On retaliation

Stories like the one of Ren Zhiqiang always remind me of the importance of a non-retaliation policy in an organization.

Granted, Ren didn’t have to compare Xi Jingpin to a naked clown. But even if he had not done so, chances are he would have ended up with a similar sentence anyway. Given his age, it’s likely to be a life sentence.

The fear of retaliation helps a culprit maintain the status quo. It is the best tool to prevent people from speaking up. When employees are not willing to speak up, it is nearly impossible to maintain a robust compliance program and an ethical corporate culture. For the ethics & compliance professional, the fear of retaliation is Public Enemy #1.

A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today

The obstacle in the path becomes the path.

Ryan Holiday

Many individuals have made the most out of the pandemic. The time not spent commuting or working has made room for learning a new skill, a new language, or a new instrument. For starting a podcast, a YouTube channel, or writing a book.

Others have spent these first 6 months watching Netflix.

When the pace picks up again, will we look back at this time and wish we had spent it differently? Will we have more to say than “I was stuck at home” and “I spent a lot of time on Zoom”?

Even in good times companies die because they keep doing what they did last year. Imagine what fate awaits them if they hold on to the status quo in troubled times.

Find an unheard voice

Many of us are learning for the first time about the “unheard voices” in the world.

We are learning that they exist in the billions and that they have been silenced, on purpose, for centuries.

The sense of shame and powerlessness could be overwhelming. Let us not succumb to it, like so many others have done in the past. Their inaction preserved the status quo and we want no part of this for ourselves.

Simply look around you and find an unheard voice. Just one. Introduce yourself. Listen. Start a conversation.

Then help.

Create your own earthquake

Many shaky business practices have been destroyed by the current pandemic. At the top of the list is the “necessity” for most employees to work at the office 5 days/week.

When the dust settles, some of these practices will remain and others will have been born with the creation of a new normal. Will we wait for another global shift to knock them down?

A leader’s job is to challenge the status quo. What needs your attention today?

(And now is also a good time to look at shaky home practices)

Bring it on

Difficult conversations are exhausting.

So when people see all around them statues coming down, protest marches, changes to college athletics logos, and calls to defund some programs and fund others (and the list goes on), they want it to stop.

And I say bring it on.

Yes, having these conversations will be difficult, especially for those who have long benefited from the status quo. But even they carry a burden they are often unaware of.

Let’s have those conversations. A better world awaits.

Acting on empathy

Empathy without action risks reinforcing the status quo

Jacqueline Novogratz, in Manifesto for a Moral Revolution

Our employees have struggles, hopes and dreams. So do our customers, suppliers and the communities where we do business.

If we put profit at the center of what we do, there is little room for human connections. It’s only when we bring people at the center that we truly thrive.

Today, let empathy guide you to a specific action – and take it.

Staying true to who we are, respectfully

“As we begin to make progress in our lives, we’ll encounter the limitations of the people around us.”

– Ryan Holiday

Changing the culture of our organization is often difficult. We are trying to change the status quo. We are pulling in one direction while everyone else is pulling in another.

The trick is to stay true to who we are without disaffecting the others. It requires patience and perseverance and respect. With time, someone will join our ranks. Then someone else. Eventually we will reach critical mass and change will happen.

We may or may not get the credit but we will have been right all along.

And all along we will have been doing it the right way.

Adding flexibility to rules

Organizations are complex.

To operate them efficiently, rules are helpful. When you see something that works, it helps to create a process – a rule – around it. The rule creates an algorithm that can be preserved and shared and followed.

At the same time, the rule preserves the status quo. It creates rigidity. When change inevitably comes, resistance leads to breakage.

What if we could adapt before we break?

That’s where values come in. Values are flexible. We can perform with integrity and show respect and foster trust in various ways. We can change the rules as necessary without changing our values.

Values are to adaptive performance what rules are to tactical performance.