The second rule of the game

In today’s post, Seth Godin reminds us that the first rule of any game should be “All players must agree to not cheat.”

It’s a metaphor for workers, companies, governments and regulators. When only one of them cheats, the others can often contain the damage. When all of them cheat (think 737 MAX), you get a human catastrophe.

Thus, the second rule of the game should be “If a player cheats, no other player will tolerate it.”

Advice to graduates

In his post today, Seth Godin makes us see that there are different kinds of imaginations.

People dream of sinking a hole-in-one (sport imagination) or becoming a millionaire (wealth imagination) or becoming lean and strong (health imagination). These imaginations are fueled by our current culture and stoked by the media.

How many people instead have moral imagination, fueled by a desire to make things better? Plenty of people, it turns out. But most work for organizations that are driven by the profit imagination, and the organization’s dreams usually win.

For those about to graduate and enter this turbulent workplace, I offer this advice: join an organization whose imagination aligns with yours.

What are you after?

This post on semiotics by Seth Godin got me thinking.

Can a business leader increase her social standing by being ethical?

Will her ethical behavior increase her sense of belonging with an important group?

If so, what flags, signals or other communications should she use to convey her status?

And if she does all of these things well, will it be enough for her?

Would it be for you?

Find the others

Seth Godin often encourages us to “find the others.”

If we want to do something significant, we can rarely do it on our own. Changing the culture at work, for example, is not something that any single individual can do on her own, not even if she’s the CEO.

We need to find the others. Not just a supporting boss, but others in different departments, functions, countries and companies. We need to share a clear vision* and mission with others and welcome those with whom it resonates.

How many do we need? As long as the change we seek is yet to be, we need more.

* I define vision as “what the world will look like when the mission is accomplished.”

The reputation opportunity

In The End of Reputation, Seth Godin offers examples of new types of fraud and explains how they erode trust.

Of course, fraud itself is not new. In the markets of 1,000 years ago, merchants used rigged scales and weights to defraud their customers. It was difficult to uncover the fraud back then, as it is today. Once uncovered, the merchant lost his reputation, as he does today.

A bad reputation destroys trust, which is the currency of business. No one wants to do business with someone they don’t trust. In a low-trust industry, buyers flock to the one who restores trust. This is why people left taxis for Uber, and then Uber for Lyft.

There has never been a better time to work on your reputation.

Tribal bonds

I recently returned from the latest ECI Fellows meeting, which focused on behavioral ethics. This post is part of a series where I share my insights and lessons from the meeting.

There is a story about a United States Marine who halted a fellow soldier about to commit a war crime by saying “Stop! This is not what Marines do.”

The Marine didn’t pull out a copy of the Geneva Conventions and point to a specific article prohibiting the conduct. He simply explained that “people like us don’t do things like this.”

It’s tempting to point to the law when we want people to do or not do something. But no one likes to be told what to do. We’d rather feel in control. At the same time, we want to belong, we want to be part of a group where “people like us do things like this.”

Consider this the next time you write a policy or create a training or implement a control. Are you pointing to a force external to the group (like a law) or are you drawing on a tribal bond? One is stronger than the other.

Ethical debates

We know that it’s way better for employees to hear about ethics & compliance from their business leader than from their ECO.

And do you know what’s even better than that? Two or more business leaders debating an ethical issue in front of the employees, each arguing in favor of a different path or outcome.

In a healthy culture, these debates happen daily.

When’s your next ethical debate?

HT to Seth Godin

The best time to start changing your culture

Yesterday I attended a meeting about corporate culture and, more specifically, about employee empowerment.

Midway through the meeting, the leader mentioned that culture doesn’t change overnight. He used the apt expression “It takes time to turn a ship around.”

Looking at him speak to only two dozen employees in a company of over 40,000, I knew he wasn’t using the expression as a platitude. This was his third meeting on the topic, with a plan to have many more. A few employees at a time. Drip by drip. Helping turn the ship around.

As Seth Godin says, the long run is made up of a bunch of short runs. Which means that the short runs truly matter. None of them alone will change the whole thing but without all of them the change doesn’t happen.

The best time to start changing your culture was 10 years ago. The second best time is today.

Not on my watch

At first, there are no rules.

A new technology comes along and it’s unregulated. Soon, we discover that it has harmful effects on the environment or on human beings. The regulators try to step in and do their job but the industry fights back. Profits before people and planet, they say.


A new technology comes along and disrupts an existing, well-regulated industry. The incumbent cries for justice and demands that the regulations be imposed on the newcomer – the same regulations the industry fought against when they were first proposed.

Hat tip to Seth Godin

This is post 500

In January 2017, a colleague and I challenged each other to write about ethics & compliance every day for two weeks. We also invited all E&C professionals to join the challenge and share their thoughts about the state of E&C in their industry.

Our goal was to increase the body of practical knowledge in our profession. Personally, it was also a trick to force me to pay attention to how things really are. Knowing that I have to write something the next day makes me notice the world.

Once the two weeks were over, I never stopped. I don’t write on weekends, or on vacation, and I’ll miss a day here-and-there if I’m traveling (especially crossing the International Date Line!) but, on the whole, I’ve been writing a short post every workday.

The writing is at times difficult but it’s always nice to click the “publish” button. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve made new friends. I also think I’m a better E&C professional because of my writing practice.

Seth Godin inspired me to do this during his appearance on the Tim Ferriss show in 2016. Take 45 seconds to listen here.

I hope to see you online.