Monday, July 30, 2012

Errors, Misjudgments and Dishonesty-Picking up the Pieces Part II

In this blog I want to return to the subject of  "Picking up the Pieces" segment I wrote about on 10 July.  One of the points I made earlier was that blog was that leader behaviors over time must reinforce the values and norms that are expected.  I want to focus on what is it exactly that leaders DO...what are those behaviors that reinforce the norms and values?  I think they fall into four simple, be direct, be unambiguous and be visible.

I'll start with simplicity.  When an organization has endured a leadership crisis where senior leaders have been removed or resigned, the people who are left behind are almost aching for someone to lead them out of the crisis.  They need to know there is a way forward and there are concrete actions being taken to move forward.  One of the best examples I personally witnessed once again refers to Jeroen van der Veer who became CEO of Shell after his predecessors were found to intentionally misstated the oil reserves of the company.  In Jeroen's first big leadership event of his top 80 or so executives he used a single handwritten slide he titled "The Basis for Success".  It had four blocks.  Those were "beliefs", "principles", "strategy" and "priorities". Each of those blocks had three no more than four bullet points ....handwritten, dated and signed.  No multi-colored PowerPoint, 60 slide slide, handwritten with a very complex, global business reduced to four blocks.  This single slide, both in words and symbol reinforced the notion that the way forward required day-to-day head down heavy lifting by every person in the company every day....nothing fancy...deliver results consistent with our beliefs and principles.

When it comes to being direct, leaders need to be clear and candid about wrongdoing but not dwell on it.  This means being fully cooperative with investigations and audits and insure compliance with directives to preserve relevant documents.  It also means acknowledging the many thousands of honest hardworking staff who had nothing to do with the wrongdoing.

Be unambiguous about core values, ethics and compliance.  Laws like the US Corrupt Practices Act or Technology Transfer prohibitions and other regulatory guidance need to be known and adhered to.  This may require mandatory training or retraining.  Global companies encounter a lot of "grey area" situations....especially in the developing world.  Corruption and graft are seldom the "cash-in-an- envelope" type but more often are disguised as "commissions", "transfer payments",  "agent fees" or "padded invoices" and can be buried deep in  complicated contracts or agreements.  Leaders sometimes need guidance to alert them to situations they may encounter and guidelines established for proper behavior

Be visible.  Communicate frequently at multiple levels and in multiple channels.  The best of these I've seen involve a matrix with potential audiences on one side of the matrix, and key messages on the other.  the key messages block might also include the channels....face-to-face, newsletter, web cast, focused email to certain audiences.

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