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The importance of business integrity in leadership, interview with Doug McVadon [Podcast]

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Sage Advice Podcast Interview-Business Integrity in Leadership

The Sage Advice Podcast energizes business builders around the world through the imagination of our people and the power of technology. This episode features Doug McVadon, the president of Dorrier Underwood. An edited transcript is below.

Doug McVadon is the president of Dorrier Underwood. He has been a consultant with them since 1997, working with executives to achieve breakthroughs and communication performance and productivity. Before entering the business world, Doug had a distinguished 18-year long career in broadcast news, serving as a radio newsman, and then moving into television, where he was an anchor and editor, and a news producer.

One of the things that you and I have discussed in the past is that you think that business is the institution that will best aid the human race. Why do you think that?

McVadon: I mentioned I started my career working in broadcast radio and TV. The Watergate scandal was the formative event of my high school years. I wanted to be Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and break the big story, and save the free world from corruption. That was my mission until I found out that is not really what happens day to day in radio and TV. I guess it could, but it was not what was happening where I was, it became a grind. I started thinking, where did the vision go? Where did my vision go? How did I lose my way?

I think that if businesses could have a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves, it could go on past our lifetimes. Your business purpose has the power to transform the quality of life. All big missions like NASA, and the things that we have seen in our lifetimes have changed the quality of life today.

You talk a lot about the subject of integrity. How does it apply to business today?

McVadon: I mentioned NASA before, because we think of the space program as the ultimate in precision. I mean, there’s no oxygen in space. Everything has to be perfect, or people will die. It’s the ultimate example of integrity in a business operation. You have to produce a result and it has to be perfect. Failure is not an option, as we learned in Apollo 13.

That’s what’s happening in business today. Businesses that pay attention to things in the way that they paid attention in the space program are the companies that will succeed. It is not a moral issue, in the way that we talk about integrity in everyday language. That does not mean that bad companies will not succeed and the good companies will. I mean, it’s the companies with integrity, the companies who say what they are going to do and that is what they do. It is a one-to-one relationship between their word and what they produce out in the world. That’s a winning strategy, to focus on integrity. The companies that can see this are those that will to lead the way into the future.

I do not know whether you’ve heard of something called a B Corp? It’s a whole movement of a type of corporation that measures the bottom line in multiple ways, and not just in the traditional way. These are the kind of things that I mean when I say bringing integrity to business. Being able to dispassionately look at what you are producing, in the largest sense, and being responsible for that, not having it be a matter of right or wrong or good or bad.

If we could have that conversation in business, and think of integrity as just a yes or no question, rather than a moral issue or a matter of blame, then I think that we could advance a lot of the conversations that businesses are stuck in today. There’s my soapbox of the moment, Ed.

Wouldn’t the concern though be that the word integrity also has a moral component to it in everyday parlance? And you can say, well, they could behave with integrity but they were out to do evil.

McVadon: I do not deny there’s a moral component to integrity, I am saying there’s a lot of focus on that already. People already know what they mean by that.

I don’t know whether you’d use the word integrity in an actual conversation with another person, but I do think it’s useful to distinguish it as we are now, as in an integral part of what makes a business work, and conversely what doesn’t work about business, when it’s not working.

Because if there’s somewhere, I am saying the integrity is out and the people are not dealing with it, and that is the reason that your stock price is dropping, or you are not performing up to expectations.

Want to hear more from the interview with Doug McVadon.Listen to the full podcast.