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Boeing’s Attitude Reminds Us Of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

A few weeks ago Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, killing all 157 people on board. Ever since, the makers of the 737 MAX aircraft, Boeing, have slowly but surely exhibited signs that reveal questions about its leadership capabilities. It can also be argued that there are systemic problems with the company’s corporate culture which may prove to be its greatest weakness.

I suggest to you that these same issues are found in many companies today. Indeed the concerns can be cited in several historical examples suggesting we have not learned from previous mistakes.

But first, to the issue at Boeing.

Investigators continue to piece together the cause of the crash in Ethiopia, but early indications suggest the aircraft exhibited the same fatal behaviors as Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610. It too was a 737 MAX aircraft that plummeted to the ground shortly after takeoff in October of 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Flight data for both airplanes now seem to be eerily similar.

The evidence against Boeing’s lack of leadership—and not pilot error—is mounting. Governments worldwide seem to feel the same way. All countries have grounded the 737 MAX while investigators and engineers continue their sleuthing.

Ever since launching the 737 class of aircraft in 1967, Boeing has built and shipped over 10,000 of them to airlines globally. It was and continues to be a cash cow for the company. Things changed, however, in 2010 when the company discovered its main rival, Airbus, had launched the A320neo, a far more fuel-efficient short-haul airplane.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, knowing one of its largest customers, American Airlines, had struck a tentative deal to replace its short-haul fleet with the A320neo, senior leaders at Boeing jumped into action. In fact, American Airlines asked Boeing to come up with something similar to the Airbus offering. Boeing made quick work of the opportunity and launched the 737 MAX nine months after Airbus’s announcement.

To appease the airlines it would eventually sell the 737 MAX to—and the potentially prohibitive cost of pilot training—Boeing exhibited its first leadership calamity. The company ignored its own “enduring values.”

Boeing claims to operate “by a set of core values that not only define who we are but also serve as guideposts to help us become the company we would like to be.” Many companies have a value that is centered on integrity. Boeing is no different. It defines integrity as taking “the high road by practicing the highest ethical standards.”

Another value is safety. “We value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly,” the company suggests, and that “by committing to safety first, we advance our goals for quality, cost, and schedule.”

Several media outlets have reported that the technical modifications made to the 737 MAX airplane came with no requirement for pilot training. Could it be that both integrity and safety were sacrificed to attract new customers or to protect existing ones? “And we aspire to live these values every day,” maintains the company. I am reservedly unconvinced.

It’s one thing to overlook the need for pilot training and the egregious ignorance of its values; it’s another to determine how that decision came to be. Sure, one might argue Boeing simply snubbed its values. But what if there was something entirely more sinister at play?

There is a case to be made that the following scenario might have played out with leaders at Boeing.

The company was desperately worried that the A320neo was going to cut into its 737 revenue base. Airbus had already announced its intention to produce a rival plane to the 737 with 15 percent fuel efficiency. Boeing had to take quick and decisive action in order to compete with its Airbus rival who had a head start. But how?

How could it produce an airplane that was 15 percent more fuel-efficient on a timeline that allowed it to compete with Airbus? The company thought about designing an entirely new plane but settled on an upgrade to its cash cow; the 737.

To accommodate the need for the 737 aircraft to become more fuel-efficient and hit the timeline targets, several technical changes were needed. For starters, it moved the engine forward & extended the nose landing gear by eight inches. This required the introduction of an anti-stalling mechanism known as MCAS— Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.

With the urgency to meet market and competitive demands, did the company rush the design and production such that there might be a hidden fault? Could it be that the newly designed MCAS anti-stalling system was imminently set to fail or its related Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor might be feeding bad data to the 737 MAX’s flight computer?

Ultimately, did the company know about its flaws?

Now, about those values. Surely integrity and safety would come to the forefront when an airplane is designed, tested and then shipped out, ready for commercial flight, right?

Enter the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) Also reported by The Wall Street Journal, it seems the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) had already launched an investigation into the FAA after the Lion Air crash. The Department is seeking answers on how the 737 MAX received its safety certification. The investigation, according to The Wall Street Journal, “is being conducted by its inspector general, which has warned two FAA offices to safeguard computer files, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The FAA is under investigation by the DOT about the Boeing 737 MAX, all of this occurring before the most recent Ethiopian Airline crash, in which the same aircraft acted and behaved erratically just like the Lion Air disaster.

All of this points to a second major point and accompanying leadership calamity.

Boeing pushed for (and received from the FAA) a much lighter and faster safety certification approval. Perhaps because the 737 MAX was a so-called “derivative” model of the main 737 line, everyone on both sides of the leadership aisle at the FAA and Boeing got what they wanted. A quick and speedy safety approval.

The FAA with its reduced staff and growing lists of actions to take care of might have simply been fine with it. Maybe it even freed up time to get other actions completed on their lists. Boeing—in a herculean race to keep pace with Airbus—were likely keen to ensure that the plane made it to market as soon as possible, and with the least amount of disruption and cost overruns. (Let alone pilot training cost concerns from the airlines.)

It was reported by The Seattle Times that even after those MCAS and AOA modifications were made to the Boeing 737 MAX, pilots continued to be uninformed. Capt. Mike Michaelis, chairman of the safety committee of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), said, “We assumed they [major changes to the flight control system] were mostly cosmetic differences.”

But they weren’t.

The changes were very material. Those changes affected how the aircraft operated. It is now a question for authorities and others to determine if Boeing and the FAA knowingly (or unknowingly) rushed the design and the accompanying safety certification. The Wall Street Journal also states that Boeing knew the FAA might approve the safety certification quickly if the plane was considered a “derivative” rather than a major change or new aircraft altogether.

There is also that question about pilot training. Boeing knew that the technical modifications were material to the operation of the aircraft. Then why did the company knowingly fail to a) inform pilots of the changes by at least updating the Flight Crew Operations Manual or b) provide mandatory flight simulator training on the new MCAS and AOA changes? In either case, the pilots would surely be in a better position to know what to do should the plane begin to behave unpredictably after takeoff due to the bad sensor data.

Not only did the company (and FAA, arguably) ignore integrity and safety, perhaps Boeing leaders were incentivized by speed.

Recall the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. While revenues and profit were not the motives—as is the case with Boeing—NASA was certainly up against the leadership traits of speed and power. The now infamous O-ring pressure seals served as the cause of the crash, but it was Utah-based contractor, Morton-Thiokol, that supplied the seals to NASA.

The O-rings had been tested to perform in 40-degree Fahrenheit or above weather conditions.

On that fateful morning in Florida in 1986, it was only 18 degrees. NASA knew it was an issue, but hours before the launch pressed the contractor to “green light” the launch, and thus the condition of the O-rings in 18-degree weather.

Robert Ebeling, one of the Morton-Thiokol employees experienced with the O-rings was the individual responsible for highlighting the potential for disaster. He got his team together at NASA’s request and debated (again) whether they could knowingly approve that the O-rings would not fail.

In the end, the team wanted NASA to wait until the afternoon when temperatures would be closer to 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the pressure exerted by NASA—in addition to the capitulation of Morton-Thiokol senior managers—the company reversed its original decision and ended up giving the go-ahead for launch. As Ebeling and his entire team at Morton-Thiokol watched the launch, he said to himself, “Lord, make me and all these other engineers wrong, let it go.”

Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight killing all seven members on board.

With what seemed like the entire world watching the launch, in part due to a civilian school teacher being one of the crew’s astronauts, NASA chose to ignore the evidence, rushed to launch, and the result was catastrophic.

Samsung has its own horror story about speed and power. In this case, similar to Boeing, it demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it takes to beat your competitor to market.

Knowing that Apple was set to launch the iPhone 7 in the fall of 2016, Samsung leaders instructed its organization to do whatever it could to bring to market the Galaxy Note 7 before Apple. It also wanted a more creative phone. Analysts were suggesting that Apple was not only outsmarting Samsung, but it was also demonstrating more innovative practices.

Within weeks of the launch, the phones started catching fire. A recall ensued with over 2.5 million phones sent back to Samsung. The company lost billions of dollars in the recall, let alone billions more in lost revenues. What happened? In a rush to get the phone to market before Apple, a design flaw in the battery was overlooked. Safety checks were sub-par. Employees slept under desks to make the stringent deadline. It was an avoidable calamity, one brought on squarely by leaders.

Be it NASA or Samsung or Boeing or the FAA, when our corporate culture—and the behavior of senior leaders—is one that focuses solely on speed and power, the results are often telling.

When a for-profit company (like Boeing) is further incentivized by time-to-market factors, revenue quotas and profitability targets, if the values are ignored, danger is likely imminent.

In the weeks and months ahead—should the investigation confirm that the two crashes are related and it was an MCAS/AOA issue—Boeing will be asked a million different ways why it looked past its values of integrity and safety. It happened at NASA. It happened at Samsung.

The values of an organization are important. But if senior leaders demonstrate they are but words on the wall or images on a corporate website—and not actual behaviors to exhibit daily—what’s the point?

“And we aspire to live these values every day.”

The Sorry State Of Wells Fargo Continues

What a mess. Wells Fargo is an unmitigated disaster example of culture, and senior leadership gone wrong. Its board of governors is now in the crosshairs of negligence, too.

In the latest plot twist to this sordid management tale, the bank’s CEO, Tim Sloan, abruptly announced his retirement for the end of June. His duties as CEO ceased effective immediately.

The company has been mired in scandal after scandal for the better part of three years. Its corporate culture has suffered longer. Suffice it to say; Wells Fargo is in dire need of a factory reset.

Even before Sloan’s early retirement notice and immediate resignation as CEO, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was “debating the rare step of forcing changes to Wells Fargo’s senior management or board.”

It’s the “or board” throwaway comment that got my attention.

OCC went so far as to state via a spokesperson, Bryan Hubbard, the following:

We continue to be disappointed with Wells Fargo Bank N.A.’s performance under our consent orders and its inability to execute effective corporate governance and a successful risk-management program. We expect national banks to treat their customers fairly, operate in a safe and sound manner, and follow the rules of law.

Before any ejection by OCC played out, I suspect Sloan and the Wells Fargo board took proactive evasive action. Why?

When a meteorite is heading straight for your hull, the human condition is to get out-of-the-way.

First, for Sloan to be removed by the OCC—with an additional shove from the Federal Reserve—the result would have been personally humiliating. Imagine working 31 years of your life for a bank only to see yourself forcibly removed from the big chair that you’ve worked so hard to attain.

Second, if the Fed and OCC were indeed plotting a modern-day coup d’état, Wells Fargo board members were likely to be implicated forcing another dimension of personal embarrassments. There are several high-profile members from organizations such as PwC, Deloitte, Staples, Edison and Kellogg on the Wells Fargo board. Don’t think for a second that these people want to be swept up by an OCC investigation.

Indeed Sloan and the board members had to act to preserve any shred of dignity.

We might never know the truth but somewhere between Sloan falling on his sword, the board’s insistence, and an agreement between the two parties is where things have landed.

During a conference call discussing his resignation, Sloan said, “I just care so much about this company and so much about our team that I could not keep myself in a position where I was becoming a distraction.”

One might argue the “distraction” has been his inability to rid the organization of its unethical management and sales practices since becoming CEO. What if he was part of the problem from the start?

When news of the bank account fraud scandal broke in 2016—a practice known as cross-selling—Sloan was its chief operating officer. In that role, he was responsible for the operations of the company’s four main business groups:  Community Banking, Consumer Lending, Wealth and Investment Management, and Wholesale Banking.

The scandal crossed both Community Banking and Consumer Lending. Thus two of the business units implicated in those unethical sales behaviors reported directly into Sloan. After longtime CEO, John Stumpf left the company in 2016; the board still appointed Sloan to the top job. That decision, in retrospect, seems rather odd.

Before his time as CEO and COO, Sloan was CFO at the company. When the Los Angeles Times first reported on the crisis at Wells Fargo (in 2013!!), Sloan, as CFO, said, “I’m not aware of any overbearing sales culture.”

To recap, Sloan worked at Wells Fargo for 31 years. His career saw him lead units such as Capital Markets, Commercial Banking, Commercial Real Estate, Asset Backed Finance, Equipment Finance, Corporate Banking, Investment Banking, and Treasury Management. For a time he also led Corporate Communications, Corporate Social Responsibility, Enterprise Marketing, Government Relations, and Corporate Human Resources.

Then he became CFO. He eventually grew into the COO role. But he wasn’t aware of “any overbearing sales culture?” That too seems odd.

And yet, the board thought it would be a good idea to promote Sloan to CEO following the disgraceful departure of Stumpf. At the time it looked like the board was putting a fox in the henhouse. Now, that henhouse needs a complete rebuild.

Moving forward the board indicated it would hire someone from the outside as CEO. In a press release, board chair, Betsy Duke, said by hiring an individual not currently employed by the bank that it will be “the most effective way to complete the transformation at Wells Fargo.”


Perhaps the board has finally awoken to the madness that is the Wells Fargo culture. However, it is nowhere near completing its transformation. It’s not clear if the transformation has even begun.

It brings me to Alan Mulally. If I were Duke, my first call would be to him.

The former CEO of Ford and Boeing Commercial Airplanes might be the ideal candidate.

His work as a collaborative, no-nonsense yet compassionate and innovative leader is legendary.

At Boeing, he became CEO of the division just after 9/11 struck. He brought to market its most profitable airliner, the 787 Dreamliner. As fellow Forbes contributor, Bryce Hoffman writes:

His unshakeable confidence, commitment to transparency, and insistence on teamwork carried the company through that crisis and the painful restructuring that followed. Mulally relied on a powerful new management model to save Boeing: articulate a clear and compelling vision for the company, develop a comprehensive strategy to deliver on that vision, and execute on that through a relentless implementation process led by a team of talented people working together.

When Mulally left Boeing to head up Ford in 2006, he instituted ONE FORD (see graphic below), an organizational ethos that ensured everyone was working together in an ethical, collaborative, and efficient manner. Fast forward eight years when he retired as CEO, and you witness one of the greatest transformations of a company, under some of the most difficult economic, cultural and societal conditions.


Wells Fargo desperately needs Mulally. The customers and employees of Wells Fargo deserve his leadership.

Make the call, Ms. Duke.

PS. Read my 2016 Forbes piece entitled “Wells Fargo Proves Corporate Culture Can Also Be A Competitive Disadvantage” for early indicators of the organization’s problems.

Dan Pontefract April 2019 Playlist (for the weirdos)

I’ve always been into the “weirdos.” Be it the artists, poets, designers or musicians. I’d even classify myself as one, although I’m not as clever as those weirdos I look up to.

Maybe it’s why I curate a monthly music playlist. That’s weird, isn’t it? Curating a monthly music playlist that nobody needs or cares about?

But, perhaps, there is that one person who cares. Another weirdo, someone needing a boost, a jolt of weirdo adrenaline.

I see you, weirdo. I am you.

This one is for you.


This High-Tech Company Is Using Artificial Intelligence To Hire, Fire And Promote Employees

Ginni Rometty is CEO, president and chairman of IBM. She has held the top job since 2012.

When she joined the company in 1981, total headcount across IBM was roughly 350,000. By 1994, under the direction of CEO Lou Gerstner, headcount dropped to around 225,000.

When she took over as CEO from Sam Palmisano—who had enjoyed a ten-year run as IBM’s top dog—the global employee population at the company had swollen to nearly 450,000 people. Some of it was organic. A lot of it was by acquisition.

Today and under Rometty’s leadership, IBM headcount has dropped approximately 25%. There are now less than 350,000 people. How? In part, artificial intelligence.

Rometty recently spoke at a CNBC event titled “@WORK TALENT + HR: Building the workforce of the future.” It’s her comments that got me thinking about the impact that artificial intelligence is going to have on an organization’s HR strategy and employee population.

First, Rometty indicated that 100% of all jobs will be impacted by artificial intelligence.

I agree. Every role in the corporate hierarchy will in one way, shape or form be affected by the introduction of AI over time. She went on to say that job losses as a result of AI is a “red herring” and that we really shouldn’t “follow that logic all over the place.”

Not so fast.

There are millions of people in need of retraining and reskilling as a result of AI. If they aren’t at least partially taken care of by the organization, society will be overrun by people wondering what happened to them. It will become a zombie-like apocalypse of people wandering the streets looking for work.

In Rometty’s defense, she pointed out to audience members that organization’s ought to be considering three tactics to help with the transition to AI:

  1. Retrain current employees;
  2. Embrace people with less than a four-year degree;
  3. Reskilling employees by apprenticeships.

Somewhat ironically, however, Rometty indicated that skills were going to become the lifeline of an employee’s relevancy. “If you have a skill that is not needed for the future and is abundant in the market and does not fit a strategy my company needs, you are not in a good square to stay inside of,” Rometty said. “I really believe in being transparent about where skills are.”

Again, transparency is one thing but helping employees with their transition under the shadow of AI, in my opinion, has got to be one of the organization’s top strategies going forward.

By example, IBM has reduced its global HR workforce by 30% through the introduction of AI into the company. But did it do anything to help those who were packaged out to learn a new skill?

Perhaps it did and those HR employees simply decided to leave. After all, Rometty suggested that transparency is key to IBM’s workforce planning and skills gap. She also said that the AI that’s in place “infers” through the analysis of data, networks, relationships, skills, rankings and education what jobs are possible for internal candidates.

Maybe Watson felt those HR employees at IBM just didn’t have it in them to take on a new role.

That being stated, Rometty’s love for HR and the potential benefits of AI is demonstrable.

She alluded to other traditional HR systems being uprooted by AI for the better. MYCA—IBM’s internal career platform called My Career Advisor—no longer acts as a self serve system; instead the AI proactively recommends jobs to you based on skills, tenure, project work, rankings, and so on.

The company’s learning management system has become the “Netflix of Learning,” again proactively recommending courses and skill upgrades based on your progress at the company.

In an apparent knock to the antiquated way that HR organizes itself, Rometty believes that HR has got to become employee centric. “We have to do things for employees not to employees,” she said. She wants to see co-creation become a large part of its culture.

She wants companies to move away from centres of excellence to solution centres. Perhaps we should be thinking about pop-up solution shops. Using agile skills and collaborative team processes, these pop-up solution outfits allows her teams to come together for specific HR-related issues rather than the centre of excellence model.

Rometty rightly believes HR should be the role model for agile, AI, design thinking, net promoter score, and putting skills at the center of the organization. She believes it is an underutilized department. No complaints from me on that point.

IBM’s talent strategy also involves the proactive retention of people. Its HR AI system accurately predicts 95% of the time if people might want to leave the company. “It has saved the company over $300 million,” said Rometty, specifically due to proactive retention practices. It’s the artificial intelligence that tipped off IBM executives to take action—be it adding more compensation, skill development or a job change—before the employee might have left.

According to Rometty, this new way of operating at IBM has delivered a 20% bump in employee engagement scores across the company.

It’s still not clear how the changes in HR AI helped those folks in HR itself who lost their jobs due to AI. Irony aside, on the whole, I agree with Rometty.

Artificial intelligence is a must for any HR team if it wants to survive not only the pending talent war but its long-term existence, too. The big question is whether it will put that technology to good use to assist all employees, or will it simply be used to trim costs and total headcount numbers.

Qantas Airways CEO Delivers A Great Example Of Love-Based Leadership

Irishman Alan Joyce is the CEO of Qantas Airways, the $16 billion company headquartered in Sydney, Australia. For more than ten years as CEO, Joyce has led the company to dizzying heights of growth in the incredibly turbulent airline industry.

His most recent leadership act, however, may be his best. It has a lot to do about emotional intelligence and the importance of customer relations even in the crosshairs of competitive threats. But I believe there is something even greater that Joyce is demonstrating.

Alex Jacquot is 10-years old and the self-appointed CEO of Australia’s newest airline company, Oceania Express. Seeking advice on how to run his new airline, Jacquot wrote a letter to Joyce. In it, Jacquot announces he has appointed a CFO, vice-CEO, a Head of IT, and even a Head of Legal.

I’m certain the Oceania Express’s Head of Legal approved the letter to Joyce.

The questions this ten-year-old aviation boy wonder asked Joyce were wide-ranging:

  • First, being on school holiday, Jacquot wonders what he should be doing as CEO, given he has “more time to work with.”
  • Second, Jacquot is looking for a few tips on starting an airline, stating, “I’d be very grateful to know what you have to say.”
  • And third, Jacquot is curious about the Sydney/Melbourne to London flight on the new A350 airplane, and is “having a lot of trouble thinking about sleep.” He wishes for advice from Joyce on what to do for the passengers over the gruelling 25-hour flight.

With over 30,000 Qantas employees to deal with, thousands of suppliers and partners throughout the globe, let alone the more than 55 million passengers he is ultimately responsible for on an annual basis, clearly Joyce is a busy CEO. Why bother answering Jacquot’s letter, when a) he’s only 10-years old and b) he’s an up-and-coming competitive threat?

Did the CEO of Qantas Airways throw Jacquot’s letter into the bin?

Not a chance. On February 19, 2019, he wrote back. Here’s how the letter opened:

“Thank you for letting me know about your new airline. I had heard some rumours of another entrant in the market, so I appreciate you taking the time to write. First, I should say that I’m not typically in the business of giving advice to my competitors. Your newly-appointed Head of Legal might have something to say about that, too. But I’m going to make an exception on this occasion, because I too was once a young boy who was so curious about flight and all its possibilities.”

Not only did Joyce take the time to write back, but he also demonstrated what so many senior leaders forget about: love.

By simply writing to the boy, Joyce demonstrates a love for his role, his industry, and that of people interested in aviation. In this case, that love extends to Jacquot, his ten-year-old rival CEO. If Joyce didn’t love his role—or possessed a deep love for Qantas, customer relations, and aviation in general—I suspect there would never have been a return letter.

Further down his response, Joyce tackles one of Jacquot’s questions about the long flight between Australia and London.

“This is something we are grappling with too, as we embark on Project Sunrise (which is our plan to fly passengers non-stop between the east coast of Australia and London.) To help with sleep, we’re looking at different cabin designs that give people spaces to stretch out and exercise. We want to think up as many ideas as possible to make the journey more comfortable for all.”

When you love what you do, I guess you’re keen to share it with whomever.

By example, Joyce then invited Jacquot to Qantas headquarters for “a Project Sunrise meeting between myself, as the CEO of Australia’s oldest airline, and you, as the CEO of Australia’s newest airline.”

No word yet on how that meeting between CEOs turned out, but at the very root of this story is Joyce’s touching example of compassion.

It’s also a clear-cut example of love-based leadership, the basis for my next book currently under development.

I’m Raising A 13-Year-Old Boy And It’s F*&^ing Hard

I’m only two months into being CEO of The Pontefract Group, but so far it feels as though running a company is far easier than raising a teenaged boy. Perhaps it’s supposed to be this way.

For those of you who are entrepreneurs—and who are also raising teenaged boys—I wonder if you feel the same.

After 25 years working for large organizations, this past January I went out on my own and started my first business. I’ve learned about taxes, insurance, and how to correctly invoice. What lessons!

For the past 16 years, I have also been a parent of three children. It’s been a rewarding decade-and-a-half—with the normal gong show moments of parenting—but it’s the most recent times with the middle child (our only boy) that has got me thinking.

Raising a teenaged boy these days is an exercise in leadership. Perhaps it’s leadership in its truest form.

Upon reflection, so far it seems far more difficult to be leading/parenting a teenaged boy than it is to start up a company.

First, there is Fortnite. In my mind, Darren Sugg and the folks at Epic Games who designed this viral juggernaut of a cooperative online game are both friend and foe. Friend because they’re teaching boys how to work together and be collaborative. Foe because they have singlehandedly invented the electronic version of crack-cocaine.

I suppose if I had the type of focus (ahem, addiction) that my teenaged boy has for Fortnite I would have closed $5 million in business after two months.

While the boys may be able to focus their attention for hours at a time on Fortnite, motivating them to do anything different feels like an exercise in futility. It’s as though the tractor beam from the Death Star has locked them into all-Fortnite all-the-time defiance.

Unless of course, you set up Fortnite limits—as my wife and I have done as co-CEOs of our house—and then observe their attention shift to the mobile phone.

It’s like watching Bruce Lee’s nunchaku scenes from his films. Replace the nunchaku with a mobile phone, and you get the picture.

The best way to describe how the mobile phone has become another draw on the attention span of a teenaged boy is through a different film; this one titled “Pocket.”

If you want an incredibly fascinating and graphic insight into the life of a young teenaged boy—hooked on technology—watch this 17-minute short film starring Nickelodeon actor Mace Coronel.

The directors, Mishka Kornai and Zach Wechter, said this about Pocket.

“Part of the initial impetus to make this film was the growing sense that each new generation seems to be changing so quickly because of the exponential acceleration of technological progress. Did you have Tinder in college? Did you have Snapchat in high school? Did you have Instagram in middle school? Differing answers to these questions represent markedly different life experiences and drastically different ways of growing up. None of that existed when we were in high school, and we started talking about what our experiences would have been like if it had.”

Pocket was shot vertically and is meant to be consumed on your mobile device. The lead character, Jake, played by Coronel, navigates the highs and lows of home, school and friends. It details in full not only his addiction to the mobile phone but how tethered it has become with his way of being.

He tries to use it to cheat on a test. Going through puberty and the normal emotions and changes that ensue with such a transition, Jake gets into awkward situations with girls, classmates, and his family.

At one point, Jake uses his phone to film a fight that is taking place on the school ground. Later he finds out that after his posting of the fight onto social media, the boy responsible for the fight was expelled by school officials. Jake caused the expulsion. Nonplussed, he moves on to the next photo in his Instagram stream.

The directors hold no punches either when it comes to the direct and open access to pornography. Its availability is unnerving, and his addiction is unwavering.

The directors said:

“The film is not seeking to make a moralistic judgement about Instagram or pornography, but when most kids are spending six hours a day in a space that includes this collision of soft porn and their yearbook, sexual objectification and commodification seems like a worrisome possibility.”

As the CEO of a new start-up, my days consist of thinking, wondering, planning, strategizing, conversing, writing, executing, and failing. I’m having a blast.

As a parent of a 13-year-old-boy, my time is spent educating, preventing, cajoling, supervising, talking, reprimanding, and helping. It is difficult work.

I love being a new CEO, but being the parent of that teenager is way harder right now.

Dan Pontefract March 2019 Playlist (for Claire and Cate)

I am the lucky father of three children. Two of them are girls.

It wasn’t planned this way, but four years and four days separate their birthdays. Both Claire and Cate were born in March.

I just love being their father.

My March 2019 playlist is dedicated to them.

Love you, Claire and Cate.

Daddio. xxx

Purpose-Driven Companies Outperform The Financial Markets By 42 Percent

It seems that purpose is starting to pay off.

In DDI’s 2018 Global Leadership Forecast results, the research firm highlights several financial advantages to organizations that define their purpose and act on it.

In a survey of 1,500 global C-Suite executives, DDI found that those companies who both define and act with a sense of purpose outperformed the financial markets by a whopping 42 percent.

Those companies who talk a good game—that is, they have defined their purpose but don’t do anything about it—performed at the mean of all organizations.

And those without a purpose statement and who obviously do not act or behave with a sense of purpose underperformed by 42 percent.

Authors Robert Quinn and Anjan Thakor detail the transformation of DTE Energy’s organizational purpose in this Harvard Business Review article. After reflecting on how exactly the company’s purpose ought to change—coming out of the 2008 economic meltdown—CEO Gerry Anderson decided to shift gears and both define and act differently. He wanted to see the entire company act differently.

Anderson started with the company’s new declaration of purpose. “We serve with our energy, the lifeblood of communities and the engine of progress.” From there the company and its senior leaders wove the purpose into everything imaginable, be it training, meetings, and even sing-alongs.

The result? As the authors write in HBR, “DTE’s stock price more than tripled from the end of 2008 to the end of 2017.”

The EY Beacon Institute reports similar good tidings from the definition and enactment of organizational purpose.

Over three years the firm found that 58 percent of companies who prioritized both the definition and enactment of organizational purpose experienced growth of 10 percent or more. Compare that with the laggards, those thinking about it or doing nothing. Forty-two percent reported flat or declining revenue over the same period.

Boston Consulting Group also found long-term benefits to financial results when compared to an organization’s ability to define and operate with a sense of purpose. That is, purpose has to be truly baked into the DNA of the company.

From total shareholder return, EBITDA growth and revenue increase, those purpose-first companies outperformed companies without a sense of purpose by 2X.

The results are starting to pile up. There is a definitive link to acting with a higher sense of purpose and the bottom line of a company. So why aren’t more organizations operating this way?

First, there is pride.

How many CEOs and executives want to admit that their strategy is wrong? That is a sign of weakness. And when there are signs of weakness many believe an exit package is certain to follow.

Second, even the word “purpose” continues to have a negative connotation in the land of executives.

It sounds soft. It’s not tough. You can’t possibly measure it. Isn’t “purpose” the name of a Justin Bieber album that my children keep playing over and over?

Third, Larry Fink is wrong.

Some executives believe the BlackRock CEO has lost his stature with the recent push to highlight the link between purpose and profit. “He’s clearly not one of us,” some will mutter in the backrooms of private clubs. “I’m not going down that purpose path. It’s crazy.”

But the problem is that it’s not crazy. Purpose is a winning strategy.

More and more data suggests that is a strong and positive financial bottom-line benefit to both defining and acting with a higher sense of purpose.

I spent the better part of three years researching this concept in the run-up to publishing my book, The Purpose Effect. And since 2016 I have continued to stay very close to the concept.

It’s only gathering speed.

What side of history do you want to be on?

Podcast: Helping Others In Times Of Need

In this episode, Dan Pontefract talks about intentional disposition, and how we need to be intentional when we help others. Stories about NBA coach Doc Rivers, Jesse Owens and the first female to run the Boston Marathon make an appearance. Love Based Leadership provides insights, thoughts, stories and truth bombs concerning the state of leadership in today’s organizations.

Listen to Dan on Apple Podcasts





When Our Values Run Counter To Our Employer

As sportscasters go, Bob Costas is legendary.

Be it basketball, golf, hockey, NASCAR, the Olympics or his beloved baseball, Costas has reported on, commentated over and anchored sporting events since 1973. Much of his multi-Emmy award-winning tenure came through the camera lenses of NBC.

That role came to an abrupt end in January. After 38 years at the network, Costas and NBC severed ties. According to Costas, it was amicable.

The reason? Football, specifically the National Football League (NFL) and its negligence on the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) file. The weak side counter question I’d like to raise concerns the topic of values, specifically that of Costas, NBC and the NFL.

Throughout the years, Costas used his platform on NBC to highlight the growing concern of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. I suppose his employer simply put up with his commentary even though the NFL was arguably NBC Sports’ most important partner.

That is until it became too much when the desire for profit eclipsed values.

In a brilliant 5600-word investigative journalism piece, ESPN Staff Writer Mark Fainaru-Wada detailed Costas’s slow yet inevitable fallout with his bosses at NBC.

During the many interviews that Fainaru-Wada conducted with him for the piece, Costas indicated that his relationship with football began to spoil decades ago. “As I got closer and closer to the game, I became ambivalent about it,” Costas said. “The sheer violence of the game, and then the celebration of that violence, even before CTE became a specific issue . . . I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. That felt stupid to me.”

Costas’s reflection referred to the period in and around 1993.

When NBC lost the rights to NFL broadcasts in 1997 to CBS, it ensured Costas would not have to question his values. I imagine it was difficult for Costas to tow the party line—what with the NFL being such an expensive property for NBC—but without broadcasting rights, neither Costas nor NBC would be alienating anyone at the NFL as it pertained to Costas’s growing displeasure with the sport.

NBC was without the rights to NFL broadcasts between 1997 and 2005. No harm, no foul.

When NBC decided it could not live without the NFL, in 2005 it won the first of several multi-year broadcasting contracts. The NFL was back on NBC.

This would have been a good time for Costas to further shine a light on his disapproval with the NFL. He could have refused to work on the NFL broadcasts. Instead, he said yes to NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol’s request to have him back on the NFL broadcasts “out of loyalty” and “as kind of a good soldier.”

For the ensuing decade, Costas would be the prime host of NBC’s NFL coverage. He would occasionally outline his displeasure with the NFL’s ambivalence to head trauma. Again, his employer seemed to let him speak his mind while the NFL remained silent.

All of that changed in late 2015. After viewing a screening of the Will Smith film, Concussion—based on the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who truly started the NFL’s concussion crisis—Costas penned a damning essay about the NFL’s CTE controversy, to be read aloud at the beginning of NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast.

The essay never made it to air. NBC Sports’ senior leadership team nixed the prose, telling Costas it would upset the NFL and potentially jeopardize contract negotiations.

In the interview with Fainaru-Wada, Costas said, “It was at that point that I realized that this was an untenable situation for me. I knew my days there were numbered.”

Two years later, Costas appeared at a journalism symposium at the University of Maryland where he said, “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains — not everyone’s, but a substantial number. It’s not a small number, it’s a considerable number. It destroys their brains.”

It was at this point when an NBC executive said Costas had crossed a line. Roughly a year later, Costas was out, and his storied career at NBC was over.

The question now comes back to values.

NBC is in the game of revenues and profits. Its sports division negotiates partnerships with all sorts of different sports. It has many competitors. There is still a question of values and ethics. NBC has to ask itself if it wants to operate with the NFL knowing full well the product (the game of football) is literally killing the main pipeline of entertainers. (i.e. the NFL athletes)

And then there is the NFL. Where do the values and ethics of the NFL owners and senior league officials sit when it too knows that CTE is a death sentence for its employees? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found CTE in 99 percent of the brains obtained from NFL players.

And finally there is Bob Costas, and the lesson we all can learn from his sharing of the experience.

I’ve always loved Costas, his voice, depth and breadth of knowledge, let alone his willingness to dig into the problems of sport be it the Olympics’ bribes or the Major League Baseball steroid crisis.

I do wonder what happened in 2005.

Did Costas use the opportunity to return to the NFL hosting desk on NBC because he was contractually obligated to do so? Did he return knowing he might have a chance to help change the narrative of the NFL’s brain injury predicament?

Or, did Costas return to the desk for the fabulous paycheck?

I hope he did so not for the money or out of obligation, but that he felt he could have made a difference. Perhaps he has.

Whether we look at NBC, the NFL or Costas, each of us must ask ourselves how we want to operate in the business world. Who are our allies? What do we want to ultimately accomplish? Perhaps most importantly, how do we want to be known when we leave a room?

In the context of making money—personally or organizationally—I find many decisions get made not based on our values but on what is convenient to ensure a means to an end.

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