Ask Bracher (Questions &
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 7, 2007
"Civility does begin at the top"
How does one teach civility? And, even when successful at it, will it generate profits?
Civility is taught by example and it will create positive cash flow, if by "cash" one can expand the definition to increased productivity and reduced stress in relationships. Character, when combined with compassion, creates an environment that is civil: thoughtful, safe, clear and supportive, whether at home, on the job or in daily interactions. Those who are fortunate enough to experience this special "civil" atmosphere feel valued; gaining a special positive energy as a consequence. Constructive energy encourages legendary customer service, consistent high quality performance standards and mutual trust among stakeholders along with higher productivity and profits.
Because the most effective teaching is by personal example, then civility is learned by the careful observation and thoughtful emulation of those who exhibit the right types of admired behaviors. Whether those responsible are parents, supervisors, public figures or classroom role models; adults are accountable for what they say and how they say it. Each of us is being measured, all the time, by how we handle our stewardship of values for those who depend upon us for guidance. The popular phrase is simply "walk the talk."
Teaching civility means leading in constructive ways:
- motivate with public praise, pinpointing productive contributions
- criticize in private, and keep the focus on actions instead of the individual
- listen carefully, seek clarity, confirm perceptions, and only then offer push back
- leverage the honest words of please, thank you and I am sorry I made a mistake
- smile, encouraging others frequently; showing enthusiasm and confidence
- avoid sarcasm and zingers, as they tear down more than they build up
- build a team culture with mutual commitments to always lend a hand
- acknowledge weaknesses and mistakes, making openness a reality; not a theory
- address divisive, productivity-eroding issues, making sure team members -
- understand the required skill sets to make their team productive
- are valued by and bring value to the organization
- are committed to the vision, mission and strategy
- are signed-on to the organization's supported behavior and culture
Profitable organizations retain individuals who exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did. Leaders of productive organizations are open, honest, trusting, caring and even vulnerable. Since they cannot do everything, they ask for assistance and support of their colleagues. Civil behavior, at its most basic, confirms the following: "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but, they will always remember how you made them feel." Civility and integrity matter!
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 28, 2007
"Hiring? Look at I-C-A-R-E"
I am hiring a new key manager, soon. Other than integrity, what else should I look for?
John Hammergren, the successful and well-respected CEO of San Francisco headquartered McKesson Corporation guides an organization that generates nearly 90 billion dollars in revenue, the 16th largest company in the United States. McKesson's vision is to help create a healthcare system where quality is higher, mistakes are fewer and costs are lower. As the nation's leading healthcare services company, McKesson provides pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and technologies.
Hammergren has helped renew the vitality of McKesson leveraging his five operating priorities, built on these five letters, introducing his I-C-A-R-E platform: Integrity, Customers, Accountability, Respect and Excellence. McKesson's gigantic size and overwhelming complexity might seem unrelated to smaller enterprises, however, the requirements for successfully sustaining longer-term viability are similar.
"In evaluating people, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you." Without the basics of honesty and congruence between word and deed, few legitimate enterprises will succeed.
These five operating behaviors differentiate 'wanna be's" from high-performing managers.
- Listening skills will be complemented with an engaging communications style that draws out the thoughts and concerns of others. Effective listeners build relationships that attract and retain service-oriented employees who provide legendary service to customers.
- Clarity includes realism regarding personal and organizational capabilities, challenges and consequences of decisions. Those who produce strong results consistently master performance details while simultaneously shepherding the organization's vision. Effective managers set productivity-improving direction because they are able to internalize core values as they convincingly motivate followers, relentlessly implementing mission.
- Competence is measured by knowledge, capacity and motivation. Track records of successful performance trump academic credentials, enthusiasm, plans or even promises. Reference checking, in ways that dig beyond the comfort of making a few phone calls, will identify productive work histories.
- Confidence is not so much an attitude, as it is a motivational energy that surrounds winners who are able to seize opportunities and rally colleagues to join the effort.
- Humility is about appreciating the trust and support of customers and colleagues, respecting and nurturing relationships. Humble individuals acknowledge their dependence on others for their success, treating all stakeholders graciously.
Hiring the right people for small or large organizations can be improved by painstaking- investigations - through interviews, background checks and work history documentation. Hammergren's ICARE operating philosophy is worthy of application, improving productivity: Integrity in all relationships; Customer Service commitment and dedication; Accountability for what can and should be accomplished; Respect for enterprise, its values and other people; and, Excellence in all product and process transactions.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 30, 2007
Leadership offers key to positive work atmosphere
Broken business relationships can be costly, even devastating. Two of my key people are at each other, way too often, and their tensions are impacting morale and productivity. What is the best way, as the boss, to help them "get over" their issues and perform more effectively? Losing either one is not acceptable, but something has to change, soon.
One of my mentors, Dr. L. J. Fletcher, often repeated this statement: "There is no substitute for the truth." And, what he meant about truth started with what we need to see in the mirror - ourselves, our own motives and words along side behaviors. Relationships, whether as personal as marriage and family or as financially-critical as those related to how we make a living - depend upon honesty, clarity and integrity.
How relationships come apart is as varied as the individuals themselves. And, investing energy identifying the root cause can lead down time-consuming searches along pathways that frequently generate more heat than light. When trust is broken, for just about any reason, the building blocks for communication and teamwork are at risk. When one or both of the parties involved feels diminished, the drive to regain recognition, respect and power will kick in. Rejection precipitates resentment and reaction, often anger, whether passive or aggressive. When the human spirit is injured, the protective armor of pride is placed over the not-so-obvious wounds, and light skirmishes can morph into bloody battles. The anger that follows is expressed in terms of challenges to authority, resentment, "the silent treatment" or even resistance to dealing with the other person, unless there are absolutely no alternatives. The phrase "saving face" may be the announced reason for the "conflict" - but, more likely is the need to avoid future unpleasant encounters.
A perceptive boss will make sure key people "fix" problems:
- Clarify the mutual value of each party, separately and then together, to underscore the importance of immediate constructive conflict resolution;
- Inform participants that you are not a referee, but rather a supervisor, and that their counter-productive behaviors are doing harm to the enterprise;
- Inspire confidence in your leadership, assuming you are in position to take action in this way, that if they do not "fix" the problem, in a timely and appropriate way, that you will be forced to replace them both;
- Re-set the currently-strained working partnership, by reminding the adversaries (past, present or future) that relationships are multi-faceted, complex, and always and continuously in need of integrity-centered behaviors, including attention, careful listening and mutual-support.
ntegrity in relationships begins with courageous and focused leadership, at home and at work; with consistent communication of the mission to all stakeholders.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 14, 2007
"Family's good fortune demands stewardship"
What destroys family businesses?
Family businesses fail because of greed, jealousy and incompetence; along side a lack of trust and integrity. Family-member "by-standers" who conclude that their birthright is to live off of the accomplishments and residuals created by others, stop investing in the enterprise. The founder's compelling drive to support the entire enterprise is replaced by a singular focus on financial performance. Unfortunately, a destructive number of third generation members demand dollars to sustain comfortable life-styles, with little regard for the organization's customers, suppliers, employees or even the communities in which the enterprise operates.
These "genetic lottery winners" sidestep hard work and social responsibility, becoming the idle-rich, if only until the income stream runs out. Family business failures, in the third generation, reflect the selfishness and short-sightedness of those who inherit. And, the parallel could be drawn to those who are given, as a birthright, citizenship in a noble experiment, such as the United States of America. There are no guarantees for those who are irresponsible stewards of inheritance; economic, political or cultural.
In our 2004 book, Integrity Matters, we make the case that "the average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence, according to British historian, Alexander Tyler in his 1778 research on cultural decay entitled: The Cycle of Democracy:
From bondage to spiritual faith,
From spiritual faith to great courage,
From courage to liberty,
From liberty to abundance,
From abundance to selfishness,
From selfishness to complacency,
From complacency to apathy,
From apathy to dependency, and
From dependency back to bondage."
Self-destructive cycles need not be repeated. Faith, courage and liberty create abundance. Founders of nations and family enterprises epitomize the benefits of intellectual and moral integrity, enthusiasm, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and the commitment to goals that extend beyond self. Family businesses often get started by high-energy, single-minded (some might even say hard-headed) entrepreneurs. Founders risk health, wealth and security to "try" something new. Over time, the financial rewards grow, enabling subsequent generations to participate and benefit from the enterprise. And, it is at this success-point that two predictable and damaging behaviors all-too-frequently emerge: entitlement and arrogance. So, what can be done?
To overcome the third-generation jinx in a family business or the 200th year of a democracy, forward-looking and responsible recipients must:
- provide appropriate organizational performance skills or retain those who can;
- protect the organization's viability by serving the common good before self;
- preserve through personal example, the integrity-centered values that enabled founders to launch the enterprise; including prudent financial stewardship
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 21, 2007
"Give character test to candidates"
Your columns are about integrity and leadership; so what are your thoughts about the 2008 Presidential campaign?
"March Madness" refers to the annual NCAA basketball championship series that leads to the crowning of a # 1 team. National championship basketball programs generate increased revenues for their respective institutions and attract the next crop of talented players. Even though the basketball season begins in the autumn of the previous year; for many "non diehard" fans, the games do not capture real attention until the 65 teams are selected to participate in the "Road to the Final Four."
Presidential politics seem to have a similar period of preparation and qualification; thankfully only every four years - on the road to the nomination from respective political parties. Getting too excited by early polls reminds me of a track-and-field term, "rabbit" that refers to the sprinter who jumps out early but seldom finishes first in longer races. With many months of campaigning still ahead, today's presidential "rabbits" may not win the nomination.
This early in the "race for the White House" - who knows who will survive the campaign stresses and emerge from the grueling, noisy and sometimes upsetting shake-out that is the American Political process? When individuals do not know where they want to go, any road will suffice. And the same is true about leadership, including the presidency, suggesting that if voters do not know what they want and need, then the cleverest strategy with the most money will capture the Presidency. Such an approach is fraught with danger, at home and abroad. So, here are seven questions designed for thoughtful voters:
- What credentials will convince you that the candidates will improve your life, personally, professionally, domestically and internationally?
- What behaviors do you expect from a President?
- Which candidates exhibit appropriate values in their respective campaigns?
- With hundreds of millions of dollars invested in getting nominated and elected, what will assure you that the candidate will be able to govern?
- Who lights a fire of hope for the next generation, inspiring younger individuals to engage in the political process?
- Who instills confidence in what has been good about America; that could be good again?
- Who will replace politics-as-usual that leverages partisanship and personal attacks with courageous cooperation and wisdom in the management of public affairs?
For the President of the United States to re-establish national enthusiasm, international impact and global legitimacy, a new generation - in age or attitude - or both- must assume leadership, ending arrogance, greed and gridlock. The Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Organization should be evident in the next President: character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 25, 2007
Working parents leave much in hands of education system
School drop-out rates and uncompetitive test-scores are frightening? Who’s to blame?
Students today have a mixed-blessing of technology, television and free time on their hands. Challenge one is the real crunch placed on dual-income earning parents; scrambling to make ends meet while striving to provide essential “modern” electronic tools for their children. Hardworking adults do not always provide adequate supervision, especially after school; failing to grasp the risks of internet predators and pornographers. They do not limit internet access to a central home location, visible to caring adults. For those children not participating in school-sanctioned sports and constructive after-school activities, opportunities for trouble proliferate.
Already harried classroom teachers are expected to combine the talents of world-class educators and perceptive therapists with emergency medical responders skilled at conflict resolution and the treatment of wounds. These educators do this simply to survive a day with hungry, frustrated and sometimes frightened children. Simultaneously vying for mindshare with parents and teachers are merchants of filth, on television, at the movies and in the streets. Gangs proliferate to fill the emptiness of youth, providing the hope of “belonging” to an estranged segment of young people.
With this backdrop; consider answering these five questions:
- With whom does your child sit at lunch and what kind of a person is he or she? If you don't know, you can be sure your elementary child’s teacher does.
- Who are your child’s study pals at school?
- Who are the positive influencers in your child’s class and with whom do they associate?
- Who are the parents in your child’s class who poorly supervise the activities of other children who visit in their homes?
- Which classmates are the most likely skilled at over-riding the “blocks” on television programming and the computer, in order to view materials you would prefer your child not see?
When you can answer these questions, perhaps with the assistance of your child’s teacher, with confidence and satisfaction, then you will know where the responsibilities of parents and teachers intersect constructively. Until then, and before judging educators, do your homework and know what is needed by your child to more fully utilize what is currently available in and through schools, public and private.
Successful education, including valid representative test scores and meaningful graduation rates, is a team effort involving parents, family, teachers, administrators and leaders throughout the community. Toys and noise are not legitimate replacements for reading, writing and arithmetic. Turn off the television and turn on the study light, offering encouragement. Responsible parents will take the initiative to reach out, listen, support and monitor – the educational process, demanding integrity and consistency – beginning at home.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 20, 2007
"Inconsiderate phone users force rules on us"
Because of obnoxious cell-phone users in public places, including on airlines, it looks like personal cell-phone use during air travel will continue to be banned. Is that wise?
Cell-phone abuse is commonplace. When insensitive individuals force restaurants, private clubs, religious institutions and hospitals to issue rules for appropriate adult behavior in using a wireless phone, then too many people are ignoring common social courtesy. How disappointing that written rules must be formalized and enforced to encourage respect and decency.
Continued airline cell-phone bans will prevent chaos in the air. Individual traveler safety is at risk. There was a time when “clod” referred those who lacked sensitivity and behaved inappropriately. The dictionary defines clod as “dull, ignorant, stupid; a blockhead” – and from my observations, perhaps one additional adjective would bring the point home: arrogant. A clod with a cell-phone makes life miserable for those nearby, anytime and anyplace. In the confining space of an airline, can you imagine how many tempers would flare with insensitive individuals using cell-phones? Already complicated enough, self-absorbed clods with cell-phones would create air travel nightmares.
The Federal Communications Commission – FCC – has listened to the public and intends to keep the rule in place, requiring cell-phones to remain turned-off during airline flights. Invading the private space of others is another form of bullying. Who wants to listen to the details of a total stranger’s business transactions, love life, car problems, gambling-activities, religious and cultural prejudices or how deadbeats are “hosing” their companies by taking an inappropriate number of sick days? After all, who really wants to over-hear the “private and personal” information of others, whether friends or strangers, blasted at them when the primary travel-goal is to be transported from one place to another, as safely and calmly as possible?
The FCC has been considering lifting its ban on cell-phones since 2004. However, between the concerns of the Federal Aviation Administration – FAA – and the FCC – regarding cell-phone signals interfering with navigational and communications systems and cell-phone signals being compromised on the ground, it could be a long time before cell-phones are given the green light for air travelers. This is great news for everyone who values peaceful travel time to read, think and write – or simply relax; or simply being able to converse quietly.
When human beings rediscover graciousness and thoughtfulness, then cell-phones might be o.k. in confined spaces.
Thoughtful cell-phone users:
- Ask permission before taking or making a call
- Speak softly, finding a place away from others to converse
- Keep cell-phone calls brief, except for emergencies
Integrity in cell-phone usage, in the air or on the ground, begins and ends with graciousness, demonstrating respect; exercising self-discipline.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 11, 2007
"Don Imus a reflection of our culture"
Radio and television personality, Don Imus, has crossed the line of professionalism and propriety. He used language describing female college athletes that was cruel and destructive. What should happen to him?
Don Imus hosts a three-hour talk-show – "Imus in the Morning" - that has a history of coarse language, allowing and even encouraging caustic commentary. Having listened and watched his program, periodically, because some times I am awake at 3:00 a.m., some of his guests are quite interesting, well-informed and talented. He and his side-kicks are lively story tellers, sometimes pushing the limits of tastefulness, often stepping across the line in terms of graciousness. Nonetheless, that is his prerogative and the choice of his listeners and viewers. To his credit, he helps children with cancer, supports health care for members of the military and supports the use of non-toxic cleaning supplies.
His employers will determine the seriousness of his latest blunder. The racially-charged language he used is inappropriate and he will suffer the consequences.
However, the bigger issue is the callous and vicious language that permeates the airwaves in music, interview-talk shows that feature yelling and screaming; sometimes deteriorating into personal attacks. Jerry Springer, Rosie O’Donnell, Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly (most recently becoming red-faced and verbally aggressive with Geraldo Rivera) and other screamers and yellers – have set a tone that the masses buy and encourage. Some “rap” lyrics – encourage behaviors that are so far outside the limits of decency and social interactions that name-calling would seem tame. There was a time when the word “gross” meant that the topic and the way a subject was being discussed was to be stopped, out of respect for the audience. Today, extreme seems to many to be the admirable direction.
The “old-fashioned” word graciousness seems to have gotten lost. Too many exchanges between individuals lack respect and discipline. Such insensitivity can be observed in the rudeness of disrespectful reporters interviewing victims after a crisis including automobile accidents, fire or even a death. Gory details are theirs to report to a public that often appears numb to the pain of others.
Comedy is the current defense some are using to defend rude and abusive language. Don Imus has already attempted to “protect” his operating style by saying his is a comedy show. But, this argument is unlikely to stand up. He regularly interviews serious people about important topics. Sarcasm and zingers hurt more than they help. The time has come to “think before we speak” and strive to helpful and not hurtful in what we say and how we treat one another. Integrity-centered behavior replaces personal insults and zingers with tasteful discussions, graciously conducted.
Justice prevails in Duke case, but takes time
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 18, 2007.
CBS's "60 Minutes" reported on three wrongly accused Duke University students who played Lacrosse. They were declared innocent, having survived the irresponsible accusations of Durham, N.C., District Attorney Michael Nifong. Was there any integrity in such a miscarriage of justice?
Because of the strength of the American justice system, once again, right has won and wrong has lost. To date, there was no miscarriage of justice, but lives still were turned upside down, needlessly costing millions of dollars for legal fees and causing unimaginable emotional pain. The rogue prosecutor, Nifong, will likely be disbarred for abusing the innocent, violating integrity, and breaking the law. His aggressive style ran roughshod on individuals' rights, beginning with the core principle of innocent until proven guilty.
Fortunately, important checks and balances remained in force. The media followed the story and eventually got their facts right - exposing Nifong's trumped-up charges. North Carolina's Attorney General, Roy Cooper, monitored the situation, finally ending the nightmare when he announced there was insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case against the three Duke Lacrosse players - and declaring them innocent.
"The moment Cooper announced our innocence, I completely broke down," Reade Seligmann told CBS in an interview that aired Sunday. "Finally, we got our lives back."
Seligmann, Dave Evans and Collin Finnerty were vindicated even further when Attorney General Cooper delivered a scathing assessment of prosecutor Mike Nifong's baseless case.
"It's disappointing and really outrageous that it was not stopped sooner," he said. "These contradictions were clearly pointing to the fact that this attack did not occur."
Recalling how an overreaching prosecutor reduced them from confident student-athletes to reviled rape suspects, the players said they at times despaired that they would find justice."
Reade Seligmann said his lawyer approached Nifong with proof - eyewitnesses, cell phone records and a security-camera video of him at a bank machine - that he was no longer at the house when the attack allegedly occurred, but Nifong refused to look at it.
Though Cooper's long-awaited pronouncement brought them some peace, the players said this ordeal will never be over for them.
"You can try to move on, but rape will always be associated with my name," Evans said. "When I die, they'll say, 'One of the three Duke Lacrosse rape suspects died today.'"
The American justice system must remain a beacon to the world. An irresponsible prosecutor does not destroy freedom's foundation. Integrity means that all people have the right to a fair and speedy trial and should only be charged when sufficient evidence exists. Three exonerated Duke University students are vivid reminders that integrity matters and vigilance remains the price of liberty.
'American Idol' values hype over talent
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 2, 2007.
Millions watch “American Idol”- a legitimate talent search concept that has become more like the “Gong Show.” Unfortunately, self-promotion and hype upstage some really talented entertainers. Now, accusations of voting schemes by the likes of Howard Stern threaten to compromise results. Your reaction?
American Idol has a large following, showcasing new talent, effectively utilizing its platform to offer significant financial assistance to those in need. Whether or not you like the show, its approach or its stars – please, remember - you can always change the channel. When television ratings are strong, creators and sponsors will continue to crank out whatever “entertainment” attracts viewers. Someone’s trash might be another’s treasure. Millions watch Idol, tolerating, even enjoying, the “biting-commentary” dished out to contestants. Outlandish behaviors, including tasteless hair-do’s, hideous clothing and some very weak acts have become all too commonplace. Unfortunately, some sophomoric theatrics from Chuck Barris’ “Gong Show” still live.
Some television viewers watch clever and degrading shows like “Idol” simply because they are too exhausted to search for something more challenging. Perhaps they have little interest in reading, carrying on constructive conversations or thinking deeply about serious issues. After all, isn’t it easier get “down and dirty” with Simon Cowell, a judge on the show? Billed as one of the hottest shows on television, why not kick back, snickering at the sarcasm of a Mr. Cowell, notorious for his unsparingly-blunt and often controversial criticism of the contestants? Humiliating those with less talent reflects bankrupt behavior, because it really is classless to ridicule those who should be pitied.
In the 1950’s, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour encouraged hopeful and aspiring stars, treating them with respect. Decades later, Ed McMahon’s Star Search nurtured new talent, similarly. When the buying public supports vicious and cruel comments by adults judging younger people, then the lowest common denominator will rule “profit-focused” airwaves, at the expense of civility. And, because the real “Idol” game is about retaining viewers and pay-per-vote fans, seemingly, any process for voter attraction and manipulation will be tolerated. Judges become caricatures of themselves and voter-fraud appears only a dial-tone away.
“American Idol” could even more dramatically underscore important values like proper-preparation, performance-quality, and relationship-integrity. While many who appear on the show are very talented; certain “over the top” presentations combine with marketing savvy, allowing “pretenders” to flourish. “American Idol” fans should be rightfully proud of the good that their call-in dollars do for others, demanding constructive behaviors by all judges. Otherwise, they will be supporting a program that teaches a new generation that hard work is good, but packaging mediocrity, cleverly, is not only acceptable – it might be the key to success.
Such a recipe spells disaster.
Motivation and Recognition
What is the most effective motivational tool that management can employ?
Individuals, not corporations, determine which incentives motivate. Successful compensation and benefits programs encourage high productivity, quality service and safety. Incentives vary, but when reduced to primary sources of inspiration, there are five motivational categories: title, influence, money, empire-building and recognition.
The five incentives:
- Title: when cash is not plentiful, consider creating a meaningful title. Napoleon said that he could conquer the world if he could find enough ribbon. Earning legitimate titles motivates and costs little.
- Influence: perceived or real power includes having access to the boss and being able to attend important meetings. Bragging rights related to having “been there” when the critical issues were discussed can be a powerful motivator, creating cost-saving incentives.
- Money: providing dollars appears uncomplicated until configured into meaningful compensation packages. Prudently structured dollars communicate value to recipients. Otherwise, noble and costly efforts by management devolve into next year’s entitlements.
- Empire: having a larger headcount than a peer, at least for some, outweighs other rewards. Competition for perceived-power in organizational size, including responsibilities, can when achieved, be its own reward, reducing management headcount.
- Recognition: human beings will remember how you made them feel long after they have forgotten what you said. The same is true for mission-driven organizations with inspiring leaders. They make routine business transactions into interpersonal connections through powerful relationships, requiring time, not money.
Six years ago, our management consulting firm, Dimension Five Consultants and the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership, created an annual service-excellence reward, named for a former employee Clyde W. Klaumann. We focused on recognition. Because Clyde consistently embodied intensity, sensitivity and follow-through; along with integrity, quality, perseverance, loyalty and professionalism – building this incentive around him was quite easy.
The 2007 Clyde W. Klaumann Award recipient is Mr. Scott Faust, General Manager, Executive Editor, Salinas Newspapers, Inc. He has endorsed, edited and published weekly Integrity Matters columns since 2002, in The Californian and in El Sol. Scott’s August 6, 2003 news story about the Bracher Center’s research project addressing the leadership history of Salinas Valley Agribusiness; reflected the Bracher Center’s Eight Attributes of an Integrity-Centered Leadership Organization which became part of the Bracher-Halloran book, Integrity Matters, published in 2004.
In addition, Scott signed up the Californian to co-sponsor, with the Bracher Center and California State University, Monterey Bay, a series of leadership development workshops called MBA Impact©: the power and impact of effective business leadership. Scott’s excellence is reflected in how he helped us to become better partners with him, leveraging his own intensity, sensitivity and follow-through, along side his integrity, quality, perseverance, loyalty and professionalism. Thank you, Scott.
Be ready when opportunity knocks
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 9, 2007.
What causes certain people to be successful?
Preparedness, opportunity and hard work are a winning combination. Only opportunity lies outside one’s control. However, when factored into the equation, those who are ready and willing to do whatever it takes frequently capitalize on seemingly-random circumstances. One individual who has leveraged these elements effectively is Basil E. Mills, Salinas, California, entrepreneur, agribusiness leader and humanitarian.
Basil improves the communities in which he lives and has, for me, provided two gifts to be forever treasured - enthusiasm and tenacity. Approximately six years ago, Basil and I began discussing the most important legacy to be given to family; and, without hesitation, he mentioned values and reputation. From that conversation, he and another agribusiness leader, Mr. William (Bill) Ramsey, helped to facilitate conversations with fifteen successful colleagues that would become Chapter 12 of our first book, Integrity Matters. Chapter 12 was a case study in how integrity was the keystone for the phenomenally-successful agribusiness enterprises of California’s Salinas Valley.
Many stories abound of hard working individuals, with dreams, who worked steadily toward the achievement of their goals. Books, business magazines and the media delight in reporting stories of those who have successfully combined ideas with capital to create solutions to problems, helping others as they found rewards for themselves – whether intellectual, emotional and economic; or all three.
Success comes in “cans” and not in “cannots” – and is often bestowed upon those who create environments that encourage others to be and become the very best they can.
Here is how it happens; succinctly presented in our company’s theme song, describing the nature of our consulting services and how we counsel clients:
- Run like a thoroughbred (use every ounce of strength with each effort)
- Fly like an eagle (accept the loneliness of leadership; risking high aspiration)
- Be the best you can be (legitimate self-set standards demand excellence)
- Open yourself to other dimensions (encourage feedback and pay attention to it)
- A whole new world you will see (listening creates opportunities for growth)
- Design your own future (assess capacity honestly, building an achievable plan)
- Hold fast to a vision (focus on destination, willingly paying the price along the way)
- Dream the ultimate dream (grand plans are the prerogative of all who are free)
- Make the commitment (singular dedication builds winners, in sports and in life)
- A plan for your life, and, (discipline is the glue that holds individuals accountable)
- Hold it in highest esteem (respect, for self and others, is key in goal achievement)
Basil Mills, my mentor, reminds those who know him, that enthusiasm and tenacity are a winning combination.
Petitions for Hilton pardon should fall on deaf ears
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 16, 2007
Paris Hilton’s fans have petitioned California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon her for her “mistake.” Describing Paris as “an American celebrity and socialite” who “provides hope for young people – globally” - the document insists that, although drunk driving is wrong, Paris’s crime is not serious enough to warrant jail time. Are young people so star-struck they can’t recognize her loathsome behavior? Paris is set to begin a 45-day jail sentence on June 5. So, what is your thinking?
Paris Hilton’s behavior continues to be out of control. Her self-abuse, when it threatens others with driving under the influence, crosses legal limits. Laws are created, and then enforced, to protect members of society from irresponsible and destructive actions, including those of rich and famous people. Individual freedom is willingly given-up by thoughtful and mature citizens out of concern for the safety and security of others. Civilized people choose to live together in peace and harmony for purposes of prosperity, and enact laws to maintain order.
Breaking the rules of society comes with a price. Fines, probation and jail sentences are consequences for individuals who lie, cheat, steal, rob, murder, deal drugs, and cause harm to others, especially those unable to protect themselves. Sadly, justice is not always carried out uniformly. Some powerful individuals have “skated” when they should have paid serious penalties. Guilt has sometimes been papered-over by the skilled maneuvering of articulate attorneys. However, the American system promises fairness, remaining blind to social and cultural differentiations, including wealth or celebrity.
Paris Hilton appears to be a very rich, spoiled brat, with the morals of an alley cat. Her claim to fame is well-timed publicity spotlighting her sleazy and scandalous activities. Unfortunately, her zealous fans desperately yearn for a public figure’s endorsement of their adolescent cravings. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – certainly not new, are frequently the forces that drive hormone-trapped youth. Few of her fans have access to the perceived “unlimited budget” of an heiress like Paris.
What should this “cause-less” rebel do?
- Paris’ repeated drunken-driving must be stopped, before she kills innocent people.
- Incarceration, to dry out, think and then grow up, could improve her life and legacy.
- Wealth and celebrity must not be allowed to trump accountability.
- Owning repeated irresponsible behaviors is step one in her maturation.
Paris Hilton’s best chance for creating a legitimate “cause” begins when she decides to clean-up her life by exhibiting integrity, encouraging her fans to do the same. Respecting the law means you don’t do the crime if you are unwilling to do the time. Paris and her parents need grow up and handle their wealth graciously!
Children reflect on their parents
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 23, 2007
Rude and out-of-control youngsters in public places were joined recently in Boston, Massachusetts, with adults in a fist-fight at a symphony. What can be done to make things better?
Attentive parents can make things better. After all, who else allows inappropriate behavior to escalate? For a variety of reasons, from economics and impatience to status-seeking social climbers, today’s “digital-age” baby-producers are likely to make things even worse with their willingness to abandon or ignore their children. “All-about-me” behaviors are learned at home from narcissistic adults. Whether driven to make more money or simply avoid the stresses of 24-7parenting, non-supervised children will create chaos – even though the parents might be in superb shape financially and physically.
Today’s moms and dads are side-stepping legitimate responsibilities for nurturing those they chose to bring into the world. Latch-key children were once thought of as the by-product of the lower-middle class. But today, abandoned youth can be found across the socio-economic spectrum. Hard-working parents trade their “one-on-one-time” for popular child-centric toys, often in the name of preparing their children for the future. Digital-age parents; often products themselves of a television-as-baby-sitter home-life, were burned-out by heavily-programmed youth activities.
Youth of the 1960’s used the “boom-box” to tell adults to keep their distance. Today’s more passive-aggressive children, with parental encouragement, employ iPods, PlayStations, personal cell phones, and complete audio-video systems in automobiles – to protect their space. All the while, these self-absorbed adults ignore children’s needs, missing golden opportunities for important conversations. Isolated by ear phones and screens, young people’s interpersonal growth is crippled, making them susceptible to practically anyone paying attention to them. Emotional vacuums are clearly understood by predators, making lonely youth fertile markets for their mischief.
Pedophiles, pornographers and gang members are eager to offer their seemingly-caring alternatives to isolated and alienated youth. When children are not provided a safe-environment for listening, those who have evil on their minds move in. Unprepared youth fall victim to seductive promises, because they had not constructed a substantive protective wall to fend-off seemingly-attractive offers.
However, one uncomplicated adult activity could blunt the sick efforts of destructive predators: listening.
Children want and need be heard. They expect give-and-take; often begging for realistic-limits, sometimes to save themselves from themselves. So, start listening!
- Driving with children is a time to talk, sing, and listen.
- Television programs can be discussed, enabling responsible adults to learn what is being absorbed – the positive and the negative.
- Discussing the news provides opportunities for more give-and-take.
- Asking questions about almost anything gives young people a platform to share.
- Respect and graciousness are integral to constructive listening.
Listening, which improves behavior, begins one integrity-centered conversation at a time.
Sinners supply plenty of column fodder
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 27, 2007
You have been writing the Integrity Matters column, every week, for six years. Haven’t you exhausted the subject?
Because human beings continue to misbehave, trying ineffectively to cover their tracks, then there is no shortage of material for this Integrity Matters column. Making matters worse, egotistical individuals concoct preposterous stories to justify what they know they never should have done in the first place. An endless supply of “sinners” encourages my continued focus on “integrity” issues.
Sometimes, I feel like a physician in the middle of an epidemic. On the one hand, I am invigorated by the busyness, simultaneously concerned for those who are impacted. And, like the overloaded, sometimes exhausted, doctor, I willingly accept recognition and rewards for my efforts.
Twenty-six years ago, when launching Dimension Five Consultants, our management consulting firm, I sought client-development advice. Wanting to know how one successful attorney had attracted business, having relocated from the Midwest to California, I asked his advice. He said that human beings have an uncanny knack for creating the need for legal services. His thriving practice, he said, had a great deal to do with being honest, enthusiastic, attentive, visible and prepared; and his approach worked well. His well-respected firm effectively assisted many clients. His firm was also known to be generous in supporting the community. He cared and shared; and succeeded.
However, not everyone operates with such clarity and honesty. Integrity-meltdowns are so commonplace, they must not be ignored. Just read the newspaper, watch television or observe people, when they are not aware. Illustrations abound of broken commitments, small and large. Human beings habitually lie about drug-dependence, gambling losses, golf scores, tardiness, commitments, and, yes, even when and where they worship. In a perverse way, infidelity and promiscuity are a more personal form of broken campaign promises. Because integrity starts and ends with respect; its absence shatters trust; destroying marriages, families, communities and societies.
Peace officers, during routine traffic stops, hear incredible “stories” regarding driving speeds, alcohol consumption and what might be inside an automobile, including the trunk. In each instance, the likelihood of the lies being discovered is pretty high. Even so, every day, law officers endure traffic-violators “spinning the truth” - compounding problems. Radar, breath-alizers and “probable-cause” are law enforcement’s truth-serum. When dealing with law enforcement, just tell the truth, immediately.
Exhibiting integrity begins with consistency between word and deed. Integrity-centered individuals exhibit congruence between what they say and what they do, as well as what they say about what they did. Since lots of people don’t remember that character is what we do when no one is watching, then this weekly column needs to serve as another reminder that Integrity Matters.
Credentials require academic integrity
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 13, 2007.
Have you been reading about the cheating scandal by 34 graduate students at the Fuqua School of Business, at Duke University? Not much has reached the front pages, but, what are these students thinking about?
Duke University’s business school seems to have handled this “breach of integrity” in an even-handed way. Students were caught “cheating” and have been, or likely will be, punished. Nine are facing expulsion, 15 could be suspended for a year and nine more might receive a failing grade for the course. Another will receive a failing grade on an exam. Four additional graduate students were found not-guilty; suggesting Professor Mike Hemmerich, Associate Dean at the Fuqua School, and the judicial board at Duke University, handled the situation effectively.
Due process is not “juicy” news when problems appear to be handled well. According to the Associated Press, the cheating involved more than a take-home exam. Interestingly, students who were implicated in violating the honor code are expected to file an appeal. Charles Scrase, a first-year student and president of the MBA Association at Duke, said: "I think we view ourselves as ethical leaders. At the same time, people are both proud and relieved that we have an honor code system that works and didn't get swept under the rug."
So, where do business students rank in the world of academic cheating? A survey released last year by Rutgers University Professor Don McCabe showed 56 percent of MBA students acknowledged cheating in 2005. In other fields, 47 percent of graduate students said they cheated.
Today’s immediate-gratification culture – for too many - has reached the point where integrity appears be for suckers. When society’s hope for the future, its students, loses integrity, then the damage is devastating. Society is in trouble when constructive values are viewed as expensive and old-fashioned relics. In the race to secure the top job offers, some MBA students will cheat. It is, and will remain, all about the money! A world has been created where short-sighted expediency is chosen over commitment to excellence. Making it big – recently - involved drifting from quick deals to devastating dishonesty. Cheaters, who have once again tainted the hallowed halls of academia, continue believe that the end justifies the means. They are wrong!
Are you upset by the Fuqua Business School cheating scandal? Would your reaction be different if similar testing dishonesty were reported among medical school students? If standards depend upon integrity, then what should happen to cheaters? Should their violations become public information? Until you can be confident of credentials, whether from business people, attorneys, public servants, medical professionals or academics – practice due diligence; triple-checking references, seeking second opinions. Integrity is society’s keystone.
You define your success
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 4, 2007
You consult with powerful and successful leaders. What do they know about accomplishment of goals that would help me better use my talents? Does integrity really count for much, in the real world? I am 27years old; confused by society’s portrayal of success.
Success is more than the attainment of enviable amounts of pleasure, wealth, fame or power. History is filled with sad stories of individuals who, after having accumulated tremendous treasures, went on to experience devastating disappointment. Not knowing how much was enough, primarily because the “bar” is being raised constantly, many driven and hard-driving achievers jump on the treadmill from hell, not finding fulfillment.
In contrast, truly successful people are doing what they most enjoy doing and what functionally fits them. They have taken an inventory of their talents and abilities and within the framework of this inventory; they have built occupations which closely fit their own personalities. There are exceptions to this, but, my observations of those who claw their way to the top, for money and power, fail the test of personal and professional fulfillment. Avoid manipulative and singularly selfish people or simply distance yourself from them, because their ruthlessness is likely to harm you at the very moment you interfere with their self-serving pursuits.
Genuine winners are successful people within their own minds. They are successful in the sense that their true selves are expressed in their work, in their home life and in their friendships. They are individuals who have learned to know themselves well enough to know their limitations as well as their strengths. Whatever their talents may be, they have concentrated upon developing them; not wasting their time doing things outside of the mainstream. They know that the very things that they choose not to do are not trivial, they are simply activities that will divert energy and attention from their primary interests and strengths.
Successful people seek to serve humanity in the best way that they can; not wasting energy in vain envy of those whose service lies in other fields.
Seven steps to achieving integrity-centered success:
- Define, in detail, the work that provides you with pleasure and pride.
- Communicate how you expect to be treated by your associates.
- Develop those talents that allow you to enjoy utilizing your strengths
- Seek support from those who provide complementary skills and perspectives.
- Commit to life-long learning.
- Maintain openness to new and challenging ideas, respecting individuals’ differences.
- Pause, periodically, to celebrate achievements, exhibiting genuine appreciation.
Successful people measure themselves, not with what they keep; but with what they give away. Success comes from nurturing and encouraging others.
Attorney with TB takes the 'me-first' attitude
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on June 6, 2007.
Attorney Andrew Speaker, who ignored medical recommendations that he not travel, after being diagnosed with XDR tuberculosis; needlessly exposed innocent people, from Atlanta to London, then from Prague to Montreal. What kind of person behaves like this?
Self-centered and selfish, Andrew Speaker, 31-year old, Atlanta-based, personal injury attorney, was fully-aware of his health risks to others. He went ahead with his honeymoon plans, flying to Europe knowing that he could potentially spread XDR tuberculosis, a horrible drug-resistant, disease. Ignoring a second warning, he continued his travels, finally returning across the border from Canada into the United States in an automobile. He is the first person in 40 years to be the subject of a Federal Quarantine.
Speaker told ABC News that when the Centers for Disease Control – CDC - contacted him in Rome and told him to cancel his commercial flights back to the Unites States, he defied their orders, saying he was afraid to pursue medical assistance outside the U.S. and wanted to be treated by tuberculosis specialists in Denver.
Speaker said he never thought he was sick enough to infect others and said, "I'm very sorry for any grief or pain that I have caused anyone." He also asked forgiveness from his fellow passengers. Speaker told ABC that prior to leaving Atlanta for Paris, on May 12, Air France Flight 385; his doctors had advised him against travel, but they hadn't specifically forbidden it. So, he and his new bride proceeded – with their plans.
Self-absorbed individuals are frequently intrusive, insensitive and irritating. However, when their behaviors become irresponsible – endangering other lives – they have violated an unwritten social contract regarding how people should treat one another. Mistakes happen and can be forgiven. Even ignorance can be tolerated. But, with knowledge of the potential health-risks to others, Speaker’s arrogant actions border on reckless endangerment. He should expect to be prosecuted. Who would be surprised if his actions were judged as criminal? What are his financial responsibilities to those who shared airspace with him, including on May 24 from Prague, The Czech Republic, to Montreal, Canada, on Czech Air Flight 0104?
Speaker’s recklessness is a wake-up call for me-first individuals. Even if it turns out that he did not pose a life-threatening danger to others, his behavior was irresponsible. Thoughtless at best, cruel at worst, needlessly putting others at risk is not the mark of a mature individual.
Disregarding the rights of others is costly, to everyone. Integrity – our social contract with one another - requires respect for the rights of those with whom we live – at all times and in all places.
Life lessons pour from Noah’s ark
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 12, 2007
The following ten Noah’s Ark suggestions arrived via email. They are clever, but are they practical? Do they encourage integrity?
“Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's Ark:
- Don't miss the boat.
- Remember that we are all in the same boat.
- Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.
- Stay fit because when you're 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
- Don't be immobilized by critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
- Build your future on high ground.
- For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
- Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
- When you're stressed, float a while.
- Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.”
Noah’s Ark is about how certain people survived the Bible’s Great Flood and why disciplined preparation and consistent implementation are sound ways to operate with integrity. To survive, achieve and succeed, like Noah:
- Remain alert to the needs and goals of others, including time constraints, corporate culture and individual needs and idiosyncrasies.
- Graciousness is about understanding that sooner or later, everyone needs a little help. Be willing to offer assistance and ask for it, with ease.
- Proper prior planning prevents pathetically poor performance. Avoid last minute frenzies, whenever possible.
- Because emergencies and opportunities seldom come with warnings, maintain a healthy mind and body for protection from disease, mental and physical. Strength and stamina are enhanced with the wise and balanced consumption of food, drink and physical conditioning. Too much or too little of almost anything can cause problems.
- Focus and single-mindedness will overcome superficial criticism. Hang tough.
- Integrity is one of several paths; distinguishing itself from the others because it is the right path and the only one upon which you will never get lost. – Wisdom from M. H. McKee.
- Partnerships, built on mutual respect and competency, are powerful.
- It really takes less time to do it right, the first time; because the costs associated with inferior performance, including re-doing, are incredible. Take the necessary time to do tasks correctly, at whatever is an appropriate speed.
- Setting aside breaks from daily routines to recharge is a winning approach.
- Pay attention to the wisdom of all people, regardless of the package in which they come – fancy or humble. Insights that create success are in the hands of engaged stakeholders. Listen carefully for sound thinking from individuals and team members; following up with timely implementation.
- And, no matter what size the storm, always look for the rainbow.
Open up to Gates' example of giving back, not Hilton's
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on July 18, 2007
You commented, in this column on May 16, that Paris Hilton’s escapades are not newsworthy. Do you still feel that way?
Yes. Individuals with much, of whatever, are expected to give back generously and constructively. Descriptors like the “idle-rich” and “jet-set party-goers” do not portray socially-responsible individuals. Narcissistic and self-indulgent consumers weaken society. Relaxation and renewal are important for everyone, but when legitimate-freedoms turn into “license” for irresponsible behavior, then change is required. Instead of wasting energy denouncing the antics of a feisty rich child, my focus here is on the positive impact of self-made multi-billionaire, Bill Gates.
On Thursday, June 7, 2007, Microsoft’s Bill Gates offered some interesting challenges during his commencement address at Harvard University (from Wall Street Journal, June 8). His topic: “Using philanthropy to reduce global inequities in health, wealth and education.”
“Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries,” said Gates, “but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care or broad economic opportunity – reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.”
Even without completing his degree studies at Harvard, Gates referenced what he had learned: knowledge of economics, politics and the sciences. Then he mentioned that he still had a serious regret; “having left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequalities in the world – the appalling disparities of health and wealth and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of poverty, disease and despair.”
In addition to identifying problems, the entrepreneur, innovator, billionaire and humanitarian also relentlessly pursues solutions. His four-point plan for attacking complex problems:
- determine a goal
- find the highest leverage point
- discover the ideal technology for that approach, and,
- make the smartest application of the technology that you already have
Then Gates used the AIDS epidemic as an example of how to apply his process:
- the broad goal is to end the disease
- highest leverage is prevention
- ideal technology would be a vaccine that provides lifetime immunity with a single dose . . .requiring governments, drug companies and foundations to fund research
- in the meantime, get people to avoid risky behavior – which requires its own 4-point approach
Reducing inequities, whether through mammoth Bill Gates’ dreams or with simple acts of graciousness and care, just about everyone can help make the world better. Listening, really listening, to those about us builds bridges, improves productivity, strengthens community and knocks down barriers. Helping others to apply Gates’ simple Four-Point Plan, with whatever resources are available, great or small, enables each person to partner in humanity’s highest achievement; constructively addressing poverty, disease and despair. Integrity starts with listening! Do your part!