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Internal Controls and Accountability – Corporate Culture Necessities

UBS Investment Bank's Offices at 299 Park Avenue

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This week another “what is going on” happened in the financial industry.  This time it is UBS and 31-year-old UBS trader Kweku Adoboli who is accused of rogue trading with estimated losses now closer to $2.3B.  The activity had been occurring for the last three years but according to UBS it just recently uncovered the activity.  Sadly, this comes just a few years after the financial crisis of 2008 and UBS’ commitment to improve risk-controls and management system after it had a $50B write-down.

Accountability and risk management were areas of opportunity for UBS back in 2008 and part of the commitment Oswald Grübel, CEO made when he joined in 2009 to improve the risk management.  Fast-forward to September 2011, and apparently the culture is deeply rooted with folks who are working against the mantra of improved operations and risk management or so it seems.

UBS’ story is too familiar to those following the market, corporate culture and the financial industry.  In fact UBS’s story is eerily similar to Société Générale SA and Jérôme Kerviel, who racked up a $7.2B loss doing the EXACT same thing.  Kerviel was accused of making fake trades to hide his losses and repeatedly deleted those trades just before inspections, re-entering them afterward.

If you read Kerviel’s and the Soc Gen story, Kerviel will tell you that his leadership knew what was going on and he alleges even helped circumvent the system controls to allow him to make incredibly large trades given his previous successes.  Others were also involved, knew what was going on and in fact left the business shortly after the discovery.  Regulators on the Soc Gen case, The Bank of France, made 17 routine on-site investigations of Soc Gen in the two years prior to Kerviel’s capture and did not detect the matter.

So what is the answer to protect business owners, investors, customers and employees?  First off businesses today are operating in a much more complex environment and with a weaker economy.  When knowledge and money are scarce, we see the true ethical fabric of people and corporate cultures.

Knowing that we have complex and fast-paced environments, and financially weaker economics, we have to acknowledge that financial controls, IT security, risk management and a “do the right thing” culture are critical to ensuring protection of economic value.

As leaders, I would recommend the following to help create a culture of accountability and oversight:

1)  Automation of controls is good but it alone will not do it.  Human observation is critical to catch activity when systems do not.  In the cases I have been involved in; it was the person who has a funny feeling that triggered the review.

2)  Instill in all levels of management the understanding and expectation of risk management as part of their core responsibilities.

3)  View new processes, systems, people selection all with the eye of risk avoidance.  How can we ensure our data is protected, our systems are secure, our people support a culture of taking care of each other, the investors, the customers and the broader economic community?

4)  If you find a flaw, promote it, tell others so they know how it happened, how it was fixed, and that leadership is always on the lookout for other errors.

  1. If it is a system error, do a full sweep of the systems to inventory and determine if others are out there.
  2. If personnel related, investigate how rooted the infraction is on the culture.  Usually people cannot commit a crime alone…typically there are others who at least know about it if not participated in the act.  Determine the depth and breadth of the web of knowledge.

UBS, the world’s largest private wealth manager said no client’s positions were compromised.  However its reputation has been seriously harmed and with their letter to clients this weekend they attempt to provide some assurances “We fully understand this incident has caused you concern.  We too are very disappointed, and we assure you that UBS is taking the matter extremely seriously.”

Well, what about the letter to its shareholders that lost $2B in operating income, or the 3,500 employee force reduction announced in August with a value of $2B which will appear to cover the loss or the broader market that is teetering in its confidence of the financial industry and market in general?

This was not a single person acting alone in a cone.  Several people either activity or passively through lack of controls and accountability played a role in the situation.

We as leaders of companies must understand we are all connected…when we create an environment of strength, values, sustainability and corporate citizenry then we create our own destiny of greatness.  Looking away is not an option for us.  If internal controls and accountability are not on your short list as a leader….this is your wake up call to make some changes.  Too many people are counting on us.

 

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Social Media Liberates and Amplifies. Do you Feel Like Liberating?

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

Image via Wikipedia

Social media is authenticity with a liberating microphone ready to amplify if we use its power for good.

I would encourage leaders to look at the implications of social media more broadly than just marketing and fads.  It really is a liberating tool to express the feelings and thoughts we have about people, companies and corporate culture, communities and leaders in broad and sweeping ways. Soon we will freely see people talking about their company culture, the treatment of its people and how closely the company brand aligns with their corporate reality.  We can use this contagion as a tool to promote not only what we are but what we aspire to be.  I would encourage leaders to be real on who they are, be bold and state what they aspire to be, work every day to create a magnetic culture, own up when mistakes happen and be visionary and create a world of possibilities.  Now that is authenticity and authenticity is the source code and content for what appears in social media.

So to the world out there on this microphone I would say…I am a leader in the making…every day growing, learning from lessons and wishing I would hurry up and live up to the image I have of great leadership.

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Be Successful in 2020? Expect to be a Writer, a Mentor and always a Futurist

Want to succeed in business?  By 2020, I predict we are all going to be measured, in some degree, by how much we share our knowledge with others in personal and written form, how many people we help in their business life and how we educate and empower.  I predict:

1)  Professor’s transition from lecturers to facilitators of the geniuses of their students.  Professors knowledge and ability to research will be more critical than ever, however research life cycles will shorten dramatically.  Research will come from the students so having the right population will be key.  Selection of a course will move from a class topic to an end result both for the student and the professor.

2)  Class cost will vary on who is taking the course with you.  The more experienced the students the more they have to bring to the table.  Therefore for younger less experienced students that want the inside information, they will have to pay a premium.  Conversely, those with advanced experience will pay less and be given special benefits such access to mentor and supporter opportunities of less experienced individuals.  Classes that are 100% lecture oriented will be migrated to a free service.  One-way communication of topics will be helpful to learn the history or fundamentals in order to participate in conversational learning.

3)  Business leadership will include not only the ability to influence, to lead and create value and vision but it will also include the ability to create a legacy for themselves which will include who they have mentored, supported, advocated and promoted.  A new question will be “how many people have you developed and promoted?”

4)  Corporate education, training and corporate universities will be part of the portfolio of “must haves” to compete for top talent.  Curriculum will be more advanced than general topics and the frequency similar to strategy meetings.  New candidates will ask to see the Company’s curriculum and understand the education strategy and tactics before they make a decision.

5)  Leaders in business will be expected to write articles, be thought leaders in their space, and help others through creative content.  Leaders will be judged on how freely they share their knowledge and how they empower others.

6)  Online education will be social and collaborative affecting almost all of our human senses.  Online tools will include movie elements such as music, suspense, mystery, love, action and sadness.  The duration will be in the form of short film and the style will be interactive.

7)  Lines will be completed blurred between education and entertainment.  People’s awards such as Emmy, People’s Choice, and new awards will be given to companies, universities and people who produce award winning “edutainment” content that is impactful.

So what do you do today if this is the future?  Start moving your thinking, your leadership and your company in this direction. Be a Writer, a Mentor and a Futurist if you want to be successful.  People like pioneers who see it first, go there first and bring others with them.

Your thoughts matter, what do you think?

There is Truth to Both Sides of Every Story

Truth or Consequences

There is truth to both sides of every story…every time.  In the business environment, look for the truth to the other side of issue, the story, or the problem.  When the two views are complete opposites, try to find the truth that you can live with or the truth that may be hard to swallow.  Either way, know that in order to truly move forward empathy and understanding are necessities.

Also, understand that compromise is about leaving some goodwill on the table, creating a solution that works for both, and seeing and hearing the other side of an issue.  When people believe their truth has been heard and understood, then real work on a solution is possible and people are more flexible because they were heard.

And finally know it is ok to admit fault and keep moving forward.  Leaders that admitted when they were wrong won more influence because they acknowledged it.  JFK and the Bay of Pigs is my constant reminder of this notion.

Understand there is truth to both sides of every issue, story, or problem.  Look from the other side and see their truth.  The old saying “the truth will set you free” could not be more fitting.

Seeing their truth, even partially, will set you and the issue free.

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Corporate Culture: The Sleeper in a Company’s Valuation Equation

MATH ON TV

Image by JAHPEACEFUL666 via Flickr

I recently heard a story of a woman who bought a CPA firm.  In essence, she believed she was paying for the client list of the seller.  She had the seller sign a non-compete agreement to protect the customers.  She also agreed to keep the two tenured employees onboard as part of the seller’s request.  For the buyer, life was good for about six months.

Soon thereafter the first employee decides to leave the business and informs the clients she will be starting her own bookkeeping practice.  The clients move with the employee.  The other employee sees this and soon follows the same plan leaving the buyer short $100K a year in fees.

Litigation later, the buyer loses the cases and is required to pay the defendants’ fees.  Oh by the way, did I tell you one of the employees was wife to the seller?

There are so many life lessons here, so let’s focus on the overarching one.

When you are thinking of buying an existing business, be very clear in your own mind that you are not buying the revenue, assets and profits.  You are buying the culture and the relationships.

The culture tells you if there are good financial controls in place, leadership is honorable and respected, employees are valued and motivated to stay, customers feel a sense of loyalty to a company that has given them more than they paid for.  Culture tells you if you are buying a transactional versus transformational business.

When buying a business, you are also buying the relationships.  There is no certainty the customers will return post close.  Frankly, there is no certainty the customer list even represents repeat customers to the seller.  While it is not possible to know the relationship with every customer, it is necessary when establishing a good price to know the relationship with the top customers and a sampling of the mid-size and smaller customers.

Want to know the price you should pay for a business, find out the company culture.  It is the sleeper element in the valuation equation.

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People Take Care of People…Period.

Thanks to Social Media, we are seeing just how communal and supportive people are to one another.  Our most basic needs to be socially and emotionally connected are being met in a broad and sweeping way.  It is an amazing new frontier we are experiencing and the business world is catching on in droves.  You have heard the saying “our employees are our most important resource”, yet not as many employees felt that way.  Thankfully, the tides are starting to change…ahh….how good it is and what a glorious change it will be when fully realized.

People ARE the most important resource, people ARE the most important asset, and people ARE the most important gift you will ever get in life.  They are the like water, and air to us…we cannot live without their connection.  Why…because people take care of people….period.

As a leader of an organization, rethink the paradigm.  Your employees should be first in the care chain.  When you take care of your employees first, they will see your customer as their customer and take care of them accordingly.  People will do more when they are in love and they will be naturally inspired to make a difference with others.  When your employees take care of the customers, they will show their love, care and support in return and take care of your business and your shareholders/owners.

Rethink the Paradigm:  Employees then Customers then Shareholders.  Your organizations may be successful but you won’t know just how much you are leaving on the table until you realize this paradigm.

As the leader of You, take care of yourself first.  Fully love yourself first and then you may love and help others.  When you love yourself fully you expect more, learn and grow more, and give and care more.  Caring and giving more are the best things you can do for yourself, others and your company.  Finding out what gifts you are meant to leave, what messages you are meant to share, and what lessons you are meant to teach are the greatest things you can do for others and your company.  When you take care of yourself and then others, it becomes a natural extension to take care of the world including its resources and peace.  Only the most self-actualized and enriched people live this way and aspire for a world of peace and possibilities.

Rethink the Paradigm.  You then Others then the World.  Are you awesome already…taking good care of your health, heart, mind, soul, family and friends, employer, leader, co-workers, community, and earth?  If you are not yet, just imagine how awesome you could be?

People take care of People.  When we understand this fully and emotionally, our new reality will be far greater than anything we could imagine.

Today’s Project:  Show kindness to yourself, to someone who has made it challenging for you in the business community (your boss, your employee, your customer) and do something earth friendly today.  It takes time to see the change so do it again tomorrow and the following day.  Know this: You are changing the direction of your life, the lives of others and the world.  Now that is Awesome!

I would like to hear from you…you matter to me.  What do you think of this interpretation of People taking care of People?  Share your comments below and share with others if you feel so inspired.

A Hiring Manager’s Wish: The Ultimate Job Seeker

Like anything beautiful, great and unique, I have learned anything worth having comes with a hefty price.  In this case having a great team means the selection process is comprehensive and thorough.

For the positions I am filling, I receive many resumes and frankly I think I spend more time reviewing than most others.  The average hiring manager spends 20 seconds or less “scanning” a resume instead of “reading” a resume.  While I spend more time reviewing resumes, my thoughts are I am not just filling the open position but also creating a pool of folks for consideration for other upcoming positions.  In my most recent rounds, I have found some really good candidates so keeping up with the top contenders is critical to shortening the hiring process prospectively.  Remember when interviewing, you are interviewing to make the callback list whether for this position or another.

With a stack of 80 plus resumes, creativity, precision and individualism are key factors to a successful introduction.  That means knowing yourself and your message.  Preparing a SWOT Analysis is a great tool to help you stand out from the crowd.

Complete a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.)  Successful resume writers complete a personal SWOT Analysis before they start their resume.  If you have not done one and you are out there job searching, complete a SWOT Analysis and consider providing a marketable version of your SWOT as part of your resume portfolio.  Recently, a candidate I interviewed provided a personal SWOT Analysis.  What I liked about it was that it was an original and fresh view of the whole discussion of strengths and weaknesses.  Here is a site that has some good feedback on a personal SWOT.  To help with the SWOT, a great tool I use to help identify strengths and possible blind spots is The Keirsey Temperament Sorter®-II (KTS®-II).  It is a widely used personality instrument with 70-questions to help the candidates discover their personality type.  While you are at it, include your personality type in your resume.  For example, I am an ENFP.

Develop a Resume Cloud.  Once you have done your SWOT Analysis, compile a list of your core competencies, accomplishments and areas of expertise.  These key phrases will help you develop a Resume Cloud.  This is a skinnied down version of your resume and it helps keep the conversation pointed to critical areas.  The Cloud is visually stimulating and if done well provides key descriptors of who you are and what you have accomplished.  Simply put a resume cloud is a series of words randomly patterned to give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently.  Wordle has a free site you can us to create your resume cloud.  A Resume Cloud can display the character and actions that best describe the candidate.

As a reader of a resume cloud, I am looking for a holistic view.  Tell me all sides of you.  It makes your story more interesting and memorable.  Include personal characteristics that are not commonly used in the work place.  Most resumes are not personal or holistic so it leaves the reader wondering if it is a complete proxy for the candidate seeking the position.  In order to break the mold, you have to go personal and make a connection.  Think of your cloud as your private letter to the reader with the modern day touch.  Here is my resume cloud as an example:

<a href=”http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/3835803/RC_Ybarra_Resume_Cloud_072011&#8243;

title=”Wordle: RC_Ybarra Resume Cloud 072011″><img

src=”http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/3835803/RC_Ybarra_Resume_Cloud_072011&#8243;

alt=”Wordle: RC_Ybarra Resume Cloud 072011″

style=”padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd”></a>

Create a Masterpiece Resume.  Now that you have a resume cloud, let’s make sure you have a killer resume with a personal story.  Make sure your resume includes the requisites of: Areas of Expertise, Career Accomplishments and Core Competencies.  Also, make sure you include a personal aspect to breathe life into your words.  I recently read an article where a Venture Capitalist said he reads a candidate’s resumes backwards.  Acknowledging that a candidate’s volunteer efforts, interests and then accomplishments made for an interesting person and only then would he be interested in talking to them.  Ah…be interesting so that others will be interested.  Novel concept but it is so true.

When discussing your accomplishments, make them things you truly were the catalyst for, made major AND impactful contributions to or things you started and finished.  When interviewing candidates, I try to get past the “actions” and get to the “accomplishments”.  Running reports, preparing analysis, developing a policy are more tactical actions and do not describe the end results.  In other words, what positive results happened because of your actions?  Tell us your career accomplishments and you will have told us who you are and what you are about.  When talking about accomplishments, make sure they are your own….we are all creators.  Tell the hiring manager what you have created and what difference you have made on the business, the world and/or others.  That is definitely more interesting and speaks to who you are as a complete person.

Start a Blog.  Blogging about your technical, business acumen, professional career and content will set you apart from the competition.  A blog will demonstrate your ability to write and tell a compelling story.  These are qualities of a good leader, a good negotiator and a good communicator. A few free sites for creating a blog are WordPress.com and Blogger to name a few.

Provide Original Works.  I would recommend providing examples of your work that are original even if it means you have to create new work such as financial models, technical tools, process documentation, websites, etc.  Folks will understand that your work is proprietary to your employers so you are creating new work to emulate what you have done for your previous assignments.  Think of your work as a display similar to what artists provide when they are selling their paintings.  To get your work commissioned, you have to display your ability and your personality.  To be a hit, include on your blog site your original work.  This will make your site unique and a testament to who you are as a whole person.

Create a 30 second Video.  Tell the hiring manager who you are and why they should hire you in 30 seconds.  Advertising agencies have 15 to 30 second spots on TV or Radio to sell their products.  You will have the same opportunity in your 30-second video.  If the hiring manager takes the time to go to your site, they are going to be pleasantly surprised and eager to see your 30-second “wow” pitch.  This saves the hiring manager time and energy and it will definitely impress them.

Join LinkedIn.  If you are not on LinkedIn, I would recommend you join this 100M+ person community.  A recent presentation of their demographics shows only 42M US citizens are part of LinkedIn, with ~40% being female and with only 21% under 25 years old.  This community is the largest professional social network site in the world and it is used for those offering and seeking jobs, connecting with professionals and sharing ideas, and keeping your portfolio of professional contacts.  If your demographic is not well represented, then join the community.  You will stand out from the crowd.

Join Twitter and Get Followers.  Along with your Blog and LinkedIn account, I would recommend including a Twitter account that is used for professional purposes only.  Twitter is helpful for promoting your ideas, your work and for routing folks to visit your website.  Have a unique point of view, write about it, live it and share it with others.  Having a unique voice and viewpoint will make you very attractive to others and you will be surprised by the following.  I just started my own Twitter account in May 2011 and I have a little over 170 followers so far.  You have to write good content and you have to be consistent to get a good following.  I am still working on the two approaches.  It is definitely a learning process and it takes time.

As we discussed recently in the posts: Be a Connector and The Day You Get Promoted by Election, relationships are so critical and now with Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections, we now have a means to measure the breadth of the connections.  Before too long, your portfolio of connections and relationships will be a determining factor in your selection for a position.  One early pioneer in this area is Best Buy.  I recently read a 2009 article describing how Best Buy had a pre-requisite for its Senior Manager – Emerging Media Marketing to have 250 Twitter followers.  Needless to say it got a lot of noise.  Today, future non-profit leaders and company advocates are screened to determine their circle of influence.  How many people do they influence?  How influential are the candidate’s connections? Twitter and LinkedIn are not the sole answers to these questions, but these sites definitely help you to start thinking in these terms.

If you have a professional Twitter and a LinkedIn account, be sure to reference them on your website and resume.

Sounds like a lot of work to get a job.  Yes, it is a lot of work but it is not for a job, it is for you and your brand.  You are the CEO of You.  To say yes to you means you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to define yourself in ways that are meaningful and impactful.  You are taking this herculean effort not for the position you are vying for, but for yourself and your identity in this newly connected world.

As the CEO of You, you are on a sales tour to promote, tell your story and sell why you should be part of the team.  So, for any position you apply for, think of it as a campaign.

Do Your Research; Determine Your Audience.  Who will be reading your resume?  Investigate the position and the leader.  You want to make sure it is a fit for you too, so if their values and leadership style don’t match up, know that is ok for you to be selective as well.  Recently, I was interviewing candidates for a position we posted internally.  I was fascinated by how many folks researched us on our internal social media site before coming into the interview.  As a candidate researching the hiring manager, look to see if they have a LinkedIn account; look them up and see what they have written about themselves.  And of course search them on the Internet and see what that yields you.  You could find some good information for your cover letter to personalize it when addressing the hiring manager.

Do More Research.  Research the company’s website if you are external and the department’s portal/site if you are internal to the organization.  I recently interviewed someone who researched our internal site, took one of our system courses and read through one of our corporate policies.  She was able to quote from it, speak in the language we use and ask more relevant questions on our subject because she did her homework on the department.  If you want to leave an impression, do your homework before submitting in your resume.

Enlist your Circle of Influentials.  If you know of folks that are influential, well respected and revered, ask them to put in a good word for you via a phone call.  I did that four years ago when I got the internal position I am in today.  The hiring manager said she wanted to at least meet me since she had received three separate calls from key leaders on my behalf.  Obviously you can only ask for this type of support when it really matters.  Asking a vice president of a company to support you with five to ten calls is a stretch.  Use your connections wisely.  If you are new to the job market and have some good connections, through your volunteer efforts, ask for their assistance and support as you secure a new position.  References do not have to be from “paid only” positions.  Leadership in a volunteer role is just as telling of who you are and what you stand for.

Provide a 360-Degree Reference List.  Make sure to include a 360-degree reference list of folks for the hiring manager to call when asked.  Have it ready now for when you get the request.  You want the hiring manager to make those calls quickly and close the loop with you.  The hiring manager will call the references to see how you interact with people above you, at your level and below you.  Do you treat people differently depending on the status?  Have your list and be ready.

Write a Compelling and Personalized Cover Letter.  And finally after completing the above, write a compelling cover letter addressed specifically to the hiring manager.  I typically read cover letters since many folks no longer provide them.  I feel if someone took the extra time to create a cover letter it is worth my time to read what he or she had to say.  Writing a truly personalized cover letter that is addressed to the person reading it and mentions that you researched them, who they are, what is important to them, will turn your letter from a vanilla cover letter to a personalized note.  Also, include in your note why you are interested in the position and why you believe you are the best fit.  Talk about your resume cloud, website, circle of connections and followers.  Let them know that you would like to complete a 100-day plan if you are one of the finalists for the position and you recognize ramping up is one of the hardest parts of transitioning.  By preparing and implementing a 100-day plan, it not only helps you but the hiring manager as well.  This can certainly be a game changer when coming onboard.

Create a 100-Day plan.  It is the kicker, the one that will set you miles apart from everyone else.  I recently started requiring this for all our final candidates in managerial and supervisory positions.  Some folks drop out, maybe because they thought it was too much work.  Frankly, I think it is a great tool for candidates and it is a good proxy for the caliber of team members the hiring managers are looking for.  If folks see this as a great tool that will help them and are not bothered by the request, they are one step closer to finding the right team.  A 100-day plan will help you understand the position, what opportunities exist for improvements and you will hit the ground running on day one.

For leaders of organizations transitioning into a new role, this is especially important as the goals, expectations and risks are greater.  Here is an excerpt I recently read from The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan.  George Bradt’s website also has a great leadership journal he just started on a new leader transitioning the first 100 days.

For those new to the job market fresh out of college, a 100-Day Plan is a great tool to help demonstrate your commitment to learning the culture, the department, the business, your role, your team and what improvements can be made to the position.

The Interview…Hope for Multiples.  Once you are in for an interview, you will need to knock it out of the park with your interview.  Make it personal, answer the questions, expect behavioral questions where they are asking for real examples from your life.  Make sure to give real examples and not theories of what you would do.  If all goes well, expect peer interviews, interviews with the prospective clients, leaders above the hiring manager and possibly entry-level folks to ensure you are a good fit.  I ask my team to do this so that when we make a selection based on the multitude of data points, we feel we are making the best decision for the team.  Keep in mind when you are talking to the peers, the clients and even the hiring manager, be yourself and bring your best to the conversations.

So, it is a lot.  I hear you and it is for the hiring manager as well.  But with a ~10% reported unemployment rate and the common knowledge of a higher rate, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.  As a hiring manager having to make the tough choices, with many good candidates to choose from, I will say that those that deploy a portfolio of options from their war chest will give themselves an advantage.  This will prove why it is good to be the CEO of You and why others should want to snag you first and fast.

Can you see a time when these tools will be common place? I would love to hear your thoughts, stories of interviews, selection, tips and traps to avoid.

 

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