Corporate Magnanimity – Is It A Path To Real Change?

NYT Article on “Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say”

“Chief executives from the Business Roundtable, including the leaders of Apple and JPMorgan Chase, argued that companies must also invest in employees and deliver value to customers.”

In 1970, Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist, wrote in The New York Times that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”

This may be changing. Earlier this month nearly 200 of America’s top chief executives issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that instead of advancing only the interests of shareholders, companies must “invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.”

The statement said chief executives “share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders” vowing to “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses” and “foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”

That could be welcome news for women, for whom inclusion, dignity and respect are crucial issues. How would corporate CEOs advance their company if they kept the needs of the most vulnerable employees at the forefront of their minds? To do so would improve parity and mobility within organizations, and more broadly in society.

Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School, told the NYT, “They’re responding to something in the zeitgeist. They perceive that business as usual is no longer acceptable.”

But, she added, “It’s an open question whether any of these companies will change the way they do business.”

The roundtable of CEOs did not publish an action plan, or specific means of accomplishing these goals.

Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” told the NYT, “If the Business Roundtable is serious, it should tomorrow throw its weight behind legislative proposals that would put the teeth of the law into these boardroom platitudes. Corporate magnanimity and voluntary virtue are not going to solve these problems.”

The #metoo movement is just one of many pressures companies have faced over the last few years. We hope that when assessing diversity and inclusion, executives begin to incorporate lessons learned from the #metoo movement on how to empower and support women at all levels of an organization.

Imposter Syndrome: We All Feel It

“Imposter syndrome,” or that feeling that you just don’t belong or deserve your success, impacts women and minority groups disproportionately at work, according to The New York Times.

I was struck by this article, having felt “impostor syndrome” many times. Does my voice, opinion or expertise really count? Is it of value? I think many women question themselves, and the value of their contributions, in a meeting or newsroom.

The article reads, “[Impostor syndrome] persists through college and graduate school and into the working world, where women tend to judge their performance as worse than they objectively are while men judge their own as better.”

This is a problem for women and minorities’ advancement because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If women feel self-conscious about their contributions and judge their performance as worse than others in a room, then they are less likely to speak up, take on challenges, or seize prominent opportunities.

The NYT reports women tend to undermine their experience or expertise and devalue their worth. The column reminds me of a talk former First Lady Michelle Obama gave in London. She said, “I still have a little imposter syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me.”

“It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts about our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”

Obama’s advice to young women is “to start by getting those demons out of your head.”

“The question I ask myself— ‘am I good enough?—that haunts us, because the messages that are sent from the time we are little is: Maybe you are not. Don’t reach too high. Don’t talk too loud,” Obama said.

And Obama offered a “secret” to young women everywhere: “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

The NYT article includes a number of recommendations for overcoming Imposter Syndrome, including: own your accomplishments; visualize what success looks like; and make a list of your qualifications.

The article’s recommendations are well worth a read. Creating parity in the workplace requires not only structural and societal change, but also women and minorities believing that they are, in fact, equal, and deserving of the seniority and salary that that equality merits.

Article Link Here:

Ethical Compass

Indra Nooyi, Former Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo, Inc.:  “You have got to have a compass. Your ethics are so important … You can be courageous; communicate beautifully; have competence, but if you’re downright unethical, no one will follow you.”

Indra Nooyi, Former Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo, Inc.:  “You have got to have a compass. Your ethics are so important … You can be courageous; communicate beautifully; have competence, but if you’re downright unethical, no one will follow you.”

In this video, Indra Nooyi, the former Chairman, and CEO of PepsiCo, Inc., offers career advice. She urges employees to communicate well, and develop expertise and competence. Above all, Nooyi says, aspiring leaders should have an ethical compass. 

Sometimes, in a rush to get to the top, or succeed within an organization, ethics are an afterthought. Increasing an audience, ratings, or market share becomes the driving goal, inspiring employees to press ahead in pursuit of those targets. But in that pursuit, cornerstone values of truth, accountability, decency, and kindness can be lost. 

Every employee is a human being, and to maximize their potential and contributions to an organization, management should treat them as such. This means insisting on truth and accountability from every member of an organization, and also listening to employees when they tell the truth, even if that is a truth management may not want to hear. 

These values mean organizations should hold each person accountable for expressing their strengths and producing great work, but also for their weaknesses. If there is an ethical or moral lapse among staff, that shouldn’t be overlooked by the company in their rush to success. To do so corrodes company culture, and increases the risk of future litigation for the organization. 

Leaders set the tone and company culture for the entire organization. If a CEO sets strong ethical standards for a company, those filter down to the staff, and establishes a guideline for what is and isn’t acceptable in the office. 

Leading people so they are inspired and empowered to operate at their optimum best means being a leader in values and ethics. It means creating a workplace where doing the right thing – not just what is expedient – is an essential stepping stone to success for the entire company. Leaders with an ethical compass, who also produce the audience, ratings or market share which a company seeks, have the potential to be the most inspiring of all.