Sunday, March 25, 2012

“I am what I do” or “I do what I am.” Which statement most accurately describes you?

Early management theorists Karl Marx and Max Weber both warned that the hidden price of the then new organisational structure, called bureaucracy, was that it inevitably lead to the separation of the true self from the work self. This separation would ultimately result in dissatisfaction and alienation, which Marx later theorised would start a revolution by the working classes. Although revolution has been rare, dissatisfaction, alienation, and other organisational maladies are common. Moreover, some social scientists believe that harassment, workplace violence and ethical breaches can all be traced to the feelings that accompany the separation of the true and work selves, (Locander, W. B. and Luechauer, D. L., 2010, p.15).

When I was 15 or 16 years old I set myself some goals that I wanted to achieve in my life-time. I remember I wanted to own my own business by the time I was 35 (which I started when I was 32), and I wanted to have written my first book by the age of 45 (which I only achieved when I was 50). At the time I didn’t know what the business would be, and to be honest, would have imagined a gym or sports club, rather than the consulting firm I own today. And there’s no doubt the book I imagined so many years ahead was on health and fitness, and not on being the best in business, (in fact in my early forties I started compiling the contents for a book that was going to be called, ‘fitness for the over forties’ – but it never developed past the ‘idea’ stage).

What’s interesting is that at such an early age, when maybe you’d expect a teenager to be thinking of ‘being a reality star’ or something quirky like that; or maybe even thinking of ‘how not to work’, I’d already set my heart on achieving some ambitious goals – though don’t ask me why I set the goals I did, as I really can’t remember.

In fact as hard as it might be to believe in today’s society, William Locander and David Luechauer highlight in their article that, “research going back many years indicates that most people want to work, and contrary to popular belief they don’t all want to be the next American Idol, movie star, or professional athlete,” (p.15).

But being able ‘to do the things that are you’ is a powerful reminder that our lives need compassion and empathetic human connection, whether experienced on the job or some other setting and the more leaders can do to foster compassion and connection the more likely they will be to enrich themselves, their organisations and their communities, (Locander, W. B. and Luechauer, D. L., 2010, p.15).

The alternative, 'of being what you do' in my opinion, means that your life has been sucked out of you – and often not due to the fault of the individual. I think of the horrific traits of human trafficking and drug addiction and feel nothing but sadness and helplessness for people who cannot have the joy of doing what is truly meant for them – and pray for the day when these monstrosities of human nature are eradicated for good.

William Locander and David Luechauer mention that “we each have an inner music or inner light that must be played or brought forth if we are to live self-actualized lives that contribute to our own wellbeing and the well-being of others. In essence, we should all be doing the work that has been placed inside us to do. Yet, it would seem that very few among us are living in that manner. Indeed, we seem to live in a society where people derive their identity more from their job, their car, their clothes, their address, their portfolio or their significant - rather than from any inner source, calling or wellspring of values, skills or strengths,” (p.15).

Ultimately, as Locander and Luechauer conclude, “it appears that having an understanding of one’s skills, developing those skills to the fullest and using them in a personally meaningful way to pursue purposes beyond selfish ambition and vain conceit can transform just about any job into a calling,” (p.15).


Locander, W. B. and Luechauer, D. L. (2010). Do what you love, love what you do. Marketing Management, Vol. 19, Issue 1, p.14-15.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Personal is Your Personal Information?

“Using software to monitor the transmission of data from a Google Android mobile phone onto which a range of basic apps had been downloaded – The Sunday Times (4th March 2012) discovered that private information – including telephone numbers, email addresses and even the phones location had been sent to companies in China, India, Israel and the United States,” (p.9).
Now I’m not an ‘app’ person, but I’m becoming more and more aware of people trying to access my personal information, which they don’t need to have. It makes me very suspicious of what is going on behind the scenes and where this might lead in the future. There are already too many reports of identity theft, which can destroy the lives of the ‘real people.’

Of course, in some cases we must blame ourselves, as according to a poll by YouGov, 70% of people do not read the terms and conditions before agreeing to them. But then some of these terms and conditions make ‘War and Peace’ look like a short read and where the language they use ranks in the category of ‘bullshit baffles brains.’ So I imagine the majority of these 70%, naively trust the service provider, thinking ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ – which is great, until the worst does happen.   
Another part of the problem is that the people developing apps in many cases are simply focusing on the ‘app’ and the fortune they hope to make from it – rather than the detail behind their service. As one app owner said “since we are still beginners in the app development business, we might have been a bit na├»ve and didn’t even think about such things. We will contact the company trawling this information from our customers and ask what the reasons are behind getting such information about users through us.” 
Of course, asking and stopping are two different things and I’d feel a little happier if the immediate response to these allegations were to prohibit the ‘theft’ of one’s personal information.
What about Google’s new, all en-compassing privacy policy, where the search engine has now combined all the information it holds on users, gathered from its Gmail and YouTube services.

Google, which receives most of its $38 billion annual revenue from advertising, says this will help to ‘personalise the experience’ of users, allowing search results and accompanying adverts to be tailored to their individual habits. Users cannot opt out, although there are ways to minimise the amount of information Google can access.
Privacy campaigners have however branded the move ‘creepy’ and the European commission has questioned its legality.

And it doesn’t end there – “last month the scope for fraud from the use of personal data was highlighted when US officials revealed how Indian call centre staff had posed as ‘phantom debt’ collectors to swindle millions of dollars out of more than 10,000 Americans,” (Mahmood, M and Ungoed-Thomas, J; 2012; p13). “Officials think more than 20 million calls have been made over the last two years with collectors using aggressive and language to demand payments for debts that did not exist. The total cost of this one fraud has been estimated at £3.2 million.”
As Mazher Mahmood and Jon Ungoed-Thomas mention “the Indian authorities and British firms who take advantage of the low wages paid to call centre staff have sought to play down the threat of security breaches. When details of 1,000 British consumers were sold to newspapers by an IT worker last year, the Indian government – anxious to preserve the reputation of an industry worth an estimated £3.7 billion a year –described it as a freak accident,” (p.13).

Senior officials in India said “as far as we are concerned, officially the position is that there is no problem of people here selling stolen personal information- simply because none of the banks or other large companies pursue complaints against criminals stealing the data.”
Yet for a small sum of money the Sunday Times reporters were able to get hold of 45 different types of data of customers having Mastercards or Visa cards with banks using Indian call centres including; first name, last name, address, account, city, postcode, alternate number – that can be a mobile number, office number, date of birth, bank name, name on card, card type, card number, start date, sort code and CCV (card code verification) number.

So will we ever really know what’s happening with our personal data, if we don’t have the technology to check for ourselves? We are having to put our trust and ‘data’ in the hands of people, who clearly don’t earn or deserve that trust, assuming that nothing bad will happen to us (which, naively, is a bit like a smoker assuming that cancer is just something that happens to someone else).

Henry, R. and Newlands, P. (2012). In a flash, your details are on a server in Israel. Sunday Times, 4th March 2012, p.9.
Mahmood, M and Ungoed-Thomas, J. (2012) Tuppence a fact: the starting price for your stolen life. Sunday Times, 18th March 2012, p.12-13.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Extreme Interviews: Necessary or Narcissistic?

Probably one of my favourite ‘extreme interview’ questions that is commonly asked by Google is; ‘how would you weigh your head?’ Others include, what sort of dinosaur are you? If you answered Tyrannosaurus Rex, then the bad news is that you won’t be getting a job with at least one City of London financial institution (Sunday Times, 11th March 2012, p.13).  
A recent Los Angeles Times story explored the trend it refers to as ‘extreme interviewing,’ in which candidates are subjected to shenanigans that wouldn’t seem out of place on a reality TV program like ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Survivor.’ Where for example, college students applying for an internship with one company were asked to make the case why they should be selected solely via 13 different 140-character messages on Twitter.
As James Gillespie and Lou Stoppard highlight in their Sunday Times article, “no amount of revision and practice can prepare the candidate who finds themselves on the receiving end of an ‘extreme interview.’ The dinosaur question has become a bit of a City of London favourite, as most candidates plump for Tyrannosaurus Rex, whereupon the hapless soul is told – aha, so you’re a cannibalistic predator preying on the weak are you?” (p.13).
Tiffany Hsu, writing in the LA Times highlights how “Google Inc. is renowned for peppering candidates with brain twisters such as ‘You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown in a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?’ according to the book "Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?" Hewlett-Packard takes the same approach: ‘If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?’ Tony Hsieh, chief executive of online shoe retailer, likes to ask potential hires, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?’
Gillespie and Stoppard mention that “it may seem like a game, but extreme interviewing is deadly serious. The idea is to see how quickly job-seekers think on their feet and, at a time when in the UK 25% of recent graduates are unemployed, it offers a new way of sorting the brilliant from the merely exceptional. For example, Google renowned for its exhaustive interview process (where a 50 page dossier prepared on each interviewer is not uncommon) asked a recent candidate: you are stranded on a desert island. You have 60 seconds to choose people of ten professions to some with you. Who do you choose? Go.”
But one has to ask whether these questions really help identify exceptional talent or simply give the interviewer that feeling of power and control as they watch the candidate squirm. It’s not that there is a right or wrong answer to these questions anyway – so it’s not unreasonable for candidates to wonder what the point in all this is. In business you’d imagine that organisations are looking for people who can make decisions around the facts - where who you’d take on a dessert island has little relevance.
I think to conclude, Brad Tuttle puts it best in his article when he writes, “if you’re interviewing for a job and Joe Rogan, the guy from ‘Fear Factor,’ suddenly appears carrying a bucket full of live cockroaches, my advice is to make a run for it. That might not demonstrate entrepreneurial skills. But at least it’d show you have common sense”. Now I’m off to weigh my head…..
Gillespie, J. and Stoppard, L. Big beasts fail ‘extreme interviews’. Sunday Times. 11th March 2012. P.13
Hsu, T. Job interviewing, to the extreme. Los Angeles Times. 19th February 2012.
Tuttle, B. How job candidates now resemble reality TV contestants. TIME Moneyland.  21st February 2012.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Is the Strategic Role of the CSR Manager?

In their 2009 article, Mario Molteni and Matteo Pedrini “present an analysis of the organisational position, educational background and activities of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals. The results suggest that CSR managers: l) have a growing relevance in the firm; 2) are predominantly existing members of the organization; 3) have principally a business management educational background; and 4) play a key role in supporting senior management and improving stakeholder engagement. It emerges that CSR managers are supporting senior management in different manners. The "CSR Manager Map" allows for the identification of four types of CSR manager: (1) Specialist; (2) Generalist; (3) Process oriented; (4) Externally oriented,” (p.26).

What’s interesting in general business debates is that there appears little doubt that corporate social responsibility is an activity that most agree is both required in today’s society and at the same time, still, sadly lacking. Yet when it comes to discussions about the function itself, the position of CSR Manager, for some reason, isn’t considered as ‘attractive’ as other positions within an organisational set-up – hence not attracting the best talent. This contradiction might be one simple reason why CSR isn’t taking hold in organisational strategy quick enough and is a reason that needs to be addressed.

The proposition that firms are responsible for the effects produced by their activities on stakeholders and society is becoming more extensive year by year and as such Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents a very real strategic issue for executives and academics. There is widespread acknowledgement that CSR can take a variety of forms, and significant efforts have been devoted to developing theoretical frameworks for CSR issues and practices. Currently though, this effort is surrounded by much the same ambiguity as it was 30 years ago (see Sethi. 1979); (Molteni and Pedrini, 2009, p.26).

CSR should attract the top business minds and those with a real entrepreneurial spirit, and great strategic vision. CSR has been shown to add real value to an organisation and does offer a competitive advantage, if only slightly. Research has shown that this trend will increase over time and thus organisations need to get the best talent into CSR to maximise the real benefits for their stakeholders, their community and their own organisation. 

Molteni and Pedrini highlight how the importance of the effects of CSR implementation requires that the CSR manager cover three key roles;
(1) The sensor of social and environmental changes both locally and nationally. Where the CSR manager weighs sustainability issues in decision making and aids strategy makers in thinking about their industries ongoing social and environmental trends. The manager has to collaborate with the board and CEO in strategy development (Molteni, 2006);
(2) The integrator of those engaged in the CSR implementation team. Where the CSR manager provides the cohesion between the multiple internal actors involved in CSR implementation. He or she assures that diverse members of the firm contribute to a unique strategic plan (Panwar et al., 2006). And where the implementation path requires a team composed of experts from each of the firm's functions that work in close contact with the senior management; and
(3) The expert in CSR issues and practices. Where the CSR manager needs to be an ‘expert’ in those practices which translate into expressions of responsibility towards their stakeholders and the community, (Hess, Rogovsky & Dunfee, 2002), (p.27).

When you look at the areas CSR influences, one can begin to see that this isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ function, but a function that adds significant value at the highest level of the organisation. Molteni and Pedrini state how, “a large range of new tools and practices have emerged as direct expressions of CSR. The presentation of an exhaustive list of practices regarding the responsibility of a corporation in society appears difficult, but that a classification of the CSR manager's tasks by universally recognized categories of CSR issues is possible. (Tborne McAlister. Ferrell & Ferrell, 2005). Where these CSR issues are:
(1) The integration of CSR in strategy and decision making;
(2) The extension of corporate governance;
(3) Responsible supply chain management;
(4) Social accountability;
(5) Socially responsible investing;
(6) Philanthropy and business in the community;
(7) Environmental management;
(8) Corporate welfare, (p.27).

CSR is an area all organisations need to revisit and re-assess, not just the roles and responsibilities of the function, but the ‘talent’ they need to optimise the outputs from this valuable function.

As Molteni and Pedrini conclude “the CSR manager can play diverse roles in CSR implementation. In some cases they are directly in charge of the management of one or more CSR practices and assume the role of professional. In other cases they coordinate the activities related to CSR issues that have an impact on internal processes or on external stakeholder opinion. Although the role may vary, it is clear that his job determines the efficiency of CSR implementation. The CSR manager's role is fundamental for transforming executive strategy into operational activities, and, in other words, in establishing a new stakeholder culture in the firm,” (p.36).

So do you need to re-look at your CSR role and make it a ‘best in class’ position?


Molteni, M. and Pedrini, M. (2009). The Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Map. Corporate Ownership & Control, Vol. 6 Issue 3, p. 26-38.

Sethi, S.P. (1979). A Conceptual Framework for Environmental Analysis of Social Issues and Evaluation of Business Response Patterns. Academy of Management Review, 4(1), pp. 63.