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Fast Company: The Key to Creating Socially Conscious Businesses

From Fast Company, posted April 17, 2015

On a broad scale, how do we create altruistic organizations that can really transform society and transform economic systems? This is the field I’ve been studying since I left the corporate world eight years ago, and I’m convinced that the key to this is compassionate, authentic leadership. We need a new generation of leaders to step forward and provide this new kind of leadership.

My basic premise is that compassionate, authentic leadership is essential. It’s not just that it’s good to have—it’s necessary for a healthy society. I’m disappointed in my generation of leaders; I believed that they failed in their responsibility. As a result of the failures of leadership in the last decade, there’s been a loss of confidence in our leaders, and a loss of trust. Each of us who takes a leadership role has a responsibility to the people we serve. If we put ourselves ahead of the public, we have failed in our responsibilities and we can cause great harm.

At my former company Medtronic, which makes medical products, our mission and our meaning was to restore people to full life and health. The way we measured ourselves was not by earnings per share but by how many people we helped. My greatest source of pride is that in the time I was there, we went from 300,000 people per year to 10 million people per year who were being restored to fuller, more active lives through our work. We always tried to convey this meaning to the people in the company, because that’s what inspired them, not the stock price, not the earnings.


The role of the leader in this century is different than in centuries past. It’s to bring people together around this sense of meaning, purpose, and values. It is a very difficult task, particularly in organizations that span the globe, to gain that kind of alignment where people believe in the purpose of the organization and practice its values.

The second role of the leader is not to exert power over other people. Many scholars have written about leadership as power. This idea of power suggests a zero-sum game: if I give you power, I have less. But I reject this idea. I think leadership is about empowering people to lead. If we can empower other people to step up and lead, then we have much stronger organizations, and we can all contribute to the best of our abilities.

Let me give you an example of a woman whom I met at Medtronic many years ago. She was making heart valves. If a human heart valve failed, they could actually take a valve from the pig and use it to replace the failed human heart valve. This woman was the top worker in the plant. When I asked her about her work, she looked at me with passion in her eyes and said, "My job is to make heart valves the save people’s lives. I make one thousand heart valves a year. If one valve is defective, someone will die, and I could never live with the idea that I caused the death of another person." But she also said, "You know, when I go home at night, what I’m thinking about is that there are five thousand people in the world today who are alive and healthy because of the products I made."

This woman is an empowered leader. She doesn’t have a formal leadership role, and she isn’t a supervisor, but everyone looks to her for inspiration. This is the kind of empowered leadership we need to spread more broadly.

William George is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, where he teaches leadership development and ethics. He is the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic. Under his leadership, the company’s market capitalization grew from $1.1 billion to $60 billion, averaging a 35% increase each year.


Part 6: Journeying Within

As children and young adults, we spend a lot of time in self-reflection. Who am I? What is the point of life? How will I change the world? Although I’d like to say that with age comes wisdom, that isn’t always true. What is certain, however, is that aging brings responsibility. We spend so much effort rushing from work to home to activity that we don’t take the time to think about what it all means. Carl Jung once said, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Use these questions to look inside yourself and light the path towards your True North.

1. What do you think is the meaning of life? Do you live your life accordingly?

Look at these two questions separately, and don’t let your answer to the second question influence your answer to the first. I particularly like physicist Michio Kaku’s thoughts on the matter. He says, “Beyond work and love, I would add two other ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. However blessed we are by fate with different abilities and strengths, we should try to develop them to the fullest, rather than allow them to atrophy and decay… Second, we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide.”

2. What do you think you were put on this earth to learn? What were you put here to teach?

We are all both teachers and students. What qualities do you display in your everyday behavior? Those around you are influenced by your actions. You may not have a formal role as a teacher or student, but each of us, particularly those in leadership positions, teaches others through our words and deeds. I often stress the importance of mentorship, and this question is a great way to explore ways in which you can mentor others – and to determine what mentors you might be lacking in your life.

3. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would you say?

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other advances in technology give every person the ability to reach a global audience. If you captured the attention of the world, what would you have to say? This requires careful consideration – would you offer actionable advice (“Get screened for breast cancer”) or say something more generic (“Be kind to others.”) What could you say and how would you phrase it to motivate others to take action? 

4. Who or what energizes you? What makes you feel depleted? Do you thrive on chaos, or prefer order?

While the common definitions of introvert and extrovert focus on how social and outgoing one is, I prefer the theory that extroverts are energized by social interaction, while introverts find large groups more draining and are energized by time alone. Although tools like the Myers-Briggs test can be useful for identifying parts of your personality, you don’t have to define yourself with conventional labels. Determine the conditions under which you are most successful, and then set yourself up accordingly.

5. Why do you want to find your purpose?

You may have answered all of the questions in my 30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North series, but if you don’t know the why of it all, what’s the point? Are you truly willing to make changes to your life? It’s much easier to remain where you are, doing the same things day in and day out. Once you’ve discovered your True North, are you prepared to take the necessary steps to steer yourself towards it? It can be frightening to venture into the unknown. Write down your answer to this question and keep it nearby as a reminder of your own True North.


CNBC: Target CEO hits the bull's-eye

Target's CEO, Brian Cornell, is no stranger to difficult decisions.

In 1981, Cornell stood in his UCLA dorm room, struggling with the biggest choice of his life. He could attend his college graduation, or he could fly to London to chase the girl who had "absolutely stolen his heart."

Thirty-four years later, Cornell faced another difficult decision. While dining with CVS CEO Larry Merlo, he and Merlo hatched a plan to sell Target's pharmacies and its in-store clinics to CVS.

In both cases, he made the decision to choose the important over the immediate.

The partnership with CVS represents yet another opportunity for Target to build its business. The transaction frees up resources for growth priorities — wellness and healthy foods, e-commerce, and new store formats like Target Express, small stores near college campuses and in urban areas. The move will also bring more guests to Target stores as CVS owns Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager with over 70 million users.

Since taking the helm just ten months ago, Cornell has moved quickly to enable Target to regain its mojo, which had steadily slipped away in the past five years. He did so by making hard choices and refocusing the company on its roots that gave it the cache to be known among guests as Tar-Jay.

When Cornell took over, Target was not in good shape. Since 2007, the percent of Americans who say they've visited a Target store in the past four weeks has dropped by 30 percent, according to Kantar Retail. Its thrust into food was achieving mixed results; its long overdue e-commerce initiative was cumbersome to use; and its expansion into Canada was failing, as that division had lost $2 billion since opening in 2011. Then in December, 2013, the Target data breach burst into the open, affecting up to 70 million of its credit-card users.

Facing these difficult challenges, Cornell wasted no time in putting them behind him. After spending his first month touring stores, he announced that Target would focus on four key categories: fashion, kids, babies and wellness. Recognizing that Target's headquarters staff had become bloated, he slashed 2,300 positions. And he ventured into London to recruit Tesco's Mike McNamara as CIO, giving him a broad portfolio that includes Target's digital platform, information security, and its omnichannel strategy.

Cornell's toughest decision came last January. After visiting several of Target's Canadian stores, he announced the liquidation of the Canadian division, closing all 133 stores. I realized what courage he had not to throw good money after bad, and to reinvest south of the border. He described the decision as "the toughest of my career."

Hard decisions like these characterize great leaders. They build upon their company's roots and its strengths, and don't try to do it all. As my Harvard Business School colleague Michael Porter teaches, "Strategy is all about choices and deciding what not to do." That's precisely what Cornell has done at Target.

Freeing up investment dollars is enabling him to sharpen merchandising in focus categories, expand Target's presence in urban areas with TargetExpress, and invest $1 billion in Target's digital platform. 

These moves are also enhancing Target's same-store sales and profitability. Since Cornell took over last August, Target stock is up 40 percent, while rival Wal-Mart has declined 4 percent. As Target's first CEO to come from outside ranks, Cornell is reaching out to the local community, vowing to continue Target's policy of giving 5 percent of its pre-tax income to philanthropic causes.

For Cornell, "It's all about people." Upon arriving at Target, he moved from the 26th floor CEO corner suite to a smaller office down the hall. He then moved the majority of the executive team to the 26th floor to make communication easier.

Brian Cornell has hit nothing but bull's-eyes in the past year.

And the girl he chased in 1981? He and Martha have been married for twenty-five years.

Commentary by Bill George, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and the former chair and CEO of Medtronic. He is the author of the book "True North." Follow him on Twitter @Bill_George.

Disclosure: Bill George does not own any of shares of Target or any other companies mentioned here, nor does have any other business relationships with them.

Part 5: What Are Your Rocks?

A professor filled a jar with rocks and asked his students if it was full. They agreed that it was. Then, he added pebbles and asked again if it was full. His students acknowledged that yes, the jar was still full. He poured in sand, which filled the spaces between the pebbles, and his students confirmed that the jar was full. The professor explained that the rocks represent your top priorities. The pebbles are the things in life that are less important, and the sand is the little, every day stuff. Then, he dumped out the jar and filled it with sand. Once the jar was full of sand, there was no room for the pebbles and the rocks.

Are you filling your daily jar with sand first, or are you tending to the rocks? Answer these questions to guide you towards your True North – figuring out which priorities in your life are rocks, and which are the sand and pebbles.

1. If money was no object, how would you spend your time? What would your day look like?

A 2014 Harris Poll asked workers what they would do if they won the lottery. More than half said they would still choose to work, and 30% would keep their current jobs (although just 15% reported that they already had their dream job). The most common reason people gave for staying employed was “I would be bored if I didn’t work.” If that’s the case for you, you’re living to work and not working to live. While your job should coincide with your True North, there’s more to life than work. Think about your hobbies and the things you care about. For smart, hard-working people, boredom is never an issue.

2. If you were to donate everything you have to a cause or charity, which would it be?

What cause is dearest to your heart? Most people care about several different issues, from animal rights to homelessness. But if you had to select only one cause or charity to receive everything you own, which tops your list of priorities? When was the last time you did something to support this cause? Our top priorities are usually close to home – family, health, friends, and work. But you must care about the world at large, too. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” 

3. What keeps you awake at night when you should be sleeping? What gets you out of bed in the mornings?

The moments before you fall asleep should be peaceful – what are the problems that disturb you during that time? This question doesn’t just address your priorities; it can also indicate your tolerance for stress. Are you worrying about issues you have no control over? There are some things in life that we simply cannot influence. Good leaders don’t waste time fretting over these things. They plan for every contingency and focus on the decisions that they can make. As to the second question, don’t merely think about what gets you out of bed grudgingly. What makes you leap from your bed with excitement and face the day with a smile?

4. What bugs you? If it makes you mad, you’re passionate about it! Can you make your anger productive?

Like all emotions, anger has its uses. What really perturbs you? I’m not talking about your pet peeves – I mean the things that really get you fired up. Channel your anger into passion, and you’ll be motivated to do something about it. Whether you’re changing your own life or changing the world, passion is the driving force behind your True North. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, it’s not where you should be directing your energy.

5. What price would you take to give up on your dreams? What price would you be willing to pay to achieve them?

The price you’d be willing to pay to achieve your dreams is a question you answer every single day as you make decisions about how to spend your time. Should you eat dinner with your family, or work an extra hour? Go for a run, or watch a movie with your significant other? We answer these questions differently depending on what our dreams are, but each decision requires that we give something up. The first part of this question is, to me, more interesting, although it’s less frequently posed. What would someone have to offer you for you to give up the pursuit of your dreams?

30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North poses these five questions as well as several others. Think about each one. Time truly does fly, and it’s worth spending these extra minutes to make sure you’re not wasting the precious time you do have on things that aren’t as important to you. Figure out what your rocks are, so you can fill your jar with the important things in your life.

Reuters: FIFA crisis worse than anything in Olympics scandal

By Steve Keating for Reuters

June 5 (Reuters) - Canadian lawyer Dick Pound, who headed the investigation to clean up the International Olympic Committee after the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games corruption scandal, said on Friday that the FIFA crisis was worse than anything the IOC faced.

"I think it is deeper rooted and it is far more serious," Pound said in a telephone interview. "You are talking about corruption, bribes, money laundering, all sorts of stuff."

Pound noted that while criminal charges were brought against two people in the Salt Lake City bribery and corruption case but then dropped, FIFA's situation was "far more complex to try and sort out than ours was."

"It's going to get messy before it gets cleared up," Pound said.

World soccer's governing body was plunged into the worst crisis in the organization's 111-year history on May 27 when Swiss police staged a dawn raid in Zurich and arrested several officials on charges filed by U.S. prosecutors in New York.

FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has won plaudits for promoting soccer in every corner of the globe, but its "one-nation, one-vote" structure has its risks, laid bare by the corruption scandal.

Robert Boland, professor of sports management at New York University, said an executive board that would also have representatives from sponsors and players, was one way to go.

"If FIFA would be run more like a corporation, it would be much better than the current democratic representative body format," Boland said.

Boland said the IOC had powerful governing bodies for Track and Field and Swimming, for example, to act as counterweights, a natural check in the system that FIFA does not have.

Pound knows something about cleaning up messes.

The onetime Olympic swimmer and former influential IOC executive board member was appointed by then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to clean up the organization and usher in sweeping reforms following the Salt Lake City scandal.

When the IOC was faced with a doping crisis that threatened to undermine the integrity of the Summer and Winter Games, Pound was once again called upon to establish and run the World Anti-Doping Agency.

FIFA is caught in a widening criminal probe. The FBI was also looking into how World Cup hosting rights were awarded to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.

Beleaguered Zurich-based FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced on Tuesday that he would step down just days after being re-elected for a fifth term.

Before U.S. law enforcement officials brought the charges focused mainly on soccer governing bodies in North and South America, Central America and the Caribbean, speculation and allegations had swirled for years in soccer circles.

"I'm not surprised there has been so much smoke around this," Pound said. He said the charges had not touched Asia, Africa or the Middle East and "maybe what is going on in America is just chicken feed in the great scheme of things."

Blatter's departure will not in itself polish FIFA's tarnished image and rid the organization of corruption, he said.

"It is a little bit like alcoholism, unless the person involved, the organization involved acknowledges there is a problem you can't solve it."

Harvard Business School senior fellow Bill George, a soccer fan who was once chair and chief executive officer of Medtronic Inc medical technology company, said FIFA needed "a clean sweep." "The same people can't set up a new governance." 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Edmonton, Canada; additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin in Boston; Editing by Grant McCool)

Part 4: Strengths and Weaknesses

We each have certain assets and certain liabilities. You can maximize the use of your skills and talents and overcome your handicaps, but only if you’ve identified them. The fourth part in my series on Discovering Your True North helps you discover the positive qualities you may not even realize you possess, as well as any weaknesses that could be stumbling blocks to your success as a leader. Think about each question, and don’t just go for the easy answer. We all have a token response when someone asks us what our strengths and weaknesses are, but dig deeper!

1. What one word do you want people to use to describe you? What do you think they’d currently use?

If someone were to describe you to a stranger using only one word, what would you want that word to be? At its heart, this is a question of values. We all want to be known as intelligent, responsible, etc., but which of these traits is most important to you? The second part of this question deals with how people currently perceive you. Are you the person you want to be? And do you demonstrate those values to those around you?  

2. What would others say is your biggest asset? What would they say is your biggest flaw?

This is a tough question to answer objectively, so consider asking someone who knows you well (and who will break your biggest flaw to you gently!). You shouldn’t be astonished by what you hear; ideally, you’re familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses. You might be surprised, though, to learn which qualities people think you could really maximize, and which are harming you more than you may know. Are you taking advantage of these assets? How can you work on overcoming your flaws? 

3. What skills do people frequently compliment you on? These may not be what you think you’re best at.

What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received? This is a clue into what qualities you’d like to cultivate within yourself. There may be things that people often compliment you on that you simply brush off. For example, perhaps others frequently mention that you’re a good teacher, or that you communicate ideas clearly. Don’t take these skills for granted – not everyone has that ability. Instead, hone it and put it to use to further your goals.  

4. What do you not want others to know about you?

We all have character flaws and tendencies that we’d rather keep hidden. Maybe you always procrastinate, or you can’t seem to make it to meetings on time. If you have a recurring problem like that, make an effort to fix it! It’s easier to work on your problems than it is to suffer the consequences from them. Examine the answer to this question closely – maybe it’s a part of your personality, and you can’t or won’t change it. In that case, root out and conquer those insecurities.

5. Think about your talents, passions, and values. How can you use them to serve and contribute to society?

Your strengths and passions are the tools you will use to carve out your future. What are your tools best suited to create? Consider your talents, passions, and values separately. You may be considerably talented in one area, but if you don’t enjoy it or you aren’t passionate about it, you shouldn’t make it your ultimate goal. Lastly, think about how you can apply the things you love, care about, and are good at to improve the world in some way. Isn’t that the point, after all?

My blog on 30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North offers several thought-provoking questions to help you find your way. In part five of this six-part series, I’ll discuss the role priorities play in discovering your True North.

Soccer’s FIFA Is Morally Bankrupt – Corporations Should Suspend Sponsorships Until Blatter Resigns

The fish rots from the head, and this is undoubtedly the case with FIFA and its leader, Sepp Blatter.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s indictment of 14 senior FIFA officials confirms what we all knew. FIFA is a deeply corrupt organization. Lynch, who collaborated with the police in Switzerland to arrest seven FIFA officials, detailed at least $150 million in corrupt payments over 24 years. At week’s end, Justice Department officials said they were preparing additional indictments.

The only objections came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose compatriots worked with representatives of Qatar to lock in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups for their respective countries. Putin seemed genuinely concerned that revealing the corruption that led to this surprise dual selection could jeopardize Russia’s chances for 2018.

That led UK Prime Minister David Cameron to speak out. Having lost the 2018 bid to Russia, Cameron bluntly called for Blatter’s resignation. “We cannot have accusations of corruption at this level and on this scale in this organisation, and pretend that the person currently leading it is the right person to take it forward. Frankly, what we’ve seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game and he should go, and the sooner that happens the better.”

Meanwhile, soccer leaders prepared to re-elect Blatter last week. The FIFA delegates meeting in Switzerland last Friday overrode the objections of the European nations and the United States, and voted overwhelmingly to re-elect the 79-year-old Blatter for a fifth term.

In defending himself, Blatter made the absurd claim that “I cannot monitor everyone all the time.” Really? Some 14 of Blatter’s closest subordinates have been criminally indicted, and he has no responsibility?

No self-respecting public company board would accept this response from its leader. Global CEOs are charged with monitoring the behavior of their subordinates. A key part of the job is to ask probing questions, build awareness of potential reputational risks, and identify issues like this. It’s governance malpractice for a governing board to not immediately relieve the chief exective of his duties in a circumstance such as this – particularly in light of Blatter’s very public and blatant statement abdicating responsibility for the situation. If he’s not responsible, who is?

The FIFA situation raises a difficult issue: How can corrupt global organizations be transformed when those governing them re-elect themselves? In this situation, they also have too much money and limited financial controls.

This week’s events demonstrate that national law enforcement is one avenue for justice. The other way, which would have swifter impact, is for FIFA’s commercial and media sponsors to withdraw their funding. Thus far, several major sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald’s, Adidas, Budweiser, and Hyundai, have said they are “reviewing the situation.” These high integrity global organizations should immediately suspend their sponsorships until FIFA has new leadership. The same goes for the television sponsors, Fox Sports and Telemundo. Blatter won’t survive for long if they cut off his cash flow.

Is your organization showing signs of moral decay? Do your leaders take responsibility for the integrity of the entire organization?

Leaders are responsible for creating a moral climate in their organizations, and ensuring that its business affairs are carried out with integrity. Of course, there will always be individuals who deviate from company policy, in which case high integrity leaders move swiftly to terminate them and take appropriate follow-up action to prevent repeat incidents.

The vast majority of today’s business leaders do precisely that. The exceptions, such as Blatter, give a poor name to all who view leadership as a higher calling. High integrity leaders must support firm action against those who destroy important enterprises like world soccer.

The sponsors whose funds are being used by corrupt leaders like Blatter and his compatriots should take definitive action now. Instead of “reviewing the situation,” they should collectively suspend their corporate relationships with FIFA. This definitive statement can reshape soccer and restore integrity. 

Part 3: Shape Your Future

We’ve looked at where you’ve come from and where you are now; it’s time to examine your future. Unlike your past and present, the future is vague and nebulous. Don’t let the unknown intimidate you. Each choice you make now will impact your path to your goals. Instead of worrying about what lies ahead, seize control of it. You are in charge of your own destiny, regardless of your circumstances. Don’t rely on luck to get you where you want to go; hard work trumps good luck every time. Answer these questions to narrow your focus and define your future.

1. What do you want your legacy to be? 10, 20, 50 years from now, what will your name mean?

In the grand scheme of things, we only have a short time on this earth. What are you going to do with it? Don’t just think about your legacy in 50 or 100 years from now. Think about your reputation in 10 years. What is important to you? What do you want to be known as? This isn’t necessarily fame and fortune. What do you want people to say about you when your name comes up in casual conversation? Will they talk about your philanthropic efforts and your generous soul? Your ambition and sharp mind for business? The skills and personality traits you hone now will become your legacy later.

2. Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors, both those you know personally and those who inspire you from afar?

Mentors are essential to success. They act as a sounding board in life and in business. Often, we’re so mired in our own problems or concerns that we can’t see the forest for the trees. A good mentor helps us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When it comes to shaping your future, mentors can give you more than a helping hand. Look at the journeys of those who inspire you, even if you’ve never met them. When faced with decisions, where did they succeed? Where did they stumble? Learning from the lessons of those you admire is easier than trying to clear a new path to the same destination.

3. Fast-forward ten or twenty years. What is the one thing that, if you never pursued, you’d always regret?

This is a big picture question. Chances are your answer won’t be something like, “I wish I had taken that position at Google,” or “I wish I had worked more hours.” What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Perhaps you’ve always thought you could write a book. Go for it! You’ll never have to wonder what might have been. Many people have a goal that they want to pursue, but don’t because they are afraid to fail. In the long run, the regret of not trying your hardest to achieve your dreams will haunt you more than if you tried and didn’t succeed.

4. Fill in the blank: My life is a quest for ________. What motivates you? Money? Love? Acceptance?

What is it that you want out of life? Be honest with yourself about what truly makes you feel good. Think of the last time you felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. Were you surrounded by family and friends? Did you just get a raise at work? Maybe you were simply relaxing on the beach and reading a good book. What is the Holy Grail in your life? Don’t be too specific. Think about the general things you’d get out of it, like a sense of security and respect from others.

5. Now that you’ve answered these questions, what is your action plan? What steps will you take today?

You’re creating your tomorrows, today. Each moment in time sets the stage for all the moments following it. You can spend your time wisely, furthering your goals and creating a better future for yourself, or you can squander it. You’ve thought about your future and you have a good idea of where you’d like to be in the next 5, 10, and 20 years. What is the first next step to getting there? And why not take it today?

For more thought-provoking questions, read my blog on 30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North. The fourth blog in this six-part series will help to identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

Part 2: You Are Here

A map is useless if you don’t know where you’re currently located. The questions in this blog, the second in a six-part series on “30 Questions to Discover Your True North,” are designed to help you determine where you are at this moment. Once you know where you stand, the path to your True North will be much clearer. Answer each question honestly and thoughtfully. Don’t get discouraged, and remember: where you are today is not where you’ll be tomorrow. The question is, are you moving forward or crawling back?

1. If you accomplish one thing by the end of the year, what would make the biggest impact on your happiness?

The year is almost halfway over. What could you do in the next six months that would make you the most happy? This doesn’t have to be work-related; maybe 2015 is the year you finally lose that college weight you put on 20 years ago, or you commit to a significant other. Perhaps there’s a certification you’ve always wanted, or you take the first steps towards going back to school. On New Year’s Day in 2016, what will you look back on and say, “I’m really glad I did that”?

2. What do you love most about your current job? What do you wish you could do more of?

If your answer to the first question is “money,” try harder. Even the worst jobs have aspects you love (or at least like). Maybe it’s a specific task or project you enjoyed working on, or you like your coworkers or the corporate culture. Keep this in mind as you develop your goals and seek your True North. The second half of this question is about the responsibilities and tasks you enjoy the most. Some people really like to network with others. You may long for those days where you tuck yourself away in your office and write code or crunch numbers. Since these tasks are already part of your job description, tell your superior how much you enjoy them, and seek out ways to take a bigger role in those activities.

3. List your core values. Use your company’s mission statement to list its core values. Do they match up?

What are your core values? What do you care about most, both in your personal life and in business? Think about your own personal “mantra” to help you figure out your values. Are you more of an “honesty is the best policy” type of person, or do you believe “the end justifies the means”? Honestly assess your priorities – if prestige, ambition, and opportunity for advancement are important to you, that’s okay. Acknowledge it and seek out a job where you can find those things. You’ll be happier than if you try to pretend you don’t care about them. Whatever your values are, look for a company that is in alignment with your vision.

4. List the five people you interact with most frequently. How is each helping you to reach your goals (or not)?

These five people may not necessarily be those we typically think of as the most important in our lives. Focus on who you interact with, not whose advice you value or who you care about the most. Who do you communicate with frequently? These are the people that will have a serious impact on your frame of mind and attitude. If you consistently have to deal with someone you dislike, that will affect your mood. After you’ve listed these five people, think about how they might be influencing you. Is each a positive force in your life?

5. What in your life is “on hold”?

We all have that goal in life that we’re going to get to… eventually. You think, “Once I do this, then I’ll start working on that goal.” You’d love to write a book, but you’re putting that on hold until you retire. You’d love to run a half marathon, but that’s on hold until you lose weight. There will always be an excuse not to do something. If these goals are important to you, don’t wait until tomorrow; start now! Don’t restrict yourself with imaginary chains. You can do what you love today – you just have to make it a priority.

For more thought-provoking questions, read my blog on 30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North. In my next blog, I’ll discuss goal-setting for the future.

The News Journal: DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman called a 'hero'

By Maureen Milford, The News Journal, May 14, 2015:

To du Pont family member Tatiana Copeland, the DuPont Co.'s chief executive, Ellen Kullman, emerged Wednesday as "the hero of America."

"She's the female John Wayne," Copeland said of Kullman after the company's annual meeting, where DuPont beat back activist investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund Management in its bid to get four seats on the company's board.

"She didn't flinch."

Copeland is not alone in her opinion. Following DuPont's victory Wednesday, some investors, academics and businesspeople said the struggle went far beyond DuPont. Now, Kullman and the board have set a standard for companies facing future proxy wars, they said.

"Everyone was watching it. This was a seminal test," said Bill George, former chief executive of Medtronic and a director of Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs. "It's a much bigger battle between advocates of short-term returns and believers in the long-term value creation for employees, customers, community and shareholders."

The way George sees it, the DuPont win over Trian was an example of a corporate CEO and board not being intimidated when an activist investor tried to push its way into board seats. Now, a "playbook" has been created for other corporate leaders to follow, he said.

"I think people will think twice before anyone runs a proxy contest against a capable CEO doing the right things with a clear strategy and a strong board," he said.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at Yale School of Management, said Kullman showed other corporate leaders how to "take on an activist."

"She never stooped to the mud-throwing. There were no personal invectives. She took the high road and said, 'Here's the truth. Here's the facts,' " Sonnenfeld said.

To Sonnenfeld, the DuPont victory has done three things in corporate America: It will fortify the courage of corporate leaders who have strong performance records; it will embolden boards and CEOs to hold their ground and not capitulate when unfairly under attack by activist investors; and it will discourage activist investors and proxy rating firms from "using reckless bravado."

"Activists still have a role to play. They should focus on the facts and not ad hominem attacks," he said.

Lawrence Hamermesh, professor of corporate and business law at Widener Delaware Law School, said it's possible to overestimate the impact of the DuPont proxy contest as a model for corporate America. Peltz is a serious investor who has made a large investment and is not a quick in-and-out activist, Hamermesh said.

"DuPont's win depended on the fact that [Kullman] and her team have already done a lot of things to show they're responsive to investor concerns," Hamermesh said. "You don't get CalPERS [California Public Employees Retirement System] to support you by ignoring investor interests."

George said he believes this battle was about more than money to Kullman.

"She's not doing this for herself," George said. "She bleeds DuPont red."

Brien Jamison, Kullman's brother, agreed. He said his sister put her "heart and soul" into the battle.

"I think it drained her emotionally," Jamison said.

Former DuPont Chief Executive Edgar S. Woolard Jr., the former Apple Computer Inc. board chairman credited with helping to bring Steve Jobs back to that company, called the proxy victory "a great job done by the DuPont team."

"I always knew they would win," he said.

Copeland, whose father-in-law was the last du Pont family member to head the company and once was the largest single stockholder, said shareholders issued a clear vote of confidence for Kullman and should help her move forward with the company's initiatives. Copeland said she and her husband, Gerret, continue to own "a lot" of DuPont stock but declined to say the amount.

Many experts believe individual investors like the Copelands helped push Kullman and DuPont to victory. Following the announcement detailing the results of the voting, the roughly 400 shareholders in attendance at DuPont's new corporate headquarters at Chestnut Run stood and applauded long and loud.

"That's when I saw Ellen crack a little smile," Copeland said.

In a press conference following the annual meeting, Kullman behaved as if it was just another working day and appeared to take the win against Peltz in stride. She emphasized that employees "during this period have been phenomenal, focusing on the business, focusing on our customers, on innovation, continuing to make progress out in the marketplace."

"I'm very proud of my board. They are a board that continues to raise the bar. They are a board that continues to engage with management and yet this took it to another level in terms of telling our story with shareholders, as well," she said.

She acknowledged that individual – or so-called retail – investors "normally don't vote as often as they should." Retail investors represent about a third of the company, she said.

"But apparently we got their attention this time, and they were very active in that. I think that's unusual for a company to have a large retail section so I do think they were helpful because normally they're supportive of management," she said.

Kullman's first cousin, Sharon Baker, whose mother owns DuPont stock and whose late father worked for the company, said she emailed Kullman Wednesday morning with a "Go get 'em."

To Baker, the vote is "a huge victory and for all the right reasons."

"It's wonderful to know that bullies don't always get their way," Baker said.

Kullman, 59, grew up in suburban Wilmington and attended the private Tower Hill School. Members of her large, extended family had business dealings with DuPont since the 19th century.

Jim Horty, vice president of Commonwealth Trust Co., whose family has been friends with Kullman's family for generations, said the DuPont win "is good for Delaware, good for the employees, good for the retirees, good for the stockholders and good for the community."

"I think there are a lot of CEOs that think it's about time someone took these activist investors on – and she took 'em on big time," Horty said.

Shareholder Nelson Fernandez of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who did not work for DuPont, was all smiles after the vote.

"We're not a fan of what we see Nelson Peltz do," Fernandez said.