May 30, 2010

Getting Out From Behind Closed Doors

One of the most important lifelines for a CIO or any executive is the communication from their people. That is why the best leaders go out of the way to meet and talk with their employees (as well as their customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders).

Only when armed with good information from the people who know best—usually those on the front lines—can an executive make strategic plans and sound decisions to move the organization forward responsibly.

The best leaders regularly and genuinely connect with their people. Without this employer-employee connection, there are not only basic communication problems, but also trust and ultimately leadership issues. These issues present themselves for example, when employees are either afraid to communicate with their leadership or just feel it’s futile to do so.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has an article called “Debunking Four Myths About Employee Silence,” asserts that many employees actually hold back or “self-censure” and do not provide their bosses the information they really need. Further, futility, not fear is the predominant obstacle—holding back information is primarily due not to the commonly held belief that people are afraid of retribution for what they say, but rather because they feel a sense of futility in speaking their minds and so they just don’t.

Some interesting statistics from the annual Cornell National Social Survey on when employees hold back:

1) Withholding information is common across the board—“There is no statistically significant differences between workers of different genders, educations levels, or income levels in the likelihood of holding back because of fear or assumptions of futility.”

2) Speaking does not preclude withholding information—“Fully 42% of respondents report periodically speaking up but also withholding information when they feel they have nothing to gain—or something to lose.”

3) Employees hold back on information for day-to-day issues—“About 20% say a fear of consequences has led them to withhold suggestions for addressing ordinary problems and making improvements” (not just on more serious issues of illegal or unethical conduct).

The point is, listening to employees is not just a nice thing to do, but the intelligent way to run an organization.

Therefore, the way we treat our people is one of the most important determinants of our success as leaders.

As leaders, when it comes to communication and collaboration, we must ensure that feelings of fear and futility are banished from the organizations’ culture, so that employees feel it is worth it to tell us what’s going on. Ignorance is not bliss!

The way we do this is not by just paying lip service to “open door” policies and the like, but to listen thoroughly, communicate profusely, and work as a team taking all input as valuable to the final outcome.

People have got to feel that they can communicate openly and honestly and that they will be taken seriously—as long as it is done professionally and respectfully.

Of course, employees also have to understand that there is a time for input and debate and a time for decision-making and that the boss (as “the boss”) ultimately has the final say. But with a leader that is open to hearing from their people, and working with all input, there will be a better decision at the end of the deliberation for everyone.

And then, what separates the exceptional leaders from the ordinary is the follow through and results.


May 29, 2010

Internet, Anything But Shallow

Over time, people have transitioned the way they predominantly get their information and learn, as follows:
1) Experiential—people used to learn mostly by doing—through their experiences, although these were usually limited in both time and space.
2) Reading—With the printing press, doing was supplanted by reading and information came from around the world and passed over from generation to generation.
3) Television—Active reading was upended by passive watching television, where the printed word “came alive” in images and sounds streaming right into our living rooms.
4) Virtuality—And now TV is being surpassed by the interactivity of the Internet, where people have immediate access to exabytes of on-demand information covering the spectrum of human thought and existence.

The question is how does the way we learn ultimately affect what we learn and how we think—in other words does sitting and reading for example teach us to think and understand the world differently than watching TV or surfing the Internet? Is one better than the other?

I remember hearing as a kid the adults quip about kids sitting in front of the TV like zombies! And parents these days, tell their kids to “get off of Facebook and get outside and play a little in the yard or go to the mall”—get out actually do something with somebody “real.”

An article in Wired Magazine, June 2010, called “Chaos Theory” by Nicholas Carr states “even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.”

Carr contents that the Internet is changing how we think and not necessarily for the better:

1) Information overload: The Internet is a wealth of information, but “when the load exceeds our mind’s ability to process and store it, we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories…our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains weak.”
2) Constant interruptions: “The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes out attention only to scramble it,” though images, videos, hypertext, email, IM, tweets, RSS feeds, and advertisements.
3) “Suckers for Irrelevancy”: “The stream of new information plays to our natural tendency to overemphasize the immediate. We crave the new even when we know it’s trivial.”
4) “Intensive multitasking”: We routinely try to do (too) many things online at the same time, so that we are predominantly in skimming mode and infrequently go into any depth in any one area. In short, we sacrifice depth for breadth, and thereby lose various degrees of our ability in “knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.”
While I think that Carr makes some clever points about the dangers of Internet learning, I believe that the advantages of the Internet far outweigh the costs.

The Internet provides an unparalleled access to information and communication. It gives people the ability to get more information, from more sources, in more ways, than they would’ve in any of the other ways of learning. We are able to browse and search—skim or dig deep—as needed, anytime, anywhere.

With the Internet, we have access to information that exceeds the experiences of countless lifetimes, our world’s largest libraries—and TV isn’t even a real competitor.

At the end of the day, the Internet is a productivity multiplier like no other in history. Despite what may be considered information overload, too many online interruptions, and our inclinations to multitasking galore and even what some consider irrelevant; the Internet is an unbelievable source of information, social networking, entertainment, and online commerce.

While I believe that there is no substitute for experience, a balance of learning media—from actually doing and reading to watching and interacting online—make for an integrated and holistic learning experience. The result is learning that is diversified, interesting, and provides the greatest opportunity for everyone to learn in the way that suits him or her best.

Moreover, contrary to the Internet making us shallower thinkers as Carr contends, I think that we are actually smarter and better thinkers because of it. As a result of the Internet, we are able to get past the b.s. faster and find what we are looking for and what is actually useful to us. While pure linear reading and thinking is important and has a place, the ability online of the semantic web to locate any information and identify trends, patterns, relationships, and visualize these provides an added dimension that is anything but shallow.


May 27, 2010

Five Ways To Motivate Employees With Meaning

By Andy Blumenthal
(Published in Information Management)

Employees need to be motivated to perform. No, not just with money, and not even with a pat of the back (although both can go a long way to demonstrate appreciation for a job well done).

People need to know that their efforts have meaning and effect—i.e. that they are not in vain. This can have some of the biggest impact of all on motivating behavior, because people inherently want to be productive human beings and for their life to have some ultimate significance. This concept was best portrayed by Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor who wrote In Search of Meaning, and it is the basis of logotherapy, which has been shown to help sufferers of terminal illnesses better cope with the remainder of their lives.

When people at work feel that they have no chance to succeed, they may cease to find meaning in their efforts. This can lead them to decrease their engagement at work instead of going all out to prove themselves. As the Wall Street Journal noted in a recent article, this is what happens when golfers compete with extremely superior rivals like Tiger Woods, and they just “cave.”

Why this de-motivational reaction from people who care about doing their best?

From an IT perspective, this is like an Integrated Definition Function Model (IDEF 0) that examines input, process, output, and outcome: When loss is viewed as a predestined outcome, the process is seen as meaningless, and the input therefore as wasted. In the face of meaninglessness, people recoil to save their energy for something they feel that they can really have a shot at, rather than invest in something that they see as going nowhere.

If the above is true, then, why do some people “fight to the death” when their “backs are against the wall”?

My grandfather used to say, “Where there is life, there is hope.” Some people are able to confront what seem like insurmountable obstacles, and fight their way forward anyway.

This is the core theme of the “Rocky” character and the incredible success of the movie series. In every movie, Rocky represents the determination to succeed against all odds.

I believe that the essence of life is the search for an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, and when one is able to make a difference, that is inherently motivating. (And so of course, the opposite is true.)

So if you are a leader, and your employees are demoralized, how can you engage them so that they feel like their work makes a real and significant difference? Here are ways that work:

  • Visualize the end-state: Articulate for people a compelling vision and a clear set of goals as well as why they are important.
  • Take an incremental approach: Show people an incremental path forward; small wins can add up to big success.
  • Focus on the customer: Look together at positive downstream effects of their work on their customers (and other stakeholders).
  • Make use of their work products: No one wants to build “shelfware.” Demonstrate that you really do appreciate their efforts by actually using the work they generate.
  • Be a mensch: Treat people according to the Golden Rule; for example, it’s really a small thing to say “please,” “thank you,” ad even an occasional “how are you today?” By treating people with respect, you show that they are valued personally and professionally.

As a leader, what better way to motivate and drive personal and organizational success then to provide genuine opportunity to contribute of ourselves in a meaningful way, in a way where our efforts have an impact, are valued and valuable, and where everyone can succeed.


May 25, 2010

CIOs, Earning The Right To Peer Parity

There are a lot of jokes about being a CIO—it is one of the toughest professional level jobs and has a high turnover rate (average is barely 24 months according to Public CIO Magazine 2009)—hence the moniker “Career Is Over.”

Depending on the organization, CIO’s may be up against a host of daunting challenges—the fast pace of technological change, an organizational culture that can’t or doesn’t want to keep up, resource constraints, inflated expectations, vague requirements, and shifting priorities.

On top of these, the CIO is typically last in the executive pecking order, and so carries less authority than his/her peers. This is the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal, 24 May 2010, called “Why CIOs Are Last Among Equals.”

According to the article, “most CIOs don’t have the broad business understanding, strategic vision and interpersonal skills that it takes to runs a company.”

The authors call out the following common CIO deficiencies:

  1. Leadership—“Too many CIOs and IT managers fail to take the lead in determining how technology can help the company,” instead relying on those outside the IT department.
  2. Strategic Thinking—“IT managers are seriously deficient in their knowledge of strategy,” most can’t articulate their organizations or IT’s strategy, “and (they) don’t appreciate the importance of strategy in guiding both long-term and short-term actions.”
  3. Communication Skills—“IT people don’t communicate effectively due to the absence of good questioning, listening, and sales skills.”
  4. Influence Skills—“Most CIOs are not good at marketing themselves and their IT organizations…[they] need to be out in front of every major technology, educating their senior corporate team on what it does and what it means for the company.”
  5. Relationship Skills—“IT managers know what characterizes strong relationships, but lack the skills to build such relationships at work.”

While, of course, these deficiencies do not apply to all CIOs—i.e. they are generalities—they are indicative of where as a profession IT and leadership need to focus on and look for ongoing improvement.

Clearly, IT leaders must be not only experts in the technology and operations, but must become true strategic leaders of the organization, able to formulate a way-ahead, articulate it, build consensus around it, and drive it to a successful execution. Keeping the proverbial IT “lights on” is no longer a viable CIO option.

What got us into this situation?

In my opinion, the notion of promoting for technical skills alone is mistaken. Rather, we need a holistic approach that emphasizes what I call “The Total CIO,” which is broad-based and includes the people, process, AND technology skills to truly see the big picture, and know how to drive real change.

While technology operations is critical for keeping our organizations running, they must be supported by strategic IT functions, such as those that I have called for in “The CIO Support Services Framework” including: enterprise architecture, IT governance, project management, customer relationship management, IT security, and performance management.

I believe that the leadership skills of “The Total CIO” and the strategic support functions of “The CIO Support Services Framework” will drive us to successfully progress our organizations, “earn our daily keep,” and achieve the right to peer parity based on executive skills and competencies that are expected and necessary.


May 22, 2010

Staying Open to Open Source

I don’t know about you, but I have always been a pretty big believer that you get what you pay for.

That is until everything Internet came along and upended the payment model with so many freebies including news and information, email and productivity tools, social networking, videos, games, and so much more.

So when it comes to something like open source (“free”) software, is this something to really take seriously for enterprise use?

According to a cover story in ComputerWorld, 10 May 2010, called “Hidden Snags In Open Source” 61% say “open source has become more acceptable in enterprises over the past few years.” And 80% cited cost-savings as the driving factor or “No. 1 benefit of open-source software.”

However, many companies do not want to take the risk of relying on community support and so “opt to purchase a license for the software rather than using the free-of-charge community version…to get access to the vendor’s support team or to extra features and extensions to the core software, such as management tools.”

To some degree then, the license costs negates open source from being a complete freebie to the enterprise (even if it is cheaper than buying commercial software).

The other major benefit called out from open source is its flexibility—you’ve got the source code and can modify as you like—you can “take a standard install and rip out the guts and do all kinds of weird stuff and make it fit the environment.”

The article notes a word of caution on using open source from Gartner analyst Mark Driver: “The key to minimizing the potential downside and minimizing the upside is governance. Without that you’re shooting in the dark.”

I think that really hits the target on this issue, because to take open source code and make that work in a organization, you have got to have mature processes (such as governance and system development life cycle, SDLC) in place for working with that code, modifying it, and ensuring that it meets the enterprise requirements, integrates well, tests out, complies with security, privacy and other policies, and can be adequately supported over its useful life.

If you can’t do all that, then the open source software savings ultimately won’t pan out and you really will have gotten what you paid for.

In short, open source is fine, but make sure you’ve got good governance and strong SDLC processes; otherwise you may find that the cowboys have taken over the Wild West.


May 19, 2010

Information, So What?

It’s the information age and for most of us that means we are living and working with various forms of information technology every day giving us access to information through—voice, data, and video—thatshows up on our computer screens, smart phones, tablets, and more.

We are rich in information.

Many would say that we are overloaded with information, because there is so much and we can’t seem to possibly process it all no matter how hard we try--there is always more email to reply to, more YouTube videos to watch, more news and research to read up on, and more people to communicate and collaborate with via social networks, wikis, blogs,
tweets, and so on.

So what’s the point of all the information and collaboration? Is it just for fun and entertainment—like one big game of Trivial Pursuit? Or is it for getting a professional edge—i.e. the more you know and the more people you know, the better you are to advance and succeed?

Ultimately, information serves many purposes—it is the lifeblood of our humanity…it nourishes our curiosity, it feeds our learning and growth, and it enables us to make intelligent decisions in our lives.

Without information, we are just “flying blind” as they say, and couldn’t expect much in terms of personal or professional results for our organizations or ourselves.

So information is critical to improving our decision-making. Information and information technology is how we overcome poor decision-making based on gut, intuition, politics, and subjective management whim—all sure ways to get in a “why did you do that”

An interesting article in Defense Systems Magazine (May 2010) called “Getting Inside the Enemy’s Decision Cycle” talks about how the military seeks to disrupt the enemy’s information and decision-making to degrade their war-fighting capability.

“Success in battle is increasingly about making decisions more quickly than your adversary can.”

In the military, the decision cycle is frequently referred to as "OODA Loop"—observe, orient, decide, and attack.

If we can disrupt the enemy’s decision cycle or OODA Loop, we can “decide and act faster than they can.” The result is “I’m going to outmaneuver you” and win!

In short, information translates to decision-making and to action.

- Disrupt that cycle and we are sitting ducks.

- Enhance that cycle and we are stronger for it.

Ultimately, there are lots of important lessons about the criticality of IT to decision-making that comes out of the battlefield:

First, we all need information to survive and thrive.

Second, if we improve information quality and speed of delivery, then the better the decision-making and the impact on and off the battlefield.

This is why information and information technology is truly our competitive advantage and at the heart of our national security.

I believe that this necessitates that we treat IT as not just another budget line item, but rather as a strategic investment.

The vision for IT has always been to bring greater effectiveness and efficiency to the rest of the business and to the mission. Unfortunately, IT has not always lived up to that vision.

Despite some disappointments, we cannot afford to be second-rate in IT, because there will be a negative cascading effect throughout all of our industries and government agencies that rely on information and information technology.

The key for us is to continue investing in technology (wisely), investing in our people (profusely—they are the brains behind the machines), and keep focusing on using IT as an enabler to improve the business and mission of everything else we do.


May 15, 2010

What’s Lurking In The Update?

In defense, it is a well-known principle that you determine your critical infrastructure, and then harden those defenses—to protect it.

This is also called risk-based management, because you determine your high impact assets and the probability that they will be “hit” and deem those the high risks ones that need to be most protected.

In buttressing the defenses of our critical infrastructure, we make sure to only let in trusted agents. That’s what firewalls, anti-virus, spyware, and intrusion prevention systems are all about.

In so-called “social engineering” scams, we have become familiar with phony e-mails that contain links to devastating computer viruses. And we are on the lookout for whether these e-mails are coming from trusted agents or people we don’t know and are just trying to scam us.

What happens though when like the Trojan Horse in Greek times, the malware comes in from one of the very trusted agents that you know and rely on, for example, like from a software vendor sending you updates for your regular operating system or antivirus software?

ComputerWorld, 10 May 2010, reports that a “faulty update, released on April 21, [by McAfee] had corporate IT administrators scrambling when the new signatures [from a faulty antivirus update] quarantined a critical Windows systems file, causing some computers running Windows XP Service Pack 3 to crash and reboot repeatedly.”

While this particular flawed security file wasn’t the result of an action by a cyber-criminal, terrorist or hostile nation state, but rather a “failure of their quality control process,” it begs the question what if it was malicious rather than accidental?

The ultimate Trojan Horse for our corporate and personal computer systems are the regular updates we get from the vendors to “patch” or upgrade or systems. The doors of our systems are flung open to these updates. And the strategic placement of a virus into these updates that have open rein to our core systems could cause unbelievable havoc.

Statistics show that the greatest vulnerability to systems is by the “insider threat”—a disgruntled employee, a disturbed worker, or perhaps someone unscrupulous that has somehow circumvented or deceived their way past the security clearance process (or not) on employees and contractors and now has access from the inside.

Any well-placed “insider” in any of our major software providers could potentially place that Trojan Horse in the very updates that we embrace to keep our organizations secure.

Amrit Williams, the CTO of BIGFIX Inc. stated with regards to the faulty McAfee update last month, “You’re not talking about some obscure file from a random third party; you’re talking about a critical Windows file. The fact that it wasn’t found is extremely troubling.”

I too find this scenario unnerving and believe that our trusted software vendors must increase their quality assurance and security controls to ensure that we are not laid bare like the ancient city of Troy.

Additionally, we assume that the profit motive of our software vendors themselves will keep them as organizations “honest” and collaborative, but what if the “payoff” from crippling our systems is somehow greater than our annual license fees to them (e.g., terrorism)?

For those familiar with the science fiction television series BattleStar Galactica, what if there is a “Baltar” out there ready and willing to bring down our defenses to some lurking computer virus—whether for some distorted ideological reason, a fanatical drive to revenge, or a belief in some magnanimous payoff.

“Trust but verify” seems the operative principle for us all when it comes to the safety and security of our people, country and way of life—and this applies even to our software vendors who send us the updates we rely on.

Ideally, we need to get to the point where we have the time and resources to test the updates that we get prior to deploying them throughout our organizations.


May 9, 2010

Who Are Your High Potential Employees?

It is easy to confuse high performing employees with high potential employees (HIPOs), but they are not the same.

An article in Harvard Business Review called “How to Keep Your Top Talent” (May 2010) states that “only about 30% of today’s high performers are, in fact, high potentials. The remaining 70% may have what it takes to win now, but lack some critical component for future success.”

According to HBR, the litmus tests for discerning which high performers are also your high potential employees, are as follows:

1) Ability—High performers need to have the ability to not only do what they are doing now, but to take it to the next level to be high potentials.

2) Engagement—High performers must have “commitment to the organization to be prudent bets for long-term success.”

3) Aspiration—High performers who aspire to more senior-level roles and “choose to make the sacrifices required to attain and perform those high-level jobs” are aligned for future success.

These three traits together help to pinpoint the genuine HIPOs—those who have the ability, the engagement, and the aspiration for probable future success.

Of course, having these traits does not guarantee success, since leadership development is tested “under conditions of real stress.”

Many organizations test their HIPOs by identifying risky and challenging positions—developmental opportunities—and putting their rising starts in these positions to see who can meet the challenge.

These stretch positions are what I would call “the moment of truth” when people either sink or swim.

In some extremely competitive organizations, employee failure (contained of course in terms of organizational damage) is just as much valued as their success—because it weeds out the true stars from the runner-ups.

This can be taken to an extreme, where even strong performers are managed out of the organization simply because they didn’t win the next round.

However, rather than weeding people out and treating employees as gladiators—where one wins and another loses—organizations are better served by helping all their employees succeed—each according to their potential.

So instead of an “up or out” mentality, the organization can value each high performing employee for what they bring to the table.

Too often we only value the highest achievers among us and we forget that everyone has an important role to play.

While organizations need to differentiate their high potential employees—those who can really do more—to meet succession-planning goals—organizations will also benefit by nurturing the potential of all their high performing employees and taking them as far as they can go too.


May 8, 2010

Technology Cannot Save Us From Arrogance

This week we saw firsthand what uncontrolled deficit spending can do to a modern democratic nation, such as Greece.

For all intents and purposes, Greece is bankrupt except for the ~$150 billion bailout they are getting from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union that will keep them afloat.

In return for the funds, Greece has to adopt “austerity measures” that will limit jobs, programs, and social spending.

The result this week was social unrest, rioting in the streets, and civilians killed.

Other European nations with high deficits to GDP spending are at risk, such as Portugal, Spain, and Italy, as well as major Asian countries like Japan.

The uncertainty and fear of this chaotic situation struck the U.S. stock market hard—with the S&P falling almost 800 points this week, during a time of supposed economic recovery.

Last evening, I watched on the news as a professor from Columbia University debated with the newscaster about whether or not the U.S. was susceptible to the same type of debacle that we are witnessing overseas.

The newscaster took the position that our $13 trillion national deficit—much larger than Greece’s—certainly put us at similar risk, even though we have a much larger GDP.

The professor countered that we are not like Greece—we are different and that what is happening there cannot happen here in America.


The professor said that he thought that we are more innovative, more technologically savvy, and more able to grow our way—economically—out of this. He laughed at the prospect of America running into any sort of grave financial difficulty, because of “who we are.”

As someone who is focused on the importance of technological prowess, innovation, and progressive change to our economic health, competitiveness and national security, I fully appreciate the vital importance of these factors.

Yet at the same time, it seems to me to be stretching credulity to say that technology and innovation alone can save us from the consequences of fiscal unrestraint.

While I believe in our strong political, social, and economic foundation, I question whether we are truly so different from our neighbors overseas.

For IT leaders, the point is that just because we drive investments in new technology—“the art of the possible”—that does not make us invincible.

While technology can help us grow in amazing ways and potentially solve our most complex and challenging problems, it is not a mystical, magical elixir and cannot solve our deficit no matter how large it gets unchallenged.

It seems to me that our greatest challenge is arrogance.

As a nation, we can by proud of our ideology and many achievements, but we cannot rest on our laurels, thinking that we are immune to the consequences of our mistakes. We must accept that our spending will catch up with us, unless we course-correct.


May 4, 2010

CIO Ones To Watch Award

Really grateful to be honored this week by CIO Magazine with 2010 "Ones To Watch Award."

Also, met some tremendously smart, talented, and nice people at the conference and award dinner.

Among them--CIA, Special Forces, Fortune 500 CIOs, Social Networking Guru, Prior Professional Kite Flyer, and many others.
Congratulations to all the awardees!


May 1, 2010

Managing with Integrity

Most professionals know instinctively that they should act with integrity, if only to avoid getting caught. Yet, of course, not everyone does.

Whether it’s Bernie Madoff ripping off investors to the tune of $50 billion or the store cashier helping themselves to $5 from the register, many people make poor ethical decisions.

Given human nature being the way it is, it’s not surprising when people are tempted to do bad things. What is a little harder to understand is when managers, who may have to answer for the conduct of others, look away when they see it happening.

This is the subject of an article in Harvard Business Review (March 2010) called “Keeping Your Colleagues Honest.” According to the article, here are the four “classic rationalizations” that keep managers silent in the face of wrongdoing:

  • “It’s standard practice”—or everyone was doing it and so that makes it okay.
  • “It’s not a big deal”—some people state it this way, “no harm, no foul.”
  • “It’s not my responsibility”—or as the Bible put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
  • “I want to be loyal”—or don’t be a Benedict Arnold.

HBR gives some suggestions for handling ethical dilemmas in the organization:

  1. Recognize that this is part of your job”—“people tend to view ethical conflict as aberrations…[but] that’s just not true….[it’s] a regular part of professional life.”
  2. “Make long-term risks more concrete”—all too often people get caught up in the moment and want or feel they need to take the easy way out. So a good strategy for helping people to behave more ethically involves pointing out the risks and possible long-term consequences of the behavior.
  3. “Challenge the rationalizations”—For example: “if this is standard practice, why is there a policy against it? Or if it is expected, are we comfortable being public about it?”
  4. Present an alternative”—Some mistakenly believe that ethical choices are not rewarded and are simply “naïve idealism,” and that we “have no choice” sometimes in doing the wrong thing. However, great managers recognize that there is always a choice.

There is no doubt that it is hard for managers to have to stand up for what’s right. There is always organizational pressure to get along, go along, and make things happen.

But in the end, we are accountable for our choices, whether we feel comfortable about it or not and whether they involve action or passivity.

In my experience, most people have a conscience and will try to do what is right. However, it is only a very few who have the self-confidence, the character, and the fortitude to stand up and follow their conscience even when it’s not easy, not convenient, not cheap, not fun, not popular, not beneficial in the short-term or even the long. (And there is not a clear playbook for every situation.)

I believe that making tough choices is our test and our trust in life, to do what we believe is right and ethical. It’s not only our greatest professional challenge but also our greatest personal one, and we cannot rationalize it away.