Good example of bad

When we recognize someone for ethical behavior, our real goal is to show everyone else a good example of the behavior we expect.

We must do the same for unethical behavior. We must tell the story of the one who broke our trust and had to be let go. We can anonymize the story and tell it respectfully, but everyone else needs to see a good example of the behavior we won’t tolerate.

How you handle the small things

Think of the smallest of annoyances you might encounter in the early parts of today. Perhaps minor aggravations at home as you get ready for work. Or during your commute. Imagine 3 or 4 of these and feel how each one gets you ever more tense.

Now imagine being presented with more serious issues at work throughout the morning. You start feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have time for lunch. Then, mid-afternoon, a colleague you dislike makes a mistake that will force you to stay late and miss dinner with the family. Frustrated, you make a comment you probably should not have made. Everyone grows quiet. You regret it immediately.

Of course, you’ll apologize. You’ll say you don’t know what came over you. Or, if you can connect the dots, you’ll explain how you had a series of mishaps during the day that led to this tiny explosion. And that’s all good, except that it won’t prevent the next outburst.

The trick is to be mindful when you face those early annoyances and laugh them off. Be mindful of them and be mindful of how you let them go. Make it a practice. Start small and then tackle bigger issues. Train until you are that person in the office who stays calmest under pressure.

New platform

I posted my first video on Instagram TV yesterday.

I’m a little nervous about publishing in video form. It’s not just written words that can easily be edited before clicking “publish”. I could sound funny, or look funny, and I don’t have the time or skills to edit several takes.

My goal is to share my thoughts on ethical leadership with more people. The rising leaders are spending a lot of time on Instagram, and IGTV is its latest feature. So why not?

If you have a question about business ethics or corporate culture, send it to me and I might select it for an upcoming video.

How we work depends on why we work

This post is the fifth in a series devoted to my reading notes (and thoughts) on the essays contained in The Culture Book, Volume 1. This essay is from Lindsay McGregor, co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of the bestselling book Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures through the Science of Total Motivation (ToMo). Vega Factor’s mission as a company is that every single organization on Earth has a high-ToMo way of operating and a great culture by 2050. For my 2016 reading notes Primed to Perform, please click here.

Social science uncovered six motives that explain why people work: Play, Purpose, Potential, Emotional Pressure, Economic Pressure and Inertia (For an overview of the six motives, click here). These motives can be measured, and the measures can predict the performance of an individual and of an organization. More specifically, the measures can predict a number of outcomes, including ethical behavior.

Our reasons for working, our “why”, directly affects what we do and how well we do it. Culture is everything that shapes our “why”, all the things in an organization that influence how we show up for work.

Anyone attempting to measure performance must first understand that there are two types of performance: tactical and adaptive. Tactical performance is your ability to execute against plan. Adaptive performance is your ability to diverge from plan, a necessary skill in today’s ever-changing world. Leaders need both types to run an organization effectively. While all six motives can improve tactical performance, only the first three increase adaptive performance. As they set to measure performance, leaders are warned not to “weaponize” the data they collect through dashboards and scorecards. Of course, metrics are necessary but they must be carefully selected, not used to instill fear in their employees, and not necessarily tied to compensation.

The most powerful driver of employee motivation is role design. A role is poorly designed when employees don’t know what they are responsible for, only understand a piece of the problem the organization is trying to solve, don’t see the impact of their work, or don’t have the skills for the job. It should be noted that well-paid does not mean well-designed. When a role is well-designed, employees are trusted to experiment and they see the link between their work and the organization’s mission/purpose

The forgotten sides of the fraud triangle



We have known about the fraud triangle for decades. Fun fact: it has three sides.

Yet, whenever we identify fraud in the organization, our automatic reaction is to work on reducing opportunity. Opportunity is easier to work on. If someone uses the company checkbook to write a check to themselves and embezzle money, we reduce the opportunity by requiring two signatures on checks going forward.

We’ve been working on opportunity (policies, rules, internal controls, audits) for a long time and yet employees still engage in wrongdoing.

Can someone please remind me of the definition of insanity?

I suggest it’s time to focus on pressure (both emotional and economic) and rationalization.

It’s time we re-think how we compensate our employees, how we weaponize data with scorecards that aim to shame our employees into performance, how we operationalize trust.

Addressing pressure and rationalization is a lot more difficult. But most compliance programs have reached the limit in terms of what additional controls can do. In fact, too many controls can add pressure and help rationalize bad behavior.

A good place to start on this new journey is outlined in a fantastic book titled Primed to Perform.

Look around. It’s clear that we need to start performing differently.


When I first read Primed to Perform, I had difficulty applying the concept of inertia to ethics & compliance. I later had the chance to meet co-author Neel Doshi, who explained how devastating to compliance inertia can be.

We’ve all seen it but we didn’t know to call it inertia. In compliance, it’s when you ask an employee, following a preventable accident or a violation of law, why they did what they did, and their answer is: “I don’t know. We’ve always done it this way.”

In the business world, the best way to break inertia is to create velocity. We create processes that force innovation. We can do the same in compliance. We can create processes that force us to constantly evaluate the robustness of our program.

What part of your compliance program has been untouched for more than 3 years? This is where inertia is settling in.