The|Intangibles » Ethics Selected posts from Boyd Neil's blog at Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:22:30 +0000 en hourly 1 False Apologies and Greed Tue, 17 Feb 2009 22:30:00 +0000 Boyd Neil,2003:post-62961407 Since I have such respect for the quality of writing and ideas (although not always the politics) in the British magazine The Spectator, I am always delighted when the point of view of an editor or writer corresponds to my own. (I am not foolish enough to think there is any correlation between the two other than coincidence).

So imagine my contentment in reading the February 14th number when both the lead editorial and a column by Sarah Standing echoed comments I have posted here and here over the past few weeks.

Sarah Standing on saying sorry:

” ‘Sorry’ has lost its mojo for me, it’s gone mainstream. It’s one of those words that began life as a covetable Chanel handbag only to end up as a worthless flake flogged on eBay . . . I no longer believe in all these force-fed public apologies. They’re starting to sound very hollow . . . I’m old school and from where I stand a true apology should come from the heart.”

And not, I would add, because a crisis communications or political consultant has said it is necessary to apologize when harm has been caused. Without sincerity an apology is nothing more than gamesmanship.

The editorial ‘Bonus Points’ calls out many British bankers for the damage caused by the huge payouts they received, which lead as the editors conclude to the wrong balancing of risk and reward:

“Bankers must face reality and bring about changes themselves, rather than trying to face down public disgust with a last-ditch defence of the status quo. Their profession has to revert to being dull but respectable, decently but not lavishly paid, transparent in its accounting practices and the way it measures profits, intelligently regulated, and by nature risk-averse. And if that means talented people drift away from the banking sector, so be it: there are plenty of other parts of the economy that urgently need them”.

Better said than by me, but at least my ideas are in line with some top notch writers.

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Trusting the Street . . . Or Any CEO Thu, 01 Jan 2009 19:19:03 +0000 Boyd Neil,2003:post-60604602


(This picture is mine . . . taken in Paris behind Les Halles. I find it gentle and thoughtful.)

I wonder if popular trust in business may be taking a bad rap. Or, rather, I would ask the question whether our current lack of faith — or trust — in Wall Street, Bay Street, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and our own Canadian financial leaders is in danger of being projected on to any business leader who misses a forecast or suffers a poor quarter?

Writing today in The Globe and Mail, columnist Derek DeCloet says:

“In 2008, skeptics, doomsayers and non-believers on Wall Street and Bay Street were vindicated. This was not because the wizards of finance proved to be corrupt or dishonest (though there were enough accusations of that – Bernard Madoff’s alleged monstrous Ponzi scheme being merely the worst). Nor was it because the Street’s paid gurus made big mistakes. Errant forecasts by professional soothsayers are expected. What was so surprising is that the people closer to the action – the ones at the top of the world’s largest banks and corporations – proved, time and again, to have so little idea of what was just around the corner. Most of them wildly underestimated the depth of the financial rot and economic dysfunction. Publicly, they appeared too complacent, especially before September.” 

DeCloet is, of course, right about the surprising lack of foresight (although some say it is willful “blindness” in the face of friends all around them making astonishing money) among financial leaders in North America and Europe.

But we should be careful not to attribute this same obduracy to CEOs in other sectors who have a good sense of their competitive and market frameworks, who look clearly at the impact of exogenous factors like commodity prices and currency fluctuations and who, therefore, revise forecasts more frequently than shareholders might like.

If they are forthright, honest and clear in their analysis, humble about what they don’t know or can’t predict, and willing to shoulder responsibility for what they can control (and bypass the rich bonus when they fail), then they and their companies are deserving of our trust. And, perhaps humility about what is unknown, and candor in the expression of that ignorance, is something the wizards of Wall Street — and many politicians — can learn from the best leaders in the manufacturing and commodity sectors.

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