We hear often about how teamwork, getting ahead of the competition and winning apply both to high performing business units and sports teams. Often under-analyzed, yet frequently dominating our headlines, is how both sports and business are too often plagued by scandal.
Two recent glaring examples are Greg Smith's resignation op-ed letter from Goldman Sachs that outlined how the company had lost its way and the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal in which players earned bonuses for deliberately hurting opposing players. Regardless of the accuracy of Smith's claims, they reflect the current public sentiment and perceptions of the financial world. The Saints episode is just the latest in a long litany of player and team misconduct in the NFL (remember Michael Vick's dog fighting activities and the New England Patriots "spygate").
These stories affect public faith in the industries and raise questions. Can we entrust Wall Street with our finances? Are professional athletes really competing and thus deserve their fan's passion, time and money? It all boils down to trust. Here are few steps towards re-building this credibility:
Similarly, short of an outright apology, financial firms need to convey a deep sense of responsibility and caring for the critical role they play in our lives. Assertions in advertisements claiming that "We know what we are doing and we care about you" are simply not sufficient, and may in fact be more damaging considering the public's negative perceptions. They need to offer reasons to believe their assertions, build a sense of community beyond Wall Street and show that their sense of trusteeship is aligned with the public's expectations.
Self-reflection, responsibility and authenticity -- it's a formula for re-gaining credibility and reduces the probability of the next sports and business scandal.
This piece is jointly written by Sanyin Siang and Sim Sitkin. Sim Sitkin is professor of management and faculty director of The Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Sanyin and Sim will be in New York today for the Fuqua Coach K Leadership Roundtable, which convenes top leaders across industries and sectors to identify ideas and solutions around problems of societal consequence.
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