Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Is Your Boss Unfit to Lead? Take the Rupert Murdoch Test May 3 2012 no responses

Well, you have to hand it to News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. He knows how to generate a story.  The twist on the latest Murdoch story, however, is that he’s the subject of it.  This week, a British parliamentary panel investigating phone hacking, email hacking and bribery of police officers by his company’s managers and reporters concluded that there was “willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications” and “that “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” (Check out the Financial Times and the New York Times for the back story.)

That’s some pretty strong stuff but it seems more than appropriate when you consider that reporters in Murdoch’s organization, in the interest of scooping the competition, hacked the voice mail of a 13 year old murder victim and the e-mails of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As I wrote last year, in a post called You Get The Culture You Pay For, the managers at News Corp created a win-at-all-costs culture and then worked to cover up and deny the criminality when it began to come to light.

As the proverb says, a fish rots from the head down.  The person at the top ultimately owns the culture that informs the way the people in the organization think, decide and act.  Of course, News Corp. is not the only organization in the news lately for scandalous or criminal behavior.  The story of Murdoch and his top managers offers, though, a helpful set of questions that anyone can use as a test to determine whether or not their boss is fit to lead.  Stepping back to consider these questions from time to time might give you the chance to spot and tamp down trouble in your organization before it spins out of control.  At a minimum, they can give you a heads up that you probably need to find another place to work.

Here’s the Rupert Murdoch Test:

3 Questions They Should Have Asked at the GSA April 17 2012 9 responses

Why is this man smiling?  Jeff Neely, the Western Region director of the General Services Administration, is probably asking himself this question.  In case you haven’t heard, Neely invoked the Fifth Amendment when he was called before Congress this week to explain why he approved $823,000 in expenses for a GSA management retreat at a Las Vegas casino and resort.

This cheesy photo was taken by Neely’s wife on one of his five government-paid recon trips to Vegas to scope things out before the retreat.  She then posted the picture on her Google Plus account.  Seriously.  (Hat tip to my friends at Government Executive who shared the snap after it was unearthed by ABC News.)

The GSA scandal story has taken off, I think, because most of us cannot believe that any federal manager would approve a budget that included $8,000 for a mind reader, $75,000 for a bicycle building team building exercise and $44 a person breakfasts.  Oh, yeah, let’s not forget the $6,000 for commemorative coins and the $8,000 for participant “yearbooks.”  (There are recaps of all this everywhere, including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Washington Post.)

Maybe I just fell off the turnip truck, but I can’t believe it myself because I know of federal agencies that aren’t even providing free bottles of water or coffee during training events. Honestly, I can’t think of any of my private sector clients that spend the kind of money that Jeff Neely authorized.   In a post-meltdown world, it’s just not good form.

So, I won’t venture to psychoanalyze Neely’s motivations in engineering this mess, but I can think of three questions that any leader – public sector or private – should ask themselves before authorizing a mega-bucks budget.

You Get the Culture You Pay For July 7 2011 2 responses

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been ignoring articles in the Financial Times about a cell phone hacking scandal in England. This morning, the New York Times picked up the story in a big way and I started paying attention.

News-world Here’s the very quick recap. It’s been determined that, for a number of years, reporters and contractors for the News of the World tabloid have been hacking the cell phone voice mail accounts of celebrities and athletes. The practice didn’t stop there however. They also hacked the phones of a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered, the families of victims of the July 2005 London bombings and the loved ones of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The News of the World is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp which also owns the Fox Networks, The New York Post and many other media properties around the world. As is usually the case in stories like this, Murdoch and his senior managers say that they’re shocked and appalled by these breeches of ethics (and violations of the law) and that they’re not representative of how the company works.

Here’s the thing. You get the culture you pay for. Your people will do whatever you encourage and reward them to do. If, as has been the case at News of the World, people are rewarded to get the most sensational, profitable stories no matter what, then that’s what you’ll get. If you send the message that there are no boundaries in getting the story, then the boundaries that most people would honor will be violated.

Needless to say, that cultural dynamic is not just limited to media companies. Whether they intend to or not, leaders establish the culture in any organization by what they reward, encourage, talk about, pay attention to and ignore.

What have you done this week to establish the culture you want in your organization? What kind of culture are you paying for?