Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Decision Time

I am in my 18th year of school. That’s a lot of school! I will be done this coming May and will be sent out to become a business leader. I’ve studied marketing, accounting, economics, finance, management, psychology, strategy, and yes, even ethics. But the only thing that cannot be taught from a book is the thing that will make all the difference: how to make good decisions. My time at The Soderquist Center has served a priceless purpose. It has showed me the importance of personal values and finding a company that aligns with those values. I have been able to define what I stand for and what that looks like in my future career. And yet I wonder if those infamous CEOs of the early 2000’s scandals had values. I don’t think anyone actually sets out to be a white collar criminal. As they prepared to enter their careers, I doubt they daydreamed about the millions – even billions – of dollars that they would steal from shareholders. And yet somehow they did just that. Perhaps it was the pressure of achieving the best results or bad advice from a fellow colleague or a misconception that they really were not doing anything wrong. Regardless of the why, they still all had one thing in common: the decisions they made were bad, horrific, devastating and every other synonym you can think of! Below are a few quotes from three CEOs along with some facts about their time in leadership:

“Most of us made it to the chief executive position because of a particularly high degree of responsibility…. We are offended most by the perception that we would waste the resources of a company that is a major part of our life and livelihood, and that we would be happy with directors who would permit that waste…”
- Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski

Facts about Dennis:
• Joined Tyco in 1975, became CEO 1992
• Compensation was ridiculously high – 800,000 shares of stock, no ceiling on bonuses
• Purchased a $6,000 shower curtain using company funds
• Also used $1 million of company monies to have his mistress plan his wife’s birthday party which became known as a Roman orgy
• Convicted on June 17, 2005 for misappropriation of funds – 22 counts of grand larceny for $150 million in unauthorized bonuses. He was convicted of fraud in the amount of $400 million against the company shareholders
• Currently serving 8 years & 4 months to 25 years in jail

“People have an obligation to dissent in this company…. I mean, I sit up here on the 50th floor, in the library. I have no idea what’s going on down there, so if you’ve got a problem with it, speak up. And if you don’t speak up, that’s not good.”

- Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling

Facts about Jeff:
• On February 12, 2001, Skilling was named CEO of Enron
• Enron was known for their “brush it under the rug” approach to whistleblowers’ concerns
• Unexpectedly resigned on August 14, 2001, citing personal reasons
• A month later, sold $60 million of his stake in the company
• Enron declared bankruptcy in December 2001
• Skilling was indicted on 35 counts of fraud, insider trading, and other crimes related to the collapse of Enron
• May 25, 2006 – Skilling was found guilty on 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, false statements and insider trading.
• October 23, 2006 – Skilling was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months in prison & fined $45 million

“You’ll see people who in the early days…took their life savings and trusted this company with their money. And I have an awesome responsibility to those people to make sure that they’re done right.”
- Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers

Facts about Bernard:
• Co-founded WorldCom
• Convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the largest accounting scandal in US history
• Currently serving 25-year prison term
• WorldCom’s financial misstatements totaled $11 Billion
• Charged with one count of conspiracy, 1 count of securities fraud, 7 counts of filing false statements
• Drove himself to prison on September 26, 2006 in his Mercedes.
• The earliest date he can be considered for parole is 2028 – he will be over 85

Where did the disconnect occur? What happened to their values? What would you do if you were faced with millions of dollars that you could easily pocket for yourself? Would you be able to fight off temptation & greed for the sake of what is good, what is right? What we don’t like to think about, what is truly is scary, is how much these criminals look like you & me. Ethical leadership takes a solid foundation of values and the integrity to stick to them in the face of temptation. People will look to you to define what is right. It’s time for business leaders to step up to this responsibility.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blogger Code

I am currently researching blogging and how it is impacting corporate hiring/firing policies. In my research, I have stumbled upon a Blogger's Code of Conduct, proposed by Tim O'Reilly. Below are the 7 main ideas from his proposal:

1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
4. Ignore the trolls.
5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogger%27s_Code_of_Conduct

The code is a nice reminder that blogs are not intended to be used as someone's personal diary or emotional dumping ground. In my research I have discovered numerous cases of employees being fired for their blogging practices. I will post more on this subject when my research paper is completed. (I know, you can hardly wait, right?!)

Just a quick note and inspiration for Bloggers everywhere!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Blame it on Mr. Rogers...

So I was driving home yesterday from Tulsa, two hands on the wheel at 10 & 2, eyes straight ahead when I got a hankerin' for some of that Cheesecake Factory cheesecake that we had ordered to go. Nathan gets it out and prepares me a bite. As he fed it to me, he missed all of my mouth and got some on my chin. Of course he did not want it to fall into my lap so he rushed the container over to catch the dangling crumb - only to shove the big glob of whip cream all over my chin. We were in fine form on that drive home!

Now Nathan and I were not originally supposed to be in Oklahoma yesterday. We had plans to go to Hot Springs for the holiday weekend. We had reservations at the old hotel there - The Arlington - and were going to visit a spa for some pampering. Unfortunately, the spa we wanted to go to was booked up. So we decided to cancel our hotel and go another time. When I called to cancel the reservation, I was informed that they had a 48-hour cancellation policy and I was out of luck. Needless to say I was not happy with their response. I asked to speak with Customer Service. I said that I did not recall anyone mentioning the 48-hour policy. She asked if I had received my confirmation letter, which I did not. Of course, their records showed that they had sent it. Long story short, I expressed my dissatisfaction with this policy and they still only refunded half of our money. By this point we had no desire to ever visit this hotel or anything having to do with it. There was no way we were going to reschedule.

As I reflect on my poor experience with The Arlington, I am reminded of my undergrad classes where we talked about negative WOM. For every negative experience someone has with your brand, they will tell something like 5 people. As the old saying goes, "The Customer is Always Right", even when they're wrong. I was amazed that The Arlington would accept the word of their employee over my own so blatantly. But then I wondered how many customers lie or are plagued by the entitlement epidemic that has spread throughout my generation. I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that blames Mr. Rogers for the narcissism of the new generations. Now, Mr. Rogers is not specifically to blame - but the ideas of Mr. Rogers, the "you're special" mantra that so many parents chanted for their children. In recent years, children no longer win ribbons for actually winning but for just participating in order to not hurt their self-esteem. Everyone is special. Everyone deserves to win. But that's not reality. The truth is that we are not entitled to an easy life, to having things your way. This will be a struggle for customer service professionals to remain loyal to their customers yet do what is best for their business. In my case, I still do not believe that canceling my reservation would actually have hurt this massive hotel and I know that I never received my letter; however, there are many people who would lie in order to get what they want.

Brief Conclusion: We would have gone to The Arlington some other time, but now we will never visit them, nor will our friends and possibly any of my readers. But this policy-loyal customer service could become the trend as entitlement-plagued generations grow up and demand a new, possibly unjustified level of customer service. Just a thought!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Morning, America!

After a 5 year courtship with Xanga, I have decided to abandon the blog of the teens and upgrade to this very site. As 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."

Here I will write about the wonderful meanderings of a simple Christian gal living in Arkansas, complete with humerous antidotes, embarassing moments, and lifechanging revelations. Enjoy!