Friday, April 30, 2004

I had a great lunch today with an HBS alumnus. I drove and met him at his building, where he showed me around the nearly palatial digs. Then we went down and had lunch in the company cafeteria. He was very relaxed, and we just chatted about a few different things. He was very curious about my backgrounds, motivations, etc. I talked about my family, what my siblings and step-sibings do, as well as my parents and step-parents.

After we covered my history I mentioned that I read that his company recently introduced a code of values to its employees, and I shared how my company has the same thing and how important I believe it is for executives at the top to set that standard because everyone kind of follows their lead. That launched us into a lengthy discussion about Enron (always a popular subject in this town), Arthur Anderson, Shell's restatement of reserves, and executive ethics in general. He brought up an interesting idea, one that I had not really considered before.

He felt that one's most basic and influential workplace motivation is the desire to do well for your family and loved ones. Greed, pride, etc. are all secondary when compared to the importance of providing for family. So, when someone is placed in a work environment and instructed to follow in behavior that is crossing the line but perhaps not unethical or illegal, they are usually going to do it with good intentions, they must bring home the bacon. I could dwell further on this but what's more important is that he asserted that if you remove the negative influence, you might find that the previously unacceptable behavior of these people will improve drastically and quickly, perhaps even overnight! There will be those who don't change, of course, and his philosophy for them was that they were given one get-out-of-jail card and then future transgressions would be punished quickly.

Ok, more later, right now I have to go to dinner!

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