When I took over ACAM Advisors in early 2003, investment returns had been below average for several years, and two important clients had recently defected. The majority owners hinted to me that, in their view, layoffs might be in order. From my perspective, the firm’s client list had enough A-list names still on it, and the CVs of the professional staff looked impressive. Surely there was value here.

When a new manager takes over a troubled business unit or company, often the culture of that unit or company demands immediate attention. But how to do it quickly? Turnaround situations call for urgent moves, and entrenched cultures are highly resistant to change. It usually takes a long time to change the existing one or to create a new one.

In such situations, a manager must look for openings where an action on his or her part will send a short, sharp message that things are changing. (read more…)

In Western society, capitalism often earns a dog-eat-dog reputation. We’ve been led to believe that we can either make money or do good. But it is possible to do both. Your business can benefit your employees, customers, and the world at large if you learn to balance your ideals and pursuit of profit.

The core idea behind conscious capitalism is to marry business goals with a higher purpose to make the world a better place. It’s important to understand that capitalism doesn’t equate to greed. Our society needs businesses to survive — businesses produce necessary goods and services and provide employment opportunities.

If you’re a CEO, an owner-operator, or a board member, conscious capitalism may be just the approach you need. Conscious capitalism takes these economic benefits a step further by recognizing the link between building a world-class enterprise and serving others.

The business benefits of conscious capitalism

Conscious capitalism offers concrete benefits for businesses beyond feeling good — such companies have been shown to outperform the Standard & Poors 500 and Russell 3000 indices. (read more…)

Is your workplace dull and frustrating, or is it engaging and inspiring?

This is a question I pose to leaders frequently. Most leaders pay more attention to the way their team is performing than to the way their team is operating.

A reader asked me recently about the nature of the “yes or no” answer I was forcing to this question. “What if your company culture is somewhere in the middle?”

My experience and research leads me to believe that most teams, departments, divisions, companies, etc., are somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Your experiences probably mirror mine — you probably see your team somewhere between those “extremes.”

What my experience and research also leads me to believe is that if your team (or department, etc.) culture is at any stage on that continuum that is less than engaging and inspiring, it’s costing you money, eroding team-member engagement and creating lousy customer experiences. (read more…)

A warm late December evening in Miami awaited the 163 passengers who traveled on Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 from New York to Florida. During the otherwise uneventful trip, marriage proposals were made, a young couple looked forward to introducing their newborn baby to awaiting grandparents, and college students headed back to school after the holidays. But in a few hours, over 100 of the passengers and crewmembers would be dead. The tragically simple cause of their death will not only shock you, but as the leader of your organization, will also provide a fair warning lesson in the problem of over-focusing on one issue or problem at the expense of other risks.

On Dec. 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 left New York’s JFK Airport and was approaching Miami International Airport at approximately midnight, when the nose landing gear indicator did not illuminate. The pilots had to identify whether the landing gear had indeed failed to extend, or more likely, if the indicator bulb in the cockpit had simply burned out. (read more…)

CEO’s are normally quick to hop on ideas, products, services, etc., that can and do yield favorable economic results. Yet, despite encouraging statistics showing its beneficial bottom line impacts, there has been little movement in most organizations to include diversity and inclusion as a strategic business priority.

A Harvard Business Review analysis of top-performing CEOs found a mere 5% of CEO’s whose organizations excel at both year over year financial performance and social and environmental dimensions. Study authors note that performing well on both elements is a rare but possible achievement.

The type of diversity these organizations practice — transcending both visible (race, age, gender, etc.) and invisible (thinking styles, values, beliefs, etc.) differences in pursuit of inclusive excellence — is wicked hard work. Work that requires a healthy appetite for disrupting the status quo.

CEOs and academics offer valuable insights into areas where organizations must change if they are to gain the positive benefits of diversity. (read more…)