Top of Mind Thursday Memo Archive

Top of Mind Thursday August 17, 2017: Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Top of Mind Thursday

Yesterday, President Trump announced he is disbanding his business advisory councils on manufacturing and strategy after a stream of CEO resignations.

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Several CEOs left the councils when the US pulled out of the Paris climate accords, but the mass exodus began in the aftermath of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, VA. These executives shared the concern of many throughout the country that the president’s remarks on the situation were not strong enough in condemning the racist and antisemitic acts of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. In fact, he seemed to support these groups.

For the business leaders involved, these councils created a conundrum. Should they stay and try to influence the administration’s policies, providing a viewpoint or insight that might help the White House see things in a different way? Or should they go because they did not want to be associated with the approval of racism and hatred implied by the President’s remarks?

It didn’t take long for Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, and at least 8 additional executives to have the answer. They understood that their employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders all expected them to adhere to a higher standard. They didn’t want their organizations associated with this kind of bigotry and hatred.

Have you thought about the values you want associated with your brand? Are you ready to take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of your brand and your organization? Do you know when to stay and when to go?

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Top of Mind Thursday August 10, 2017: The Truth About Consequences

Top of Mind Thursday

On Tuesday, Google fired engineer James Damore, who wrote a manifesto distributed throughout the company on why women are biologically unfit to be in the tech industry.

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Damore’s 3300-word screed went viral throughout the web over the weekend, raising issues about how the Internet giant would respond. Google didn’t address the firing specifically, but said that with the document, Damore violated his employee code of conduct.

Was this a limitation on free speech? Not when the writing in question was created and released using corporate resources. We’ve seen individuals fired (perhaps unfairly) for sending out an inappropriate Tweet, but a 3300-word document isn’t a spur-of-the-moment emotional decision. This document required considerable thought and effort.

Who Damore was defaming is really not relevant. Imagine if the document said Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, or LGBT people–or perhaps even white men–are unfit to be in technology.

Now imagine how your organization would handle a similar situation. Do your employees know what’s included in your code of conduct? Do you even have a code of conduct? How would you handle such a situation, both internally with employees, and with your external audiences? What kind of discussions might you have within your organization that encourage ongoing dialogues rather than one-way rants?

The truth is that what’s said and done under the umbrella of your brand has consequences–for the company as well as for the individual expressing their thoughts.

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Top of Mind Thursday August 3, 2017: Not Very Funny

Top of Mind Thursday

Last week, President Trump urged police officers to use additional force if necessary when arresting suspects. Two days later, a White House spokesperson said she thought the comment was made as a joke.

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Police departments across the nation didn’t see the humor. Many are already dealing with allegations of excessive force used in arrests, and some face lawsuits based on deaths of suspects while being arrested or in custody. These type of comments just make their jobs harder, as it results in less trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the people they are sworn to protect.

But the use of humor to justify an inappropriate comment is not limited to the White House. It’s not unusual to see a politician, celebrity, or even a business leader back off a controversial position by saying “I was just joking.”

The problem is that humor is based in at least a kernel of truth. The reason we laugh at a good standup comedian is because we see the truth in what they’re mocking (and it’s usually themselves, not others).

Humor is a great communication tool. I love a good pun as much as anyone. But be careful how and where you use humor in your business. The best humor is self-deprecating–it shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. Be wary of comments that attack others, even in jest. The results will likely not be very funny.

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Top of Mind Thursday July 27, 2017: Marching Backwards

Top of Mind Thursday

On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman signed an order desegregating the American armed forces. Yesterday, 69 years later, President Trump issued a tweet removing all transgender personnel from our military. 

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More than 15,000 transgender soldiers already serve in the military, putting their lives at risk to serve their country. The reason cited for their removal was medical costs–yet it appears that these costs are a mere fraction of a percentage point of the military budget, and less than 20% of what is spent on Viagra prescriptions.

It’s more likely there’s more to it. We tend to have a fear about people who are “different.” In the past, this was based on skin color, gender, religion, and disabilities. Today, we also see this discrimination based on ethnic origin and sexual orientation.

As business people, we are in the position to offer our products and services to a broad spectrum of customers. When we choose to let our fears govern our behavior, we send a negative message that reaches customers, prospects, employees, and those all around us.

And when we choose to focus on only those characteristics that are relevant to the situation at hand, we send a message that says we truly are open for business.

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