Become a 21st Century Executive

Serving as a guiding inspiration to help the next generation with making the right career choices, The 3 Minute Mentor team have created a new book, Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack. This easy-to-read and clear-cut manual for any worker, manager, and leader of any sort who finds themselves muddling through their job and career.

In each chapter, Become a 21st Century Executive provides practical advice on how to avoid being a stuck-in-the-middle manager, and how to start behaving and becoming a 21st century executive.

Avaialble at now.


VW – It can happen to you

So what are some of the lessons for us from the VW debacle.

1.    It’s not about where you planned to go, it matters where you end up.

 "When the map differs from the terrain, go with the terrain." Kevin Plank, CEO Under Armour quoting one of his Board Members on CNBC

For most of us, business lesson number one was MBOs. We are trained in ‘Management By Objectives’. We turn our objectives into milestones. We live or die by our milestones and we reward our people based on their ability to hit their milestones. Yet as important as our milestones are, they are not the ‘be all and end all’ of our work. They are, well, milestones.

What matters is where we end up.

Too often we get distracted by the fact that the market did not respond as we wanted it to. We try and look for short-cuts and fixes to achieve our milestones. How much are we willing to compromise? What are we willing to overlook to achieve our goals?

When I read The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, what struck me was not that they necessarily set out to break the law, but that it was where they ended up. A small lie. A minor ‘fudge’. A little misdirection. What starts as a minor problem grows into a legal nightmare. Then you worry about people covering up what they find rather than being honest about what they found. As Martha would tell you, the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

2.    It’s about the culture stupid

I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game, it is the game. Lou Gerstner, former CEO IBM

So what happened at ENRON? Why didn’t anyone stop what everyone knew was bad behavior?  The answer is culture. It is always about the culture.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently covered 10 Examples of Companies With Fantastic Cultures. When you read the stories of Zappos, Google and the rest, there are some common themes. Among them is openness and clarity of purpose. While many of these 21st Century organizations may want to convince you that there is no politics, all organizations have politics. The question is, does the culture encourage the employees to do the right thing and speak out? Does your company’s culture reward people who speak out and say the tough things, or does it reward people who say nothing and go along to get along?

3.    Integrity Matters

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” Alan K Simpson

I remember an incident at work where one employee knew another employee was breaking the rules. When it was discovered, both employees were let go. As a management team we discussed why the employee who knew and said nothing was also punished. The discussion ended up being about integrity. One of the team questioned this and said that the two players had demonstrated different failings of integrity, implying that there was a scale to integrity or lack of it. There is not. Integrity is binary – you either have it or you don’t.

So as much as we might want to blame our company and its culture, in the end it comes to your personal integrity. Someone at VW knew what they were doing and chose not to say anything. Yes, doing so would risk their job and their livelihood. You can decide to say nothing but if you do, then it always comes back to bite. At some point, you have to lay your head on your pillow and sleep. It is always easier to sleep knowing you did what was right and acted with integrity.

Bottom Line

My guess is that what happened at VW did not start as a plan to deceive the market, but that is where it ended up. The best way to avoid this at your company is always to act with integrity, regardless of what others around you are doing.


For more content like this please check out my book called "Become a 21st Century Executive" or visit me at and watch the episode covering Honesty, Integrity and Transparency

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