Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Category Archives: Boards

Boards and Trust

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by Bob Vanourek Higher trust in organizations leads to higher retention, cooperation, innovation, and pride. Higher trust enhances the speed at which organizations work because the fear created in low trust organizations is minimized. Higher trust leads to better results for all stakeholders from customers to employees and shareholders. Therefore, higher trust needs to be on the agenda of boards of directors. Yes, I know they’re busy with risk mitigation, regulatory compliance, governance, financial oversight, and more. But if the board does not insist on a high-performance culture built on trust with all stakeholders, then that board is abdicating their fundamental fiduciary responsibility. For several years, I have been working with Trust Across America – Trust Around the World (TAA – TAW) on how organizations can increase trust within their   …Continue Reading


New to the Boardroom? How to Succeed

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image credit: Bigstock By Bob Vanourek   Congratulations. You’ve just been invited to join your first public company board. Great. Now, what can you expect? It’s not just approving the CEO’s strategy or officer compensation recommendations after asking a few questions. It’s more than risk assessments, financial statement reviews, and meeting with the outside auditors periodically. It’s much deeper and more complex, especially if you want to bring a new brand of leadership to the boardroom. You will be confronted with difficult challenges you are not likely to have faced before. What do you do? When do you lead assertively? When do you lead softly? When do you follow? Who do you talk to for advice? How do you succeed? Based on years of experience with many corporate boards as a   …Continue Reading


The Power of a Team Charter

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  In case you missed our article on the importance of written charters for special action teams in CoBiz Magazine this summer, we are sharing a slightly edited excerpt, along with a link to our written charter template, in this week’s blog post. Whether to attack a problem, exploit an opportunity, or achieve a philanthropic goal, setting up special teams and committees can be very effective. These special action teams form for a defined period, ranging from a few days to months or longer. They normally have a small number of team members, such as five or seven. Their participants may work full- or part-time for the team. These teams accomplish their mission and then disband, only to see other special action teams formed and disbanded when their mission is complete. In addition to other advantages,   …Continue Reading


Governance Guidelines for Corporate Boards

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   Image credit: iStock “If you have leadership without governance,  you risk tyranny, fraud and personal fiefdoms. If you have governance without leadership,  you risk atrophy, bureaucracy and indifference.” – Mark Goyder, Founder Director, Tomorrow’s Company   With so many corporate scandals in recent decades, much focus has been placed on upgrading corporate governance practices, and rightly so. In my (Bob’s) experience, most large corporations have given careful thought to their governance guidelines. Google, a firm we admire (see “Snapshots” on pages 238-242 of Triple Crown Leadership), has a nice set of governance guidelines. IBM has a nice set too. But most smaller and mid-sized corporations need some additional guidance in this area. (Perhaps some of the larger firms would appreciate some fresh thinking too?) Consequently, I created an Outline   …Continue Reading


Special Leadership Responsibilities of Boards

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  Boards have special leadership responsibilities to ensure their organizations are trustworthy. If their firms are not trustworthy, they will suffer at the hands of regulators, customers, employees, and shareholders. But surely boards are consumed with the important duties of corporate governance, strategy, risk management, compliance, executive compensation, and succession. Can we realistically expect boards to take on something as ethereal as trust? Yes, we must. Boards cannot discharge their fiduciary duties without attention to the trustworthiness of their organization. Decades ago, the vast majority of an organization’s assets were tangible, such as cash, equipment, and buildings. Today, intangible assets, including brand and reputation, often predominate. Boards have a fiduciary obligation to protect these intangibles, which can be tarnished with the pressing of a cell phone’s video camera, or a posting   …Continue Reading


Why Boards Should Pay Attention to Corporate Culture

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“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” Lou Gerstner, former IBM CEO   Most boards think “culture” is the soft, fuzzy stuff that some CEO’s or HR leaders may pay attention to. These boards are sadly wrong. A high-performing, ethical culture can be a great source of competitive advantage. An organization’s culture is “how we do things here”—how people behave in their relationships. Business is a set of relationships, and healthy relationships are built in trust. Organizations with a toxic culture pay a heavy price in lost revenue, damaged reputation, lawsuits, and more. By contrast, organizations with a high-performance, trust-based culture (e.g., Southwest Airlines, Zappos.com, and Patagonia) enjoy a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle with their stakeholders. They build trust and employees unleash more of their talents and   …Continue Reading


CEO Tip: Trust Your Board As Your Ally

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  Some CEO’s and boards have close, trusting partnerships that serve them and their firms extremely well. They are, in my experience, the minority. Most CEO’s I have met see the board as a group they need to “manage,” a dinner and meeting they need to prepare for, taking preciously valuable time away from running the business, which is the CEO’s real job. To many CEO’s, the board is tolerated, professionally and courteously of course, but a group relatively uninformed about how hard it is to really run the business. The time spent preparing for board meetings is huge. Staff reports prepared; rehearsals of PowerPoint presentations; after-meeting meetings to decipher what the board now wants and what to do to get ready for the next session. What’s the solution? A   …Continue Reading


A New, Overarching Goal for Boards

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One of the painful results of boards embracing the goal to “maximize shareholder value” is shown in the Edelman Trust Barometer: Only 53% of respondents trust business Only 18% of the general population trust business leaders to tell the truth The overarching goal for corporate boards should not be to maximize shareholder value. Instead, boards should set as their primary objective to: Build an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. Excellent means achieving extraordinary results for customers, employees, and shareholders. Ethical means achieving those results the right way, with integrity, not cutting ethical corners. Enduring means achieving those results sustainably, being conscious of the firm’s impact on the planet, and acting responsibly to ensure precious resources are not wasted. Enduring also means acting sustainably inside the firm, not burning people out, nor   …Continue Reading


Blame Boards For Excessive CEO Pay and Perks

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Compensation levels for CEO’s and C-suite execs took off like a rocket starting in the 1980’s. It was caused by the dual whammy of Milton Friedman’s “maximize shareholder value” maxim and the advent of the “leveraged buyout” focus from private equity firms. I should know because I participated in those phenomena as a CEO. The stock options I was granted during those years far exceeded the norms of option grants in prior decades as boards tried to “align” management’s financial interests with those of shareholders. There is nothing inherently wrong in private equity, stock options, in divesting unproductive assets, or delayering bloated companies. Those undertakings are a healthy part of marketplace adjustments, as long as they are done ethically and respectfully. But the C-suite financial gains that boards approved to,   …Continue Reading


Does Your Board Have Your CEO’s Back?

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  One of the great scourges of our age is “short-termism.” A staggering 78 percent of CFOs and CEOs admit to sacrificing long-term value to achieve smoother earnings. Many decry this “suicide by quarter” mentality, but few CEO’s will be able to withstand the pressure to make the quarterly numbers unless he or she has the full, vocal support of the board. When the CEO and CFO conduct the conference call and get hammered by day traders or short sellers, and when the stock dips because the company didn’t make the whisper number the Street expected, what will the board do? Hide? Talk among themselves about whether or not the CEO will “make it”? If so, your CEO won’t trust your board. Without this trust, the CEO’s job is too   …Continue Reading


Leading Board Members Who Aren’t Natural Followers

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Guest Blog by John Balkcom The board chair by definition and by charter is assigned to be the leader in the boardroom. But board members, especially when selected well, are rarely known for their willingness to follow. What’s a board chair to do? Here are my recommendations based on years of service on both for-profit and non-profit boards. 1. Invoke “team up” instead of “man up.” As a guest speaker in a recent business school class on governance, I asked, “What does a group of guys usually do when they get together?” A young man in the back responded firmly, “Man up!” Then, I asked, “Okay, what does a group of women usually do when they get together?” A young woman in the front row asked quietly, “Team up?” The   …Continue Reading


Bending the Focus of a Company

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Interview with Harvey Wagner Former CEO, Quovadx Leaders Speak Series Harvey A. Wagner was the turnaround CEO of Quovadx from 2004 through 2007. Quovadx was a $100 million, NASDAQ-traded software and services company with offices in the U.S. and Europe as well as some outsourced R&D in China. Customers were in the hospital and telecommunications markets as well as large financial institutions. The company was accused of accounting improprieties, went into a tailspin, and Wagner, ultimately, was asked by the board to turn it around. Quovadx merged with a subsidiary of Battery Ventures in 2007. Wagner is currently the managing principal of H.A. Wagner Group LLC, a strategic and business consulting firm. Previously, he served as a CFO or CEO of numerous firms, including Caregiver Services, Mirant Corporation, Optio Software, PaySys International,   …Continue Reading


What’s Different About Leading Startups?

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Interview with Stephen Von Rump Co-Founder and CEO, Giraff Technologies Leaders Speak Series  Stephen Von Rump is Co-Founder and CEO of Giraff Technologies AB. Giraff brings people together in the care of those living at home (e.g., the elderly). Giraff allows you to virtually enter a home from your computer via the Internet and conduct a natural visit by moving a robotic device with a video screen. You can move freely about the home simply by moving your mouse, and interact with the people there via videoconferencing. Those in the home don’t have to do anything. Von Rump has extensive consulting experience in startup and turnaround organizations, and has also held various R&D assignments at MCI and AT&T Bell Laboratories. He has served as the CEO of Be Here Corporation, Metreos   …Continue Reading


The Job of a Lifetime: Leading an Incredible Transformation

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Interview with Nancy Tuor Former Group President CH2M Hill Leaders Speak Series  CH2M HILL, founded in 1946, is a global provider of consulting, design, construction, and operations services for corporations and governments. Headquartered near Denver, the employee-owned company has revenue of over $6 billion and employs over 30,000 people worldwide. CH2M Hill manages large, complex projects around the world such as reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, relocation of American military bases in Korea, expansion of the Panama Canal, and projects for the London Olympics. In 2013, the firm was named by Fortune as one of the “100 Best Companies To Work For” for the sixth time and was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute for the fifth time. In 2005, leaders from CH2M Hill successfully closed the Rocky Flats   …Continue Reading


A Tireless Focus on Excellence

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Interview with Steven Rothstein President, Perkins School for the Blind Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1829, Perkins School for the Blind operates in more than sixty countries with revenue of over $50 million. It offers free audio, Braille and large print books, and hundreds of newspapers by phone. The operations are complex, including a school, early intervention program, library, teacher training initiatives, publishing house, manufacturing division, technology division, and special services for the elderly. Marty Linsky, who teaches leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, described Perkins and its President, Steven Rothstein, to us: “Rothstein took an organization that had barely left the 19th century and turned it into the signature organization in the world in services to the blind. He is in my managerial hall of fame. He has completely   …Continue Reading


It Takes Teamwork, Trust, & Values to Win

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Leadership insights from John Krol Former chairman and CEO, DuPont Leaders Speak Series E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as DuPont, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It was founded in 1802, and its stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. John Krol joined DuPont in 1963 as a chemist and rose through the ranks to be its chairman and CEO. He has been active on many corporate and nonprofit boards, including Tyco International (for which we interviewed him for Triple Crown Leadership). In that interview, Krol also shared insights on his leadership challenges at DuPont. Here are excerpts: Krol: Back in the 1980s, the world changed for DuPont because of globalization. We were very slow to move. DuPont was based   …Continue Reading


A Vision of Great Leadership

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Interview with Ursula Burns Chairman and CEO, Xerox Leaders Speak Series  Ursula M. Burns is chairman and CEO of Xerox. With sales approaching $23 billion, Xerox (NYSE: XRX) is the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management.  Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and then worked her way up to the top. Alongside then-CEO Anne Mulcahy, Burns worked to restructure Xerox through its turnaround.  Burns became CEO in 2009. Today, she leads the 140,000 people of Xerox who serve clients in more than 160 countries. Burns is also a board director of the American Express Corporation and provides leadership counsel to the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export   …Continue Reading


Why Tyco Threw Out Its Entire Board

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Interview with John Krol and Ed BreenTyco International Leaders Speak Series John Krol was elected to Tyco’s board in 2002 and served as lead director until 2008. He is the former chairman and CEO of DuPont. Edward Breen was chairman and CEO of Tyco from 2002 until September 2012, when the company separated into three public companies. Breen is currently non-executive chairman of the Tyco board. Prior to joining Tyco, Breen was president and COO of Motorola. Krol and Breen took over the leadership of Tyco International after its former CEO and CFO were jailed. The company, once a Wall Street darling, had fallen into an abyss. We interviewed them about their early leadership moves at Tyco for Triple Crown Leadership: What were the priorities when you arrived at Tyco?   …Continue Reading


Adaptable Leadership

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  Interview with Mike Critelli Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes Leaders Speak Series  Mike Critelli was the CEO of Pitney Bowes (PB) from 1994 until 2007, continuing afterwards as Executive Chairman until 2008. (Check out Mike’s blog: “Open Mike.”) PB, a leading provider of customer communication technologies, was one of the eleven companies identified by Jim Collins as “great” in Good to Great based on its financial performance. PB has also been a perennial award winner in many categories, from one of the top 200 companies for U.S. patents issued every year to a wide array of awards in leadership, technology, diversity, health, environment, and more. Here are excerpts from our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. What were some   …Continue Reading


Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney

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“Breakdowns and Trans-Generational Culture” Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director, Institute for Enterprise Ethics, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series   Why do so many organizations break down? In recent years, some major corporations have had breakdowns and made significant mis-steps (e.g., BP, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota). We interviewed Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver, to get his insights into what happened. This is the first in a new series—the Leaders Speak Series—in which we interview leaders about pressing topics. BP made some bold pronouncements about sustainability and corporate responsibility but then ran into major problems with the infamous Gulf oil spill in 2010. What happened? Dr. Sweeney: There is often a wide divide between what is said in the   …Continue Reading