I recently met Al Watts, author of Navigating Integrity: Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
Al was kind enough to do a quick Q&A (between sailing trips) with me on the topic of business integrity.
Q: Hi Al. Would you give a quick definition of each of your “4 Pillars Of Integrity” …
I’ve begun to notice a pattern of what makes for the best CEO. There are five general CEO skills I believe are most important to being an excellent CEO:
A good CEO must be able to provide a clear vision of what it is the organization is doing.
What makes a good vision statement? As I wrote in 3 Tips On How To Write A Good Vision Statement, it needs to be concise, specific and answer this question for the team:
“Are we working on the right thing?”
Examples of good vision statements include:
“Making the best possible ice cream, in the nicest possible way” (Ben & Jerry’s)
“To provide access to the world’s information in one click.” (Google)
“To provide freedom and independence to people with limited mobility.” (The Scooter Store)
Check out this List Of 50 Awesome Vision Statements I compiled.
A good CEO masters the business model of an organization.
The above image is of a “Canvas” used to master a business model (in this case, Gillette’s) from the book Business Model Generation.
The Canvas pushes you to answer 9 questions that are imperative to mastering how a business should work.
The 9 questions to answer are represented above by a two letter acronym…such as KP for “Who are your Key Partnerships?”).
If found it most effective to answer the 9 questions in this order:
I’ve been thinking a lot about hiring lately.
I’m working on starting a new business and I also coach others on starting their own businesses – and hiring is perhaps the most important decision a business leader can make (you may recall how I previously wrote about a mishire costing you a cool $1 million).
I like formulas & frameworks and I’ve been keeping my eye out for a good one for hiring – I found a simple one from investor Warren Buffett.
He says there are just 3 criteria that every good hire should have: Integrity, Intelligence and Energy.
Does this person consistently exhibit a soundness of character? Are they, in a word, honest?
One good tip on figuring this out is to use Warren Buffett’s “newspaper front page” test.
Let’s pretend the potential hire is named Bernard.
If a New York Times reporter had access to the work that Bernard did for you, would you comfortable opening up the paper tomorrow and reading their analysis of Bernard?
If the answer is yes, Bernard is probably of good integrity…if you’re thinking too much about that, you might have a problem with old Bernie.
A favorite quote of mine on honesty/integrity comes from Mark Twain:
“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
Another good quote from unknown sources is:
“Hire for character, don’t hire characters
Raw intelligence is important.
Did a person test well in a competitive environment (such as grades in University or on a standardized test like the SATs).
I just met with one engineer today in part because he scored a 1,480 on his SATs and that’s higher than most people I know.
But it doesn’t have to be academic intelligence.
It can be “Street Smarts” – The ability to quickly read situations and people.
Or it could be “Emotional Intelligence” – the skills to create optimal results in your relationship with yourself and others.
By energy, I couldn’t find Buffett’s definition of it but here’s mine:
Good energy in a hire is when they feel motivated about a task at hand.
For example, most people consider me high-energy about most things: I care deeply about new Internet businesses, hiring & making the world a better place – so when I’m working on those things, you’ll find me at a high-energy level.
But there are tasks that you’ll find me much lower energy on, such as paying my bills or filling out a rebate form to get $100 back for my contact lenses.
So, if you need help with your paperwork, please do not consider me a good candidate!
Now, ideally you want all three criteria — Integrity, Intelligence and Energy — to be met when hiring employees.
But there is one that trumps them all: Integrity.
The reason, as Buffett explains, is that if you have the other two: an intelligent person who is high-energy about what they’re doing, but they’re missing the third (they are low-integrity (e.g. dishonest)), then that is a Perfect Storm of financial disaster.
Case in point: Bernie Madoff (you like how I moved to the real -life Bernie from the hypothetical “Bernard”?).
Clearly, Bernie was an intelligent man – he had the respect of a Who’s Who of Wall Street people.
And he was high-energy at what he did– was able to talk 1,000’s of people into hiring him to manage their savings; and hid his fraud for what investigators believe was over 30 years!
He even duped a couple of very smart people I know.
And Bernie served on a number of boards (including Yeshiva University’s Business School and Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation) and was clearly a high-energy multi-tasker.
So, I think Bernie qualifes as an intelligent and energized person…but he was low-integrity…and he robbed people blind.
To recap, there are three things that a good hire (or anyone you work with) should possess:
But to save yourself time, make sure they have the first (Integrity) because the next two don’t matter without it.
There was a great interview of Jack Ma on Charlie Rose — Ma is the Founder and Chairman of the leading Chinese Internet company Alibaba.
Ma is clearly an evolved thinker. Here are some highlights:
“I’ve seen people make a fortune catching shrimps (small customers) but never make a fortune catching sharks and whales (big customers).”
“To be a great company, think about what social problem you can solve.”
“Anything happening in the USA will happen in China (cloud computing, mobile).”
“We should surpass Microsoft and Walmart (in size)”
“I would regret if we can’t be bigger than Walmart”…because Taobao and Alibaba goes after both businesses and consumers (while Walmart sold only to consumers).
“I’ve never thought the money I have belongs to me…it belongs to society.”
“You have a couple of million you’re a rich guy” (I think he’s saying that you don’t need any more than that for yourself)
“You have $20 to 30 million it’s capital” (presumably for a business)
“You have $100 million, it’s a social responsibility.” (i.e. you should give it back)
He certainly speaks like a true leader.
Do you know what your business’s values are?
I believe that your corporate values may be THE most important asset in enhancing your company’s long-term monetary value.
Your strategies and trends will come and go — your values can be forever!
This article will help answer the top questions you need to know about corporate values, such as:
Here we go…!
My definition of values is simple: Values are deeply-held beliefs about the right way of doing things.
Each individual operates life with their own set of values…and, of course, a business should as well.
As the author Jim Collins penned:
“The founders of great, enduring organizations like Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson often did not have a vision statement when they started out. They usually began with a set of strong personal core values…”
It is your values that will guide you through the toughest decisions you make…you know, those 50-50 calls that every business leader faces periodically.
Here’s an easy values exercise Jim Collins suggests (with my own twists on it after going through a couple):
There are numerous examples of business values out there — here are a few of companies I’m familiar with:
Hot Topic Media’s Values — Here’s an example of values our team came up with:
Google’s Values — Google has a version of values it calls “Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know To Be True”
Hewlett Packard’s Values — HP Calls these their “Shared Values”:
BabyCenter’Values — Johnson & Johnson subsidiary BabyCenter calls it these their “Operating Principles”:
A final point: values aren’t just something to write down (or put on a coffee mug as some do).
Values must be based on the real-life actions of a business.
And it starts with leadership — exemplifying their values through their actions and decisions.