FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

March 1, 2012

Banning Beer in the Clubhouse? How to Sustain a Culture of Trust and Integrity

Continuing our sports theme this week, I was interested in my friend, Jay Rosen’s former hometown team, the Boston Red Sox move to ban alcohol from the clubhouse. I found fascinating the commentary on this move, which seemed to me to break down into two categories: (1) Pro-supporting new manager Bobby Valentine, it was a good move and needed to instill some much needed discipline in the clubhouse, which had been lost under prior manager Terry Francona; and (2) Anti-dumb and useless PR move-supporting the prior manager Terry Francona, who broke the Curse of the Bambino by leading Boston to its first two World Series wins in 86 years. We should note that Valentine did not ban Buffalo wings from the clubhouse, which were also listed as evidence by the Red Sox front office as lack of clubhouse discipline.

I thought about those questions in the context of a presentation made that the SCCE Utilities and Energy Conference here in Houston this week. In a presentation by Duane Woods, Senior Vice President of Waste Management, entitled “Sustaining a Culture of Trust and Integrity in Challenging Times”, he talked about the efforts of Waste Management to build and sustain a culture of trust and integrity throughout the organization.

Policies and Procedures

He began with Policies and Procedures, which he described as follows: Policies are used to set the rules of conduct and the desired behavior for employees; Procedures serve to provide a detailed set of uniform processes for employees to follow and they support compliance with the policies. He said that Waste Management tries to use these tools through four disciplines:

  1. Regulatory – Those required by law, such as Sarbanes-Oxley;
  2. Performance – The financial performance of the company;
  3. Customer – They can provide guidance to the organization about customer relations particularly in the area of credit; and
  4. Brand and Reputation – Letting employees know what the company brand stands for. Woods stated that this is usually set forth in a company’s Code of Conduct.

These are things that drive loyalty. Woods acknowledged that all companies make mistakes. However, his point was that the key was to rectify the error and then recover the relationship with the customer.

Metrics

Woods next turned to metrics as he believes that if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Metrics are present to help measure and track the successful implementation of policies, procedures and performance. They can also be used to help govern and reward behavior and to help support a culture of compliance. Metrics are critical to defining required and desired behavior. However, even policies, procedures, systems and metrics will not sustain Compliance or Ethics if there is not the right culture of compliance within the organization. If metrics and incentives are poorly designed and implemented they will cause undesired behavior and help to make a confused culture. He also noted that even the “best compliance programs may not ensure right decisions in tough situations.” He emphasized the following points:

  • Alignment – Metrics should align with Vital Business Functions and Values.
  • Simplicity – Keep it simple. A common problem faced by managers is overloading of metrics.
  • Good enough is perfect – Select metrics that are easy to track and easy to understand.
  • Indicators – Use metrics as indicators. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics. A KPI does not troubleshoot anything, but rather indicates something is amiss.
  • Less is more – Use only a few good metrics as too many metrics, even if they are effective, can overwhelm a team.
  • Metrics drive both good and bad behavior.  People do what you pay them to do, so choose carefully.

Character

Woods started off this section of his presentation by noting that Warren Buffett, when hiring people, looks for three things. “The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is a high energy level. But, if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Woods stated that he believes you should hire leaders with demonstrated character, who are capable of inspiring trust and confidence in others. It is more important that leaders be authentic, they must be sincere. Honesty and congruent behavior must be maintained in that you have consistent behavior. Of course respect for others and holding yourself accountable for your direct employees is paramount. Lastly, Woods noted that you should be constantly assessing character talent, are your employees living the values you want?

With these, Woods believes that you can build a culture of character in your organization and to do so starts with trust, which he believes comes from living the values and delivering the results. Trust works on several levels, these include: (1) Individual; (2) Relationship; (3) Market-customer base; (4) Community; and (5) Regulatory. With trust as the base, Woods next turned to building a culture of character within your organization. He emphasized these steps as:

  • Set clear expectations.
  • Train with focus on integrity, mission and values
  • Coaching – The importance of role play circumstances for people.
  • Mentor to reinforce behavior.
  • Accountability for all employees.
  • Engage your workforce – Survey to find out who the key influencers in the company are. Not necessarily the designated leaders.
  • Communication – Here Woods emphasized that you should over communicate. The importance of using stories as teaching tools and lessons learned.

Woods concluded by listing the primary benefits that he sees from having the right culture at your company. They include that your organization will become more self-governing, with less need for management intervention in this area. There will be less employee misconduct and greater employee innovation. There will be not only be more customer loyalty but great employee satisfaction, and when a real crisis arises, the employee base should work together to resolve it.

So now on to question time: How about those Red Sox and their banning of beer in the clubhouse? Do you think that is evidence of a culture of compliance or should people, who are old enough to legally drink, be allowed to make that choice on their own? Does the move strengthen the Red Sox in any of their communities: themselves, their fans, the American League East Division or in the eyes of Major League Baseball? What about some of the benefits that Woods listed: will the Red Sox players be more productive or indeed even have greater employee satisfaction? Will the employees become more self-governing and impose discipline among themselves? What about those pesky Buffalo wings that were NOT banned; what role do they play in all of this? Alas, I do not have answers for the above, only questions, questions, and more questions…

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2012

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