CEO’s Need To Ask: “What’s The Culture?”

Here’s some advice for prospective CEOs – as well as their counterparts in government and academe – courtesy of Robert McMurrian, director of the University of Tampa’s Center for Ethics.

“Upon assuming a position, a typical CEO initially used to ask: ‘Where is the profit?'” says McMurrian. “But what they need to ask first is: ‘What is this company about? What’s the culture I’m getting into?’ If you don’t address that one, you leave yourself wide open.

“Because if it happens on your watch,” underscores McMurrian, “you got it. You got it all. ‘I didn’t know’ is now a cop out.”

So what do CEOs – or university presidents or mayors – do when they’ve got a scandal born of charges against a key staffer and media scrutiny that won’t abate? Is “letting the process run its course” not a realistic – and fair – response?

McMurrian’s take: “You have legal issues and you have to protect yourself and your company or organization. A lot of your response frankly is related to public perception. Public perception is important. You probably get more leeway to support the person through the process if the internal perception is ‘this is kind of contrived.’

“Suspension is usually the best middle ground.”

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