Education

Reputation and Profits: The "Good Corporate Citizenship" Question

In the world of Buzzword Bingo or your standard corporate blah-blah-blah, one of the favorite expressions that marketing and PR folks like to use for their clients - especially their Big Boy clients - is that they're "good corporate citizens."

Just so you know how 'true' that is, Enron was one. Their marketing people said so.

It's an interesting question, though. What, exactly, is "good corporate citizenship"? What do you have to do to be a "good corporate citizen"? And why should you bother?

The reason why you - and I mean you, personally - should bother is because it's all about your reputation. Your image in the larger society in which you operate - whether you're the local dry cleaner or a global player - is greatly impacted by how you're perceived to treat the area and people in which your organization exists.

But, you say, we're a Big Boy multi-national? We're everyplace. How are we supposed to really do the "good corporate citizen" thing...and why should we?

Take a moment and think about Jack Welch, the so-called "legendary" former CEO of General Electric.

Did he accomplish amazing things in his company? Yes. Did he create shareholder value that exceeded anyone's dreams? Yes.

Did he, by fighting regulators for over 10 years after it was found that GE was polluting the Hudson River with the cancer causing agents, PCBs, not only put the population of the area but his company and its reputation at risk...as well as taint his own reputation? Yes to that, too.

So much for good corporate citizenship and the renowned Mr. Welch. Even now, over a decade later, when Jack Welch puts himself forward, someone remembers the Hudson and what he didn't do.

It's a good thing for GE that Mr. Welch's successor, Jeff Immelt, understood and acted upon the good image and good business of being a "good corporate citizen" - because he turned around the hit that GE's reputation took, both locally and globally. His smart decisions and 'green' strategy, put them back on track to be a trusted partner and corporate provider.

But it doesn't take a giant effort like GE's to make the "good corporate citizen" difference. You achieve just as big - if not bigger - gains by simply showing your support in your local area.

And for that, let's look at Larry Ellison, yet another "legendary" CEO - who founded and runs Oracle.

Ellison's reputation is as a near wild man - and he seems to thrive on it.

That's okay, because his company does things like support the local community where they're headquartered by being a major sponsor of a money-raising effort to ensure that music continues to be taught in the schools.

From the locals' perspective, that makes Oracle a good company. What that turns into, for all the IT managers, business executives and SMB owners whose kids go to those schools, is that Oracle becomes a preferred provider.

What does this mean for you?

It means it's time to start taking your role as a "good corporate citizen" seriously. It's time to go beyond using the pretty words and put your money where your marketing mouthpieces are saying you are.

It doesn't take a lot - but it does take a decision. Your decision.

What do you want your and your company's legacy to be? How do you want to be seen now and in the future?

More importantly, how do you want to use your good corporate citizenship - your investment in the betterment of society through business - to make a difference in people's lives...and your company's profits...now?

It's time to do something different. Business isn't only about profits. In fact, in your company and on the larger scale, profits are simply there as fuel for growth. Yours and society's.

Be a good corporate citizen by doing real things that make a difference. A real difference.

That's what you'll be remembered for - even as everyone who sees what you're doing make their decision to buy what you have to offer now.

Teachers, Mentors, Guides: Who Changed Your Career?

Early in my career, I realized that I was not going to be one of those people who had "mentors" or "sponsors." I was too risky a proposition on a number of different levels, so mine was a corporate - and even consulting - career that had more than its fair share of people putting obstacles in my way.

That made those who represented turning points in my career - and particularly in my way of thinking - all the more important and valuable. They, knowingly and unknowingly, expanded my perspective - which led to a broader world view, career opportunities and life experiences I never thought would be mine.

Interestingly, it's been within the last two years - since starting Leadership Quantified - that a new person has been added to the list. The first woman.

For me, the four people are:
  1. Dr. W. Edwards Deming - who taught me that underlying management theory is a humanism that, when incorporated as part of everything from strategic thinking to operational execution, really can lead to joy and motivation and a goodness that workplaces are rarely - or never - known for.
  2. Takeo Minomiya - who taught me that strategy, at its best, turns the world on its head and that, only when you look at things from what would be considered impossible perspectives and proceed without fear can you - or your organization - succeed.
  3. Dr. Leon Lessinger - who taught me that accountability is the highest form of personal and professional respect you can pay yourself, your colleagues and society as a whole - and that, as such, it's both a choice and a measure of integrity.
  4. Sheryl Sandberg - who taught me that the ways women unknowingly undermine themselves - as well as the many ways women unforgivably undermine other women - are not only identifiable, but reversible and that the hope of the women who trailblazed my career can - and will - be achieved in the generations of women now and to come.
That's my crew of career- and life- changers - and I'm grateful to them all.

Now think about those who have played or are playing that role in your life and career - then ask yourself:
  • Which teacher, mentor or guide has helped me see more - and be more?
  • How has what they taught or showed me changed my life? My world view?
  • How have I acted upon what I learned?
  • How am I continuing their teaching by guiding others - whether in conversation, formal mentoring or, simply, in how I lead my life?
Then, if you get the chance, make sure you find a way to say, "Thank you." Not only will they appreciate it, they deserve it.

KevJumba: Putting the Social in Social Media

Listen to the social media gurus - from Gary Vaynerchuk to Guy Kawasaki - and what you'll hear is that social media is all about building community.

That people are looking for connections. For purpose. To be heard. And seen. And acknowledged.

Why else would Facebook have grown to over 600 million users in such a short period? Or Hebbo at over 200 million, Bebo over 113 million - or China's QZone with over 480 million users?

Because in an online, disconnected world, people are looking for human connections.

Watch the social media space, however, and what you see is that - like any business model - it's all about converting those connections into money. Especially as LinkedIn set the tone for over-subscribed, high payout IPOs.

That's why, when a social media superstar like, KevJumba, answers the call from a socially conscious organization, like The Supply Education Group, you see the importance of how social can and should be social.

The Supply Education Group put out a YouTube challenge to KevJumba to teach a class in Nairobi, Kenya. Class 5, to be exact.

In this delightful video, you see the kids of Class 5 doing their best to charm KevJumba. And it worked.



Only KevJumba went one better. Not only did he do that visit - now, with his over 1.6 million YouTube followers in hand, KevJumba has committed to helping build a secondary school in Nairobi so that when Class 5 graduates from their K-8 school, they'll have a high school to attend.

Because at the moment they don't.

So, with that purpose - and making social truly social - KevJumba is asking his followers this weekend as he celebrates his 21st birthday to give $21 each to raise the $50,000 needed to build a school and create hope and opportunity for society's future worldwide.

KevJumba is giving back as part of The Supply Education Group's "Blessed to be a Blessing Campaign" and, in the process, showing just what social media can and should be doing for society.

So what is your social media strategy doing to help build society?  Think about it.

(An earlier version of this post was published on Technorati.)