Click here for Meeting Executive Summary (PDF file)
Adapt or Die The Core Value of Character
West Point, April 8, 2016
Part I – Introduction
Retired US Army Lieutenant-General Rick Lynch, whose book, Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General, has inspired this Zensights meeting series, opened the luncheon event by noting the steep decline in the biopharmaceutical industry’s public reputation. To reverse this trend, companies must consider how other sectors of society have addressed similar downturns in support. The US military provides a perfect example. After the Vietnam War, few Americans had much good to say about the institution. Today, the picture is entirely different: the military consistently rates in opinion surveys as the most valued and respected institution in the country.
Our theme today is what Zensights biopharma executives can learn from colleagues at the US Military Academy on establishing individual leadership character traits as a spur to superior group performance and societal respect. As a troop commander, I’ve often said that the most important piece of furniture in every house is the mirror – that reflection of your own soul. I believe the integrity of any organization depends on the individual character of its members, so getting that mix of virtues defined correctly is a necessary first step to establishing better bona fides with the public. How to accomplish that is what our West Point guests are prepared to share with us today.
Part II – Keynoter Summaries
Lynch was followed by the luncheon’s two lead speakers, US Military Academy Superintendent, Lieutenant-General Robert Caslen; and Alex Gorsky, a 1982 graduate of the Academy and currently Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson Co.
Caslen began by noting West Point’s founding mission in 1802: to produce officers for the US Army along with trained engineers, both with the assignment to facilitate expansion of the US across the continent. Today, the Academy also has a strong international connection – a good example is the Sandhurst Competition, a teambased field games challenge organized through the Academy’s Modern Warfare Institute and involving cadet corps from 36 countries, which is going on here on campus right now.
Character development is at the very core of the education every cadet receives during his or her time at West Point. Individual character is the basis for leadership, underpinning the intellectual and physical requirements of military service. Our philosophy is very simple: if you fall short on character, then you fail as a leader.
Why are we so definitive on the question of character? The answer rests on the seriousness of the Academy’s mandate stipulated by Congress. The oath taken by every cadet on graduation is allegiance to the US Constitution. Our task is to defend the Constitution through the profession of arms, applying lethal force when necessary to defend the American people against external threats. In using that force, the military, as a public institution, must work within carefully proscribed legal and legislative constraints. Hence in service to our country, we are obligated to follow the law, not politics.
In light of this grave responsibility, the Academy does not have the luxury of turning the exercise of character on and off, as it suits the moment. Our officers and soldiers must lead – all the time. As Superintendent here at West Point, I find it is more challenging to maintain this commitment due to a host of cultural and technological changes. One critical transition is the rise of social media. More young people today think they can pursue activities in their private life that are separate from the values they espouse in public. The Academy does not see any such distinction.
The gap between the values that recruits have when entering West Point and when they depart four years later is bigger than ever. The distance that has to be covered is longer and definitely more uncertain, with more gray areas present than for previous generations of cadets. It’s a bell shape curve with a large standard deviation.
It is true that society has evolved toward greater tolerance, and the Academy is no exception. Today, the US Army bars intolerant or discriminatory behavior based on race, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion or sexual orientation. This expanded commitment to inclusion is good, but if you don’t accompany it with corrective measures to define what is or is not acceptable behavior, then you end up with rules that are poorly understood. This can lead to the unraveling of discipline over time. For example, despite all our antidiscrimination efforts, 91 per cent of the Academy’s female cadets still say they have experienced sexist behavior from their male counterparts. Social media, in particular, makes it easy to express hostility without real consequences because of the degree of distance and anonymity it provides to the offender.
The approach we take at the Academy is to draw out and expose character deficiencies that lead to behavior inconsistent with Army rules and values. If we can’t identify what those deficiencies look like in each individual, then we cannot fix the problem; when we do not fix the problem, group morale is undermined. The ultimate expression of such corrosion will be more injuries and deaths on the battlefield. I cannot be more emphatic: the stakes in maintaining the high character of our men and women are really that high.
It follows that character is one of the four elements of the formal program we have at the Academy to grow the leadership potential of our cadets. The Cadet Development Model starts with a requirement that a cadet be ready to learn from their experiences at the Academy – to be open and accepting of all that they encounter here as we prepare them for a career of service to the country. “I won’t do it” is not part of the language. Every cadet can expect a range of development experiences that must be confronted as a challenge – and each individual will be assessed on how that challenge is handled. The intent is to help the cadet to grow, become more confident, and see themselves and others in a new way.
Next, there is an emphasis on self-reflection. This is a structured process involving the use of mentors, peer exchange and journaling, all geared to identifying and acknowledging behavioral weak points that thwart personal development and thus need to be resolved. It also makes tangible the high expectations we have for our cadets.
In return for the cadet’s commitment to stretch and strive, the Academy promises to seed each cadet’s path with a range of new capabilities and knowledge. These will be delivered through an excellent classroom education but also as a consequence of character-building experiences involving active interaction with other cadets, officers and staff as well as the guided reflection provided by mentoring and coaching.
The final ingredient is time. Each element in the Cadet Development Model requires significant investments in resources, mostly on the human side. Avoiding distractions requires the effort of everyone here at West Point. If attention to the Model is side-tracked the opportunity to build the consistency of character we want to see in every cadet, given the short 47 months they are with us, gets lost.
As I noted, character ranks as one of the four programs on which we measure the progress of every cadet. But character development is written into the other three as well. For example, the Academic program requires an understanding on how ethics influences decision-making. The Military program provides real-life opportunities for cadets to test their individual leadership skills. And the Physical program focuses on sportsmanship, team building and constructive competitive behavior along with requirements to meet high standards for physical and mental endurance.
The centerpiece of the Character program is the Professional Military Ethic Education [PMEE] instruction that commences during basic training and continues throughout the academic year. Classroom and field work focus on living in day-to-day compliance with the Cadet Honor Code as well developing the capacity for critical thinking to address the many instances where character cannot be applied just by consulting a handbook.
In fact, we strive to make cadets aware they must “own it” by taking the initiative to live according to the Honor Code and the adjacent values required in leading others. We don’t want people thinking that character development is all about checking a box. Full engagement is mandatory. And it’s measured. This “own it” perspective is taking on growing importance as we address emerging challenges coming from the social media space, which carry the potential to undermine group discipline and professional behavior towards others.
Finally, character issues are woven into the fabric of the Periodic Development Review [PDR], a 360 degree feedback assessment designed to track progress in all four areas of cadet development and help prepare cadets for future Army leadership roles. This process is taken very seriously by the many people involved in the various multidisciplinary surveys of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. And the PDR can have a significant impact on a graduate’s future career. If the Army has to impose a reduction in force and decommission some officers, a PDR file with repeated instances of a character deficit will put that person in the front of the line to go, even if job performance overall is acceptable. That’s how strongly the Academy feels about character.
Caslen responded to several questions from the group centering on how the Academy is responding to external cultural forces that tend to dilute the effectiveness of rigid disciplinary strictures. Caslen agreed that the Academy had moved toward an approach that is less prescriptive, noting that 40 years ago even a minor infraction of the cadet Honor Code would lead automatically to dismissal from the Academy. The emphasis now, he said, is engaging the cadet in a process designed to evidence his or her active desire to learn and improve from the experience. Remorse alone is not enough. There must be resilience and perseverance too. So we will work with that cadet to see that he or she comes out of the disciplinary process with a stronger commitment to our values. We do this by active mentoring; requiring the cadet to facilitate and participate in private and public reflections with peers; and accepting without equivocation the punishments that usually entail withdrawal of privileges enjoyed by other cadets. If we see a real behavior change, then the Academy need not backtrack on its initial investment in the person. It’s a win. On the other hand, if the cadet denies any responsibility and shows no desire to change, then we act very quickly to separate.
Caslen was followed by J&J’s Alex Gorsky, in a “fireside chat” with Rick Lynch. Gorsky stressed how his experience as a cadet shaped his career in the private sector, noting that the strong service orientation at West Point led him to the health care industry, which shares with the military an ethical mission by helping people in an aging society stay healthy and live longer. Like the armed services, leaders of health care companies must meet a higher standard of public responsibility.
Character is essential to preserving industry’s freedom to operate. CEOs must address questions that test their reserves of character – often under the harsh glare of unwanted publicity – every day. Why the scrutiny? It’s because this industry is important. Spending on health accounts for a fifth of US GDP and thus drives economic performance. Regulators and patients expect us to deliver on the promise to innovate and increase access to drugs that raise the standard of health for all. We work in a fishbowl marked by high levels of risk, on the clinical and financial side. As a CEO, I am responsible for the ethical behavior of 140,000 J&J employees in more than 100 locations throughout the world. And I am constantly aware that our products touch more than a billion lives every day.
Taken together, these pressures suggest that my fellow CEOs and I spend less time on character development in our organizations than we should.
Character is the foundation of J&J’s most important work, our Credo. It is not well known that the Credo had its origins in the company’s relationship with US armed forces during World War II. J&J’s CEO at the time, Robert Wood Johnson, was given a General’s commission by President Roosevelt to organize logistics against the enemy. This and other work he did on the wartime employment front prompted Johnson to write that simple Credo, which reflects Johnson’s personal character and values, where customers are regarded as people with real lives and the commitment to corporate responsibility is broad and overarching – in fact, J&J was the first US multinational to acknowledge that suppliers have the right to share in our success.
When Rick Lynch asked for clarification on what makes that Credo “come alive,” Gorsky said it starts with making its presence ubiquitous. The Credo consists of commitments to four stakeholders: customers; employees; communities; and shareholders. “It’s short, simple, jargon-free and easy on the eyes – and it’s everywhere.” It is also direct. The most frequently used word in the Credo is the word “must” – not “should” or “plan to” – it’s not corporate speak, it’s real people speak. This is not a communications tactic. It actually represents the character of the man who wrote it.
The real action around the Credo starts with the people J&J hires, at that crucial front end of the funnel. Every new employee must attend a day-long small group seminar on the Credo. The discussions center on contemporary case studies, transforming a text written in the 1940’s into something that carries meaning for today.
The Credo is also incorporated in the strategy/operating plans for each business unit, through activities to keep the four stakeholder commitments fresh and to identify areas for improvement. The key here is the individual manager ratings, which consist of three markers of behavior. The first, on performance, is a bit counter-intuitive. It requires evidence of being successful when business conditions are bad, not just when they are good. Or that strong results were achieved in Europe even though the executive’s career began in China. Or your leadership potential is demonstrated with a team you inherited from someone else as well as from one that you created.
The second is recruiting and building talent. To really live the Credo, a manager at J&J must seed his or her own success further down the line. I can safely say no one at J&J can progress without empowering others; we look for the manager who has the reserves of character to advance those with capabilities or judgment superior to his own.
The third is demonstrating a transparent and inclusive value system – in other words, representing Credo behaviors. We look for a balanced approach. A manager who succeeds on the numbers by intimidating his staff, alienating peers and otherwise leaving a lot of dead bodies around is not going to obtain a good performance rating. Neither is the manager who is too tame in the expectations for those under his or her command, who just wants to be liked.
In summary, recognition will accrue to the J&J leader whose unit continues to perform above grade well after he or she has moved on. That’s the best sign that manager was living the Credo, with a leadership capability that ended up raising the performance standard for the whole, rather than the few. That’s good for the company overall.
In contrast, I find poor judgment, usually involving people, is the factor that most often trips up someone in a leadership position. This is ultimately an issue of character. I ask people seeking senior positions at J&J what the “command climate” is for the teams they lead. Can they point to instances where, in working through others, they inspired a team of individuals to do things each never expected to achieve on their own? If they can show that, it demonstrates character traits our business model requires right now. Leadership excellence today is all about adapting – working through waves of disruptive change, where the old playbooks no longer work. Some people with otherwise excellent credentials just don’t have that perspective.
Part III – Executive Panel Discussion
Ken Banta, Managing Partner of the Vanguard Group for Leadership, continued the meeting with a moderated conversation with two line management executives: Jack Bailey, President, US Pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline [GSK], and Jay Galeota, President, Emerging Businesses and Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Merck & Co.
Galeota noted that character is a fundamental trait, the commitment to which must be constantly refreshed and reasserted by the individual leader as he or she responds to the challenges inherent in daily life. Today’s manager is confronted with an endless series of choices and it’s largely up to you to decide just how to behave, as the circumstances arise. Experience leads me to conclude that this process is not an intellectual exercise. Great displays of individual character – like those in the sports arena, when a player acts spontaneously to sacrifice for the good of the team, are driven by a complex interplay of thought and emotions. Being smart is less important than demonstrating emotional intelligence and the ability to read the crowd.
Bailey said his life experience reveals that real character always requires courage – because to act with integrity, a manager must be direct. Character traits also develop gradually. Finding mentors and role models, as well as strong, supportive family ties and friendships formed outside of work, are very important in keeping leaders grounded and focused on doing what is right for the team, not just for yourself. On a personal note, I can say that, as I get older, I realize just how rare it is to find that person of great character. The passage of time has a culling effect. Eventually the truth comes out about people entrusted with high positions in the organization. Is he or she authentic or not? A good leader has to put everything he/she has into earning that badge of authenticity. It is not easy.
Both leaders were asked on how their respective organizations build those reserves of character.
Bailey said at GSK it begins with the hiring process, to which he devotes a considerable amount of his time through extensive interviewing of candidates for various positions across the business. Because the biopharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, good judgment is critical. Bailey looks for evidence not only of accomplishments but setbacks too; it’s the only way to distinguish between actions that are intentional as well as unintentional – what’s right or wrong is not always obvious from the circumstances.
GSK has forged ahead with ethical behavior standards that raise the bar for the industry as a whole. These are accompanied by extensive training in compliance for all employees and an active enforcement policy. Penalties for specific violations of GSK’s rules on appropriate conduct are clear and explicit, ranging from a coaching session to separation from employment. I’ve made an extra commitment to share learning internally about manager and colleague behaviors in the GSK workplace. I assumed the President position a little more than a year ago, and I recognized fairly quickly we need to be better at relating our standards to what happens in “real life.” I think that’s true of most big organizations today.
Merck has taken a similar approach, said Galeota. There is a zero tolerance policy in place for lapses in ethical judgment that results in compliance violations. The most effect antidote to this is constant feedback and education designed to eliminate situations where lapses in character and judgment –often driven by sheer ignorance or a perverse attachment to the wrong incentives – will put a manager in harms’ way. We also find that ethics and character have to be rooted in the approach we take to building the business. The mantra at Merck is that a manager, in pursuit of a goal, must not only relate to the “what” but the “how” as well. Whereas everyone tends to focus on the “what” –the objective and the intended result – the “how” is actually more important. Especially if it leads to doing something ethically dubious or illegal in order to obtain that result.
In response to a question from Banta about the challenge to maintaining high standards in a global marketplace with diverse cultural attitudes on character and ethics, Bailey and Galeota said their companies follow a universal, “geographically agnostic” policy. Formal regulations on employee behaviors do vary across countries, but the two companies observe the basic principle that the most stringent standards in force must be the worldwide benchmark for what is deemed permissible in any one country – there is no deviation; no” least common denominator.” However, both leaders indicated the view that more internal resources need to be invested in education, peer group training and other activities to underscore the seriousness of a global, no exception stance on compliance.
“We have to be 100 per cent right, all the time; 99 per cent, or most of the time, is not good enough,” said Bailey.
In a separate observation, Superintendent Caslen asked why many lapses in character occur after years of exemplary behavior. Why do we have so many public instances where a leader, after decades of honorable behavior, suddenly does something foolish or wrong? I say it’s the result of the “you rest, you rust” syndrome. It’s why the Academy stresses to its cadets that character development is a long journey and to remain in touch with the core values you started with, you must go to the well many times. Character in the military must be upheld as a personal, lifetime commitment.
Because of this, Caslen said the most powerful means to instill character in the cadet corps is to rely on history as a constant reminder of the US Army’s sacrifice to the nation. He relayed a story of a visit by an Army athletic team to the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield, tracing the steps of a young officer, Elonzo Cushing, whose valor on behalf of his fellow soldiers was recognized by President Obama, 150 years later, as halting the advance of the Confederacy at a crucial point in the war – the south was never able to reclaim its lead and the Union was preserved. This act of witnessing really moved the cadets, one of whom said to me, “Sir, I get it. I now know what the nation expects of me.” That’s the vital emotional content of character – and this is something that cannot be taught.
Rick Lynch and Zensights founder Bob Jansen thanked Superintendent Caslen, CEO Gorsky and panel members Jack Bailey, Jay Galeota and Ken Banta for their contributions to the discussion. Jansen announced that the next meeting in the “Adapt or Die” leadership series would be hosted by the George W. Bush Institute on October 13 in Dallas with the scheduled participation of President Bush.
A full description of the West Point System for Leader Development and the Cadet Development Model was provided to Zensights by Superintendent Caslen and can be found as an attachment to this report.
Zensights thanks all those who participated in the 2016 “The Core Value of Character” meeting at West Point.
Click here for Meeting Executive Summary (PDF file).
Adapt or Die Value Based Leadership Summit
West Point, April 16, 2015
In the fourth session of the “Adapt or Die” series, Zensights gathered nearly 30 Biopharma leaders for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour and leadership summit at the world-renowned United States Military Academy at West Point, in West Point, New York. The leadership summit featured an inspiring keynote speech by Lieutenant General Rick Lynch and insightful leadership lessons by General Ben Griffin, Mr. Joe Truitt, Dr. Francois Nader, and Mr. Ken Banta.
The highly successful Lieutenant General Rick Lynch has earned countless military accolades for the amazing service he has done for our country; leading and caring for thousands of men and women in the US Army. He is the author of the leadership book titled, “Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles From an American General.” From his meager beginnings, he has lived his life in the most impressive manner. He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Due to his intestinal fortitude to succeed he managed to earn himself a coveted spot at West Point. He first stepped foot on Academy grounds on July 2, 1973, and it solidified an already amazing young mans destiny. It was at West Point that Lt. General Lynch learned, in a very personal manner, how important the Cadet Honor Code is not only in the Army, but also in life; “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.” This critical lesson along with the motto “Duty, Honor, Country,” remain cornerstones in his life. His exposure to a great mentor throughout his career, General Ben Griffin, helped to shape his distinguished 35 years in the Army.
Some Insights into Applying Value Based Leadership
As Lt. General Lynch commanded troops in the Army, he learned that one must ask three questions to exemplify “Duty, Honor and Country:”
- Are we doing the right things?
- Are we doing things right?
- What are we missing?
In addition, drawing from spiritual leadership and the cadet’s prayer, Lt. General Lynch also learned that it is:
- Always better to do the harder thing right, than the easier thing wrong.
- When confronted by the truth, don’t succumb to hypocrisy or false pretense.
- Never settle for the half-truth when the whole truth can be achieved.
It is critical to identify who the ‘people of value’ surrounding you are. Then ask yourself where do these values come from? As a result,
it is critical that you:
- Identify what your personal values are – where do they come from and how important they are to you and your organization.
- Determine how you communicate those values to your organization. 70% of communication stands on the listener. Are you living by those values? How are they being instilled in your people? Everyday something happens unforeseen and you must be the example.
- Guide yourself with ethical decision-making – identify what you are missing? What do you pretend to know, but you really don’t know? The hope is that you leave with more values and more prepared to conduct yourself with more ethical decisions.
If your manager doesn’t reflect similar values you can be silent and proceed or remove yourself from that environment.
Adapt or Die Value Based Leadership Executive Panel:
1. What are the values that have been set up at work and are they at odds with your values?
Joe Truitt: As a mid-cap company, there isn’t always alignment in what we are trying to achieve with what shareholders want because there are a lot of short term investors. What we do understand is that we need to deliver a cure for Hepatitis C. We clearly put the patient at the center of our focus. We constantly remember that although we are doing advanced chemistry and biology, we want to do no harm to patients, rather we want to heal patients. We have core values in the company. We value innovation and we also try to instill tenacity in our people. We don’t punish risk takers (excluding anyone that puts patients at risk). Values can evolve over time. I came from a hard working family with a great work ethic. Our grandma made us go to church and I grew up in a tough neighborhood where loyalty was very important. I served in the Marines and they gave me core values. They expect you to carry out values for life. I have worked at companies where values where reinforced and rewarded.
2. Do the values learned in the Military carry over to the private sector or have you evolved into other values?
General Ben Griffin: You are a very impressive group. Always build upon what has gotten you to this place. I don’t speak about religion and politics. You come in with values. I am an eagle scout and out of all of the awards earned, I kept that award. You form values from your parents, church, school and friends. Since retiring, I have started 3 small businesses. I work with 4 to 5 companies, and also worked with major corporations. I only work with people that I want to work with. I am not sure that you change your values but you learn more each day with your interactions with people. The most successful companies and leaders have very high values and readily share them with you. You have two choices, you do it or you don’t do it. And you must be a good listener. I applaud the development of smart phones but you must turn off the phone when meeting with people or it shows that you are not listening to them.
- Treat people with respect.
- Do what’s right, legally, ethically and morally.
- Give a 100%. We don’t train to be in second place.
The most successful leaders live by these principles whether simple or sophisticated. I like John Wooden’s mantra of always do the little things right.
3. How do you turn a failing organization into a winning one? What values did you focus on that turned NPS into a success?
Dr. Francois Nader: I joined NPS when they had issues with the FDA and $180 million dollars was due in 18 months. When I joined the company it was worth $150 million dollars. I joined because I saw value in its products and people. I didn’t have a clue how to turn it around, but knew that I could do it. Investors wanted us to act first and then think. However, we needed to stop and think. I saw value on what we had and I created a new business model. We picked up rare diseases. The second part was the human part, as we went from 450 people to 40 people. This was not pleasing and it was very painful for employees but we treated employees with respect. I sat in my office and tried to solve for the “what.” This means that I asked myself the simple question of how I want the company to operate. I remembered where I enjoyed my career most and identified the values that drove me to be fulfilled and aimed for that. In addition, I put the patient at center since I am a physician. To me, integrity and respect are non-negotiable. At all times, personal accountability is extremely important, so the buck stops there. Excellence is nonnegotiable as well. We added teamwork since you can’t do something alone. But we were missing one thing, so we added having fun. For years, these were the values that we had. As the company grew, we didn’t change values. Finally, we added entrepreneurial spirit. We recruited people that lived these values. We took action on people that didn’t exemplify the values. I had to dismiss two direct reports that didn’t treat people with respect. I don’t believe in having plaques on the walls; the minute that it takes to read it, means that we are not living what’s on the
plaque. We included values in personal appraisals and this was binary. Either you are meeting or not meeting the values. So we put them into action and every new employee would sit in the CEO’s office and tell me who they are as a person and then I would tell them how to be successful in the organization. This was focused across the executive team and cascaded down to achieve credibility. But you can lose that credibility in half a second if, as leaders, we don’t abide to the values all of the time. When the patient is at the center then we make decisions on whether or not it is good for the patient and does it abide with values? We took the company from $150 million to $7 billion in 7 years. There isn’t a right or wrong approach. We used a model and it worked for us. You must work in an environment that fits your value system.
4. Which value was the hardest to implement?
Dr. Francois Nader: Most difficult was excellence and my high expectations for myself and others.
5. How do you balance wanting to do the right thing with delivering the right thing, especially when your values are at odds with your supervisor’s values? Do I quit or do I influence?
Lt. General Ben Griffin: In the end, you have to live with yourself so you should assess if it is a personality or value system issue? If you stay in an organization long enough, you will run into someone that you don’t align with. Do you adjust? You must identify who is your customer and who is your boss. Do you mold or do you mold that person? Is it right or wrong? If it is unethical, you go away from it. One thing I find interesting, some young commanders want to point out what’s wrong, blame the previous person. People respect you more when you stand up and say I’m not doing that.
Joe Truitt: It was really hard in the military, when you have a change in command. You don’t have any recourse in the military. In a corporate setting, the industry is big enough that you don’t have to work in that circumstance. I experienced something similar and we left and started something much better. I interview people on the values to make sure that it fits into our company’s value system.
6. Do you recommend going to the next level up and escalating an issue that conflicts with the organization’s stated value system from an ethics perspective?
Dr. Francois Nader: It is not necessary to go to the next level. Identify who has the influence, could be HR, CEO or a peer, etc. Simplify it and ask if I can live with myself. You always have a choice. Think about what you can do about it. Can you influence or change it? It is critical to have honesty, courage, tenacity, transparency and humility. You must master the art of crisis management and problem solving. Check the facts first. Copy good traits of great leaders and avoid the bad traits. Trust is the glue of organizations.
Click here for Meeting Executive Summary (PDF file)
Zensights Gathers Top Executives to Discuss Adaptive Strategies:
Why is it that an industry in the business of making people healthier has such an image problem? And what role can philanthropy, sustainability, diversity, and service play in enhancing that image? A recent article in The PatientView Quarterly shared the results of a survey of 600 international, national and regional patient groups. Of eight healthcare sectors, the pharmaceutical industry ranked 7th! The industry’s reputation trailed behind retail pharmacists, medical device companies, private healthcare services, biotechs, not-for-profit health insurers, and generic drug makers.
In the third of its “Adapt or Die” meeting series, Zensights gathered biopharma leaders, philanthropists, celebrities, and experts in corporate social responsibility. Zensights departed from its traditional format and assembled a panel comprised of leaders from outside the Pharma industry. During a fascinating evening, the panel shared unique perspectives on the links between corporate social responsibility (“CSR”), employee morale, philanthropy, partnerships, and the bottom line. Specifically, the evening focused on post 9/11 veterans — who they are, what has been done, what else can be done, and why it is so important to do more.
The Keynote was delivered by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Rick Lynch, an expert on Adaptive Leadership. Rick shared experiences from his days leading troops in the military, and how those leadership principles could and should be applied to business. He talked about engaged leadership – one of his principles is, “love your subordinates like you love your own children.” Determine what they are great at, what they are struggling with, and help them succeed. If you care about them, urged Rick, really take the time to understand them, and they will work really hard at getting the job done! Rick also talked about building a diverse team.
Too often you will find leaders who surround themselves with teams that look and act a lot like them. He emphasized the strength of teams that are built with people with diverse experiences and skill sets.
After Rick’s talk about leadership principles, he shifted gears to speak about post 9/11 veterans. He shared some eye opening statistics, summarized key issues, and most importantly, offered several ways companies and individuals can help.
Rick shared some eye opening statistics, summarized key issues, and most importantly offered several ways companies and individuals can help post 9/11.
Who they are:
2.3M all of whom volunteered to serve
(no draft since 1973)
58% married with children
99% high school graduates
72% with some college
94% proud of their service
60% under the age of 34
Current 9/11 Veterans Issues:
50,000+ have visible wounds
150,000+ with invisible wounds
13-20% have been diagnosed with PTSD
1/3 don’t get help because of stigma associated with mental issues
48,000 are homeless
Organizations can help by:
Hire post 9/11 vets
Hire post 9/11 vets spouses
Help with transition by developing useful skills (GE has a major program). Know who the vets are and show them you care. Lead them to help as required.
Help with home building / home renovation programs (Gary Sinise Foundation, Carrington Charitable Foundation).
“I found the meeting to be excellent. I was really impressed with Rick – his willingness and desire to give back is truly inspirational and he is very down to earth. Gary’s passion was contagious! No promises, but I am going to go back and have conversations with our leadership team to see what I need to do to be the executive sponsor for including Gary’s foundation in our list of charitable foundations. Thanks again for including me…..I look forward to seeing you again soon.”
As Rick concluded his talk, he introduced his good friend Gary Sinise, Actor and Philanthropist, and Founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation. The mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. This is achieved by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.
Gary has spent his life supporting veterans, gaining unique notoriety after playing “Lt. Dan” in the film, Forrest Gump. Giving back to those who sacrifice for our nation and encouraging others to do the same has long been Gary’s personal quest. “Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” says Sinise. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security.While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”
Gary was joined in a panel discussion by Winell Herron, Group Vice President for giant Texas/Mexico retailer H-E_B,, and Bruce Rose, CEO of the Carrington Companies, a real estate financial services company. The panel was moderated by Ted Deutsch, President of the communications firm Taft and Partners.
Key takeaways from the panel:
- Check book philanthropy (writing a check without any involvement of time, energy, commitment) while it is very much appreciated, it is NOT enough. Much more is accomplished when people are involved. Examples included employees working at charitable events such as serving food at military hospital events, flying alongside and aiding wounded veterans for treatment and/or races, and visiting wounded veterans in hospitals. Contact charitable entities directly to learn how your organization can get involved.
- Families of veterans also need our help. It is often easy to overlook the sacrifices being made for families of veterans. They are often facing financial hardship, housing needs, and overall lack of support systems.
- It is important to carefully evaluate how well a foundation is being run. Both the Gary Sinise Foundation and Carrington Charitable Foundations are run with very little overhead. As a result, the money gets to the people who need it most, the veterans and their families.
- Corporations can also help by hiring veterans. The leadership principles outlined in Rick’s talk are highly transferrable to business. There is a large pool of unemployed veterans, well trained in the areas of leadership and discipline, which would be an asset to corporations.
As the event closed, Gary Sinise summed up the theme of the night well:
“While we can never do enough to show gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”
For those interested in learning more about the Gary Sinise Foundation, please go to: