Organizational Transparency

Increased transparency is a consequence to the digital age.  A transparent organization shares information purposely beyond the boardroom with both members and nonmembers alike.  Organizational transparency encourages, honors, and engages with the public.  Transparency is the degree to which an organization shares the following with its stakeholder publicly:

  • Leaders are accessible and straightforward.
  • Employees are accessible and can reinforce the public view of the company by providing superb customer service, when appropriate.
  • Ethical behavior, fair treatment, and other values are on full display.
  • It’s culture.  How a company does things is more important than what it does.
  • Successes, failures, victories, and problems are all communicated.  Results of business practices, good and bath are communicated.
  • Business practices are aligned with the business strategy.  Misalignment can results in disaster.

The reasons why certain organizations have productive and lively workplaces go beyond hiring efficient employees and paying competitive wages. Workplace transparency can increase employee happiness, productivity and decrease the turnover rate. The responsibility of introducing transparency into the workplace falls upon the shoulders of management by keeping employees up to date with workplace changes. Communication is key; it can be as simple as carbon copying your employees in your emails.

Thanks to the evolution of social media, transparency is no longer an option.  It is in the organization’s best interest to talk openly and behave ethically.   Some recognized transparent organizations are Wholefoods, La-Z-boy, and PriceSmart.  These organizations model openness and integrity. When organizations announce their motives to the public it allows the public to hold the company accountable.

The Glassdoor provides an inside look at jobs and companies.  It includes salary details, company reviews and interview questions. Before your next shopping trip or when applying for your next job, check out what others are saying about this organization at http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm

Elvis, the Magna Carta and Random Dinosaurs.

I first saw this video at a marketing conference.

There are a lot of agency-created videos out there that give good overviews of the impact of social media, but I tend to think this one is the most vibrant. My favorite statistic in it is how if Wikipedia were made into a book, it would be 2.25 MILLION pages long.  Two and a quarter MILLION pages.  That’s insane.  Who would read that? Can you imagine trying to purchase that book at Barnes and Noble? More importantly, who would want to purchase that book?

When I was little I used to tag along grocery shopping with my mom after school on Thursdays.  One day I noticed a big display of book along the main aisle.  These weren’t just any books, these were thick and shiny, hard-back Encyclopedias with fancy scripted writing and gold-tinted pages.  From the first moment I saw them, I was in love.  I remember begging my mom to buy them.  I might have even cried (in my defense, I was probably about 8!)  I think they were on C or D by that time, so it took some wearing down of my poor mother before she caved in and bought the first part of the set.  The trick was that they were released slowly, every two weeks, by the store.  For months I would happily accompany her on a boring round of errands because I knew at the end we’d end up at Albertsons and I’d get to buy the newest release.

Oh how I loved those books.  I would spend hours pouring over the pages and browsing all the random entries like the Dromaeosaurus, knickers,  Montana, seaweed, or the War of 1812.  Sometimes my sister and I would try to look up the naughtiest thing we could think of, like “boobies” or “sex”.  We were eight and six, after all.  But mostly I would pick up a random letter, stop at a random page, and just skim.  Eventually – like all toys – I grew tired of them and moved on to more glamorous playthings like My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch Kids.  But for years they remained a staple in our house, sitting quiet yet proudly in our living room shelves collecting dust.  In a way it was comforting to me, knowing that they were still there, with all of their secrets and mysteries waiting patiently inside.  After all, who knew when I might need to know the diameter of a softball (3.5-3.8″), how many number one singles Elvis had (14), or when the Magna Carta was issueed (1215).

But back to Wikipedia.  I guess you can say I have a soft spot for it – just like those hard-back Encyclopedias of my youth.  While it’s not rimmed in fake gold ink, it still (to me) feels like a magical place where you can find the answer to just about anything.  And while I would never buy the hard-bound copy (because let’s be realistic, how would I ever get that in my car?) I will admit to browsing it from time to time, with no specific goal in mind.

Speaking of, did you know that Rhode Island, the smallest state, has a larger population than Alaska, the largest state?  Well, now you do.  Thanks, Wikipedia.

“You’re Welcome” (and Other Snarky Expressions)

by Freddy J. Nager, Associate Professor, MAOM

No, I’m not the old man on the porch yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Yet.

But my old-man sensitivities have been repeatedly rankled by the disappearance of two words from the English language: “thank you.” Apparently, they’ve been misplaced. I’d be happy with the one-word substitute, “thanks,” but apparently that’s gone AWOL, too.

So that’s brought out the curmudgeon in me…

“Face me, old man, I’m the Ghost of Manners Past!”

The precipitating event occurred, ironically, on “social” media — a subject I teach with increasing shakes of the head and rolls of the eyes. To be specific, it happened on the popular networking site LinkedIn, which I endorse as the only social medium that’s mandatory for today’s professionals. While Facebook could be renamed “Look at me!” and Twitter “Fritter,” LinkedIn actually has value. It serves as a professional’s career hub: a place to centralize one’s resume, connections, organizations, creative portfolio and more.

A key section of one’s LinkedIn profile comprises recommendations from one’s bosses, colleagues, teachers and other connections. As an instructor, I often receive recommendation requests from former students, and I’m usually happy to comply. I write each recommendation so that it’s distinctive and personal. Given the struggling memory cells in this old man’s brain, that isn’t always easy. But I do it.

And then I wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

And while I’m at it, I do some waiting.

What I’m waiting for is some acknowledgement that the recommendation was received, with a simple “thank you” as all the compensation I need. I don’t require a recommendation in return, as others might expect. Nope, just a little common courtesy will do.

But apparently, I’m a greedhead who’s just asking too dang much.

Easily half the people I’ve recommended on LinkedIn have never thanked me. Either I must write heinous recommendations, or I’ve grossly overestimated their value. The fact that LinkedIn enables its users to request recommendations at the click of a mouse has probably devalued them. But still, would it hurt to show this old fogey some merci?

The problem is, etiquette-absenteeism isn’t just limited to LinkedIn.

I recently wrote a lengthy letter of recommendation for a former MBA classmate’s grad-school application. This entailed actually going to the physical post office and mailing sheets of dead wood. (No, really, people still do such things in 2011.) Then some months passed. I finally contacted that former classmate to see if the school had ever received my recommendation, and he acknowledged that they had, and that he had been admitted to the program and was having a great time.

Nice to know. (And, hey, oh certain grad school who requires such recommendations: you’re not off the hook, either.)

In the past few years, I’ve also experienced “thank you” voids from people who have called me up for advice, emailed me for information about the schools where I teach, even met with me in person to talk about their business or career problems.

Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that said “thank you” had been omitted from the common vernacular.

Now, call me a decrepit, senescent creature of habit, but when such omissions happen, I still feel compelled to respond with the equally antiquated and apparently forgotten term “you’re welcome.” I know, how retro of me. Oh, I give it a week or so after I send the recommendation/write the letter/take the call/have the meeting, but the urge to say “you’re welcome” is so great that it bursts loose on its own, even without a “thanks” to provoke it.

Today, in fact, I sent a “you’re welcome” to someone on LinkedIn who never acknowledged the recommendation I wrote for him. He responded by asking if I was being “snarky.” I hadn’t thought of it that way: who, me, the rude one?

What a concept. Four letter words are so passé that our jaded ears no longer hear them, but “you’re welcome” actually raises hackles and elicits offended responses. I feel so… so… gangster.

So I’m now on a mission to issue a pre-emptive “you’re welcome” whenever possible, even if it means having the FCC bleep me out or courts issue restraining orders against me.

Then, the other day, something jarringly odd happened: I received a “thank you” card from a student I had recommended for business school. No, really. The young woman had actually perpetrated the post office deed and mailed a piece of folded cardboard that she had spent good money on. When I opened the envelope, I dropped the thing out of shock and stared at it for a good 30 seconds or so, wondering if I needed to report it to the Department of Homeland Security. A thank you card? The gall!

My aged knees quaked and symptoms of myocardial infarction sent me crashing into a comfy chair. I stared at the card again. Yes, indeed, there they were: the words “thank you” handwritten and even exclamation pointed. I felt like I had just chanced upon the Loch Ness Monster and the Tooth Fairy hanging out with Amelia Earhart in the lost city of Atlantis. What’s this world coming to?

So perhaps some traces of chivalry remain. I just thought I’d warn you so you can take the necessary precautions, like having a fluffy pillow nearby to cushion your fall. And by the way, should this piece of advice ever prove helpful to you, please allow me to say “you’re welcome” in advance — or would that be too snarky?


Guest Blogger Freddy J. Nager teaches courses in social media, entrepreneurship and marketing at AULA. The founder of agency Atomic Tango LLC, Freddy has over two decades of professional experience in marketing and media, including 17 online. He previously worked for music label MCA Records and major ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and served such clients as Nissan & Infiniti, the NFL on Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, National Lampoon and numerous startups. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Southern California.


LinkedIn: Not Just For Job Hunters Anymore

by Freddy J. Nager
Many managers have ineffectual LinkedIn profiles — if they have one at all. That’s because they think they don’t need one at this stage of their career. “I’m not job hunting — why should I bother?” That’s because LinkedIn isn’t just for job hunting anymore.

The Search is On…
A LinkedIn profile can serve as the power base for your professional life. it’s one of the first links people see when they Google your name. (Of course, many background searches are conducted on LinkedIn itself.) Those researchers may include journalists, recruiters, potential clients and investors. With all the concern about personal reputations and misinformation online, we should absolutely create and control our LinkedIn profiles to deliver an authoritative first impression.

The Way to Grow…
We’re all tired of hearing it: yes, we live in a global economy. Yes, borders have evaporated. And, yes, international trade offers a wealth of opportunities — if we have the right connections in the right places. So who can we turn to for help setting up an office, hiring competent and trustworthy native managers, overcoming bureaucratic red tape, or simply making reservations at an appropriate restaurant? Your organization may not be thinking expansion now, but when the time comes, it helps to have relationships with far-flung connections found and developed on LinkedIn.

Marketing for Extracurricular Ambitions…
Even if a manager is at the top of her game, she might harbor other ambitions, such as writing a book, appearing on TV as an expert, running for political office or teaching at a university. While some managers are well known outside their companies, most need a marketing boost to support these other pursuits. That’s why you should network before you need a publisher, an entertainment attorney, or a campaign manager. You should also use LinkedIn to promote your expertise and what makes you different (and more interesting) than the millions of other managers around the world.

Because You Never Know…
There’s no such thing as a secure job. Even at companies “too big to fail,” upper management and their teams are often replaced. A manager may claim she has nothing to worry about, but at some point she may be tempted to sell her company — or the company’s success attracts a takeover. On a brighter, more poetic side, the manager may want a complete change of pace or career, or move to another city for the lifestyle or a relationship. To facilitate these changes, it’s again valuable to network before it’s needed. It’s too late to say, “Now who do I know here?” after the big move.

Those are just a few of the reasons a manager — or an aspiring one — needs to have a well-crafted LinkedIn profile. (And, no, I don’t work for LinkedIn, nor do I own its stock.)

How does one craft an effective profile? That’s the topic for another blog, but in the meantime, LinkedIn offers its own guide, and you can also view the profiles of various “experts” and the top networkers on LinkedIn.

The key takeaway: your LinkedIn profile should represent you online. It’s your agent, it’s your brochure, it’s your public introduction. So take the time to think about what you want it to say. (By the way, I also hear it’s a great tool for finding a job…)


Freddy J. Nager teaches courses in social media, entrepreneurship and marketing at AULA. The founder of agency Atomic Tango LLC, Freddy has over two decades of professional experience in marketing and media, including 17 online. He previously worked for music label MCA Records and major ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and served such clients as Nissan & Infiniti, the NFL on Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, National Lampoon and numerous startups. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Southern California.


Moral Impulse: Rebel with a Cause

by Kimberly Hollingsworth, AULA BA Student & Founder of Humanity Is Us

When will genocide matter? Does it have to be at our front door or happen to our families before we care enough to do something? That’s my tough question. I used to believe that if the Holocaust happened today, there would have been such a tumultuous uproar that we would have stopped it before six million people were collected and murdered within a span of six years. Today, I’m not so sure.

The genocide in Rwanda never should have happened in 1994. While the international community closed their eyes, 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in 100 days. A member of the nonpermanent United Nations Security Counsel, the Czech representative, declared at one point, “Rwanda is not a priority for the Czech government, but as a human being I cannot sit here and do nothing.”

I launched my anti-genocide organization Humanity Is Us on November 29, 2010. (See my previous article, “Conflict of Ethics: What Does Genocide Have to Do with Business?”) While drowning in website designs, templates, hosting, domains, hyperlinks and other web hosting lingo, I also struggled with state and federal requirements for the protection of my embryonic entity. A simple idea was turning into a complicated responsibility. An AULA faculty member introduced me to a social entrepreneur who emotes action and possesses the same fire in the belly against genocide and rape camps that I do.

Andrew McGregor and the Tiziano Project

In May 2007, while a student in the master’s program for journalism at the University of Southern California, Andrew McGregor found himself frustrated with the co-existence of global video-sharing and genocide: “How can there be a world with YouTube and undocumented atrocities at the same time?”

If the mainstream news had kept the acts of genocide on the nightly news, instead of allowing public interest or lack of comfort guide the headlines, the international public community of responsible citizens might have demanded immediate actions from their governments. Today, journalists have to worry about corporate responsibilities, self-preservation, media trends, competition, and universal bureaucracy. Accountability for the success of the business enterprise has created detachment from the original purpose of journalism. With a rush for headlines that grab viewers, journalists rush to report headlines without checking sources. As Andrew puts it, today’s news has become a “propaganda whore.” Sensationalism has replaced news that can make a difference in saving people’s lives.

With moral impulse, he took leave from USC, hired a lawyer, and organized a nonprofit public-benefit corporation, the Tiziano Project. The mission: “The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training, and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives.” With limited funds, a few contacts, cameras, camcorders and a new idea for exposing crimes against humanity, Andrew left for Rwanda and commenced his quest to spread journalism.

Teaching Journalism to Change the World

photo by Andrew McGregor

Andrew joined forces with a friend, Thomas Rippe, to teach journalistic techniques at a local orphanage. An issue came up: since the Canadian government had already made arrangements to provide for these orphans for life, the orphans, ranging in age from twelve to thirty, lacked motivation to learn journalism.

Undaunted, the Tiziano Project then formed a collaboration with The German Development Company (DED), teaching radio techniques at a local youth house. It did not take long before the weekly radio program about genocide reconciliation aired on Voice of America, providing a trusted resource for updates and local information.

Andrew and Tom continued their traveling school of journalism between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At refugee camps they shared writing, photo and video techniques, which empowered the locals and enabled collaborative efforts with the international community of professional journalists. Until that time, stifled voices were forced to wait for an outsider to speak on their behalf.

A week after Andrew left the DRC in 1998, violence broke out again. Within an hour, the refugees trained by Andrew and Tom were able to communicate with journalists, and CNN broke the story. “It was a turning point for us. When the story broke, it proved that the concept worked – it all worked. We had proof of the potential of the Tiziano Project.”

Today, the Tiziano Project is supported by a community of journalists, and the Tiziano Project team itself consists of journalists who have other jobs. It’s the calling, the purpose that keeps this team together. Eventually, the business plan requires funds for salaries so all participants can focus on their goal of keeping stories of atrocities in the mainstream news. I asked Andrew, “Why do you believe the Tiziano Project can help end genocide?” He explained, “It has to do with economics. Journalism can be helpful in creating jobs. Look at the child soldiers. The choices are limited: either you’re a slave or a soldier.”

Chessboxing and Advice for Students

Andrew "The Fightin' Philanthropist" McGregor (media credit: Jesse Reid)

Andrew, who stands six feet and almost ten inches tall and weighs 280 pounds, founded the L.A. Chessboxing club. The idea came from a poster he saw in Europe. Basically, chessboxing consists of eleven rounds (four minutes of chess, followed by three minutes of boxing), and starts and ends at the chessboard. First one to win by checkmate or a knockout is the winner. On February 27, 2010, Andrew claimed the title of U.S. Heavyweight Chessboxing Champion by checkmate in the fifth round.

Ironically, chessboxing helped Andrew build up his strength and his resolve to continue with his vocation. He also learned a valuable lesson about being there for others. It’s important to maintain a balance between personal life and causes, “Without investing in yourself first, you have nothing to give — to anyone.”

I asked Andrew for words of wisdom for the novice social entrepreneur. “Start as a student. Everyone helps students. They help because they know where you’re coming from and that you’re learning. If you’re Joe from a business/organization that no one knows, they don’t have a reference point.” Andrew also suggested having a long-term corporate strategy, “Start focused and with obtainable goals.” The last thing that he suggested, “Visually explain what you’re doing and make a chronological record of it. We were so focused on the work and mission that initially, we missed the opportunity for the potential business development.” It has been remedied.

Recently, the Tiziano Project won a $25,000 grant from a competition on Facebook and utilized it to showcase its product. It’s easier to gain funding when funders can see what their money is buying. After all, today everything is related to business.


Guest Blogger Kimberly Hollingsworth is in the BA Business & Social Entrepreneurship program and Creative Writing program at AULA. She holds an associate’s degree from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and an ABA-approved certificate from UCLA Extension as a legal assistant in litigation. She is currently a senior legal assistant at an international law firm, a member of SAG, and a voting member of LAPA.