Thursday, 18 December 2014

Managing up.

Although the title of my blog is 'Leaders that Inspire', it comes as no surprise that virtually all leaders spend a great deal of their time managing rather than leading.  Typically we think of managing our direct reports.  But of equal importance is managing the individual to whom we report, that is, managing up.

Let's be quite clear that managing up does not mean manipulating your boss.  Rather, it is communicating in a fashion that elicits her/his support for the initiatives that you have as a leader.  This exercise is critical if you are going to maximize your potential.  Therefore I submit the following suggestions to get the most out of your efforts.

  1. Develop a strong track record of success; one that is independent of issues that have required prior approval from your boss. Put more succinctly, '...walk the walk before you talk the talk...'  Meeting or exceeding budget; accurately forecasting results; completing specific assignments in a timely manner; all these successes demonstrate that your are competent, dependable, reliable and trustworthy.  Thus, when you are managing up, you can expect that there will already be an implied level of comfort with your recommendations that will be reflected in the approval of the request that you are putting forward.
  2. Make it easy for your boss to make a favourable decision.  Be thorough, but concise, in laying out your request and the reasons behind it.  Anticipate questions and have the answers already embodied in your presentation.  The more that you can demonstrate that you have considered all the pro's and con's, the more the decision comes down to a simple 'yes' or 'no'.  A comprehensive presentation usually wins the day.
  3. Know when to stop.  A great line from the movie 'Jerry Maguire' stated '...you had me at hello...'  Too often you talk yourself right out of an approval simply because you failed to listen; you were too intent on making your case.  Once the boss gives their approval, everything that you continue to offer is vainglorious.  Shut up and leave.  You got what you came for!
  4. The best surprise is no surprise.  Provide your boss regular updates, even if they are not specifically requested.  This is even more important if you are not achieving the results that you proposed.  Failures happen but the last thing that a boss wants is to be blindsided so at the first evidence of problems, engage them in the  process.  Remember that they often have as much invested in the situation as you do so they are anxious to work towards your success or to prepare to catch you as you fall.
  5. Under promise; over deliver.  Any time you are promoting a new initiative it is better to stretch but not to over-reach.  You want to be known as one whose word is reliable.  Over-reaching, but achieving only part of the time, produces too much drama.  Your boss in generally a lot more comfortable coping with success rather than explaining failures.  Your job is to make them look good so make your proposals achievable.
Think about the things that you wish your team would do in their communication with you and you can easily add to this list.  In the long run you make your job easier and you enhance your position in the eyes of decision makers.

Learn to Manage up . It becomes an important step in your career ladder.



 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Leadership that Inspires

Rather than blog this time I am offering confidential copies of my Leadership whitepaper.  Normal cost is $20 but it is provided free during the holiday period as my present to you.

Simply contact me directly at jbbrown@bell.net

Here is the index:


Index

Introduction                                                                                                    Page 3
Chapter 1                    The Leadership Equation                                          Page 10
Chapter 2                    Accountability Counts                                                Page 14
Chapter 3                   Sometimes the Caddy is Right                                    Page 18
Chapter 4                    An Enlightened Perspective on Failure                    Page 20
Chapter 5            You only Get Out what you are Willing to Put In           Page 22
Chapter 6          It is Easier to Read the Book once it has been Opened        Page 25
Chapter 7                     The Plumb Line                                                          Page 28
Chapter 8                    Are You the Chicken or the Pig?                              Page 30
Chapter 9                    What Colour are Your Glasses?                                Page 32
Chapter 10                    Is this Your Time.                                                       Page 34
Summary

Cheers

Jim

Friday, 28 November 2014

Do you fear the "Big C"

Many years ago my boss, a SVP, asked me to have lunch to discuss my annual performance review.  He also suggested that I bring along a self evaluation for comparative purposes.  When we sat down he asked for my paper and after a short read he declared '...ya', I guess that about covers it...what do you want to eat...'

In a later role, on my first day on the job, my VP called me to his office and after closing the door he peered out his window and pointed at one of my new associates.  "He's no good" my boss declared.  "You must fire him"

Still later I inherited a group that was highly dysfunctional.  One employee with over 25 years service did not seem to do much and when I asked, no one really knew what he did.  Upon further investigation, I determined that no one really knew what he had done for some time.  But no one questioned his role in the company because of his seniority.  Hell, after that long with the company, surely he must be irreplaceable. 

I suspect that you have similar stories as well.  All are great examples of 'leaders' who are afraid of the BIG C...confrontation.  The situation is one that requires the leader to make a personal investment that makes them uncomfortable and so they simply ignore it and hope that it goes away.

SPOILER ALERT; IT DOESN'T!

Why is it that otherwise competent individuals so often shirk this important responsibility?  And what are the consequences to their actions? I can think of several responses to both questions.

As to why these people fail to act, I submit the following:
  1. They are hiding personal shortcomings that they don't want to have exposed and so failing to address a difficult decision allows them to subconsciously keep their own issue from coming to light.
  2. They have never been trained on how to professionally confront another person in the workplace.
  3. They fail to recognize the impact of their lack of action.
And as to the consequences, consider:
  1. Allowing a substandard performance to continue essentially means that you have lowered the level of acceptable performance for everyone.  You cannot hold others accountable to a higher level of expectation until you yourself have done so.
  2. You deny the individual in question the opportunity - and the need - to improve.  In many instances, the potential exists to deliver more but it has not been drawn out because of the ineffectiveness of the leader.  So by making that commitment to address an issue the leader positively impacts the individual, the company and themselves...a 3:1 return.
  3. The lower level of expectation can be communicated outside the company to both suppliers and to clients.  This often gives them pause to consider the value of the relationship, particularly when their companies are high performance workplaces.  Consider it guilt by association.  Most enterprises want to be gauged by the company that they keep and they willingly allow those firms with obvious shortcomings to become someone else`s problem.
(Send along your thoughts as well.)

If you self identify with some of these examples, stop looking at the issue as one of  `C`for confrontation.  Rather, change the meaning `C` for constructive criticism.  See the situation for what it is, an opportunity for improvement and not as an obstacle to be avoided. 

Everyone - not the least, yourself -  benefits from your willingness to see the difference!



 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Maximize ≠ Maximum

In my last blog I stated that the best effort that you can expect from any employee is 100% and that any comment suggesting that there is more to give is a sign that the leader is failing to properly inspire that person to achieve their best.

I want to clarify though that there is a real and tangible difference between maximizing potential and the maximum potential.

Maximum will always be 100%.  But to expect that you can achieve this level on a consistent basis is foolhardy and potentially dangerous. 

Foolhardy, because to base expectations on achieving maximum potential every day in every circumstance will only lead to disappointment and frustration.

Dangerous, because failure to achieve unrealistic expectations is demoralizing and creates a toxic environment.  A downward spiral is more difficult to correct that it is to maintain an upward move.

As the leader, your role is to maximize potential for each person, every day.  Sometimes that potential will only be 75% - or even less - of maximum.  But if you are able to maximize that potential, you and your employee have done their jobs.

So many factors impact potential.  They range from systems breakdowns to equipment failures to a lack of information needed to perform a function.  Perhaps it is the absence of a co-worker or a personal illness or family issue.  There is a myriad of legitimate factors which individually or collectively mitigate against one's maximum efforts.  A leader who is properly engaged and committed to the employee's welfare will recognize these factors and adjust expectations accordingly. 

No amount of leadership 'inspiration' is going to change these realities. As you mature in your role you will gain the wisdom necessary to quickly evaluate the situation each day and respond accordingly.  What inspires one day will be different from the next.

When you understand that inspiring others to maximize their potential requires that YOU ADAPT , you will have reached a significant milestone in your development and that will be played out by improved performances from your team.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

What's in a number?

How often have you heard someone say that they will '...give it 110%...'?  On the surface this sounds like the speaker is really determined to succeed.  And if 110%, why not 150%...200% or more.

From my perspective, these words are code for '...I have not really been trying; you have not had my best...'  or in some instances it might imply '...I think that I am capable of more but I don't know how to reach my potential...'

Either way, a warning flag has been raised that demands your full attention.

Regardless of which implication is true, the simple fact remains that as a leader you have not been doing your job.  If the first response is accurate then you have not connected with this individual on the level necessary to inspire them to be as productive as possible.  It may also be that you have not shown sufficient oversight to recognize the latent potential that exists.

If the latter is true, have you done all those things that are expected from the leader?  Have you properly trained and equipped the person?  Have you provided sufficient guidance?  Have you properly monitored their progress by showing interest and recognizing their contributions?

Your role as leader is to ensure that every member of your team has the same opportunity as everyone else to work at 100% of their abilities.  I recognize that this often means different levels of results as no two people are gifted equally. 

But when you hear that 110% refrain, hit the brakes and look into the mirror.  Something is amiss...100% of the time!

 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Leading leaders; part 2

In my last blog I listed three elements critical to success as you move from leading staff members to leading other leaders.  This blog will add three more for your consideration.

1.  Cultivate a relationship with a trusted mentor.  This person can come from a variety of sources; from a former boss to a professional coach/consultant.  For the relationship to be effective it must consist of the following:

Your mentor must be willing to be honest about your strengths and brutally honest about your weaknesses.  It will serve no purpose to your development if all you receive are platitudes.  While we build on our strengths we grow as we improve our weaknesses.  Without this commitment from both parties, the mentoring is little more than an occasional nice lunch.

Your mentor must have gone before you in terms of experience.  Asking a peer to mentor is the definition of the 'blind leading the blind'.  Don't shy away from approaching someone that you may consider 'out of your league' as you may be surprised at how willing others are to help out someone who genuinely wants to improve.

Finally, your mentor must be willing to make the first call and to hold you accountable.  Many people are more than willing to share an opinion when asked.  Very few will be proactive when it is primarily to someone else's benefit.  You need someone who will care about you.

Thanks to Thom Leiper for reminding me of this critical element.

2.   These two ingredients are common to every successful leader...honesty and integrity.  The leaders on your team will be always be looking to you as the standard bearer.  That is, to what degree are you willing to compromise either characteristic in order to succeed.  Do you have a set of principles which are inviolable?  Or do you function on the basis of situational ethics? 

If it is the former, your leaders will always know how you will respond and what they can expect. Accordingly they can operate with confidence because the ground rules have been set. 

If it is the latter, expect hesitancy, awkwardness, even distrust because they cannot be certain that the rules have not shifted. 

Be consistently honest and operate with integrity.  It always pays dividends.

3.  YOU MUST BE THE 'GLASS HALF FULL' PERSON.

No situation is perfect; you will always encounter difficulties, failure and disappointment.  For many, these obstacles seem insurmountable.  For the inspirational leader they are opportunities.

I am not advocating a "Pollyanna" attitude towards these times.  Indeed, the more realistic you are in your analysis of the problem, the more likely you are to work towards an achievable solution.

Accordingly, it is your responsibility to keep the team focused and engaged.  By always looking at the glass as half full you inspire others to share your view.  It is not always easy, but it is always vitally important.


I am sure that there is a legitimate argument to be made to include other characteristics. But for me, these are the top six.  If you can master them, or at least acknowledge them and work towards mastery, then you have taken the largest steps necessary to lead leaders.  Best of luck.


 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Are you ready to lead leaders

Your first leadership role likely moved you from a group of peers on the shop floor or other sales associates and into the role of leading a small group.  For the most part this was a position in which you supervised or managed a team by using the skill sets and knowledge that made you effective when you were a team member, not their team leader.

Continued success in this new role allowed you to broaden the scope of your responsibilities.  Generally speaking this meant you were able to juggle more balls at the same time as opposed to learning a new trick.  There is nothing wrong with this definition of your abilities because it is more than most people ever accomplish or even want to attempt.

The bigger test comes when you are expected to lead other leaders as this presents an entirely new and different challenge.  Whereas the first role meant directing others who, for the most part, had no aspiration to leadership, the position of leading other leaders requires you to work with a group of alpha personalities, some of whom aspired to the role you now hold.

I want to look at these challenges in the next 2 or 3 blogs as it is critically important that you understand and appropriate some facts of this leadership responsibility.

 1.  It is not unusual to feel somewhat overwhelmed in the initial stages.  This is normal and natural unless you have held similar roles in other employment situations.  But rather than doubt your abilities, keep this touchstone close by; others have the confidence that you can do the job because they appointed you.  Sometimes it is the experience and wisdom of others who recognize latent potential long before we see it in ourselves.  So continue to work in the same manner of confident expectation that characterized your prior position.  It is a source of strength that got you to where you are now and it is something that you should build on rather than distrust.

2.  Trust and respect the competencies of your leadership staff.  While they may have been passed over for the role that you have, the same decision maker who has elevated you also chose the keep them in their positions. There must be good reasons for their success, so identify their strengths and use them to the mutual advantage of the team.  Don't hesitate to ask your leader what they see in these individuals - strengths and weaknesses - as this will shorten the learning curve and help to provide you perspective (up and down...ask me if you don't understand).

3.  In an earlier posting I spoke about the need to create an environment in which failure is an acceptable option as long as the failure is not fatal to the business and provided that the value of that which is learned exceeds the cost of the failure.  However it is important to recognize that the tolerance for failure decreases exponentially as you move up the ladder. The anticipation is that your skills and experience - and those of your leadership team - should produce more well considered decisions that are not experiments to see what happens but rather efforts which confirm expectations.  Accordingly, as the leader of leaders, this truth must be communicated in a much more sophisticated manner but one in which calculated risk taking is still encouraged as that is often what differentiates the best companies from the rest of the pack.

Leadership is not for everyone.  Leading leaders is for fewer still.  But when you do it right, the level of satisfaction makes all the efforts worthwhile.  Next time I will offer more insights to help you plot your route to success.



 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Happy Anniversary

Without any announcement, the caller wished me 'Happy Anniversary'.  It was a voice I recognized from the past but initially I was unable to match it with a face.  Sensing my hesitancy, the caller identified himself and then explained that it was an anniversary with much more significance to him than to me.

Apparently it was ten years to the day since I had terminated his employment in the company.  He just wanted to say thank you...

He went on to say that he had recognized subconsciously that he was no longer happy in his work nor was he productive.  But in the absence of someone else confirming it, he did not know how to move on.  When he was let go he felt a freedom that he had been longing.  He used his separation allowance to fund a new business which was now a prosperous ten years old.  So 'Happy Anniversary' was very appropriate.

This was not the first, or last, kind of response that I have had from others that I have fired.  One individual told me that they could never have foreseen the opportunity to go back to school to pursue the career in public relations that they had always dreamt of.  Another person told me that  getting into a sports career was beyond their expectations until I told them that their services were no longer required.

The point of these examples is this.  All companies, regardless of their size, are organic entities.  Things change as market demand, competition, and a host of other factors require a company to make appropriate responses in order to remain viable.  Unfortunately the skill sets of individuals do not tend to change as quickly.  Over time some become the proverbial square peg trying to fit in a round hole.  When that happens it creates friction and dissatisfaction which manifests itself in the form of poor productivity.  Sometimes training allows for an improved fit.  But just as often, the person needs to find a new role, usually outside the company.  Putting off the decision is simply a vote for the status quo.  It only delays the inevitable. So ACT like a leader!


There is always 'life after' any employment situation.  As the leader it is your responsibility to identify those who are struggling with the circumstances and then to act appropriately.  This is not a 'with cause' type of separation.  You must respect the contributions which the individual has made in the past and their inability to move on in the present.  If you remember this short motto it will be easier for all involved.  '...do the right thing for the company; do the right thing by the employee...'

In most instances new doors open with opportunities that could never have been imagined.  Who knows, you might even receive your own 'happy anniversary' call!

 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

There was a time when Product A was clearly superior to Product B or C.  That clear distinction allowed Company A to charge more for their product; generally secure a greater market share; and have greater influence on market direction.  These factors combined for a highly profitable scenario for Company A and left Company B and Company C fighting for the left over crumbs.

But today, things have changed radically on the local, national and international fronts.  With so many companies now producing high quality and feature-rich products and with the internet making their availability so easy, it is much more difficult to carve out that differentiation that allows for market dominance.  Regardless of your company's size or product/service, it is critical that, as the leader, you determine what key feature(s) you will focus on to deliver your message.  Then you must create the culture to ensure that this message is delivered in appropriate manner.

Donald Cooper (www.donaldcooper.com) is an internationally respected management speaker and business coach.  He frequently makes the point that without a compelling value proposition you become mediocre and irrelevant in the marketplace.

Donald explains that the old concept of USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) is obsolete.  He points out that ‘unique’ simply means ‘different’.   You could paint your business pink and you’d be unique…but not necessarily compelling.  ’Compelling’, on the other hand, means that your target customers are drawn to you.  Your value proposition is so powerful, so unique and so consistently delivered that your target customers feel compelled to do business with you and to tell others about you because you are functionally, financially and emotionally the ‘wise choice’ for them.  

Compelling value grabs your target customers, clearly differentiates you from your competitors, makes you ‘famous’...and grows your bottom line.  Donald produces a great free monthly Management E-Newsletter and I encourage you to subscribe. See the link to his website above.

To his point I would add that this is a responsibility which cannot be delegated.  To delegate is to abdicate.  That is not to say that input from your key employees should be ignored in the process, but at the end of the day the outcome is determined by the face looking back at you in the mirror. Your leadership role is complex and difficult.  But nothing else that you do surpasses this responsibility to create and sustain the point of differentiation that separates you from the masses. 

If you have found this key and have been able to communicate it effectively, you are likely winning the battle.  If you are having trouble developing this strategy, reach out.  Professional help is only a call away.

 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A virtue, not a weakness!

Leadership is not always about action.  That's a tough pill to swallow because leaders are typically a driven lot whose role demands results.  Companies and their leaders are kept on a short leash with monthly and quarterly expectations.  Long range planning is now a look at a two year strategy, at best.  The former three to five year approach holds little merit during these times of economic recovery that are routinely beset by political upheaval and other events occurring half way around the world.

With such a short focus, it is especially hard to appreciate the need for PATIENCE.  And yet that is increasingly what may leaders need to learn.  It is all well and good to formulate a short or mid term response, but simply because the time lines are shorter does not mean that results can come more quickly.  Nor can one expect a shorter time for people to learn and mature in their duties. 

It still take nine months for a child to grow in the womb.  The shortcut of having nine women being pregnant for one month each does not work.  Proper results take time.

As a leader you must recognize this critical reality.  Pushing people to mature more quickly will produce more errors than successes and ultimately it will slow down the overall objective.  So in building your goals - short term or longer - keep in mind the need to temper expectations with reality.  Some things simply take time to mature.  More often than not it is worth the wait.  If your plans and strategies are well considered they will withstand this need for patience.  If they can't then they probably would not work well even if you had more time.

So establish your objectives; allow them time to be properly understood and implemented; and avoid a 'crisis mentality' in your expectations.  Your company's culture will recognize your balanced approach and respond accordingly.  Patience is a virtue, not a weakness.

 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Listen to Aretha!

Every successful leader - those who are able to  maximize productivity amongst their team members - share one critical characteristic.  Aretha Franklin sang about it in her hit tune... R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me.

Respect comes about by one of two means.  You either command (deserve and receive) respect or you demand respect.  How you achieve it defines whether or not your leadership is authentic or fraudulent and therefore whether you are able to maximize results or to simply get by.

If one demands respect it implies an underlying sense of insecurity.  The person knows that they are not as competent as they should be and they use this form of bullying to enforce their position. Rather than learn and practice the right way in which to influence - and thereby lead- others, this person insists that others respect them.

While it is true that some measure of performance will result from this style, the fact of the matter is this 'leader' will always be resented, distrusted and vulnerable.  Their leadership lacks authenticity.

In contrast, the individual who has understood that the principal roll of the leader is to serve others will command the respect of their staff because it is respect which has been earned. Typically this style of leadership results in greater engagement on the part of staff members which, in turn, leads to greater productivity. Coincidentally, this leadership style produces other positive benefits such as a healthier workplace environment and a superior corporate image. 

In today's ultra competitive marketplace, you cannot overstate the importance of  authentic leadership.  You must find and invest in those who command respect.  For those who only demand it, they need to learn the fundamentals of leadership because the train has left the station on their antiquated style.


 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Death of Democracy

I speak from a North American perspective and therefore a similar bias.  As I understand the history of Canada and the USA, democracy was a fundamentally different hope than that which we currently 'enjoy'.  There were some principles that existed at our respective beginnings that  were based on the following assumptions.  These include:
  1.  Those who sought office did so out of an altruistic desire to serve for the general benefit of the people.
  2. While there were certainly differences of opinion regarding the proper approach to address the needs of the country, there was generally a measure of respect and civility in consideration of others positions.
  3. There were no special interest groups who could unnaturally influence opinion through the sheer force of money.
  4. The value of an individual's vote was considered sacred. (Notwithstanding the fact that women were denied the right too long.)  It was almost a sin to neglect to vote.
Fast forward through the years...what have we achieved.

  1. Too often we have career politicians who are conspicuous by their inability to succeed at anything else.  They seek power for the sake of power and will say and do almost anything to retain power.  A recent and blatant example occurred in my provincial jurisdiction with the expenditure of over $1 billion by the sitting government to 'buy' seats that secured their re-election victory.
  2. Governments in both countries have devolved to a point in which there needs to be an 'x' rated warning about the behaviour you should expect to encounter during a sitting of the legislature.  It isn't simply a lack of respect.  Rather it is closer to hatred for opposing views and it is often expressed in a manner that would warrant expulsion if it occurred in any of our schools or offices.
  3. Money is selling opinions.  I use the word advisedly because most frequently the message is not about facts but about debasing and misrepresenting an opposing point of view.  It is done in both a subtle and a blatant fashion and  uses the various forms of media. It becomes a case of repeating the lie so often so as to become fact.  The courts have upheld this right of deception as part of our freedom of expression.  He/she with the deepest pockets now has the greatest influence on the outcome.
  4. In response to the above, voter apathy is reaching a record at every election.  Often turnout is under 50% which means that majority victories are being won with only 20% of eligible voters expressing support.  Given the above, especially #3, this has the potential  to hijack an election using entirely legal means.
Who do we blame?  Look in the mirror...

I was sent the following 'obituary' and it seems very relevant.  Take a look.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, COMMON SENCE, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
    1. Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
    2. Why the early bird gets the worm;
    3. Life isn't always fair;
    4. And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death by,

    1. his parents, Truth and Trust,
    2. his wife, Discretion,
    3. his daughter, Responsibility,
    4. his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;

    1. I Know My Rights
    2. I Want It Now
    3. Someone Else Is To Blame
    4. I'm A Victim
    5. Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
 


Sunday, 8 June 2014

The more things change, the more they seem the same.

The "New`` General Motors is certainly different than the old GM in at least one very important way. New GM apparently has added a new product line.  But they have made only one vehicle.  It is the world`s largest bus; large enough for CEO Mary Barra to throw 15 people under it at one time.

In case you did not hear, GM took over 11 years to acknowledge that a $0.57 ignition switch was a problem and that its failure likely contributed to at least  13 deaths and numerous injuries.  After an exhaustive investigation, Barra announced that a `pattern of incompetence` was uncovered and that she fired 15 people and disciplined 5 others.  Stunningly, over half of those dismissed were at an executive level.

But how innocent is Barra herself?  From February 2008 until June 2009 she was Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering and from February 2011 until her promotion to CEO in January 2014, she was Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.  She has a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA.  Surely Barra was in a position to be aware of and to understand the issue at hand, and the solution.  After all, her staff was responsible for the engineering the products that the design group created.  And her group purchased the product that the supplier no doubt knew, or suspected, was defective.

We are not talking about an insignificant concern; it is not a case that the paint colour chips don't match!  We are talking about an issue that has caused deaths at a rate of at least 1 per year along with hundreds of injuries.  It is simply incredulous to suggest that there was no hint or rumour around the water cooler in the executive suite of a serious problem lurking below the surface.  And it is equally incredulous that Barra and others at the executive level were unaware of these issues.  The fact that half of those she dismissed were executives is confirmation that the concern had filtered up the chain of command.

Barra is now driving the bus and those 15 people that she sacrificed are just numbers to add to the carnage of this faulty ignition switch fiasco.  Make no mistake...simply because she is a woman does not mean that she has not learned well the lessons from her predecessors.  She knows how to dress in Teflon and how to point fingers at the departed.  S--t has not been able to defy gravity and to flow uphill.  In many, many respects the NEW GM is no different from the OLD GM.

In my opinion, the first responsibility of Leadership is that of accountability.  Too bad that Ms. Barra has chosen to hold others accountable while escaping the spot light herself.  This was a pattern of the old GM.  You may recall that in the fall of 2008 when GM was seeking a government bail out, the executive team that headed to Washington to plead their case, chose to take a high cost charter jet rather than fly in economy with the rest of us. They so detached from reality that they could justify their actions to themselves if not to shareholders.

GM made history in the appointment of Barra.  Unfortunately, the more things change...the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The myth of tolerance

The Oxford dictionary defines tolerance as "...the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with..."
Other dictionaries suggest that 'open or broad mindedness' or even 'patience' are suitable definitions.
 
We are persuaded that tolerance is a good and noble trait.  We ought to find a way to get along with everyone in every circumstance.  What is right in my eyes may be entirely different from someone else's view.  There seems nothing intrinsically wrong with that perspective.  You know, live and let live.
 
However, it seems to me that somewhere along this path, tolerance has been usurped by its' evil twin ... indifference.   Where that happens, the graciousness of tolerance has been replaced by the inaction of those who are not willing to get involved.
 
To appreciate this difference, let me use this example.  
 
You are in a bar and someone is drinking and getting loud and somewhat disruptive.  It is beginning to spoil your evening but you are told that the person is celebrating a special occasion.  So you let it pass.  The evening progresses and the person becomes noticeably inebriated and then heads to their car to drive home.  You let them leave.  In both instances you allowed a certain disagreeable behaviour to be continued.  But were you tolerant...or indifferent.
 
The point is that in too many instances in society today we are confusing the two, often with tragic consequences.  And the confusion extends to the workplace as well.  We routinely tolerate unacceptable behaviour that we choose to attribute to stress, overwork or someone just 'being myself' or 'letting off steam'.  But if that behaviour is discriminatory, and we don't respond, can we be tolerant or indifferent?

We must have the courage to take a stand and become intolerant more often.  But being intolerant means we must act, we must  actually take and defend a position.  As a leader this may mean upholding an unpopular decision.  Opposing discrimination is not a difficult decision to defend, but there will be more subtle issues that still require you to take a stand in which indifference may seem to be preferable.

THIS is the point at which authentic leadership rises to the top.

Where do you need to stop being indifferent and instead become intolerant? 

When you can act on principle instead of expediency, you will know that have reached that goal.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Where is your leadership focus?

The primary focus of most companies has been the results - sales, margins and profits.  During this extended period of recession and slow growth, this emphasis has become even more pronounced.  Stock markets want quarterly reports from publicly traded companies and analysts forecast their expectations down to the penny.

But I am increasingly persuaded that this focus is putting the cart before the horse.  Our insistence on results has the unfortunate consequence of marginalizing the underlying fundamentals.  Specifically it tends to ignore the process taken to achieve these results.  The irony of course is that the process influences results more than any forecast.  The primary issue should not be the results, but the productivity that the environment produces.

Studies continue to show that a significant percentage of employees is disengaged at work.  Somewhere between 40-70% identified in this category.  Even at the lowest end of the range it is clear that there is a real problem because a disengaged employee is an unproductive employee.

The point is not to ask how bad things are.  Does it really matter is if 40% disengaged...or 50%...or 60%?  The point is that any level is serious and as leaders, what must we do to turn around the situation?  This is not simply an issue at your workplace.  The problem exists across Canada, across North America and around the world.  Productivity is so far below any reasonable expectation that the question that MUST be asked is 'why'.

My observation is that the problem seldom lays in the ability or desire of the employees.  Rather the primary blame rests with the leadership whose job it is to inspire their teams.  As part of this recognition it should be remembered that most of the leadership team are themselves employees looking for inspiration.  So the failure often begins at the top and washes it way down throughout the organization.

Leaders must first focus on the culture for which they are responsible.  Research repeatedly demonstrates that a negative workplace produces poor engagement, poor decisions and poor productivity.  It takes a sustained effort starting from the top of the house to effect change.  But the studies also indicate that a positive work place leads to better decision making on the part of all employees.  It also leads to greater engagement and better results.

Employees look for inspiration and opportunity to excel.  Leaders who create these settings have a much greater likelihood for success.  Once this type of environment has become ingrained you no longer are striving to achieve a budget.  Rather you are maximizing results from an inspired team that feels no limits.

None of the economic data being reported today suggests that there will be any material change to the current state of affairs.  What that means is that the winners in this economy will be the companies whose productivity is exceptional.  Growth will seldom be organic.  Rather, one company's gain will be another company's loss.  You will only out perform if your staff are inspired by your leadership.  So shift your focus from results to process and environment.  My bet is that the results will take care of themselves!

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Choice that Rob Ford made.

Authentic Leadership has multiple dimensions.  Consequently, for the leader to achieve maximum effectiveness, (s)he must be functioning properly in all of these dimensions.  My definition of an authentic leader includes a legal component, a moral component and an ethical component.  Perhaps that is why so many of our politicians are struggling. They fail on 1 or more of these criteria.

Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, is an excellent case in point.

Mr. Ford was elected in a democratic manner .  There has been no suggestion that he had somehow fixed the outcome of the election.  Indeed, a large percentage of his supporters have already voiced their support for him in the next mayoral election this fall. Accordingly, Ford meets the legal criteria for leadership.  But Ford fails the authenticity test because of his shortcomings on the other two criteria.

His morality score suffers because of his self admitted use of illegal drugs both prior to and during his tenure as mayor.  While his closest supporters willingly overlook these reports as simple human failings, the majority rightly respond that, as a leader, Ford is held to a higher standard.  Even if you choose to ignore those offences prior to taking office, there can be no excuse for the behaviour while in office.  Whether he likes it or not, when he is not at home, he is in the office, regardless of where that office is.  So public drunkenness or the use of illegal substances are both offences that violate any reasonable expectation of a moral leader.   If he needs to be chaperoned, so be it.

In a similar manner, Ford fails to pass the ethical standard.  He repeatedly denied his involvement with drugs and alcohol, only publically admitting his use when cornered without any options.  His claims that the question had not asked specifically enough on earlier occasions only served to confirm to the general public that he could not be trusted with the truth.

It does no good to suggest that his behaviour was no different from that many others in public service and therefore should be excused or tolerated.  He knew, or should have known, the inappropriateness of his actions.  Indeed, if he did not see these things to be wrong, it calls into question not simply his actions but his judgement as well. His denials and his deliberate avoidance of the truth are simply not ethical.

It is little wonder that the broader council has dramatically curtailed his scope of control.  Unless and until he regains both the moral and ethical integrity that has been lost, Ford can never lead authentically or effectively. 

What is true for Rob Ford is equally true to anyone who aspires to a leadership role.  In the short term you can use bully tactics or command others to do your bidding.  But in the longer term it is your people who deliver the results because they have been motivated by your authentic leadership which consistently inspires through legal, moral and ethical imperatives. 

Ford made deliberate choices to neglect the full scope of leadership and as a result he accomplished much less than might have otherwise been possible.  In that regard he follows a long line of disgraced politicians.  By making right choices your leadership can be incredibly more productive because those who you lead will want to confirm and support your authenticity through their dedicated efforts.

The issue is not so much 'can you lead' but rather will you 'choose to lead'.  The choice is yours alone.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Can we save us from ourselves

What do Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have in common?  Eric Schmidt, Executive Chair at Google, identifies them as 'The Gang of Four" and suggests that their collective and competitive efforts will shape the future of the internet.  Schmidt states that Google has a value system that supports free and open internet access and that this value system, supported by the others, is the best thing that can happen to the internet.

Seriously, he said that. See his interview with Charlie Rose on PBS.

Just what are the credentials of this Gang?

Amazon started selling books online in 1995 and while you cannot dispute its retail success (Sales in excess of $70 billion in 2013), there has been a huge human cost to the smaller local retailer.

Apple was a floundering niche computer manufacturer until the unexpected success of the iPod, first introduced in October 2001.  Apple has subsequently grown to become the world's largest company based on stock value.  But its' future remains clouded without the Steve Jobs personality to guide future product development and already it faces serious competition in both its iPhone and iPad product lines.

Facebook is the social media darling of the day.  But even with over 1 billion users, it is already looking for the 'next' in order to remain relevant.  Last week it spent over $16 billion on a company with less than 60 employees simply because it had over 400 million users.

Finally Google, a company which is essentially an online library and reference tool, makes it money from clicks.  That is hardly an awe-inspiring mission statement.

Collectively these companies have about 75 years of corporate life and yet Schmidt has the audacity to believe that they will shape the future of the internet.  I am not sure which frightens me more; the fact that he believes it or the possibility that he is right!

While I do not dispute the concept of  a 'free and open internet', I am troubled by the suggestion that the values and principles of so few may be the guiding light for this evolution.  Any institution that operates without boundaries will inevitably devolve to the lowest common  denominator.  Consequently  a tool intended for good is vulnerable to corruption and more often used for evil. 

If the 'free and open' means that there cannot be any censorship, who decides what is good and what is not?  Do we leave that up to the Gang of Four and their long history of sound judgement? 

I don't profess to have all the answers.  But this much I do know.  The internet has the capacity to be   one of the greatest tools for good that humanity has seen.  Paradoxically, it has an even more grave potential for harm.  Any suggestion that the Gang of Four can make the important value decisions on its future is na├»ve in the extreme. 

The question then becomes '...can we save us from ourselves...' or are we already trapped in this labyrinth, a black hole from which no light can escape.  

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Ethical not mythical

Over the past couple of years SNC Lavalin, one of Canada's pre-eminent companies operating in the international marketplace, has been found to have acted in a corrupt manner.  Charges have been laid against current and former employees for alleged criminal activities in both Canada and abroad - typically relating to bribery.  The company has already agreed to certain sanctions imposed by the World Bank and more penalties are likely to follow.

Beyond the obvious public relations issues that this kind of corporate behaviour elicits, consider some of the deeper implications that are less apparent at first glance.

  1. When any company participates in illegal, immoral or unethical activities - bribery, price fixing, influence peddling etc. - the message to all employees essentially says "we are not good enough to compete on a level playing field".  Whether the indictment is interpreted about the company's products, services, systems or people does not matter.  The message is the medium.  The workplace is poisoned and employees are embarrassed and disheartened by the fact that leadership has such a low opinion of the company's ability to compete.
  2. When these kinds of activities are known internally they establish the standard for acceptable behaviour for all employees.  While the corruption may be played out at the executive level, the bar is set for everyone.  How is anyone held to account for cheating on an expense account; for taking that extra long lunch; for abusing company benefits etc.  When the line of acceptable conduct is blurred at the highest levels, the implications flow to the deepest levels of the company.
  3. What happens to the opinions of key suppliers?  Will they feel that they have been cheated in their negotiations to supply products or services to the company?  Will they want the speculation that they have somehow directly or indirectly supported the activities of the cheater in order to benefit from future sales?  Will they be concerned about the opinion of other companies that they serve and the potential that these firms will not want to be tainted by association? 
  4. Then there is the attitude of other clients whose business with the offender has been conducted above board.  Unfortunately the same potential to be tainted by association must be considered.  It is only natural that the questions will be asked to determine how wide spread the corrupt activities have spread.  This brings an unnecessary and costly focus on others who must assert and defend their innocence.    Furthermore it will dissuade other companies from considering business with the offender simply because of the optics.
SNC Lavalin and others conducting themselves in a like manner often use the time worn argument that others do it or that this is the customary way to conduct business in the particular market.  Effectively they are justifying their actions through the application of situational ethics.  Whether you operate in a local or in a global market those arguments simply don't hold water.  There are no shades of grey, only black and white.  Just a 2+2 always equals 4, right is right and wrong is wrong.  It is not a case of perspectives.

As my title implies, ethics cannot be mythical.  Ethics are not some unicorn or Cyclops or other fantacy of literature.  Ethics are real, measurable and consistent.  And they hold you accountable.

Too often, for the SNC's of the world, ethics have been found difficult and thus left untried without due consideration of the extent of damage that their choices will inflict.  Don't compromise your leadership role by sacrificing that which is easy to build but almost impossible to rebuild.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fear not!

It seems that the most basic human emotion is that of fear.  For millennia, those in positions of power have used this reality to control their subjects.  Whether that role was as the head of a nation or simply the local tribe, fear was the over-riding means by which control was exerted and leadership was maintained. 

Fear played itself out in various means.  At its' extreme, fear of death motivated people to stay in line.  But fear of being criticized; fear of failure; fear of injury or harm; fear of humiliation or rejection; fear of the unknown; all of these prevented individuals from doing anything that might upset the status quo.  As long as one had the basic necessities of life there was little likelihood that someone would take a risk.  For all intents and purposes, people were paralyzed by fear.  And those in positions of authority used this knowledge to take and retain power.

We would like to think that as we have matured as individuals and as a society that this primal instinct would have subsided. After all, we live in a civilized democracy in which one is essentially free to express themselves and to make educated choices. 

But in truth, fear remains our default response.  This continues to be evident in many levels of leadership.  Those individuals entrusted with authority, acting out of their own fear of failure or rejection, repeatedly use fear as their primary tool to motivate others. In the workplace the fear of death is clearly not an option.  But the fear of termination or the fear of humiliation are almost as effective weapons to control the activities of the employees.  During this period that we call the Great Recession, fear has become an even more effective option because, with the high levels of personal debt, one can simply not risk becoming unemployed.

What a commentary it is when, at a time when we most need to have a positive message, we are instead guided by fear...

At one time in our history, fear was a protective emotion that evoked our flight or fight response to danger.  The adrenalin that our bodies produced spurred a defensive posture for our protection.  But in the absence of danger, fear is an entirely inappropriate response to the challenges we face and it is an especially inappropriate way in which to provide leadership.

Fear does not encourage, it criticizes.  Fear does not produce an environment of safety but one of  dismay.  Fear does not promote creativity, it provokes stagnation.  Fear does not provide hope, it instils hopelessness.  Fear does not free, it paralyzes.  Fear produces only more fear.

We must have leaders who approach each day with joy.  They do not  deny the realities or the challenges that they and their teams face.  But rather than view these as obstacles they look at them as opportunities.  Leaders must inspire by communicating a vision in which all things are possible. 

Imagine reporting to your workplace knowing that your ideas and contributions will be welcomed; where your best efforts are appreciated even when they came up short; where you are supported and encouraged ; and where hope produces more hope. Surely this in the primary objective of every leader!

If you lead, I encourage you to discard fear as an option.  It never was a good idea and today it is even worse. Instead, instill a passion for the opportunity set before you.  If you have a joy towards the goal, your team will join you in a manner that you can never fully appreciate until you try. 

When fear is not an option, neither is failure.



 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lessons from Amish, Inc.

On a recent trip through the US, we stopped at a favourite location in south-east Pennsylvania.  This is an area that has a large Amish population.  These people are as recession proof a group as you can find.  And they are incredibly successful! 

As this was not our first trip to  the area, I decided to take some time and really observe this group in action.  There must be some lessons for us to apply to our daily activities.  Here are the top ten insights that I gleaned.

  1. Be focused.  Do what you do best and do it better than anyone else.  Long ago the Amish decided to be the best farmers and craftsmen that they could be.  Using livestock to pull plows and wagons, they have developed skill sets that have served them well for centuries.  And their yields are outstanding.
  2. Use everyone's talents in the best way.  Not everyone is gifted with the same skills and abilities.  But everyone can contribute something and the Amish are great at delegating responsibilities to the appropriate individuals.
  3. Train and equip before assigning work.  Before anyone is expected to take on a task, the leaders ensure that the individual has the training and tools to do the job properly.  No one is simply thrown into the fire and allowed to fail.
  4. Count the cost before you start.  The Amish do not take on debt.  Before they take on a task - buying more land; building a home or barn - they save the money and are able to pay for everything up front.  In this way there is never a serious concern if the harvest is less than expected.
  5. Be thankful, not entitled.  The community never 'expects' success.  They put in the hours and effort.  There is never a feeling of entitlement when things work out well.  Rather they are thankful and know the same level of effort must be applied the next day, the next month and the next year in order to achieve the results that they  need.
  6. Committed to the leadership.  Within the context of the community there are certain individuals who are nominated into leadership. From them, everyone understands the goals and the importance of their contributions.  Therefore they are committed to the leaders.
  7. Do something that gives you joy.  No one is forced to stay in the community.  At an age of maturity young people are even encouraged to take a year away to experience the broader world.  If they choose to return, it is because the community and the work fulfils them...it brings them joy.
  8. Plan for succession.  Often the most difficult transition in any company is from one leadership group to the next.  The Amish have understood this for hundreds of years and have proven very adept at identifying and preparing the next generation of leaders.  Their results demonstrate the importance that they place on this process.
  9. Grow with a purpose.  With large families the rule and not the exception, the communities outgrow the available space.  As a result, expansion is a planned event.  They also understand that a new community cannot consist of one family...it must be a community.  All the skills needed to support a community are represented in the families that participate in the expansion.  This ensures the greatest likelihood of success.  Nothing is left to chance.
  10. Be moral, ethical and legal.  The Amish operate with a religious imperative and these values are implicit in their operations.  But a lack of religion in your workplace does not mean that these principles should not be intrinsic to the way in which your company operates.  Employees, clients, suppliers and others all respond better when they know that you can be trusted to keep your word and to deal fairly.
Take a look, take a long look, at how Amish Incorporated has managed to outperform all others for almost 300 years.  They may not be the biggest land owners, they don`t drive Mercedes or BMW`s or any other German made vehicle.  Their horses and buggies won`t set land speed records. 
 
But they are successful, happy and content.  Their formula works and their principles set a fine example.  There`s not a lot wrong with that!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Before the next one hits...

As we begin to emerge from the second worst economic downturn in the last century, I submit that we need to rethink our response to the next time we are faced with a recession.  I don't know when that will come but history clearly demonstrates that it is the very nature of our world financial systems to experience periods of growth followed by 'corrections' that we call recessions or, in their worst iterations, depressions.

Those in leadership roles at publicly traded companies have followed a fairly predicable path to respond to these downturns.  They may cloak it in different terms such as 'restructuring'; 'rightsizing'; 'workforce adjustment' or some other euphemism. But the bottom line is the same.  They fire a lot of people and force the remaining employees to be more productive with fewer resources. 

This approach is done, first and foremost, to satisfy other stakeholders, most specifically those who own shares of the company.  Demonstrating to 'the street' that you are being proactive in responding to an economic downturn somehow suggests that the executives know what they are doing and thereby expect to retain the trust and confidence that first gained them the positions they hold.

I have been around long enough to have worked through several recessions.  Since 1950 there have been 8-10 recessions. ( Some commentators combined some events, hence the difference.)

The fallacy with the traditional response is that most recessions are short-lived, the current event notwithstanding.  What that means is that more often than not, the impacts of layoffs have only just subsided when it comes time to fill the vacancies to meet returning demand. 

Here is the truth.  Layoffs and the associated severance costs are incurred in a year in which profits are already going to miss budget.  These costs cloud the underlying reasons that objectives are not being met- that is poor planning and/or execution at a leadership level- and they allow for executive management to mask overall results. 

The following year it becomes a relatively easy matter to exceed prior year results and to show 'double digit growth' and thereby restore shareholder and market confidence.  The corner office is able to polish its' 'messiah complex' while never acknowledging that they should have been managing the company with the knowledge that a downturn was inevitable.

This charade comes with a huge human cost that in many, if not most, instances is entirely unnecessary.  So here are my recommendations for what ought to occur in the face of the next recession...because there will be a 'next'.  These all must be implemented before any layoffs are contemplated or initiated.
  1. All bonuses are immediately suspended.  In my opinion, when the alternative is for someone to lose their job it is better to cut out bonuses for those whose strategic plans and lack of execution have put the company in the position that requires these discussions.
  2. The company should determine the actual amount of savings that are anticipated from the terminations. Instead of layoffs there should be salary rollbacks on a sliding scale starting at the most senior levels.  Executives at the CEO and VP levels should be cut 10%; next level managers 7.5% and mid level managers 5%.  If these cuts have not achieved the dollar objective, then the balance needs to be shared amongst the remaining staff.  In all likelihood it would be a 2-3%  rollback which, after taxes, represents a negligible reduction in actual take home pay.
  3. An option to a salary rollback would be job sharing or reduced hours.  For example, someone can contribute a 2% reduction in compensation by working about half a day per month less.  Most people would be able to accommodate that kind of change.
Adopting this kind of approach to recessionary pressures has several benefits, some of which include the following:

  1. The reduction in bonuses hits those whose failures have had the most significant impact in the company performance.  At the same time it affects those who are most capable of withstanding the financial impact.  Very few executives are young and fiscally vulnerable.  They don't have mortgages and loans that stretch the family budget to the extreme.  The failure to collect a bonus translates into one less European vacation or a delay of a year before they replace that BMW in the driveway.
  2. When everyone participates in the pain, there is a greater sense of community in the workplace.  If everyone is considered to be part of the solution, then respect and commitment to the cause is improved because the objective is the same for everyone...to restore the company to the levels of profitability that allow wages to be recovered.
  3. Whenever layoffs occur in a company, those who remain work under a cloud of guilt  and  they grieve for friends and co-workers who have gone.  Furthermore they tend to have a 'whose next' kind of attitude and their work reflects this defensive posture.  If this guilt and grief can instead be replaced by gratitude and joy, how much more positive will the effort be to face the challenges ahead. 
  4. Finally,  this approach recognizes that the true stakeholders are not the pension plans, fund managers and analysts who hold and/or rate the stock value.  Rather, the employees have the greatest stake in the company and their futures are more important that any other.  As such, the pain should first be felt by the ownership group for they are the ones who have appointed and supported the executive team and they should share in the failure in the way that really hurts, in their wallets. 

A front page report today stated that the top 85 billionaires in the world have a combined wealth equal to that of half of the world's population.   Talk about a concentration of wealth.  This represents the extreme but symbolically it also illustrates the issue that I have referenced above. 

A relative few at the top are making decisions, at times poorly, but the consequences of those decisions primarily impact others.  Next time around why not have a protocol in place that anticipates the need for short term adjustments that will impact those most responsible for the predicament.  Perhaps the recognition that this protocol exists will be the impetus for this group to make fundamentally better decisions that demonstrate an understanding that business cycles truly exist and that corporations should be built with this expectation in mind. 

Or is that just too much to ask...

 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Just a little accountability please.

Recently I expressed my concerns about executive compensation and specifically the size of that compensation when compared to the average wage earned in their organizations.  This disparity seems to be most notable in the financial industries.  It is ironic that in an industry that does not make anything, we find that the distribution of compensation is most disparate.

Let me explain that last comment.  General Motors makes cars; farmers grow meats, fruits and vegetables.  But financial institutions do not make anything.  What they do is to redistribute wealth and take a commission for doing so.  Their efforts really do not rely on a profitable transaction taking place; they make a commission for facilitating the transaction.

So in the absence of truly creating something tangible; and in being overcompensated in the process; how is it that we also have left these executive halls unaccountable for the malfeasance that has come to light since the beginning of the Great Recession.  Keep in mind that the main reason for the downturn in the economy was bank failures brought about by something called derivative trading and sub-prime mortgages.  (Without getting into the specifics, US banks had to trade outside the country with these financial initiatives because they were illegal in the US. Go to this website for more insight http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/oral-history/financial-crisis/tags/subprime-mortgages/)

Although some of the financial institutions are now paying large fines associated with these activities - JP Morgan just paid $13 billion - not one executive has faced any criminal charges.  This despite the fact that the actions were illegal and the executives were compensated very handsomely through their bonuses for the profits generated from these schemes.  In fact, not one Wall Street financial executive has faced any criminal complaint several years after this all began.

In a different but similar kind of action, JP Morgan agreed to pay over $2.6 billion to settle allegations of criminal and civil activities related to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.  Madoff is serving a life sentence for his actions.  No one at the Bank will serve any time for facilitating Madoff for over 15 years.

In Canada, The Royal Bank agreed to pay $17 million  to settle claims in the Earl Jones Ponzi case, all the while denying any responsibility. ``RBC has closely examined its role in providing Earl Jones with a bank account and is satisfied that it was not negligent,” the bank said in a statement.   That strikes me as a pretty expensive denial.  Again, no executives were hurt in the issuing of the statement...

All I would like to see is some accountability.  If the activities noted here had been perpetrated by a Branch Manager, she or he would have been thrown under the bus in a heartbeat.  But because the executives are `connected` both fiscally and politically, they are seemingly above the law.  And that is just not right!

If you drive the get away car, you are considered just as guilty as those who actually robbed the store.  So how is it any different for these bank executives?  They endorsed an environment that facilitated the abuses.  How is that any different from driving the car...