All tagged CEOs

CEOs must have a tough time deciding what to read among all the blogs, online news sites, management school journals and mainstream media which offer points of view on how CEOs can lead better. Alright, they likely don't read any of them.

Should they change their minds, here is a recent addition to the plethora of leadership punditry that may be worth watching: The Syd Blog is by Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. The blog is subtitled "Insight into the force and follies of leaders."  His latest post looks at how Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who was stripped of his chairman title last week, may still lose his CEO position even though Bank Of America is run by what Finkelstein calls a "rubber-stamp board."

Sounds like Finkelstein would not be displeased.

More Fortune 500 companies are blogging, but the pace of growth is still shall we say restrained.

The full results of a study by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D. and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based research firm are available here and a summary of the key findings are in a news release by the Society for New Communications Research.

Of the findings posted in yesterday's statement, here are few of particular interest:

  • 81 of the Fortune 500 or 16% currently have public-facing blogs, compared with 39 percent of the Inc. 500, 41 percent of the higher education sector and 57 percent of the nation’s Top 200 Charities.
  • 28 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs link to Twitter accounts
  • 90 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs have the comments feature enabled

Buried in a recent survey of corporate directors conducted by McKinsey is a finding that 29% of respondents report that one of the procedural changes corporate boards are making to deal with economic turmoil is "Promoting conversations that are more frank than usual"; further, 24% believe this is an additional change boards should make "to become more effective in managing the global economic crisis".

No mention is made of whether Twitter is a preferred tool for intermediating this new focus on conversation.

Spirited debates happen all the time when people talk about corporate responsibility (CR) especially now that our economies are stumbling along and evidence continues to leak out about the governance missteps that led to egregious examples of greed-driven shortsightedness.

Research studies and white papers on the subject also proliferate, at least as fast and as often as politicians blaming their predecessors for current problems.

Here are a few that have made their appearance recently:

  • The Conference Board released the results of a survey yesterday on the future of corporate giving programs. Corporate giving officers are noticing their companies are concerned about their overall financial health when considering the allotment of their philanthropy dollars. Not surprising. But remember, public expectations about behavior -- and the punishment it inflicts on transgressors -- are not significantly influenced by random acts of kindness no matter how generous or strategic.
  • Yesterday, the Rotman/AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship also released what it calls "a real-world guide that helps business leaders understand and prioritize key social and environmental issues and identify opportunities as well as potential risks." Called 'What's a CEO to do?", it is described as a toolkit and is built on a model introduced by Rotman School of Management dean, Roger Martin, called the "virtue matrix" which he wrote about in HBR a few  years ago. I haven't had a chance yet to do a deep dive into it, but Rotman often produces worthwhile management frameworks. (Disclosure . . . I have an M.B.A. from Rotman.)
  • The third is truly timely . . . an article in the Deloitte Review called "The Responsible and Sustainable Board. (Sorry I can't find a link to it but it is Issue #4, 2009). It includes a warning to boards of directors that "Even if your organization is disinclined to tackle CR&S issues voluntarily, you may ultimately have no choice if, as expected, regulatory requirements take hold." 

Maybe there will be some kind of retrenchment back into the philosophy of 'the business of business is business'. (Simply wishful thinking on the part of cave-dwellers?) Evidently though it doesn't stop the think tanks from thinking about it.

Since I have such respect for the quality of writing and ideas (although not always the politics) in the British magazine The Spectator, I am always delighted when the point of view of an editor or writer corresponds to my own. (I am not foolish enough to think there is any correlation between the two other than coincidence).

So imagine my contentment in reading the February 14th number when both the lead editorial and a column by Sarah Standing echoed comments I have posted here and here over the past few weeks.

Sarah Standing on saying sorry:

" 'Sorry' has lost its mojo for me, it's gone mainstream. It's one of those words that began life as a covetable Chanel handbag only to end up as a worthless flake flogged on eBay . . . I no longer believe in all these force-fed public apologies. They're starting to sound very hollow . . . I'm old school and from where I stand a true apology should come from the heart."

And not, I would add, because a crisis communications or political consultant has said it is necessary to apologize when harm has been caused. Without sincerity an apology is nothing more than gamesmanship. 

The editorial 'Bonus Points' calls out many British bankers for the damage caused by the huge payouts they received, which lead as the editors conclude to the wrong balancing of risk and reward

"Bankers must face reality and bring about changes themselves, rather than trying to face down public disgust with a last-ditch defence of the status quo. Their profession has to revert to being dull but respectable, decently but not lavishly paid, transparent in its accounting practices and the way it measures profits, intelligently regulated, and by nature risk-averse. And if that means talented people drift away from the banking sector, so be it: there are plenty of other parts of the economy that urgently need them".

Better said than by me, but at least my ideas are in line with some top notch writers.

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's strictures on the salaries of investment banks and dealers which the government had to bail out has caused the usual punditry about the best and brightest now fleeing Wall Street for more lucrative fields (manufacturing perhaps?). Terence Corcoran in the National Post, for example, foresees "an exodus of talent"!

Let's parse that idea closely. The critics apparently believe there is a magical stratum of celebrity CEOs who somehow so outstrip the talents of their rivals they can command astronomical sums, even when they completely fail at the competence for which they are rewarded . . . making sustained profit for the company or firm in such a manner as to ensure a solid return for owners (shareholders) without running afoul of regulators and leaving a legacy of a respectable reputation.

John Moore also of the National Post (while dancing around criticism of his more dogmatic colleague Terence Corcoran) put it better than me:

"Pity the bankers and brokers of America. Having run their enterprises into the ground and gone begging for government money to avoid bankruptcy, they're now being forced to get by on $500,000 a year. Worse, their bonuses are being questioned. It really is scandalous that people who aren't any good at their jobs are being publicly shamed about how much money they paid themselves while wrecking their companies."

This is the talent that will now flee Wall Street.

Is it possible the people who end up running these firms for $500,000 a year will be no less competent -- and possibly more humble, restrained and thankful for the hard work of their executives and line staff, and more grateful for their social 'license to operate'  -- than those paid the big bucks who failed so badly? Is it not possible there is a great deal of executive talent waiting in the wings, and that many of those who failed will be relatively easily replaced? And is it also not possible this is often the case and that board compensation committees can stop being held hostage by the idea of the "celebrity" CEO?

Gal_bartz Carol Bartz, the new CEO of Yahoo, has started the public facing aspect of her job on the right foot.

The New York Time reports today that Bartz believes "that Yahoo had some great assets that 'frankly, could use a little management' and that she would "spend her first few days at Yahoo talking to employees and customers, not to investors or reporters."

According to TechCrunch, she also said "It’s been too crazy. People outside Yahoo deciding what Yahoo should do, shouldn’t do. That’s got to stop."

Blunt, decisive, transparent and evidently a  CEO with her audiences properly ranked.