peddled by people seeking to make a profit. Business advisors encouraging companies to hire a  “social media expert” lead to further confusion, setting aside real strategic decision-making for reactive jumping-on-the-bandwagon.

Just because someone’s using social media doesn’t make them a go-to for solving business problems. This is like saying that because a person can dial the telephone and talk with every friend in an afternoon that they are an expert in sales. It just doesn’t work that way.

Here are four recommendations for identifying a purveyor of social media snake oil:

  1. Take a look at their design aesthetic. Is the color palette of their blog reminiscent of the choices you would have made as a teenager? Just because you can make your blog header bright pink doesn’t mean that you should. Appearances do matter, and this is a signal that they are not playing to a business demographic. Taste is not something we’re all born with. Most of us develop it over time, through trial and error.
  2. Read their blog. Does it include self-promotional and narcissistic photos and a minimum of useful content, primarily focused on their drinking exploits? Is there a preponderance of lol, omg and cul8r? This is self-absorption that they’ll mature out of, but you probably don’t have time to observe the process of growing up. Let them interact with the newbies in the industry and pay their dues before they get credit for being a “guru.” Experience counts. Come back in 5-10 years.
  3. How much content do their tweets deliver? If they are mainly flirting with people or trash-talking with friends, this is another reason to filter them out. Sharing information is key on social media, but being mindful of what’s worth sharing is the “twetiquette” to live by. Some do not switch gears to DMs when a one-on-one conversation is started on Twitter, and that’s a shame. Knowing when to go off-line or on a private line is a judgment easy to make and honestly appreciated by the Twitterverse. A high frequency of  tweets does not get one access to the ranks of the Twitterati.
  4. Is their point of view “authentic” in a style that can be converted to play in a business setting? The beauty of social media is each individual’s ability to establish a uniquely authentic voice. Just as all voices are not welcome at the board table, not all social media voices are worth tuning into for business purposes. Being authentic in the business world probably does not include over-use of emoticons, IM abbreviations or stream-of-consciousness chatter. High-quality tweets consolidate big ideas, embedded in tiny urls and spartanly precise word choice. They are mini-headlines that when mined open new worlds for the reader.

Remember, there’s a “me” in social media, but it comes after the “social”–meaning that awareness of social standards is still good sense and good business.

The Socially Intelligent Leader: Performance Reviews

26 Jun

It’s that time of year, when all good employees gird their loins for the opportunity to review themselves, their colleagues and their bosses. Some see this process as a chance to get something off their chests, to communicate a truth they’ve been unable to share during the regular course of doing business. Some approach it constructively, with the earnest intention of helping to make the collective business benefit from honest self-appraisal.

Every company has a different approach to the process. I’ve seen a few during my 20 years working in professional settings. In state government, the process is thorough but results are not connected to any incentives. In the private sector, insightful companies put in place programs that reflect the willingness of leadership to listen to employee input and incorporate it into building a better business.  Some companies follow a strictly democratic approach where 360-degree feedback drives the  review process, and others are based upon a hybrid approach where employee feedback is used but normalized by management.  In non-profits, evaluations are typically very thoughtfully conducted, and employee incentive is more linked to altruism than tangible incentives.

This is key: The review process itself must have integrity for employees to accept the feedback into their ways of doing business.

I have both delivered and received reviews this week. Upon some reflection, I do believe that this is an opportunity for all of us to embrace the leadership qualities that can improve our organizations. This includes:

  • Receiving flattering and not-so-flattering feedback with humility and honesty. Don’t get a big head, and don’t take things too personally—even though it feels personal. Some comments are to be absorbed because it’s not always easy to accept compliments. Others are to be viewed as outliers because they don’t make a difference in the long run anyway–and some people use the process as a way to communicate when instead they should have raised any issues in the moment rather than storing them up like squirrels bury nuts throughout the year. And still others are to be honestly examined for self-improvement, which is always possible.
  • Delivering reviews knowing that often you are the mouthpiece for others’ praise–which is gratifying to provide–AND others’ constructive criticism—not always so easy to share. Presenting the information in the context of your organizational reality is important positioning.
  • Finding ways to emphasize our strengths because—let’s face it—it’s hard to change habits that influence our “needs improvement” items. That being said…
  • Accepting weaknesses in ourselves and others with the wisdom of this adage: Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Once it’s done, move forward!

I found this article and video from Harvard Business Review to be particularly thought-provoking on the topic of social intelligence, a quality of leadership defined by empathy, connectedness and genuine desire to create an environment in which people are happy, inspired and productive because of these things. It’s a good reminder for the leadership in all of us that steps up to the plate at performance review time. At its core, this is an uber form of internal customer service, an “I’m not happy if you’re not happy, and our work will not be stellar if all of us aren’t in this together” ethic. In the course of my wanderings, I have grown to be more and more fascinated by this approach to leadership. It’s the Herb Kelleher style as opposed to the Donald Trump way of doing things. If I were queen for a day, I would wish this approach on all organizations. Of course, a combination of styles adds up to a successful business, but this one’s becoming more worthwhile in a world of businesses seeking transparency and authenticity.

Just something to ponder, for those who like a little balanced self-awareness during performance review season.

Alsop’s Law Six: Compelling Vision (aka Pizza Surprise)

26 Apr

Most organizations spend precious time writing vision statements, but few hit the nail on the head. Ronald Alsop’s The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation explores the connection between compelling vision and reputation in Law Six.

A vision statement should be aspirational, with a five to ten-year horizon. It should evoke an image of what can or will be, as a result of the work of a corporation or entity. As Alsop describes, there is a certain amount of poetry involved in setting visions, but the words must be jargon-free and substantively embody your organizational goals.

Interestingly, Alsop cites Domino‘s as one of the vision statements that’s pithy and on-target:

To be the best pizza delivery company in the world.

images-1A recent Deloitte paper compliments Domino’s vision and even states that “everyone is expected to know exactly how their job fits in to the company’s mission.” By now, everyone knows that at least two of the company’s employees were either unaware or didn’t bother to buy into it.

Here‘s an ABC story about the incident that has raised new questions about how companies can preserve their reputations despite employee faux pas via social media.

Domino’s took quick and decisive action in this situation, and they are to be praised. The company invested in a “listening post” so they could pay attention to social media that could damage their corporate reputation. Once the problem was identified and isolated in terms of location, their reaction was immediate and left nothing to chance. They closed the location, had everything sanitized and let go the two employees in question. The Domino’s spokesperson appeared on YouTube and commented head-on that the situation ran so counter to the company’s standards that it was downright distasteful.

Pizza surprise, indeed.

Alsop’s Law Five: Be a Model Citizen

23 Apr

img_0164Every day before my son goes to school, I tell him, “Be a model citizen today, okay?”

My son especially needs this because he will try to do what we call “the fancy stuff.” This means that, in order to impress his friends, he has the tendency to show off a little bit. This behavior may involve stretching the truth, lies of omission or temporarily ignoring the rules that apply to everyone else.

Just like my son, all of us have days when we are tempted to not be model citizens. Alsop’s point is that for companies, being a model citizen is not something to be done when the mood strikes. The behavior has got to be consistent and ongoing, and supportable with solid evidence.

Here’s a question to consider:

If a company gives money to a community, including support to charity, but decides to leave town and eliminate jobs after receiving significant tax incentives from area government, are they a model citizen?

Depends on whom you ask.

Do companies owe anything to their employees and area citizens? Or is it all about the bottom line?

I have been pondering the issue of corporate social responsibility lately. These are tough questions. Businesses are in business to make a profit. If they can no longer make a profit and must make decisions that negatively impact employees and area citizens, do those left in the wake have a right to complain?

My sense is that there’s a right way to handle tough decisions and a wrong way. Any reasonable person knows that business leaders are in positions of authority because at least once in a while they must make hard decisions. When tough decisions are communicated to stakeholders openly and honestly, people can be disappointed but having had some sense of the decision-making process, typically they will understand the outcome. They will believe that the company has strived to be a model citizen. Despite the outcome, the company made every effort to keep people informed and treat them with respect, retaining the company’s status as a model citizen. The company made no fancy moves and wasted no time in covering up the process behind a difficult choice.

On the other hand, if a company chooses to make every public relations move based upon the need to save face, without clearly explaining the underlying reasons for their decisions and not involving the stakeholders as active and thinking participants in the outcome, then people will have more questions than answers. People will not believe that the company is a model citizen.

This is the essence of Alsop’s Law Five.