“How timely! How needed it is for one of the finest human beings, industrial leaders, and philanthropists on the planet to compellingly drill down on timeless, universal values for business and life. This book edifies, inspires, and motivates all of us to model these common sensical lessons for our organizations, all our relationships, and especially our posterity—for what is common sense is obviously not common practice. Primary greatness is character and contribution. Secondary greatness is how most people define success—wealth, fame, position, etc.
Few have both. Jon’s one of them. ” —Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness “In his creative gifts, in his business success, in his great philanthropy, in his human qualities, Jon Huntsman stands in a class all of his own. ” —Richard Cheney, Vice President of the United States, on the occasion of the dedication of Huntsman Hall, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania “Jon Huntsman has successfully navigated corporate America guided by a strong moral compass.
In his book, Jon shares his depth of knowledge and outlines how to succeed in today’s competitive market place while taking the high ground. ” —Senator Elizabeth Dole “Jon Huntsman’s new book ought to be mandatory reading for leaders—and those who aspire to be leaders—in every field. His secrets for success are no secrets at all, but invaluable lessons that he has reminded us, with his life and now with his words, are the pillars upon which we can build our lives, too.
” —Senator Tom Daschle “Jon Huntsman’s book is about ethics, values, and his experiences. The ractical way in which he shares those with the reader is amazing. This is a book with inspiration for a younger generation. ” —Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive, Royal Dutch/Shell Group “As I read Jon’s book, I thought my father had returned to tell me that you are either honest or you are dishonest, that there is nothing in between. 2 + 2 = 4, never 3. 999 or 4. 001. Also, if you always say what you believe, you don’t need to have a good memory. If we could only live the principles Jon has followed, what a different world it would be—both in our business and personal relationships. —Former U. S. Senator and Astronaut Jake Garn “Jon Huntsman has taken us back to the basics—the basic values that transcend all professions and cultures. He has provided real-life examples that are inspiring and show that ‘good guys’ really can finish first. And he shows us how you can learn from mistakes. It is a ‘must read’ for both young men and women just stepping onto the golden escalator to success and anyone seeking reassurance that how one lives every day really does matter. ” —Marsha J. Evans, former President and CEO, American Red Cross A refreshing and candid discussion on basic values that can guide you from the sandbox to the boardroom—told by a straight shooter. ” —Chuck Prince, Chairman and CEO, Citigroup “Jon’s outlook on moral and ethical behavior in business should be inspirational to all who read this book. The lessons of fair play and holding true to personal moral values and ethics are time-honored principals which are all too often overlooked in today’s world. While this book is geared to those in business, I see it as worthwhile reading to anyone. ” —Rick Majerus, former ESPN Basketball Analyst and legendary basketball coach, St.
Louis University. “It is true that all business enterprises are profit oriented, but the avarice for wealth and the ardent desire to stay competitive tend to lure more and more corporate executives to resort to unscrupulous, unethical practices. Although they may achieve temporary successes, their lucrative lies and fraud will be their ultimate undoing, causing great losses to their shareholders. Jon’s book is a stentorian call for the corporate world to reassert accepted moral values and learn the responsibility of sharing gains with society, probably in line with the economic standard of the country. ” —Jeffrey L. S.
Koo, Chairman and CEO, Chinatrust Financial Holding Co. “Succinctly capturing what the world’s major beliefs all hold as an unassailable truth, that ethical behavior and giving more than you receive is the path to fulfillment and success in life, Winners Never Cheat deftly navigates these concepts with clarity and insight. ” —Louis Columbus, Director of Business Development, Cincom Systems “This is easily the most courageous and personal business book since Bill George’s Authentic Leadership. If anyone has doubts about how one person can make a substantive difference in the world, this beautifully written book should dispel them immediately.
I hope its message is embraced worldwide. ” —Charles Decker, Author of Lessons from the Hive: The Buzz for Surviving and Thriving in an Ever-Changing Workplace “Jon Huntsman and I have this much in common: We were raised to work hard, play fair, keep your word, and give back to the community. I relate to what he is saying. Real winners never cheat. ” —Karl Malone, Twice MVP of the NBA and Utah Jazz legend “In an age of corporate scandal and excess, Jon Huntsman reminds us of the enduring value of honesty and respect. He shows us that morality and compassion are essential ingredients to true success.
Over the years, Jon’s extraordinary business achievements have been matched by a sense of charity that continues to touch countless lives. I am privileged to call him a friend. ” —Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts “I can’t put down the book after reading the first page. These are values universally cherished, whether in the United States, in China, or elsewhere. A great and loving man emerges from the pages so vivid that he seems to talk to you face to face, like a family member. My life is richer and mind is broader after reading the book. I am very proud of my friendship with Jon Huntsman. —Yafei He, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs—China, Dept. of North American and Oceanic Affairs “Nothing could be more timely than this provocative book from one of America’s foremost business and civic leaders about the urgent need for greater ethics in our public and private lives. With wit and clarity, Jon Huntsman shares his guidelines for living a life of integrity and courage. It is a wonderful tonic for much of what ails us today. Winners Never Cheat is a valuable handbook for anyone wanting to succeed in business, or life. ” —Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Jon Huntsman is more than a phenomenally successful entrepreneur. He is a giant of a leader and a role model of integrity. In Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten), Mr. Huntsman establishes the inextricable link between following one’s inner moral compass and achieving lasting success. His book is filled with timeless wisdom, timely examples, and an inspiring life story. Jon is the quintessential nice guy who has finished first! ” —Dr. Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania WINNERS NEVER CHEAT This page intentionally left blank WINNERS NEVER CHEAT
EVEN IN DIFFICULT TIMES Jon M. Huntsman Vice President, Publisher: Tim Moore Associate Publisher and Director of Marketing: Amy Neidlinger Editorial Assistant: Pamela Boland Operations Manager: Gina Kanouse Digital Marketing Manager: Julie Phifer Publicity Manager: Laura Czaja Assistant Marketing Manager: Megan Colvin Cover Designer: Chuti Prasertsith Managing Editor: Kristy Hart Senior Project Editor: Lori Lyons Copy Editor: Water Crest Publishing Proofreader: San Dee Phillips Interior Designer and Compositor: Gloria Schurick Manufacturing Buyer: Dan Uhrig © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.
Publishing as Wharton School Publishing Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458 Wharton School Publishing offers excellent discounts on this book when ordered in quantity for bulk purchases or special sales. For more information, please contact U. S. Corporate and Government Sales, 1-800-382-3419, [email protected] com. For sales outside the U. S. , please contact International Sales at [email protected] com. Company and product names mentioned herein are the trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners. All rights reserved.
Shelledy, a professional writer and editor, who challenged and organized my thoughts and helped convert them to the written word, and to Pam Bailey, my dedicated and loyal administrative assistant who eased the hassle with those astounding and generally unknown complexities of writing a book. I also desire to thank deeply the professionals at Wharton School Publishing: Vice President and Publisher Tim Moore, and Associate Publisher and Director of Marketing Amy Neidlinger, for their initial faith and encouragement that I publish an updated version; and Operations Manager Gina Kanouse for her valuable suggestions on this edition.
Thanks also goes to Pearson Education Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Logan Campbell, and Marketing Director John Pierce, for their unwavering commitment to and patience with a first-time author; Development Editor Russ Hall, for clear and candid critiques; Managing Editor Kristy Hart, and Copy Editors, Keith Cline and xiii Winners Never Cheat Sarah Kearns, for their swift, quality-enhancing suggestions to and the preparation of my manuscript; and Wharton School administrators, faculty, and students for their longstanding support in this and other endeavors.
I would be especially remiss if I did not acknowledge the contributions of Larry King, whose gracious Introduction set the tone for what follows; of Neil Cavuto, for his kind Afterword and whose own book, More Than Money, provided inspiration; Glenn Beck, for his kind and humbling Foreword; and of trial lawyer extraordinaire, Wayne Reaud, for his humbling Preface. They are more than just successful professionals, highly respected by their peers; they are friends of mine.
I am indebted to my mother and other family members—living and deceased—for providing models of kindness and decency, and to my late fatherin-law, David Haight, who always believed in me. My greatest debt, however, is reserved for my spouse, Karen, our 9 children, and 58 grandchildren for providing me with 68 convincing reasons why a person ought to stay the proper course. —J. M. H. xiv ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jon M. Huntsman is chairman and founder of Huntsman Corporation. He started the firm with his brother, Blaine, in 1970.
By 2000, it had become the world’s largest privately held chemical company and America’s biggest family-owned and operated business, with more than $12 billion in annual revenues. He took the business public in early 2005. He was a special assistant to the president in the Nixon White House, was the first American to own controlling interest of a business in the former Soviet Union, and is the chairman of the Board of Overseers for Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater. Mr. Huntsman also has served on the boards of numerous major public corporations and philanthropic organizations, including the U.
S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Red Cross. The Business School at Utah State University is named after him, as is the basketball arena at the University of Utah. The Huntsman businesses fund the foundation that is the primary underwriter for the prestigious Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, xv Winners Never Cheat which he founded. The hospital/research facility has become a leader in the prevention, early diagnosis, genetic legacies, and humane treatment of cancer. He resides with his wife, Karen, in Salt Lake City. His oldest son, Jon Jr. , is governor of Utah. vi FOREWORD There is a good chance that you’ve never heard of Jon Huntsman. He shuns the spotlight, doesn’t like to talk about himself, and likes it even less when others talk about his good works. If you’ve ever used a plastic plate, bowl, dish, or Styrofoam takeout food container, you have Jon Huntsman to thank. His company was the first to develop these products, along with the first plastic egg carton, the original Big Mac container, and plastic fork and spoon. The small business he started with his brother in 1970 became the largest privately held chemical company in the world.
Jon Huntsman’s true legacy, however, isn’t the multi-billion dollar company he built or how he revolutionized how we live with what he created, but his unwavering honor, integrity, and generosity in every aspect of his professional and personal life. In an era of high-priced lawyers and accountants always looking for the latest legal loophole or tactical advantage, Jon Huntsman has done business on a handshake. Deals valued in the hundreds-ofmillions of dollars were negotiated and concluded, xvii Winners Never Cheat literally, with nothing more than both parties looking each other in the eye and shaking hands.
That is Jon Huntsman’s reputation and legacy. To many people, this will be nothing more than a quaint anecdote or a nostalgic reminder of how life used to be. They argue that Jon Huntsman is a man made for a different and simpler time. I would argue that we are a people out of place. Jon is currently living the life that all of us want to live, but somehow too many people have convinced themselves that business and relationships just aren’t conducted this way anymore. They couldn’t be more wrong! I first met Jon Huntsman on a visit to Utah when a mutual friend arranged for us to have lunch together.
I really didn’t know a lot about Jon Huntsman, but I knew he was a self-made man and a multi-billionaire. How could I turn down lunch with a multi-billionaire? When I was told we would be having lunch at a hospital cafeteria, I thought it wasn’t exactly the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but I soon came to realize that the cafeteria at the Huntsman Cancer Institute is not your typical cafeteria. xviii Foreword Some of the best prime rib I have ever eaten was during that lunch. How could hospital food taste so good? I learned that prior to the opening of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Jon Huntsman battled cancer.
During his hospitalization and course of treatment, Jon and other cancer patients would be hungry at 3 o’clock in the morning or 9 o’clock at night, but the kitchen was closed, and when it was open, the food was bland. So when Jon opened up his cancer center, he decided to have “five-star” dining for everybody. The patients can order whatever they want, whenever they want it, because Jon doesn’t want them or their families worrying about being hungry or eating bland food while fighting cancer. They have other things to focus on.
The Huntsman Cancer Institute is a marvelous and beautiful facility. As we walked through the buildings, I learned that its entire design is geared toward providing comfort, warmth, and compassion to the patients. The medical team and technology are unrivaled and unsurpassed. Halfway through our walk, Jon stopped and looked me in the eyes and said, “We’re going to cure cancer here and then I’m turning this into a Ritz Carlton. ” I laughed xix Winners Never Cheat and he replied, “I’m serious. We’re going to cure cancer here. ” I believe him. I met several grateful patients and their families.
Their feelings and praise for the Huntsman Cancer Institute were universal. One patient explained how his son had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was scheduled to fly from Philadelphia to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for an initial evaluation and treatment. They arrived at the Philadelphia Airport only to be told that all flights to Salt Lake City were cancelled due to a heavy snow storm. As this father relayed his story to me, he broke down in tears. He told me that every delay in obtaining treatment resulted in the spread of cancer in his son’s body.
He telephoned the Huntsman Cancer Institute and advised them of the delay and his ongoing attempts to reschedule the flight. The father was told to continue with those efforts and that the medical team would get back to him. After a few moments, a heartbroken father received a call from the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He was told that Mr. Huntsman was sending his private jet to Philadelphia to pick up both him and his son to fly them directly to Salt Lake xx Foreword City. If Jon Huntsman had his way, this story would not be unique—it would be a regular occurrence.
I could spend a day sharing with you all that I learned in that short afternoon with Jon Huntsman, but it would take me a year to share with you all the things that I would like to learn from him. The way Jon conducts his business and lives his life will not only inspire you to be a better person, citizen, and entrepreneur, it also will give you hope that the good guys don’t finish last. As you read this book, I know you will feel as I did when I first read it. I hope you’ll also feel compelled to share it with as many people as you can. I have never in my life purchased any book by the case, except for this one.
As I meet people who question if business can be done with honesty and integrity, I send them a copy of this book to remind them that the answer is “yes,” not only can it be done, it is being done. This isn’t a book limited to doing business. This isn’t a book about a company that introduced the world to plastic egg cartons, plastic plates, or plastic knives and forks—this is a book about the man behind it. This is a book about life, about principles, xxi Winners Never Cheat and how success is a by-product of living those principles. This is a book about how success and blessings will rush to you by doing good first.
Just ask Jon Huntsman if you’ll be able to give away the money and blessings of success quickly enough. In today’s world where too many people try to grab and hoard as many dollars as they can, where politicians do anything to cling to power, where we mistakenly believe that business can no longer be done with a look in the eye and a handshake, it is time that we remember the values of honesty, integrity, and generosity. Like George Washington was in his time, Jon Huntsman is our time’s “indispensable man. ” Look to Jon Huntsman, as he is still showing us the better way.
Glenn Beck Glenn Beck talk show, CNN’s Headline News xxii INTRODUCTION GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES Circumstances may change but your values shouldn’t When I wrote the original edition of this book in the fall of 2004, I had experienced four decades in the business world. My life had been enriched in every aspect. Like others before me, I discovered that ‘‘happiness is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it. ” I had witnessed it all: the greed, the cheating, the lying, and the selfishness. And the triumphs, the miracles, the rages-to-riches, and the flim-flam folks.
Or so I thought. It turned out I was wrong. There have been sequels galore on the downside (and a few on the up). As I write these lines in the fall of 2008, ethical corner-cutting has risen faster than the price of a gallon of gas. Even those tough, cold winters in rural 1 Winners Never Cheat Idaho were easier to swallow than some of today’s Wall Street trickery. T raditional values appear to be as in vogue as a subprime loan. The good times of 2004 to 2007—record markets, sizzling real estate, easy credit, relatively acceptable energy costs—conspired to make us morally flabby.
It is easy to take the high road when the route is leading to better times. Generosity isn’t difficult when money flows. Historically, positive economic scenarios are followed by painful downturns. The result presents new temptations to bend rules, to hoard material possessions, and to dismiss decency as being so last year. Born of anger, fear, stress, and frustration, the temptation to cut a corner is strong and persuasive. For the honest of heart—life’s real winners—times like this are just another passing test. When reaping an abundant harvest, most of us keep our senses—the common variety and in relation to fair play.
Yet, it is quite apparent, given the amount of irresponsibility, cheating, fraudulent behavior, and pure greed that has recently been exposed, that not everyone was playing by the rules. Indeed, the breadth and depth of abhorrent behavior from this minority were startling. From subprime 2 Good Times, Bad Times loan scams to speculation on the oil markets to crises in the insurance and financial sectors to falsifying the financial conditions of companies, ethical abuses, and the scope of government bailouts have been jaw-dropping. Unfortunately, doing it the “right way” seldom cushions economic blows.
Such letdowns can leave one confused and angry, but it is no time to panic, to lose track of our moral compass. On my mother’s tombstone in Fillmore, Utah, are etched Shakespeare’s immortal words: “Sweet are the uses of adversity. ” Surefire winners understand this adage. Crises must and can be resolved in moral ways. In so doing, keep in mind two things: 1. The situation hardly ever is as bad as it seems. It will pass. Better times are ahead. If nothing else, history tells us that. Americans inherently tend toward optimism. It is in our genes. The fact is, the past 20 years, overall, have been fairly good to us. . Prosperous times are no guarantee we will adhere to a morally righteous path. Most people strongly adhere to a fixed code of ethics whether the economy is up or down, but some feel a sense of need for even more financial gain, regardless of the consequences. 3 Winners Never Cheat The subprime mortgage and energy price debacles were conceived in a bed of raw greed, from a dream of getting something for nothing. They were born with illusions of easy, riskless, endless money. The erosion of moral values is the natural progression of this mindset. Such obsessions require the redrawing of ethical boundaries.
This sort of greed destroys the financial and emotional underpinnings of others. For some, the idea of finding a morally acceptable alternative is placed on “call waiting” until the nefarious goal is reached. When ethical boundaries are redrawn or removed, the addiction to wealth becomes allconsuming. When expediency trumps propriety, it results in an escalating toboggan ride down a mountainside, a descent impossible to stop until the sled crashes from excessive speed and lack of direction. The late ‘90s dot-com burst was evidence enough. Perhaps the hedge funds of today will be the next exhibit. This scenario results from a flawed rationale.
The “objective” or “goal” is an illusion because it is based on an ethically bankrupt premise from which nothing positive can be achieved. The goal can never be reached. There will never be “enough” money; there 4 Good Times, Bad Times will never be “enough” power. Thus, the “success” some envision will never be attained. A crash nearly always follows a dizzying display of “success” that is not solidly based in economic and ethical fundamentals. You can be sure the Piper will demand payment. If everything were fair in life, perpetrators of economic meltdowns would be the only ones who suffered for their impropriety.
But life isn’t fair, and the fallout too often envelops good people who played by the rules, who trusted institutions, who are left to survive the rocky times brought on by others. The innocent are made to suffer for the sins of the reckless, the greedy, the cheats, the fast-buckers, the indecent, and the liars. With tough times comes another kind of temptation: the perceived necessity to cut corners, to cling to what you have, to rationalize that traditional values can be jettisoned if the ship is sinking. During this period, one can easily fall into the trap described by William Wrigley, Jr. : “A man’s doubts and fears are his worst enemy. The confusion, frustration, stress, and fears that come with financial dilemmas can make even the most ethical of individuals vulnerable to bad choices. Nevertheless, reminding ourselves of the moral path and disciplining ourselves to follow it can sustain us 5 Winners Never Cheat in such trying moments. If there is a silver lining to bad times, it is this: When facing severe challenges, your mind normally is at its sharpest. Humans seldom have created anything of lasting value unless they were tired or hurting. ? A discussion involving ethics can be easily misunderstood by some minds. In reality, it is quite simple.
The adherence to an ethical code is best defined as how one honors a bad situation or a bad deal. Heaven knows it is easy enough to honor a good deal, or to take advantage of an event or circumstance that is rewarding and beneficial to all sides. My company, Huntsman Corp. , has completed a court trial in Delaware, as I write this. The entire case centered around the other party trying to break a contract with us. Economic conditions changed somewhat between entering the contract a year ago and when it was to be executed, and the other company’s prospects of going forward are far bleaker than when they signed the deal.
One of the lawyers for the company that signed the “iron-clad” contract with us but tried to back out made an interesting statement to the judge. “This is a very tight contract,” she told the judge. 6 Good Times, Bad Times “Therefore, we must look for any loopholes possible to try and extricate my client from honoring the contract. ” The judge didn’t buy it and required the company to keep its word. Unfortunately, this sort of behavior happens on too many occasions. With crafty lawyers, it sometimes works.
Most of the time, however, iron-clad contracts simply are what they were intended to be from the start: maintaining a binding agreement between two parties. And how one honors situations when things turn sour or when a deal ends up being more costly than originally thought is how one defines his or her personal values. In survey after survey, Americans of all stripes— Republicans, Democrats, Baptists, Jews, Unitarians, liberals, conservatives, the rich, and the poor—indicate they are worried about values. I certainly am. Some shout their angst for all to hear; others express their concerns quietly.
Civilization has basic standards for proper and right-thinking action. That was the theme of Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten) when it was first published, and it remains so with this updated version. 7 Winners Never Cheat I don’t have to paint detailed landscapes. Each reader is able to point to his or her own painful experiences starting in 2007. The scenario is neither mysterious nor coincidental: Unbridled greed often prompted unethical, reckless behavior that temporarily turned on the money spigot and fueled the hysteria for many.
The shock, anger, and heartbreak took place in Act II. ? The twin tragedy is that generosity becomes expendable in times of contraction. The basic urge to share, instilled in us from youth, is dulled by the selfcentered instinct to survive. Is anyone surprised that charitable donations decreased in the second half of 2007 and have tanked in 2008? Are we surprised that civility and decency have taken back seats when we are in survival mode? Yet, tolerance and charity also are pillars of ethical behavior. In good times and in bad, our values insist we act graciously and generously. Most of us care about one another.
Human beings have considerably more in common with one another than they do differences. One’s religion, political persuasion, family, financial and social status, or vocation does not hamper the common thread of personal decency running through most of 8 Good Times, Bad Times humankind. In spite of America’s fervent embrace of self-reliance, the vast majority of us believe in taking care of one another. Albert Schweitzer said it well: “You don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here, too. ” An ethical code of conduct is a nondenominational religion to which all but hardcore sociopaths can subscribe.
Ethical responsibility is the gold standard for determining civilized, decent courses of action. Without established and commonly accept values, the earth turns into a global food fight. It is important for societies to settle on a set of values common to most and generally applicable to most every instance. There cannot be separate sets of ethics for home, for work, for church, and for play. Ethics belong in the home and the boardroom. And although it may seem that playing fields have changed because of unusual pressures or that rules have become malleable to accommodate unexpected situations, core values remain as solid as concrete. Because of recent events, I saw a need to write an updated version of this book—not that what I said the first time is no longer in play. On the contrary—it remains as relevant today as it did when I 9 Winners Never Cheat originally wrote it, as unchanged as when I first learned ethical principles six decades ago. It will hold true 60 decades from now, as well. This version of Winners Never Cheat is presented as a warning that in the darkest of times, temptation will be most alluring. These are times for a mid-course ep talk, a reminder to stay the course, to run the good race, to fight the good fight, to follow the rules we learned long ago. They will see us through hardships and help us make ourselves and the world better off. Periodic reviews of one’s ethical stances are healthy. Times change, situations change, lives change, technology changes. Situations may be altered; basic values must not. The simplest rules of good behavior injected into us as children, like vaccines, become the prompts for ethical behavior as adults. Tough times must not be allowed to vanquish us.
Growing up poor in rural Idaho, I was taught to play by the rules. Be tough, be competitive, give the game all you have—but do it fairly. They were simple values that formed a basis for how families, neighborhoods, and communities behaved. My two brothers and I had something in common with the kids on the upscale side of the tracks: a value system learned in homes, sandboxes, playgrounds, classrooms, Sunday schools, and athletic fields. Those values did not lose their legitimacy when I became a player in the business world. Yet they are missing in segments of today’s marketplace.
Wall Street overdoses on greed. Corporate lawyers make fortunes by manipulating contracts and finding ways 13 Winners Never Cheat out of signed deals. Many CEOs enjoy princely lifestyles even as stakeholders lose their jobs, pensions, benefits, investments, and trust in the American way. Cooked ledgers, irresponsibility, look-the-otherway auditors, kickbacks, and flimflams of every sort have burrowed into today’s corporate climate. Many outside corporate directors bask in perks and fees, concerned only in keeping Wall Street happy and their fees intact.
Less-than-honest In the past 20 years, investor greed has become financial reports obsessive and a force with are tempting which CEOs must deal. when the market Public companies are pushed for higher and high- penalizes flat er quarterly performances performances and lest shareholders rebel. candid accounting. Less-than-honest financial reports are tempting when the market penalizes flat performances and candid accounting. Wall Street consistently signals that it is comfortable with the lucrative lie. Although I focus much of my advice on business-oriented activities, the world I know best, these 14 Lessons from the Sandbox rinciples are equally applicable to professionals of all stripes and at all levels, not to mention parents, students, and people of goodwill everywhere. In the 2004 U. S. presidential election, morality issues influenced more votes than any other factor, but a Zogby International poll revealed that the single biggest moral issue in voters’ minds was not abortion or same-sex marriage. Greed and materialism far and away was cited as the most urgent moral problem facing America today. (A close second was poverty/economic justice. ) In nearly a half century of engaging in some sort of business enterprise, I have seen it all.
I continue to ask myself, perhaps naively so, why lying, cheating, misrepresentation, and weaseling on deals have ingrained themselves so deeply in society? Could it be that material success is now viewed to be more virtuous than how one obtains that success? One might even be tempted to believe that the near-sacred American Dream is unobtainable without resorting to moral mischief and malfeasance. To that I say, “Nonsense. ” Cutting ethical corners is the antithesis of the American Dream. Each dreamer is provided with an opportunity to participate on a playing field made level by honor, hard work, and integrity. 5 Winners Never Cheat In spite of its selectivity and flaws, the American Dream remains a uniquely powerful and defining force. The allure stands strong and self-renewing, but never as feverish as in pursuit of material gain. Achieving your dream requires sweat, courage, commitment, talent, integrity, vision, faith, and a few breaks. The ability to start a business from scratch, the opportunity to lead that company to greatness, the entrepreneurial freedom to bet the farm on a roll of the marketplace dice, the chance to rise from clerk to CEO are the feedstock of America’s economic greatness.
The dot-com boom of the 1990s, although ultimately falling victim to hyperventilation, is proof that classrooms, garages, and basement workshops, crammed with doodlings and In many ways, it daydreams, are the petri dishhas never been es of the entrepreneurial dream. In many ways, it has easier to make never been easier to make money—or to money—or to ignore tradiignore traditional tional moral values in doing so. Throughout this nation’s moral values in history, a spontaneous and doing so. unfettered marketplace has 16 Lessons from the Sandbox roduced thundering examples of virtue and vice— not surprising in that very human heroes and villains populate the business landscape. Yet, a new void in values has produced a level of deception, betrayal, and indecency so brazen as to be breathtaking. Many of today’s executives and employees—I would like to think the majority—are not engaged in improper behavior. Most of the people I have dealt with in four decades of globetrotting are men and women of integrity and decency, dedicated individuals who look askance at the shady conduct of the minority.
I have known enough The rationale that business executives, though, everyone fudges, who, through greed, arro- or that you have gance, an unhealthy devotion to Wall Street, or a perverted to cheat to stay interpretation of capitalism, competitive, is a have chosen the dark side. powerful lure, to Their numbers seem to be be sure. The path growing. The rationale that every- to perdition is one fudges, or that you have enticing, slippery, to cheat to stay competitive, is and all downhill. a powerful lure, to be sure. 17 Winners Never Cheat The path to perdition is enticing, slippery, and all downhill.
Moral bankruptcy is the inevitable conclusion. What’s needed is a booster shot of commonly held moral principles from the playgrounds of our youth. We all know the drills: Be fair, don’t cheat, play hard but decently, share and share alike, tell the truth, keep your word. Although these childhood prescriptions may appear to have been forgotten or lost in the fog of competition, I believe it is more a matter of values being expediently ignored. Whatever the case, it’s time to get into ethical shape with a full-scale behavioral workout program. Financial ends never justify unethical means.
Success comes to those who possess skill, courage, integrity, decency, commitment, and generosity. Men and women who Nice guys really maintain their universally can and do finish shared values tend to achieve their goals, know first in life. happiness in home and work, and find greater purpose in their lives than simply accumulating wealth. Nice guys really can— and do—finish first in life. ? 18 Lessons from the Sandbox I worked as White House staff secretary and a special assistant to the president during the first term of the Nixon administration. I was the funnel through which passed documents going to and from the president’s desk.
I also was part of H. R. Haldeman’s “super staff. ” As a member of that team, Haldeman expected me to be unquestioning. It annoyed him that I was not. He proffered blind loyalty to Nixon and demanded the same from his staff. I saw how power was abused, and I didn’t buy in. One never has to. I was asked by Haldeman on one occasion to do something “to help” the president. We were there to serve the president, after all. It seems a certain selfrighteous congresswoman was questioning one of Nixon’s nominations to head an agency. There were reports that the nominee had employed undocumented workers in her California business.
Haldeman asked me to check out a factory previously owned by this congressman to see whether the report was true. The facility happened to be located close to my own manufacturing plant in Fullerton, California. Haldeman wanted me to place some of our Latino employees on an undercover operation at the plant in question. If there had 19 Winners Never Cheat been employment of undocumented immigrants, the information would be used, of course, to embarrass the political adversary. An amoral atmosphere had penetrated the White House. Meetings with Haldeman were little more than desperate attempts by underlings to be noticed.
We were all under the gun to produce solutions. Too many were willing to do just about anything for Haldeman’s nod of approval. That was the pressure that had me picking up the phone to call my plant manager. There are times when we react too quickly to catch the rightness and wrongness of something immediately. We don’t think it through. This was one of those times. It took about 15 minutes for my inner moral compass to make itself noticed and to swing me to the point that I recognized this wasn’t the right thing to do. Values that had accompanied me since childhood kicked in. Halfway through my conversation, I paused. Wait a minute, Jim,” I said deliberately to the general manager of Huntsman Container, “Let’s not do this. I don’t want to play this game. Forget I called. ” I instinctively knew it was wrong, but it took a few minutes for the notion to percolate. I informed 20 Lessons from the Sandbox Haldeman that I would not have my employees spy or do anything like it. To the second most powerful man in America, I was saying no. He didn’t appreciate responses like that. He viewed them as signs of disloyalty. I might as well have been saying farewell. So be it, and I did leave within six months of that incident.
My streaks of independence, it turned out, were an exercise in good judgment. I was about the only West Wing staff member not eventually hauled before the congressional Watergate committee or a grand jury. ? Gray is not a substitute for black and white. You don’t bump into people without saying you’re sorry. When you shake hands, it’s supposed to mean something. If someone is in trouble, you reach out. Values aren’t to be conveniently molded to fit particular situations. They are indelibly etched in our very beings as natural impulses that never go stale or find themselves out of style.
Some will scoff that this view is an oversimplification in a complex, competitive world. It indeed is simple, but that’s the point! It’s little more than what we learned as kids, what we accepted as correct behavior before today’s pressures tempted us to jettison those 21 Winners Never Cheat values in favor of getting ahead or enhancing personal or corporate financial bottom lines. Although the values of our youth, at least to some degree, usually are faith-based, they also are encompassed in natural law. Nearly everyone on the planet, for instance, shares the concept of basic human goodness.
Human beings inherently prize honesty over deceit, even in the remotest corners of the globe. In the extreme northeast of India, for example, there lies the semi-primitive state of Arunachal Pradesh. Few of us even know it exists. Indeed, this area is nearly forgotten by New Delhi. More than 100 tribes have their own cultures, languages, and animistic religions. Yet, they share several characteristics, including making honesty an absolute value. How ironic, not to mention shameful, that the most educated and industrialized nations seem to have the most troublesome time with universal values of integrity, while semi-primitive groups do not.
Michael Josephson, who heads the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Marina del Rey, California, says one only has to view popular shows such as The Apprentice and Survivor to get the notion that life’s winners are those who deceive others without 22 Lessons from the Sandbox getting caught. Nobody seems offended by that. It’s not so much that temptations are any greater today, Josephson notes, it’s that our defenses have weakened. Be that as it may, I maintain that each of us knows when basic moral rules are bent or broken.
We even are aware when we are approaching an ethical boundary. Whatever the expedient rationale or instant gratification that “justified” stepping over that line, we don’t feel quite right about it because we were taught better. It is this traditional set of behavioral values that will lead us not into temptation but to long-term Forget about who success. Forget about finishes first and who finishes first and who finishes last. Decent, hon- who finishes last. orable people finish Decent, honorable races—and their lives—in people finish grand style and with races—and their respect.
Whether a person is brought up as Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Unitarian, New Age, a free thinker, or an atheist, he or she is taught from toddler on that you shouldn’t lie, steal, cheat, or be deliberately rude, and that there are consequences for doing so. There is no such thing as a moral agnostic. An amoral person is a moral person who temporarily— and often quite creatively—disconnects from his or her values. Each of us possesses a moral GPS, a compass or conscience, if you will, programmed by parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, grandparents, 27 Winners Never Cheat ncles and aunts, scoutmasters, friends, and peers. It came with the package, and it continues to differentiate between proper and improper courses until the day we expire. When I was 10 years old, there resided several blocks from our home Edwards Market, one of those old houses with the grocery store in the front and the proprietors’ residence in the back. It was only 200 or 300 square feet in size, but at my age the place looked like a supermarket. At the time, I was making about 50 cents a day selling and delivering the local newspaper. I entered the store while on my route one day, and no one seemed to be around.
Ice cream sandwiches had just come on the market. It was hot, and I wanted to try one. I reached inside the small freezer and grabbed an ice cream bar. I slipped the wrapped sandwich into my pocket. Moments later, Mrs. Edwards appeared, asking if she could help me. There is no such thing as a moral agnostic. An amoral person is a moral person who temporarily and creatively disconnects his actions from his values. 28 Check Your Moral Compass “No, thanks,” I answered politely and headed for the door. Just before it slammed shut, I heard her say, “Jon, are you going to pay for that ice cream sandwich? Embarrassed, I turned around and sheepishly walked back to the freezer where my slightly shaking hand returned the ice cream sandwich to its rightful place. Mrs. Edwards never said another word. It was a necessary lesson for a young, adventuresome boy, one that I have not forgotten 60 years later. It wasn’t at the moment of being exposed that I suddenly realized I had done something wrong. I knew it the second I slipped my hand into the freezer, just as I would know today if I pulled a similar, but more sophisticated, stunt in a business transaction. Each of us is taught it is wrong to take that which doesn’t belong to us.
Certain types of behavior encourage a disconnect with our inner compass or conscience: Rationalizing dims caution lights, arrogance blurs boundaries, desperation overrides good sense. Whatever the blinders may be, the right-wrong indicator light continues to flash all the same. We might not ask, but the compass tells. 29 Winners Never Cheat Whatever the blinders may be, the right-wrong indicator light continues to flash all the same. We might not ask, but the compass tells. Some point out that today’s society tolerates too much questionable activity, making it difficult for the younger generation to get a consistent fix on right and wrong.
Little wonder, goes this line of thought, that when the newest batch of apprentices bolt from their classrooms, their values are open to negotiation. I am aware of polls showing that the older generation views the younger generations as less grounded in ethics, but I am not totally buying that line of thought. Society certainly is more permissive than when I was a child, but does anyone today truly condone stealing? Some modern teens may dismiss it, but does any student not consider cheating intrinsically wrong, no matter how many of their friends do it?
Does society accept cooking corporate books, embezzlement, fraud, or outlandish perks for corporate executives? The answers, of course, are no. 30 Check Your Moral Compass Basic misbehavior is considered as wrong today as it was 100 years ago, although I grant that today’s atmosphere produces more creative and sophisticated rationalizations for such mischief. This is why heeding the advice of George Washington, a man renowned for his integrity, is worthwhile: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience. ” Humans are the only earthly species that experience guilt.
We never see our pet dogs, cats, or canaries acting chagrined for eating too much food or forgetting their manners. (And heaven knows some of them abuse the system. ) Humans are unique for their ability to recognize righteous paths from indecent ones. And when we choose the wrong route, we squirm—at least inwardly. The needle of individual compasses points true. Conceptually, ethical routes are self-evident to reasonable persons. ? We are not always required by law to do what is right and proper. Decency and generosity, for instance, carry no legal mandate. Pure ethics are optional. 31
Winners Never Cheat We are not always required by law to do what is right and proper. Decency and generosity, for instance, carry no legal mandate. Pure ethics are optional. Laws define courses to which we must legally adhere or avoid. Ethics are standards of conduct that we ought to follow. There is some overlap of the two, but virtuous behavior usually is left to individual discretion. All the professional training in the world does not guarantee moral leadership. Unlike laws, virtue cannot be politically mandated, let alone enforced by bureaucrats, but that doesn’t stop them from trying.
Congress considered the corporate world today so challenged when it comes to ethics that it enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in an attempt to regain credibility for the marketplace. Ultimately, though, respect, civility, and integrity will return only upon the individual-by-individual return of values. Ethical behavior is to business competition what sportsmanship is to athletic contests. We were taught to play by the rules, to be fair, and to show sportsmanship. The rulebook didn’t always state 32 Check Your Moral Compass specifically that shortcuts were prohibited.
It went without saying that every competitor ran around the oval track and didn’t cut across the infield. My grandsons have a special club called The Great, Great Guys Club (The G3 Club). Members have to be at least six years old to attend meetings. It is not permissible to fall asleep, wet your pants, or crawl under the table, among other prohibitions. They set their own rules. Amazingly, the club is quite orderly. Because parents aren’t present, it is interesting to observe the standards they establish by themselves. Here are a couple of examples (with Grandpa’s literary padding): ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
Do what you’re supposed to when you are told to do it. Kindness and honesty determine heart and character. Never tell lies. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Kids usually know proper behavior, even if they don’t always show it. Their moral compasses, although still developing, are in working order. They are too young to know they can trade in their conscience 33 Winners Never Cheat for a higher credit rating at Moody’s. They instinctively know a conscience at ease is a best friend. They have never heard of Sophocles, but they understand his message: “There is no witness so terrible or no accuser so powerful as the conscience. Ever notice how little guile youngsters exhibit? How honest they are with observations? How well they play with others? How smoothly they compete when adults aren’t present? Sure, there always were—and still are—periodic squabbles, teasing, and selfishness, but kids generally work it out without a 300-page rulebook or a court of law. Sandlot games are played without referees or umpires, clocks, or defined boundary lines. Vague though those lines may be, sides come to an agreement when someone stepped out-of-bounds. When kids occasionally are thoughtless, it is more a case of spontaneous reaction rather than calculated meanness.
As a rule, playground protocol requires we offer a hand up to flattened opponents, share toys, call out liars and cheaters, play games fairly, and utter expressions of gratitude and praise—please, thanks, nice shot, cool—without prompt. To paraphrase Socrates, clear consciences prompt harmony. 34 Check Your Moral Compass At times, certain students in my tenth-grade biology class would write answers to a forthcoming quiz on the palms of their hands or cuffs of their shirts. Not many tried this because everyone knew cheating was wrong.
In addition to the fear of being caught, most students also longed for respect as much as good grades. Once someone saw you cheating, you were never elected to student offices or respected on the sports field. Maybe that was simply part of the innocence of the 1950s, but 21st century students still know cheating is wrong, even though they may show more indifference toward this transgression than past generations. People often offer as an excuse for lying, cheating, and fraud that they were pressured into it by high expectations or that “everyone does it. ” Some will claim that it is the only way they can keep up.
Those excuses sound better than the real reasons they choose the improper course: arrogance, power trips, greed, and lack of backbone, all of which are equal-opportunity afflictions. One’s economic status, sphere of influence, religious upbringing, or political persuasions never seem to be factors in determining whom these viruses will next ensnare. 35 Winners Never Cheat There is contained in every rationale and every excuse, bogus as each ultimately ends up being, an awareness of impropriety. Succeeding or getting to the top at all costs by definition is an immoral goal.
The ingredients for long-term success—courage, vision, follow-through, risk, opportunity, sweat, sacrifice, skill, discipline, honesty, graciousness, generosity—never vary. And we all know this. However, in the winner-take-all atmosphere of today’s marketplace, shortcuts to success, at least initially, are alluring, and Succeeding or lying often can be lucrative. getting to the top That said, scammers, cheaters, performanceat all costs by enhancing drug users, shelldefinition is an and-pea artists, and the like immoral goal. historically have never prevailed for long.
And when their fall does come, it is fast, painful, embarrassing, and lasting. Whether exaggerating resumes or revenues, plagiarizing or profiteering, philandering or fibbing, people nearly always attempt to justify their unethical conduct when the transgression is discovered. 36 Check Your Moral Compass Enron officials rationalized from the beginning, and the same with Tyco brass, but the improper path is never a requisite for success. Values provide us with ethical water wings whose deployment is as critical in today’s wavetossed corporate boardrooms as they were in yesterday’s classrooms. 37 This page intentionally left blank
Compete fiercely and fairly— but no cutting in line. Which rules we honor and which we ignore determine personal character, and it is character that determines how closely we will allow our value system to affect our lives. Early on, infused with moral purpose by those who influenced us, we learned what counted and what did not. The Golden Rule, proper table manners, respecting others, good sportsmanship, telling the truth, not to mention those often-verbalized codes of schools, clubs, and churches—no cutting in line, eat everything on your plate, respect, helping those in need, and sharing—became the foundation of our character. 1 Winners Never Cheat Character is most determined by integrity and courage. Your reputation is how others perceive you. Character is how you act when no one is watching. These traits, or lack thereof, are the foundation of life’s moral decisions. Once dishonesty is introduced, distrust becomes the hallmark of future dealings or associations. The eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher Francis Hutcheson had this figured out: “Without staunch adherence to truthtelling, all confidence in The negotiations, communication would be however, must be lost. Businesspeople do not fair and honest. place their integrity in jeopThat way, you ardy by driving hard barnever have to gains, negotiating intensely, or fiercely seeking every remember what legitimate advantage. The you said the negotiations, however, previous day. must be fair and honest. That way, you never have to remember what you said the previous day. I bargain simply as a matter of principle, whether it is a $1 purchase or a $1 billion acquisition. 42 Play by the Rules Negotiating excites me, but gaining an edge must never come at the expense of misrepresentation or bribery.
In addition to being morally wrong, this version of cheating takes the fun out of cutting a deal. Bribes and scams may produce temporary advantages, but the practice carries an enormous price tag. It cheapens the way business is done, temporarily enriches a few corrupt individuals, and makes a mockery of the rules of play. In the 1980s, Huntsman Chemical opened a plant in Thailand. Mitsubishi was a partner in this joint venture, which we called HMT With about . $30 million invested, HMT announced the construction of a second site. I had a working relationship with the country’s minister of finance, who never missed an pportunity to suggest it could be closer. I went to his home for dinner one evening where he showed me 19 new Cadillacs parked in his garage, which he described as “gifts” from foreign companies. I explained the Huntsman company didn’t engage in that sort of thing, a fact he smilingly acknowledged. Several months later, I received a call from the Mitsubishi executive in Tokyo responsible for 43 Winners Never Cheat Thailand operations. He stated HMT had to pay various government officials kickbacks annually to do business and that our share of this joint obligation was $250,000 for that year.
I said we had no intention of paying even five cents toward what was nothing more than extortion. He told me every company in Thailand paid these “fees” in order to be guaranteed access to the industrial sites. As it turned out and without our knowledge, Mitsubishi had been paying our share up to this point as the cost of doing business, but had decided it was time Huntsman Chemical carried its own baggage. The next day, I informed Mitsubishi we were selling our interest. After failing to talk me out of it, Mitsubishi paid us a discounted price for our interest in HMT We lost about $3 million short term. Long haul, it was a blessing in disguise. When the Asian economic crisis came several years down the road, the entire industry went under. In America and Western Europe, we proclaim high standards when it comes to things such as paying bribes, but we don’t always practice what we preach. Ethical decisions can be cumbersome and 44 Play by the Rules unprofitable in the near term, but after our refusal to pay “fees” in Thailand became known, we never had a problem over bribes again in that part of the world. The word got out: Huntsman just says no. And so do many other companies.
Once you compromise your values by agreeing to bribes or payoffs, it is difficult ever to reestablish your reputation or credibility. Therefore, carefully choose your partners, be they individuals, companies, or nations. I have a reputation as a tough but straightforward negotiator. I deal hard and intensely—but always from the top of the deck. Because it is perceived that I usually end up on the better side of the bargain, I actually had one CEO refuse to negotiate a merger with me. He was afraid he would be perceived in the industry as having “lost his pants” or that he sold at the wrong time for the wrong price.
That said, I have never had anyone refuse to deal with me for lack of trust. Competition is an integral part of the entrepreneurial spirit and the free market. Cheating and lying are not. If the immoral nature of cheating and lying 45 Winners Never Cheat doesn’t particularly bother you, consider this: They eventually lead to failure. Remember the old chant: “Winners never cheat; cheaters never win”? And, as kids, we would chide those whom we perceived to be not telling the truth with: Liar, liar, pants on fire. Those childish taunts actually hold true today. Moral shortcuts always have a way of catching up.
In the Shinto religion, there is this teaching: “If you plot and connive to deceive people, you may fool them for a while and profit thereby, but you will without fail be visited by divine punishment. ” I hasten to add that temporal judgment also awaits. There is always a payback for indecent behavior. Consider this parable: On a late-night flight over the ocean, the pilot announces good news and bad news. “The bad news is we have lost radio contact, our radar doesn’t work, and clouds are blocking our view of the stars. The good news is there is a strong tailwind and we are making excellent time. ? There are many professions in which one can find examples of hollow values, but nowhere is it more evident than on Wall Street, where the ruling ethos seems to be the more you deceive the other 46 Play by the Rules guy, the more money you make. It was none other than Abraham Lincoln who reminded us: “There is no more difficult place to find an honest man than on Wall Street in New York City. ” I have spent four There are many decades negotiating deals on Wall Street and have professions in found few completely which one can honest individuals.
Those find examples of who are trustworthy and honorable are rare—but hollow values, but wonderful professionals. nowhere is it more Some of my closest evident than on friends are found in this small cadre, be they in Wall Street…. New York City or Salt Lake City. Those who choose to mislead others are not always engaging in the type of corruption that sends people to prison. It is more a matter of intellectual dishonesty and lack of personal ethics. Compensation has replaced ethics as a governing principle. Wall Street has but two objectives: How much money can I make?
And how fast can I make it? The markets and traditional values don’t always mix well. 47 Winners Never Cheat Wall Street thinks there is nothing wrong with this sort of behavior because everyone does it, but the lack of a sense of integrity also produces a lack of respect. WorldCom, Tyco, Enron, and other giant companies had leaders who failed to play fair. Because they cheated, they lost. Accumulation of power and wealth became a driving force to these executives. They forgot the golden rule of integrity: Trust is a greater compliment than affection. With integrity comes respect.
Real winners never sneak to finish lines by clandestine or compromised routes. They do it the oldfashioned way—with talent, hard work, trust, fairness, and honesty. It’s okay to negotiate tough business deals, but conduct It’s okay to your business with both hands on the table and negotiate tough sleeves rolled up. business deals, Make it a point to but do it with never misrepresent or to both hands on the take unfair advantage of table and sleeves someone. That way, you can count on second and rolled up. third deals with companies 48 Play by the Rules after successfully completing the first one.
Have as a goal both sides feeling they achieved their respective objectives. In 1999, I was in fierce negotiations with Charles Miller Smith, then president and CEO of Imperial Chemical Industries of Great Britain, one of that nation’s largest companies. We wanted to acquire some of ICI’s chemical divisions. It would be the largest deal of my life, a merger that would double the size of Huntsman Corp. It was a complicated transaction with intense pressure on each side. Charles needed to get a good price to reduce some ICI debt; I had a limited amount of capital for the acquisition.
During the extended negotiations, Charles’ wife was suffering from terminal cancer. Toward the end of our negotiations, he became emotionally distracted. When his wife passed away, he was distraught, as one can imagine. We still had not completed our negotiations. I decided the fine points of the last 20 percent of the deal would stand as they were proposed. I probably could have clawed another $200 million out of the deal, but it would have come at the expense of 49 Winners Never Cheat Charles’ emotional state. The agreement as it stood was good enough. Each side came out a winner, and I made a lifelong friend. Every family, home, and school classroom has its standards. There is little confusion over boundary lines. Even when one professes not to understand the rules when caught breaking them is an acknowledgment that a transgression has occurred. But what happens when some of these children turn into adults? Why are these home and classroom rules at times ignored? Why is improper behavior rationalized, even justified, when inside we know better? Some sinister force must take over in the late teens in which finding ways to circumvent traditional standards becomes acceptable.
As a teenager, my father would order me to be home by 8 o’clock. He didn’t say “a. m. ” or “p. m. ” I knew he meant 8 that night. There was no fine print detailing what was meant when he said he did not want “me” driving the family Ford. Although technically, he only said I shouldn’t drive that 1936 Ford coupe, he also was including my friends. (A lawyer might have counseled that, technically, only I was prohibited. Unless my dad specifically stipulated my buddy 50 Play by the Rules or class of people in that prohibition, anyone but me was legally allowed to rive. But I knew better. ) As we grow older, our rationale for cutting corners would make a master storyteller green with envy. We blame situations or others. The dog ate the homework that we ignored. We rationalize that immoral behavior is accepted practice. Shifting responsibility away from ourselves has become an art form. In fact, we employ the same feeble excuses we did as children when we were caught doing something improper, something we knew we shouldn’t be doing. Adults somehow have convinced ourselves we are more convincing. We aren’t.
The “everyone does it” line didn’t work as a teenager, and it won’t work now. It’s a total copout and easily trumped. Everybody is not doing it. Even if they were, it still is wrong—and we know it’s wrong. Then there’s that old, sheepish excuse: “The devil made me do it. ” The devil never makes you do anything. Be honest. Improper actions often appear to be easier routes, or require no courage, or are temporarily advantageous. If only Richard Nixon had admitted mistakes up front and taken responsibility for the improper 51 Winners Never Cheat The devil never makes you do anything. Be honest.
Improper actions often appear to be easier routes, or require no courage, or are temporarily advantageous. conduct of his subordinates, something deep down he knew to be wrong, the American public would have forgiven him. With a sense of contrition, he could have created a presidential benchmark. ? Children observe their elders so they know how to act. Employees watch supervisors. Citizens eye political leaders. If these leaders and role models set bad examples, those following frequently follow suit. It’s that simple. There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business—or in the game of life.
Risk, responsibility, reliability— the three Rs of leadership. have always loved the biblical passage, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. ” It describes leadership responsibility clearly and concisely, the precise spot where the buck stops. The lesson is clear: Careful cultivation pays off. Parents and employers who nurture, praise, and when necessary, discipline fairly, experience happier and more successful lives for themselves and those in their charge. Nothing new, you say? I agree, but we need periodic reminders of this point to help overcome unforeseen or uncontrollable obstacles that cloud consciences and end results. 5 I Winners Never Cheat In the marketplace, we may do everything in our power to reap plentiful profits, but because of good-faith miscalculations, malevolence, negative markets, or acts of nature, a successful yield escapes us. My youthful years spent working on a potato farm taught me how an early frost or heavy rains can adversely affect the harvest no matter how carefully we tended the crop. Fumbling by our own hand or someone else’s also can ruin things. In spite of inspired vision, the purest of intentions, exemplary dedication, the greatest skills, and the most ethical of conduct, material success is never guaranteed.
What is important is that the person in charge takes responsibility for the outcome, be it good, bad, or ugly. Surround yourself with the best people available and then accept responsibility. As an officer aboard the U. S. S. Calvert in the South China Sea in 1960, I learned this lesson firsthand. My commanding officer, Captain Richard Collum, was a World War II veteran whom I greatly admired. On one occasion, we were to rendezvous the ships of our squadron with naval ships from seven other nations. The Calvert was carrying 56 Setting the Example the admiral or, in naval parlance, the Flag.
Every ship followed the lead of the flagship. It was 4 a. m. and I was the officer of the deck. As a 23-year-old lieutenant (j. g. ), I had much to learn in life, yet I alone had been given the great responsibility of directing the formation of the ships during those early morning hours. At 4:35 a. m. , I ordered the helmsman: “Come right to course 335. ” The helmsman shouted back confirmation, as is traditional in the navy: “Coming right to course 355. ” I thought all was well, but I had not clearly heard his erroneous response. He thought I had ordered “355” degrees, rather than “335. As we made the incorrect turn, the remaining ships followed. We were off course by 20 degrees. Some of the ships realized the error and returned to the proper course. Others did not. The formation was in dangerous disarray. Avoiding collisions caused a massive entanglement—and it was my fault. Fortunately, no damage was done, except to my self-confidence. I felt a sense of ruination and failure. How could one issue an order to the helmsman, have it reported back in error, and not catch 57 Winners Never Cheat the discrepancy? After all, repeating the order is the flashing red light for alerting one to such misunderstandings.
Learning of the debacle, Captain Collum came running to the bridge in his bathrobe and immediately took over, relieving an embarrassed young lieutenant. I was devastated. The 42 ships in our squadron took several hours to realign. Later, when the seas were calm and order had been restored, the captain called me to his cabin. “Lt. Huntsman,” he said, “you learned a valuable lesson today. ” “No, sir,” I responded, “I felt a great sense of embarrassment and I let down you and my shipmates. ” “To the contrary, lieutenant, now you never again will permit such an act to occur. You will stay on top of every order you ever give.
This will be a life-long learning experience for you. I am the captain of the ship. Everything that happens is my responsibility. You may not have caught the helmsman’s mistake, but I am responsible for it. The Navy would hold a court martial for me if any of the ships had collided during that exercise. ” 58 Setting the Example I learned then and there what it means to be a leader. Even though the commanding officer was asleep, my actions were his actions. I also learned another lesson: By reassuring a young lieutenant that he still had the captain’s confidence, he extended hope for the future.
I would repeat that scenario (the captain’s, not the lieutenant’s) many times as head of Huntsman Corp. Reprove faults in a way that keeps intact selfconfidence and commitment to do better. As a CEO, I accepted responsibility for our plants, even though some of them were a half a world away. CEOs are charged by their directors to guarantee the good conduct and safety of employees and the company. ? The marketplace has many leaders—certainly in title. Leadership in the true sense of the word, I’m afraid, is not so abundant. The top executives of some leading businesses haven’t the slightest idea of the breadth of stakeholder expectations.
That’s the result of “leaders” simply being appointed to the position or who find themselves at the top of a corporate chart, next in line for the top job. Real leadership demands character. 59 Winners Never Cheat Leadership is found in all walks of society: business, political, parental, organized sports, military, religious, media, intellectual, entertainment, academic, the arts, and so forth. In every instance, leadership cannot exist in a vacuum. By definition, it requires others, those who Effective, respected would be led—and seldom leadership is are they a docile group. Humans, by nature, don’t maintained manage well. hrough mutual Effective, respected agreement. leadership is maintained through mutual agreeLeadership ment. Leadership demanddemanded is ed is leadership denied. leadership denied. Leadership is not meant to be dominion over others. Rather, it is the composite of characteristics that earns respect, results, and a continued following. ? Leadership demands decisiveness, and that is why it is absolutely critical that leaders know the facts. To ensure that critical information and solid advice reaches them, leaders must surround 60 Setting the Example themselves with capable, strong, competent advisors—and then listen.
Unfortunately, many companies and organizations are led by executives who fear bold, candid, and talented subordinates. They seek only solicitous yestypes. They embrace adulation, not leadership. The great industrialist Henry J. Kaiser had no time for spineless messengers. “Bring me bad news,” he demanded of subordinates. “Good news weakens me. ” It also matters that top leaders have experience. In times of crisis, experience counts. Soldiers in combat situations prefer to follow battle-tested veterans rather than fuzzy-faced lieutenants fresh out of ROTC. It’s no different in other walks of life.
Leaders must show affection and concern for those under their responsibility. Those who would render loyalty to a leader want to know they are appreciated. Whether or not they realize it, executives in leadership roles solely for the four Ps—pay, perks, power, and prestige—essentially are on their way out. ? Leadership is about taking risks. If your life is free of failure, you aren’t much of a leader. Take no 61 Winners Never Cheat risks, and you risk more than ever. No pain, no gain. Leaders are called on to enter arenas where success isn’t covered by the warranty, where public failure is a real possibility. It’s a scary scenario.
A 2004 survey found that three in five senior executives at Fortune 1,000 companies have no desire to become a CEO. That’s twice the number compared to the first such survey conducted in 2001. Why? The risks. The chance of making mistakes increases dramatically with leadership, no matter its nature or level, but never having failed is never having led. To succeed, we must attempt new things. Success rates were never a consideration as youngsters when we tried our first hesitant steps, when we learned to use a toilet, when it came to correctly aiming the spoon at an open mouth, or when we decided it was time to tie our own shoelaces.
As children, we understood fumbling comes with Leaders are called on to enter arenas where success isn’t covered by the warranty, where public failure is a real possibility. 62 Setting the Example beginnings. Temporary failures never got in the way of those grand, early-life ventures. Mistakes are not the problem. How one identifies and corrects errors, how one turns failure into a new opportunity, and how one learns from those mistakes, determines the quality and durability of leaders. Nixon’s Watergate wasn’t so much a burglary as it was the failure to recognize mistakes, to take responsibility for them, and to apologize accordingly.
Those who prefer jeering and ridiculing on the sidelines when the players err or stumble just don’t get it: Mistakes and miscues often are transformed into meaningful, successful experiences. Keep in mind the old saying: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment. ” I am reminded of a great observation from President Teddy Roosevelt in which he places the participant and the belittler in perspective: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; 63 Winners Never Cheat who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
True leaders ought not to worry greatly about occasional mistakes, but they must vigilantly guard against those things that will make them feel ashamed. T rue leaders ought not to worry greatly about occasional mistakes, but they must vigilantly guard against those things that will make them feel ashamed. That said, though, repeating the same mistake too many times makes one a partner to the error. Strong leaders accept responsibility for problems and deal with them swiftly and fairly. If the problem is your responsibility, so is the solution. 64 Setting the Example
Risk was a favorite topic around the dinner table as my children were advancing through their elementary and high school years. It prompted a couple of my sons a few years later to immediately jump into the commodities market and lose their shirts. They misinterpreted my advice (although I admit to doing the same thing in my younger years). Leaders clearly have to take measured risks. ? Leaders can come in different forms and flavors, but core elements rarely vary: talent, integrity, courage, vision, commitment, empathy, humility, and confidence. The greater these attributes, the stronger the leadership.
Many business executives seek only breathtaking compensation and perks. Legions of politicians desire only to remain in office and lead with their own self-interests in mind. There are religious leaders who bathe in reverential treatment. And we all are familiar with celebrities who are addicted to adoring fans. None of that is leadership. Successful leaders maintain their positions through respect earned the old-fashioned way. 65 Winners Never Cheat On the wall of my office, there hangs a plaque on which are inscribed the words of legendary CBS newscaster Edward R.
Murrow: “Difficulty is the one excuse that history never accepts. ” I made sure my children understood what that meant. Life is difficult and success even more so, but anything worth doing must be challenging. Engaging in activities devoid of difficulty, lounging in risk-free zones, is life without great meaning. Children are perceptive. They learn as much from observation as from participation, so parental leaders especially need to practice what they preach. ? In 2001, our company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Our high-yield bonds were trading at 25 cents on the dollar.
Our financial and legal teams had brought in bankruptcy specialists from Los Angeles and New York. In their united opinion, bankruptcy was inevitable. For me, bankruptcy was not an option. It was our name on the front door. Family character was at stake. Virtually all of the 87 lenders we dealt with at the time believed we would crash. Cash was tight. We were in a recession. Our industry was 66 Setting the Example overproducing. Profit margins were dropping. Exports shrunk. Energy costs were spiraling out of control. In the middle of that perfect storm, we were hit by a rogue wave, the 9/11 catastrophe.
I reminded myself in the midst of this turmoil how grateful I was that I had been chosen to lead the company at this time because I was convinced I could guide our company through this unprecedented siege. This company would not be seized by corporate lawyers, bankers, and highly paid consultants with all the answers. Not on my watch. Not one of them could truly comprehend my notions of character and integrity. We initiated cost-cutting programs on all levels and at all geographic locations, negotiated an equity position for bondholders, and refinanced our debt with those 87 lenders. We raised additional capital to help pay down that debt.
Piece by piece, we put the complex financial mosaic back together. It would have been much easier to have chosen bankruptcy, but two and a half years later, Huntsman Corp. emerged stronger than ever. Wall Street was amazed. 67 Winners Never Cheat A crisis creates the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed. Through adversity, we come face to face with who we really are and what really counts. ? There is a great “can do” spirit in each of us, ready to be set free. We all have reserves to tap in times of danger.
In a crisis, a person’s mind can be brilliant and highly creative. In a crisis, true character is revealed. Leaders are selected to take the extra steps, to display moral courage, to reach above and beyond, and to make it to the end zone. For, at the end of the day, leaders have to score or it doesn’t count. ? A crisis allows us the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed. 68 Setting the Example In today’s what’s-in-it-for-me environment, humility is vital for good leadership.
One must be teachable and recognize the value of others in bringing about positive solutions. A few years ago, I met with my old friend Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, at his office at The Hague. Jeroen was president of Shell Chemical Company in Houston during the early 1990s. It was clear to me then that he was on his way upward to the most senior position in the world’s largest company. We became trusted friends. I asked him his thoughts on leadership. “The one common value that most leaders lack today, whether in business, politics, or religion,” he replied, “is humility. He cited several cases where highprofile individuals fell from exalted positions because they refused to be teachable and humble. “They knew all the answers and refused to listen to wise and prudent counsel of others. Their prime focus should be to create other leaders, a vision for the long term and a certain modesty about their own capabilities. ” 69 Winners Never Cheat Additionally, leaders need to be candid with those they purport to lead. Sharing good news is easy. When it comes to the more troublesome negative news, be candid and take responsibility.
Don’t withhold unpleasant possibilities; don’t pass off bad news to subordinates to deliver. Level with employees about problems in a timely fashion. When I was in the ninth grade, I secured a job assembling wagons and tricycles at a Payless Drugstore. On Christmas Eve, the store manager presented me with a box of cherry chocolates—and laid me off. I was stunned. The manager never indicated the position was temporary. It left such an awful impression on me that I vowed I would always be upfront with employees when it came to the possibility of layoffs. ? Leadership must be genuine, energetic, and engaged.
I have served as a director on five major New York Stock Exchange boards in the past 25 years. During that time, I have met few men and women who I felt were really providing help to the companies involved. Too many times, directors regularly make foolish, Wall Street-driven decisions, 70 Setting the Example harmful to the long-term Unfortunately, health of the company, because of today’s addic- many of today’s tion to short-term gains. boards are little You would think that more than social most corporate directors clubs that do a know better. After all, they are supposed to be poor job of probright, successful individu- tecting the longals.
Unfortunately, many term interests of of today’s boards are little more than social clubs stockholders. that do a poor job of protecting the long-term interests of stockholders. Most corporate directors lack expertise in the industry of the company they are directing. Management easily manipulates such directors because the latter’s chief concerns are fees, retirement benefits, and the prestige of being on a corporate board. Typically, they have only a small portion of their net worth invested in the company. They loathe being at odds with the CEO, chairman, or other directors.
Stockholders would be outraged if they knew the lack of focus, expertise, connectivity, and good 71 Winners Never Cheat judgment exhibited by a sizable number of corporate directors. Although these directors occasionally fire the CEO in a huff when a deal doesn’t work out or an ethical gaffe is exposed, they would better meet their obligations if they stopped CEOs from making bad deals or unethical decisions in the first place. Always cheer for the individual director who breaks ranks to propose a novel route, who offers a different perspective, who raises ethical concerns, or who focuses on the long-term well-being of stockholders.
I have great respect for many CEOs in today’s business world. They are dedicated, gifted, and honest men and women. They appreciate why they were chosen to lead their respective companies. They accept their duties: keep business healthy; deliver a fair profit in the most professional, socially responsible way possible; display moral backbone; and are forthcoming. ? When the ship finds itself in trouble, as my earlier story related, all eyes turn to the captain. Subordinates may have been the ones who erred, but it is the captain who must take responsibility for 72 Setting the Example he mistake and for steering the ship out of trouble. And, be assured, it takes more effort correcting a mistake than to make it. Leadership is a privilege. Those who receive the mantle must also know they can expect an accounting of their stewardships. It is not uncommon for people to forego higher salaries to join an organization with strong, ethical leadership. Most individuals desire leadership they can admire and respect. They want to be in sync with that brand of leader, and will often parallel their own lives after that person, whether in a corporate, religious, political, parental, teaching, or other setting.
A good example of this is Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, who returned integrity to the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics. That classic show of leadership was infectious all the way through the Olympic organization to the thousands of volunteers. As a result, those Games came off as the most successful and problem-free in recent Olympics history. Conversely, because leaders are watched and emulated, their engagement in unethical or illegal conduct can have a devastating effect on others. 73 Winners Never Cheat ? Courage may be the single most important factor in identifying leadership.
Individuals may know well what is right and what is wrong but fail to act decisively because they lack the courage their values require. Leaders—whether inside families, corporations, organizations, or politics—must be prepared to stand against the crowd when their moral values are challenged. They must ignore criticism and taunts if pursuing a right and just route. Leadership is supposed to be daunting. Courage is an absolute requisite. Without it, noted Winston Churchill, other virtues lose their meaning. “Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is a quality which guarantees all the others. Some economists argue that business leaders have but a single responsibility: to employ every legal means to increase corporate profits. Commercial enterprise, such economists reason, is amoral by nature. Compete openly and freely in any way you wish so long as you do not engage in deception and fraud (rule-book violations). 74 Setting the Example Embracing a credo of that nature, without proper emphasis on morality, is an invitation for executives to rationalize ethical corner-cutting and a potential blueprint for impressionable businessschool students when they are turned loose on the marketplace. Humility, decency, and social leadership