by Brian Fielkow, owner and president of Jetco Delivery and author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture“
Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling (pictured), makes headlines today for his racist remarks captured on audio and published on TMZ over the weekend.
But putting aside the abhorrent nature of his comments, for CEOs watching this unfold are there lessons to be had?
I’m not here to analyze Sterling’s comments, they speak for themselves. I’m here to ask, ‘What can we as business leaders learn from this fiasco?’. This is a key example of what can happen when organizations let down their guard against intolerance and racism. The blame falls on the whole of the organization, not just Donald Sterling.
Here’s what I think CEOs and business leaders can learn the Donald Sterling debacle:
1. Have A Zero Tolerance For Racism.
There is no place in the workplace for racism, this should be a no brainer. Business leaders cannot tolerate these beliefs, whether individually or from our employees. While we may not have a Donald Sterling in our ranks, we need to watch for inappropriate jokes or comments. Even those made innocently could have a destructive impact on our businesses and the people that work for them.
2. Reputation Is Everything.
Sterling didn’t just destroy his relationship with his players, his staff, his fan base and the NBA, he also destroyed his team’s brand. Players practiced with their jerseys inside-out to hide the Clippers logo. This event will be remembered in Clippers history, it’ll shame the team for years to come. Letting a racist member of your team slide by will eventually hurt your organization big time.
3. A CEO’s Most Valuable Asset Is Their Employees.
It’s not likely that Sterling will be able to continue as the team’s owner. Players will not want to work for him. Treatment and respect are vital to attracting and retaining the best employees. And whether highly paid athletes or front line workers, employees will walk through walls for us if we treat them with respect.
4. Privacy Is Dead.
As a CEO, never assume that you can have a private conversation. There are several instances where supervisor-employee conversations are secretly recorded and posted to social media. As business leaders and managers, we are public figures – know that your actions are always on display and act accordingly. NOTE: The best leaders are those who don’t need to worry about being on public display because their words and actions are always well-intentioned.
5. Leaders Must Live And Breathe Their Company’s Values.
A business is only as good as it’s culture and if respect is a value in your company, then diversity and inclusion must follow. It is impossible for a core value and culture to take hold if the leader does not embrace the values themselves first. Every CEO must live and breathe the company’s culture in both actions and in words.
Brian Fielkow is currently the Owner & President of Jetco Delivery, a logistics company specializing in regional trucking, heavy haul and national freight – an industry often cited as the backbone of America’s economy. He is the author of “Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture“.