Monthly Archives: January 2016

How to Use Power Positively

How to Use Power Positively

Power is often a dirty word, as in “power corrupts.” Yet, without the power to make things happen, managers can’t build organizations.

Managers need to understand the dynamics of power in four arenas and harness and direct energies in ways that are not just effective and efficient, but also deeply satisfying and empowering of self and the others who lend their energy toward goals.

Power has two primary components: a vision—a goal to achieve—and energy—the impetus or force needed to bring the vision into reality. This offers an equation: Vision multiplied by energy produces the power to accomplish goals! However, opposing energies can vitiate even a great vision supported by enormous energy.

Here, then, is a more realistic equation for power:

Power = Vision
  • Energy/Resistance

    Applying this simple equation is not so simple. Once being powerful was a perquisite of managers. People did what their managers wanted them to do. Wages were provided in return for obedient labor.

    Today, managers need new ways to generate power and influence if they are to harness and focus the energy of their people into power sufficient for excellence and continued success.

    Finite and Infinite Perspectives

    I see two basic views of power:

    • The finite perspective says that power is scarce, limited, and finite—that there is not enough to go around, that someone will win, and someone must lose. This limited view of power limits the power we might accrue. A win/lose perspective of power actually creates resistance, as those who believe they will lose if you win, will fight aggressively and passively to turn the tables.
    • The infinite view sees power as abundant, unlimited, and infinite. In this view, power is accrued through partnering with and learning from others-including those who might resist. The quantity and quality of available power from this perspective is potentially infinite, facilitating great energy.

    Harnessing infinite power depends on mastering six principles:

    1. Focus your energy—focusing, releasing, and managing the energy of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your goals.
    2. Think systemically—seeing that every thing and every action exists within some system of other things and actions, and that every thing and action within a system impacts and is impacted by every other thing and action with that system.
    3. Learn from differences—using differences to accrue knowledge and skill, not to foster contention or conformity.
    4. Seek sound and current data—operating from accurate, up-to-date information rather than from opinion, interpretation, assumption, or speculation.
    5. Empower others—supporting self and others to identify and resolve their issues and discover their excellence.
    6. Use support systems—developing and using a diverse group of supporters who contribute to achieving. Support systems achieve their goals as they reach critical mass.
  • Tagged
    Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

    Process of Building a Personal Brand

    You already have a personal brand. What do people feel when you walk into the room? And what do you want them to feel? With successful branding, your key audiences think about you the way you want them to think.

    The branding process has four steps.

    Consider the corporate brand

    The more senior the executive, the closer the fit needs to be between corporate brand and personal brand. CEOs should consider themselves an extension or an embodiment of the corporate brand. What does your corporate brand stand for? How does your CEO’s brand fit within it? If the branding does not fit, the CEO’s tenure will likely be short. Successful branding does not mean that the CEO needs to layer another persona over his or her own. Nor does it mean that the CEO needs to be conventionally charismatic. The branding of many CEOs is modest, low key, and but their personal brand stands for something that key constituents relate to.

    Some CEOs have star power and are extremely media-genie. In this case, the challenge is to ensure that the CEO’s personal brand contributes to the corporate brand rather than distracts from it. The spotlight is put on the mission of the company, rather than on the personality of the CEO.

    Articulate your personal brand

    How do you identify and articulate your personal brand? Consider using archetypes-themes that tell a story. All business communication involves the telling of stories. An annual report is a story. A press release is a story. Archetypes tell the maximum story with minimum effort. We have all certain archetypes within us. In personal branding, focus on one or two major archetypes that explain your core motivation and strategies. For example, President George W. Bush is most effective when he takes on the Regular Guy persona. Al Gore is a Sage brand. The ability to make each person feel heard is the hallmark of a Lover brand and Bill Clinton personifies this. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a true Ruler brand-fully in control.

    In business, Apple Computer is an Outlaw brand (” Think Different“), and its CEO Steve Jobs is a Creator/Outlaw brand. The close alignment between the company and its leader works well. Another Outlaw brand with a flavor of Warrior is Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Li, whose career was built on taking risks and turning away from convention. Oracle Software is a Warrior brand, as is its CEO, Larry Ellison. Executives who work in healthcare often exemplify the Caregiver brand.

    What archetype is dominant for you and your company? When coaching executives, we use assessments and questions to uncover an executive’s dominant archetype, the basis of his or her personal brand. To discover your archetype, ask yourself: What do I value above all else? What do I represent? What is unique about me? What is my call to action? What is my greatest fear? What story am I living?

    Adjust your brand

    Once you have articulated your brand, check for congruence. Ask others, “Does this brand evoke me?” You should get agreement from your audiences. Is your brand aligned with your actions and words? Are your actions aligned with your desired branding? Are there conflicts within your archetypes? For example, if you have a strong Regular Guy streak, you probably fear standing out. Does this prevent you from stepping into a Ruler role when your leadership calls for it? Or does the Lover aspect of your personality conflict with the Wnniors need to achieve? Finally, ask yourself: Is this really who I want to be? How can I aim even higher? What quirks of mine can I incorporate into my branding? Most of us spend our lives trying to conform. This is a chance to celebrate our uniqueness.

    Live your brand

    As you implement your brand, you will find that you have some clear strengths and liabilities. Your brand will alienate some people, and that’s okay. Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people. Each archetype presents both opportunities and traps. A Warrior leader can be powerful, but may not create a nurturing work environment.

    A Creator leader can be invigorating to follow, but may not be a structured thinker. Your strategy should be to mitigate your liabilities by flexing your behavior to meet the needs of the people and groups who are important to your business. For example, if you deal frequently with Ruler archetypes but are not a Ruler brand yourself, you will need to learn certain strategies and skills. By noticing your impact on your key audiences, and by stretching your skill set, you become a stronger, more flexible brand. Successful leaders who live their personal branding exercise a paradox. They are both deeply steeped in their own personal identities and deeply flexible toward their key audiences. Leaders who are good at both elements are authentic (true to themselves) and influential (powerful with others).

    A Brand is A Promise

    Remember: a brand is a promise, one that you make and fulfill, over and over. What promises are you and your company fulfilling? Fulfilling the business promise through effective communication yields a high Return on Communication.

    Posted in Education and Career

    Adapting to Change and Managing the Transition Successfully

    Life is about adapting to change and ever-increasing demands. William Bridges was right: “It’s not the changes that do you in. Ifs the transitions.”

    Organizations must continually change. The question is “how?” The leader’s task is to make change work by helping others through transition.

    A successful transition …

    • Explains what is and what isn’t over. Some things never change: You will continue to serve customers and produce products. What changes is not what you do but how you do it. Help people identify what is and is not over.
    • Respects the past. The practices that frustrate you today were someone’s innovative solutions of the past. Do not criticize widely accepted practices. Accept them as right for that time while recognizing that times change.
    • Ensures the “important stuff” continues. What is the important stuff to you? Service? Ethics? Whatever it is, it must continue. Involve others in defining the “important stuff” and ensure that the change does not disregard them. This increases support for the change.
    • Sets the stage for the future. Today’s change will open your eyes to new opportunities. As you evolve, set goals for what you want to achieve. Measure and evaluate progress. And, show others how the change will move them toward a positive future.
    • Recognizes its day will end. Don’t assume that today’s solution will work forever. And don’t think that this will be the last change.

    Long-term success depends on anticipating and responding to change and making the transition.

    Posted in Management and Leadership

    Build the Reputation Capital of your CEO

    By CEO capital, I mean the asset created by CEO’s reputation. It is the collective esteem that significant others, inside and outside company, hold for the company’s CEO and, for the company. It is the composite of perceptions about a CEO that a company’s stakeholders hold, whether these constituents are employees, analysts, investors, customers, media, regulators, or community leaders.

    This asset can be harnessed to advance a company’s success. But, like any other wealth-creating asset, CEO capital needs to be invested in, managed, and leveraged over time to reap enduring benefits. Companies can utilize the equity that accrues from CEO capital to attract more investors, partners, customers, applicants, and trust in corporate decisions. CEO reputations, when harnessed on behalf of corporate goals, impact a company’s success and viability.

    Every company must develop CEO capital, understand its underpinnings, and manage the important asset of its CEO’s reputation. When accumulated, CEO capital: Has a positive impact on a company’s reputation and success; produces clear, discernible, and valuable payoffs; is known to matter to influential constituencies; and affords more time to develop long-term solutions.

    What Builds CEO Capital?

    Five factors build CEO capital:

    1. Building credibility. This is critical to establishing a favorable CEO reputation. CEOs earn credibility by being consistently truthful and delivering on their promises and by matching behavior with their values.
    2. Abiding by a code of ethics. Setting and abiding by higher standards make a marked impression. CEOs must act in good faith according to ethical guidelines.
    3. Communicating internally. Unless CEOs communicate change and direction, most employees won’t know why and how they are being asked to lend their hands, hearts, and minds. To build CEO capital, CEOs must be tireless internal communicators.
    4. Attracting and retaining a quality management team. Having a highly regarded management team signals to stakeholders that the CEO has a strategy worth following. A top-notch team also signals that the CEO not only has the right people to execute his or her vision but also has prepared well for succession.
    5. Motivating and inspiring employees. CEOs must be pied pipers, serving as masters of ceremony at town hall meetings, leading anchors on global webcasts and teleconferences, and hosts at breakfast meetings. When CEOs inspire their employees, they build a better culture, leading to increased shareholder value. Everyone is a winner. Stakeholders look to see how CEOs manage people and put operating and social systems into place to build bench strength and keep employees loyal and productive.

    These top drivers of CEO capital must all be in place for a CEO to earn top honors. When one is missing, a CEO courts disaster.

    The goal is to leverage the wealth embedded in a CEO’s capital to enhance a company’s reputation and well-being, increasing its economic evaluation, and differentiating it from competitors. As a CEO builds capital, the CEO builds a company.

    Posted in Management and Leadership

    Stephen Fry on Respect for Devout and Pious Members of the Catholic Church

    In October 2009, English comedian, actor, writer, and humanitarian Stephen Fry joined provocateur extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens to debate against former Member of British Parliament Ann Widdecombe and the Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan on the topic of ‘Is Catholicism a force for good in the world?‘. Television and radio journalist Zeinab Badawi moderated the session hosted by Intelligence Squared held at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

    Fry’s passionate and emotional speech opened with a reiteration of his respect for individuals’ choice of Catholic faith and appealed for their respect for others’ choices too:

    I want first of all to say that I have no quarrel, no argument and I wish to express no contempt for individual devout and pious members of that church. They are welcome to their sacraments. They’re welcome to their reliquaries and to their Blessed Virgin Mary. They’re welcome … to their faith, to the importance they place in it, … to the comfort and the joy that they receive from it. All of that is absolutely fine by me. It would be impertinent and wrong of me to express any antagonism towards any individual who wishes to find salvation in whatever form they wish to express it. That, to me, is sacrosanct, as much as any article of faith is sacrosanct to anyone of any church or any faith, in the world. It’s very important. It’s also very important to me, as it happens, that I have my own beliefs. They are a belief in the enlightenment. They are a belief in the eternal adventure of trying to discover moral truth in the world.

    Posted in Faith and Religion Philosophy and Wisdom

    Implement a Retention Plan to Keep Good People

    Implement a Retention Plan

    Don’t be misled. A soft economy is no justification for abandoning your commitment to employee retention. Good people are needed today more than ever. You need people connected to your mission and focused on delivering your product or service as efficiently and effectively.

    The economy will rebound, baby boomers will eventually decide to retire, and staff shortages will return. Generation X does not have enough bodies to replace the retiring boomers, and the Millennial Generation will not offer relief until 2008.

    A difficult truth will be discovered when the bidding for talent returns. An exorbitant compensation package might not attract people in a post-scandal economy. And, it won’t retain them or ensure the productivity your business needs to survive.

    People hire into organizations. They stay, leave, or contribute based on their relationship with their manager and their opportunity to both contribute and advance in their jobs. They want to work in a place where they can succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated. A positive response to each of the following questions will help you stay connected and keep your best.

    Workplace where employees succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated

    • Does a dear focus and direction exist for the business and the individual? Specific goals linked to a common, compelling vision provide a sense of contribution and focus. Commitment to the job is enhanced when a visible link exists between individual performance and organizational success.
    • Do people receive the time, tools, and training to accomplish their jobs? Frustration develops when barriers hinder success. An investment in tools and training reinforces the idea that quality is important.
    • Are efforts recognized and appreciated? Sincere recognition to your stars ensures that they don’t look for a better environment in which to utilize their talents. Poor performers can be motivated when managers recognize their value rather than only look for the negative. Those who do a good job each day view recognition as verification that their performance matters. A one-percent increase in performance from those who simply meet expectations makes a tremendous difference in the bottom-line.
    • Is poor performance addressed? Top employees grow weary of doing more than their share of the performance load. They want those who are not meeting expectations to be dealt with fairly.
    • Are honest mistakes used as a learning opportunity? Most of the important lessons we learn in life are the result of honest mistakes. When people feel punished for those missteps a culture is created where errors are hidden communication lines are closed, and valuable knowledge that could improve performance and results is not shared.
    • Is specific and accurate feedback provided in a positive manner? Everyone wants information about how they are doing compared to the expectations for their performance. The best feedback acknowledges effort, points people toward success, and encourages personal responsibility.
    • Do people have fun? Environments that promote laughter contribute to higher morale, improved productivity, and lower stress. Having fun is not just playing games or dressing up on holidays. The ability to be relaxed and enjoy oneself creates a bond between team members.

    Creating an environment that keeps people feeling connected to the mission and vision is every leader’s task It is the one sure strategy for achieving success.

    Posted in Management and Leadership

    Buddhist Stupa in Kanganahalli, Karnataka

    Maha-Chaitya Buddhist Stupa in Sannati Kanaganahalli

    Kanganahalli in Gulbarga district is situated on the left bank of the river Bhima and the archaeological site is located about 3 km from the famous Chandralamba temple at Sannati where Ashokan inscriptions have been discovered. Though there were enough indications for the existence of Buddhism and Buddhist art during the early centuries of the Christian era in Karnataka, they had not been discovered yet. Hence archaeologists taking the clue from surface finds began conducting excavations at Sannati and Kanganahalli and the excavations have yielded ample material throwing new light on the Mauryan period and a flourishing Buddhist art in the early period. The excavations are still in progress and once the excavations are completed a new brilliant chapter on Buddhism and Buddhist art in Karnataka becomes clear.

    The most important result of the excavation was a mahastupa the diameter of which was around 75 ft. It should have had an impressive height in keeping with the diameter. It also exposed the medhi along with hundreds of sculptured slabs with lotus designs and other decorations. Standing or seated Buddha images of Amaravati style have added a new dimension to the early art of Karnataka. One of the most important and rare sculptural slabs had a portrait of Mauryan king Ashoka. The majestic king is accompanied by his queen and they are attended by two chauri beares. To confirm that it was the portrait of Ashoka, the sculptor has carved a single line label inscription, reading “Rayo Asoko” in Brahmi script of the Satavahana period. Perhaps this is the first inscribed image of Ashoka discovered in India.

    Portrait of Mauryan king Ashoka accompanied by his queen at Buddhist Stupa in Kanganahalli

    The excavation has yielded literally hundreds of limestone bass-relief sculptures as well as full round sculptures relating to railing and paved circumbulation, and slabs with carvings of Jataka stories. Thus it is a veritable storehouse of Buddhist sculptures of the early period. The excavation also yielded more than one hundred inscriptions of Brahmi script and Prakrit language datable to first century B.C., to second century A.D. Some of these inscriptions refer to Satavahana kings like Sri Satakami, Pulumavi, Yajnasri Satakami etc. The excavation has also yielded a large number of coins of the Satavahana kings. Thus the Kanganahalli excavations have great significance for the early history of Karnataka. All those who are interested in the early history of Karnataka have been waiting for the completion of the excavations at Kanganahalli so that a new chapter on Buddhist art can be added.

    Posted in Faith and Religion Travels and Journeys

    How to Grow Your Company to Greatness

    Grow Your Company to Greatness

    Cost cutting is the tool of choice for managers who seek instant gratification. It’s the low-hanging fruit that puts profitability on steroids and makes a leader look good overnight. It’s like taking a hit of morphine; the pain deadens for a while, but unless you address the cause of the pain, you become addicted and never get better.

    While cutting and controlling costs is vital, it is not a strategy; it’s a tactic. It’s easy to imitate, and offers no competitive advantage. Cost cutting also leads to diminishing returns. While you’ re wringing out the last 5 percent of efficiency counting beans, a competitor with a breakthrough strategy will leapfrog over you. To grow business, you must shift to strategic thinking.

    Keep two things in mind when it comes to strategy:

    • If it’s not different, it’s dead
    • If you can’t articulate it, you can’t execute it.

    For leaders, it’s time to get back to work, because while “optimizing” is important, no business can shrink to greatness. Companies must perform their way to greatness. It takes more work to build top-line growth and gain market share by out-strategizing, out-hustling, and developing better talent. Most managers are addicted to quick fixes. But the ultimate the test of leadership is not how effectively you wield a knife, but how well you grow your business.

    Dangers of a Shrinking Business

    There are clear lessons associated with shrinking your business. Cost cutting backfires when you ax your capacity to produce. This includes training and tools to boost performance. The point is not whether the budget was under-spent, but well spent.

    Diets result in weight loss, but the excess fat won’t stay off unless habits are changed and muscle is built. It’s shortsighted to cut a training budget designed to make people more competent, while advertising lavishly for more customers. Untrained people will only abuse them. It’s a cycle of senselessness.

    Don’t just optimize—innovate! Optimizing (cost cutting) is a tactic; innovation (finding better ways to do things) is a strategy. Leaders need to do four things:

    1. develop and promote a pool of upcoming talent
    2. create an owner loyalty program that makes it insane for a customer to buy elsewhere
    3. implement a unique marketing message that sets your business apart from your competitors
    4. have a proactive, year-round recruiting program that builds a pipeline of talent.

    Innovation requires change, and regardless of how change makes you cringe, without it, there is no progress. Consider the strategy of creating a new and unique marketing message. While advertising is important, before you spend unseemly sums to spread your message, have something worth saying—like a value proposition that differentiates you from every ‘lowest prices, biggest selection, no hassle’ loudmouth. Create a message that changes the rules and raises your business. Leaders must create an “unfair” advantage to put their businesses on the path to greatness.

    If your marketing message grew stale during the boom times, you may have stagnated: Quick, in three sentences, what makes your business noticeably different than your competition? What would customers say makes you different and better?

    If you don’t have convincing answers, you have some serious work to do. Today’s consumers are easily bored and quickly switch loyalties.

    Shift to Strategic Thinking for Growth

    Don’t confuse the scoreboard for the game. I often witness leaders comparing financial statements and benchmarking best practices. Conventions provide a forum for support, accountability, and improvement. However, the financial numbers they examine are lagging indicators. More time and effort should be put into strategic reviews. That’s because strategies (the game) determine what gets put on the scoreboard (the numbers). It’s better to spend time on different practices and less time on best practices. Rather than just optimizing and getting better (often at the wrong things), it’s smarter to become strategically different.

    The best leaders don’t believe in a level playing field, or peaceful co-existence. They want their competitor’s best people and best customers. What a waste to see owners and managers treat their time like a dress rehearsal. They cut and tweak, when they should build, innovate, and compete to win.

    Decide if you want to follow the herd, or get up front and leave footprints. Are you content to co-exist, or will you step up with breakthrough strategies and solid execution? Whether you sell Suzukis or sandals, what you do is less important than how you do it.

    Dakota tribal wisdom declares that when a horse dies, the rider must dismount. Often, the dead horse is an impotent strategy, an ineffective leader, or poor process. For some, it’s time to dismount. Of course, there are other options. You can change riders. Go ahead and put a new rider on a dead horse and see how far he gets. Or, you can appoint a focus group to study dead horses. Or, you can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You might even declare it cheaper to feed a dead horse and keep on riding. Or, you can harness several dead horses together and see how far you go.

    But in the end, you’ll still have to get off the horse. You’ll have to innovate, not just optimize; think strategically, not just tactically. It’s time to do more than shrink to profitability; it’s time to grow your company to greatness.

    Posted in Business and Strategy

    Closing Governance and Finance Gaps

    Thousands of articles have been written about the failures of Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and others. Lessons from these debacles have caused some changes in the ways public corporations and their boards function, but most analyses focus on modifications driven by governmental regulations and professional policies. Very little has focused on what companies are doing voluntarily to change.

    Here are the voluntary ways many firms are closing potential governance and financial gaps.

    Closing Governance and Finance Gaps

    Internal financial controls.

    Reviews are being conducted to assess how current financial procedures and control functions might be improved and tightened. More board interest is centered on potential regulatory, financial, and ethical concerns to make certain these issues are being carefully considered in the decision-making process.

    Reporting processes are changing for internal auditors. Some auditors now report directly to the CEO and the board audit committee. Larger contracts are scrutinized by high-level managers and board members. Subsidiary financial controls are also scrutinized, and the results reviewed by the board. Compliance committees operate at unit levels. Summary unit compliance reports are submitted to the unit’s general manager and the corporate compliance committee. Included in the report is a representation letter signed by the unit’s general manager and CFO.

    Special attention is paid to assure the board that there is proper accounting recognition as to what is a capital expenditure and what is current income.

    Companies are reviewing procedures once considered routine to ensure that financial and accounting translate complete rigorously and ethically and to validate the information developed by business units has validity.

    Internal and external financial communications.

    More financial information is becoming available, especially to analysts during quarterly earnings conference calls. Disclosures in various SEC reports are being expanded.

    The board and its audit committee are involved in earnings reporting systems. The audit committee chair may review earnings press releases before making them public. Board members now have access to external auditor’s financial documents to affirm the firm’s financial status. Some firms are stating in their 10-Qs that they do not have any off-balance sheet financing.

    The trend is to expand the ongoing communication with the financial community between the quarterly reports. The increased disclosures from the operating units may portend a trend to communicating unit reporting more openly, like separate businesses.

    Ethics codes and procedures for employee behavior.

    Companies are reviewing their ethics codes and seeking ways to improve their visibility. One company is requiring all financial managers to sign a statement that they will abide by the Financial Executives Institute’s Code of Conduct. These statements are then reviewed the board audit committee. Another plans to ask all financial managers to sign an annual statement of compliance. To identify potential conflicts of interest, one firm may require all top executives to submit their personal tax returns for review by its outside legal firm.

    Employee “hotlines” are being established, so that the compliance committee and management can review major complaints. If warranted, complaints are then forwarded to the board audit committee. Initial attention is given to improving policies where specific rules and regulations can be implemented.

    External auditors and board audit committees.

    Many firms no longer have a relationship with Arthur Andersen. The number of meetings of the board and its audit committee is increasing.

    One company has its board and audit committee meeting in executive session with external auditors six times a year. Membership of audit committees is increasing to allow at least half of the members to have a financial or accounting background. As audit committees become more independent of management, more detailed disclosures will appear in proxy statements, in detailed financial transaction reviews, and in audit committee reports.

    Boards are also defining, or restricting, the types of services that can be purchased from audit firms. Use of different firms for auditing and consulting services appears to be the major change. Companies are now require audit committee pre-approval for new services purchased from an external auditing firm.

    Several companies had outsourced their internal audit function. These firms are now developing an internal department, reporting to the CFO, as well as having a reporting relationship with the board audit committee. Some have internal audit reporting directly to the CEO.

    Companies are analyzing the “protective measures” being taken by external auditing firms to reduce the audit firm’s risk level. Quarterly meetings between the board audit committee and the external auditors are being held accountable to keep the audit committee more informed. In one firm, the audit committee will review quarterly results and question the external auditor, before the earnings statement is released to the public.

    The relationships between client firms and auditors become unstable as auditing problems become public. As boards become more vigilant, look for more conflict-ridden based changes.

    Board of directors.

    Senior managers will meet more frequently with board members, either formally at board meetings or informally at other times. For its board members, one firm is offers weekly communications on progress.

    Attention is being directed to Directors and Officers liability policies to assure directors that coverage is adequate. Audit committees are encouraged by their board colleagues to be more proactive and to provide more specific directives to management. This might be done annually or periodically through individual projects. Director education is becoming more popular, as firms want directors to become more comfortable with their responsibilities.

    Increasingly active boards, along with more active committee chairs will become common. The big question is whether they will become sufficiently active to help avoid future failures.

    Long-term Management Implications

    While voluntary changes in procedures often take considerable time, the impact of several highly visible bankruptcies will create significant changes in how Corporate America does business. The examples of voluntary options being implemented or considered by CFOs are many. What remains to be seen is whether it will take legislative action or SEC directive to put teeth into the changes. Clearly, many of the items reported are self-protective, directed at keeping the company out of trouble with its stakeholders. How well those stakeholders will be protected may be determined by the initiatives developed by external forces. Political considerations, inertia, self-delusion and other factors may inhibit more meaningful changes being instituted voluntarily.

    Reducing corruptive influences should be the goal of regulators managers and directors as they make voluntary changes.


    Compare the voluntary actions your firm has taken against this list to assess whether your firm has some major governance gaps.

    Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

    Expressionism: An Art Movement

    Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night

    Expressionism is an art movement that emphasized the importance of self-expression.

    The Dutch Post impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) saw the world differently from most of the Impressionist painters who surrounded him. Instead of capturing the light and colors of the natural landscape as a dispassionate observer, as the Impressionists had done, van Gogh looked inside his troubled psyche and discovered a new style of self-expression. Van Gogh’s art provided a mirror for his angst-ridden soul and, years later, it would lead to the formalization of an entirely new kind of painting.

    Van Gogh once wrote in a letter to his brother, Theo, “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily to express myself forcibly.” Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) depicts the view from his sanatorium window at night, but its swirling sky and luminous stars are no faithful representation of what he saw; exaggerated and distorted, they suggest his inner reality. The Starry Night is now seen as a pivotal painting in the march toward Expressionism.

    The Scream (1893) by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch Four years later came The Scream (1893) by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944), another icon of Expressionism. The painting depicted Munch himself, pausing while crossing a bridge and crying out in desperation from the blur of his anxiety informed world. Edvard Munch once said, “My art is self-confession. Through it, I seek to clarify my relationship to the world”

    Like The Starry Night, Munch’s painting has the ingredients of Expressionism—the use of strong, nonnaturalistic colors and distorted lines—many years before the Expressionist movement had its “official” beginnings with the German artistic group Die Brucke (The Bridge), who met together for the first time in Dresden in 1905.

    Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture