This Week in Culture

When Purpose Conceals a Lack of Morality in Leadership

How should you respond when your executive team utilizes the purpose statement as a means to cover up a lack of moral compass? It’s a question that cuts to the core of ethical leadership, and today, I want to explore it in depth, drawing connections to the profound lessons we can glean from my own journey as well as the exposé on McKinsey & Company.

Confessions of a McKinsey Whistleblower

So, here’s the story: McKinsey found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons. The exposé reveals how their executive team used the mission statement of the business as a smokescreen to cover up unethical business practices. It’s a clear illustration of how leaders can use the admirable concept of purpose to defend actions that go against the principles they profess to uphold.

The author of the article could see that his own personal purpose wasn’t able to get fulfilled at McKinsey and eventually left. This is a topic I’ve written about before in this ebook on employee fulfillment. Employee fulfillment is found when an employee’s personal purpose can align with their organization’s purpose. My own purpose is to serve God and others. It serves as my compass and informs every move I make as a leader at Culture Partners. The Culture Partners purpose statement is to unleash the power of culture by inspiring people and businesses to reach their full potential.

So I ask myself, “Can I serve God and others by unleashing the power of culture to inspire people and businesses to reach their full potential?” This is a profound question for anyone to ask themselves. This question goes beyond formulas; it acts as a compass pointing us in the direction of a higher calling. Having said that – here’s the formula:

Can I [insert personal purpose] by [insert organizational purpose/mission statement]?

Taking a step back, finding one’s personal purpose isn’t always straightforward. Many are still on that quest. It took deep inner work to discover and verbalize my personal purpose. I did this with the help of many mentors. As leaders, it is our duty to facilitate this exploration. At Culture Partners, we’ve taken active steps to encourage this discovery. We’ve created a special space, like a dedicated Slack channel, where our team members can openly share their personal purpose statements. Here, let me share a few examples:

“I am grateful for all life offers, both the opportunities and challenges.”

“I have loving relationships with God, my family, friends, and co-workers.”

“I have a healthy mind and body through the act of unconditional love and a mastery of exercise and diet.”

“I dedicate my life to the optimization of human potential.”

“I serve and give first in alignment with the universal laws of nature.”

“I achieve all that I seek through continued education and learning.”

“I do not fear failure and always say ‘thank you.'”

“I am humble in my achievements yet beneath no one; success is a choice, and therefore, I choose my destiny.”

Our commitment to purpose isn’t limited to personal development; it extends to our hiring process. In every interview, my first question is, “What is your personal purpose?” This question encourages candidates to reflect on how their personal aspirations and values align with our mission. I want them to make sure they CAN find fulfillment at Culture Partners.

Equally important is my second question: “How can you fulfill that purpose in this role at this company?” This challenges candidates to envision how they can make a meaningful impact that aligns with our shared goals.

The McKinsey investigation serves as a stark reminder of the dangerous results that can occur when leaders use purpose for their own benefit. It serves as a cautionary tale that should encourage us to ensure that our actions are consistent with our beliefs and that our personal and professional goals are authentically aligned. So, let’s stick to our guns and fight for a society where purpose wins out over ambition. The McKinsey exposé is a potent reminder of the challenges we may face, but it also highlights the significance of our mission: building a society where purpose and ethics lead to long-term success.

Elsewhere This Week

Behind The AI boom, an army of overseas workers in ‘digital sweatshops’

A large army of young workers is subtly influencing the AI revolution in the humming internet cafes of the Philippines. These unsung heroes spend their days organizing and annotating data, a crucial step in the process of teaching artificial intelligence models. Their work ensures AI’s continued development, whether it be by separating pedestrians from palm trees in videos for autonomous driving algorithms or labeling images to create representations of politicians and celebrities. A troubling reality, however, lies beneath the surface of this digital labor force. There are over 2 million of these workers in the Philippines alone, and many of them deal with low pay, slow payments, and a lack of efficient dispute resolution procedures.

One glaring example is Scale AI, a $7 billion startup from San Francisco that has been accused of mistreating its employees. Despite the company’s claim to pay a living wage, employees frequently find themselves earning substantially less than the minimum wage. The majority of those surveyed reported experiences with canceled, reduced, or delayed payments, which paints a bleak picture of working conditions in the AI industry. This article emphasizes the urgent need to address labor standards and equity in an industry heavily dependent on a dispersed and, at times, exploited global workforce, even as AI continues to make remarkable strides.

What ties together the exploitation of young workers in the AI industry and the corporate purpose dilemma is the critical need for ethical congruence. In both scenarios, it’s about ensuring that the values we profess genuinely guide our actions. The AI industry’s labor issues emphasize the call for ethical leadership and just treatment, while the McKinsey exposé illustrates the perils of using purpose as a cover for actions that contradict those stated values. It essentially boils down to the imperative of maintaining integrity and ethical consistency in our leadership and organizational practices.

Top AI institute chair and ex-Amazon exec thinks AI will disrupt employment as we know it—but it’ll make the world wealthier and more skilled

In the middle of all the talk and controversy surrounding artificial intelligence, Douglas Gurr, the chair of The Alan Turing Institute and a former high-ranking official of Amazon U.K., is painting a positive image of the effects of AI on our professional lives. He’s singing the tune that disruptive technology has historically disrupted our job habits and caused some major social upheavals. The real kicker, though, is that Gurr believes that after we weather the storm and adjust to these changes, we’ll all be living it up with more money, more jobs, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. He believes that AI is the next major thing that will advance human intelligence and prosperity.

But hold on a sec, let’s hit the brakes for a reality check. While Gurr’s optimism is infectious, we’ve got to think twice about this AI rollercoaster. The rapid rise of AI might not be all sunshine and rainbows, especially when it comes to company culture. Sure, it might bring in more money, but there’s a darker side too. AI can disrupt our workplaces like never before, and not always in a good way. It can snatch jobs away, leaving folks scrambling to figure out what’s next. And here’s the real kicker – it can widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the workforce, creating an even more unequal society.

So, while Gurr’s upbeat about AI’s potential, it’s essential to keep a firm grip on reality. We’ve got to be mindful of the impact on our company cultures and work environments as we race into this AI-driven future. It’s not just about more money; it’s about maintaining the soul of our workplaces too.

Another Week Another Strike (or 2)

Well, folks, it appears that strikes have become a recurring theme in our recent newsletters, shining a spotlight on their prevalence and significance in today’s working world. This week, let’s delve into two different industries – auto manufacturing and healthcare – where workers are on or inching closer to strike. These strikes underscore a common thread: the critical role of company culture. It’s pretty evident that if these companies had treated their workers better and fostered a healthier work environment, these strikes might have been avoided altogether.

Union announces overwhelming support for Kaiser Permanente strike authorization

Let’s start with healthcare. A significant vote to authorize a strike has been held at Kaiser Permanente, a major participant in the healthcare industry. The majority of SEIU Local 49 members—98%—voted in favor of going on strike. Why? They believe Kaiser Permanente isn’t being fair in negotiations and isn’t prioritizing the safety of its employees and patients. This circumstance now demonstrates how important it is to give worker welfare and patient care top priority in the healthcare sector. This strike would have been averted if Kaiser had established a climate of open communication and cooperation, allowing healthcare professionals to concentrate on what actually matters—taking care of patients.

Haven’t been paying attention to the UAW strike? What you need to know

Now, switching gears to the auto industry, we’re looking at United Auto Workers’ contracts with giants like General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis about to expire, and there’s a strike looming. Workers want better pay, and the possibility of targeted strikes highlights how interconnected the industry is. Although companies have offered raises, it’s clear that workers’ needs aren’t fully met. If negotiations break down, it could lead to disruptions that might’ve been preventable if these auto giants had initially placed a higher value on fair wages and working conditions. This situation underlines the significance of cultivating a company culture that respects and values its workforce, ensuring a harmonious workplace rather than confrontations on the picket lines.

So, what’s the big lesson here? These strikes remind us that company culture isn’t just fluff – it’s crucial. A culture that encourages open communication, fairness, and employee well-being can act as a safety net against labor disputes. It boosts job satisfaction, builds trust between employers and employees, and ultimately prevents strikes. In the end, a healthy company culture is the secret sauce for a productive, happy work environment where everyone can thrive.

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