Intervention • Bill O’Rourke

Summary:

Sometimes it’s hard to be the hero. According to research, this is one of the most common dilemmas that people face. Bill O’Rourke will guide us through what intervention looks like and how to stand up to those we work with and know. Notice the skills Bill uses, things like gathering the facts, seeking perspective from others, acting confidently, and setting the tone as a leader.

About Our Guest:

Bill O’Rourke spent the majority of his career at Alcoa, Inc. a global aluminum manufacturing company. After Bill retired from Alcoa he continued to serve on the Board of the Alcoa Foundation and teach values at Alcoa’s Executive Leadership Program. He joined Alcoa as a Patent Attorney in 1975 and held a number of leadership positions including Corporate Patent Counsel, Vice President of Global Business Services (Financial Services, HR Services, Aircraft Operations, etc.), Chief Information Officer, Vice President of Procurement, Corporate Auditor, and Assistant General Counsel. From 2005 to 2008 Bill was the President of Alcoa-Russia. Bill was the Vice President, Environment, Health & Safety, and Sustainability three times under three CEOs at Alcoa.

Bill lectures on Business Ethics, Corporate Compliance, and Safety at a number of companies and hospitals around the World, at Rotary Clubs, and at many universities including the University of Pittsburgh, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona State, Florida, Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard Medical School, Northwestern, Chatham, San Jose, Viterbo, Benedictine, Marquette, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, the University of Dayton and Duquesne University.

Bill is a co-author of The Business Ethics Field Guide.

Useful Links:

The Business Ethics Field Guide

Power of Ethics Ethics: Creating an ethical organization in a hostile environment- Russia- Bill O’Rourke’s experiences

YouTube Seek True North: Stories on Leadership and Ethics-Bill O’Rourke

WSJ Story of the Alcoa Plant Manager

About Merit Leadership

To learn more about our products and services, visit http://meritleadership.com

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Transcript
Bill O Rourke:

No, a lot of Christmasy things going on now, which is good.

Bill O Rourke:

You've got a band concert tonight with one of the grandchildren,

Bill O Rourke:

so that they're always fun.

Bill O Rourke:

Yeah thats fun.

Aaron Convo:

So do they make a smaller trombone for a ten-year-old?

Aaron Convo:

Cause that seems like it'd be pretty hard for a ten-year-old arm to reach.

Bill O Rourke:

No, they don't make it a lot shorter, but they

Bill O Rourke:

only use the shorter notes.

Aaron Convo:

Oh yeah.

Aaron Convo:

I guess that makes sense.

Aaron Narration:

Hi.

Aaron Narration:

I'm Aaron Miller, and this is How to Help a podcast about having a life and

Aaron Narration:

career of meaning, virtue, and impact.

Aaron Narration:

This is season one, episode eight Intervention.

Aaron Narration:

How to help is sponsored by Merit Leadership home of The

Aaron Narration:

Business Ethics Field Guide.

Aaron Narration:

You might be familiar with the ABC television show called what would you do?

Aaron Narration:

Each episode takes actors into the real world where they stage a dilemma

Aaron Narration:

for the unsuspecting people nearby.

Aaron Narration:

Most of the episodes are designed to see if anyone will step up

Aaron Narration:

to help a stranger in need.

Aaron Narration:

It's like candid camera, but in search of good Samaritans, some of the most popular

Aaron Narration:

episodes involve situations like this.

Aaron Narration:

A mom abusing her young son in a restaurant, a veteran who can't afford

Aaron Narration:

the grocery bill at the register, and a black customer getting racially

Aaron Narration:

profiled by a high end retail employee.

Aaron Narration:

The show resonates with us because it reflects two important ideas.

Aaron Narration:

First, we all love to see a person step up to protect or help a stranger.

Aaron Narration:

But second, we all know how hard it can sometimes be for us to be the hero.

Aaron Narration:

We know it's hard because according to our research and The Business Ethics

Aaron Narration:

Field Guide, this is one of the most common dilemmas that people face.

Aaron Narration:

We call it intervention.

Aaron Narration:

This kind of dilemma happens when we see something going wrong, but

Aaron Narration:

we're not sure how to proceed.

Aaron Narration:

This episode today is from our book.

Aaron Narration:

My guest, is my good friend and co-author Bill O'Rourke since this is

Aaron Narration:

my first time having him on the podcast.

Aaron Narration:

Let me briefly introduce him.

Aaron Narration:

Bill is a former longtime executive at Alcoa, the global aluminum manufacturer.

Aaron Narration:

During his time there, Bill worked across the entire company among his many roles.

Aaron Narration:

He was vice president of environment, health and safety,

Aaron Narration:

vice president of global business services, chief information officer

Aaron Narration:

and president of Alcoa Russia.

Aaron Narration:

He's faced just about every ethical dilemma under the sun.

Aaron Narration:

And he has a lot of fascinating stories to share.

Aaron Narration:

We're going to start the episode with this one.

Aaron Narration:

It's one thing to confront a rude stranger in a store, but it's something else when

Aaron Narration:

we have to stand up to people we know and work with in Bill's case, one of those

Aaron Narration:

moments involved the CEO of his company.

Bill O Rourke:

Sure.

Bill O Rourke:

I, remember whenever our CEO, he named his brother, the president of our

Bill O Rourke:

European operations and the brother was going to report to the CEO of course.

Bill O Rourke:

And that's sure seems like nepotism.

Bill O Rourke:

And you can imagine that there was discussion throughout the corporation.

Bill O Rourke:

Well, I was the corporate auditor at the time.

Bill O Rourke:

So intervening or not was really appropriate for me to ask the question.

Bill O Rourke:

I decided I was going to do that.

Bill O Rourke:

I went to his office and I said, you can't name your brother, the

Bill O Rourke:

president of the European operations, unless you get board approval and you

Bill O Rourke:

disclose it in the proxy statement.

Bill O Rourke:

Yeah.

Bill O Rourke:

So he started our conversation by saying the last time I

Bill O Rourke:

looked, I was the CEO, not you.

Bill O Rourke:

And that's not a good way to start the conversation with the

Bill O Rourke:

CEO, but he asked me then what, what if, what if I don't do that?

Bill O Rourke:

I said, well, your outside auditors are not going to approve our

Bill O Rourke:

financials, which is a death knell for a publicly traded company.

Bill O Rourke:

So he dismissed me.

Bill O Rourke:

He said, I'll get back to you later.

Bill O Rourke:

And he did exactly what I expected him to do.

Bill O Rourke:

He called the outside auditor.

Bill O Rourke:

And ask them that question and the auditor repeated what I said.

Bill O Rourke:

Of course I had called the outside auditor before I went to the CEO's office.

Bill O Rourke:

So the CEO decided he was going to get board approval.

Bill O Rourke:

He did, I have found the board approval is pretty much a rubber

Bill O Rourke:

stamp and it was in that case.

Bill O Rourke:

And he also agreed to put it into the proxy statement.

Bill O Rourke:

So he did it.

Bill O Rourke:

I've reflected on this.

Bill O Rourke:

And I really think the CEO was actually protected from public criticism.

Bill O Rourke:

I think he was.

Aaron Narration:

So Bill is obviously a pretty brave guy, but there's more

Aaron Narration:

going on in this story than just being brave, knowing that he had to intervene,

Aaron Narration:

Bill it a lot more than just mustard, his courage to have a hard conversation.

Aaron Narration:

He demonstrated a lot of skill.

Aaron Narration:

For example, he called the outside auditor ahead of time, knowing

Aaron Narration:

that he was going to need backup.

Aaron Narration:

In this episode, Bill is going to help us learn some skills that

Aaron Narration:

make us better at intervening.

Aaron Narration:

One of them is right here in this story.

Bill O Rourke:

But still he did what was appropriate there.

Bill O Rourke:

What was important in this intervention was not to go and say, you can't do that.

Bill O Rourke:

What's important is to have an out or the conditions under which you

Bill O Rourke:

can do a certain thing so that you can at least address it that way.

Aaron Convo:

Yeah.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, that's a really interesting insight because I think most

Aaron Convo:

people think of intervention as stopping a bad thing from happening.

Aaron Convo:

And maybe not necessarily as diverting into a good thing.

Aaron Convo:

Does that make sense?

Aaron Convo:

There's a difference between stopping something short versus diverting energy

Aaron Convo:

into something that maybe is nobler, you know, more ethical, more virtuous.

Aaron Convo:

I mean, has that been your experience with interventions.

Bill O Rourke:

Exactly.

Bill O Rourke:

Or providing the cautions that you need to do this, this and this

Bill O Rourke:

before, that would be appropriate.

Bill O Rourke:

And I think that helps people.

Bill O Rourke:

To understand why also in addition to doing the right thing.

Aaron Narration:

So tip number one, if you want to stop a bad thing

Aaron Narration:

from happening, you might succeed with redirection or conditions.

Aaron Narration:

This works because whatever's motivating the wrong thing.

Aaron Narration:

Won't disappear just because you get in the way you might just need

Aaron Narration:

to redirect that person's desires or lay out conditions for them

Aaron Narration:

that will lead to more ethical outcome that also meets their needs.

Aaron Narration:

This is just one example of how intervening in the

Aaron Narration:

right way can be tricky.

Aaron Narration:

Here's some other examples of things that Bill says to keep in mind.

Bill O Rourke:

A primary one is it's not my place to intervene.

Bill O Rourke:

That's someone else's job.

Bill O Rourke:

Well, even though it wouldn't be appropriate for you to intervene.

Bill O Rourke:

In that case, you could work tactically to get that dilemma into the hands

Bill O Rourke:

of the person who is responsible to intervene and make sure they

Bill O Rourke:

aren't ignorant about the situation.

Bill O Rourke:

And another time, especially when you see something that you think is

Bill O Rourke:

wrong, but you're not really sure.

Bill O Rourke:

You really don't have all the facts or the perspective.

Bill O Rourke:

And boy, I found that out when I've been involved in any kind

Bill O Rourke:

of investigation, I've found that there's not two sides to the issue.

Bill O Rourke:

There's usually five or six.

Bill O Rourke:

And until you have all of those facts, Intervening could be wrong

Bill O Rourke:

and you really need to take the time to collect all that information.

Bill O Rourke:

And another one that bothered me in my career was when something is too trivial

Bill O Rourke:

to intervene, it's really minor in, in that case, you can still intervene, but

Bill O Rourke:

just don't make a big deal out of it.

Bill O Rourke:

So you don't.

Bill O Rourke:

Turn them in you don't put an article in the corporate newspaper

Bill O Rourke:

about their bad behavior.

Bill O Rourke:

We just quietly and silently pull them aside and tell

Bill O Rourke:

them that you observed this.

Bill O Rourke:

Your impression is that that might not be appropriate and maybe you'll make

Bill O Rourke:

them a better employee in the process.

Aaron Narration:

You can tell from all of this great advice that each

Aaron Narration:

intervention dilemma is unique and it requires a thoughtful approach to

Aaron Narration:

resolve it well, but the complexity of an intervention dilemma, isn't usually

Aaron Narration:

the hardest part for most people.

Aaron Narration:

And again, we know this from our research, the big fear is the reputational risk that

Aaron Narration:

comes with intervening after all people don't like being criticized and that

Aaron Narration:

can hurt your relationship with others.

Bill O Rourke:

When you get in these situations that raises an

Bill O Rourke:

issue, you get in a situation.

Bill O Rourke:

You wonder, are people going to like you?

Bill O Rourke:

No, they're not.

Bill O Rourke:

They're clearly not going to like you, if you intervene.

Bill O Rourke:

You're questioning integrity, or motives, or behavior.

Bill O Rourke:

And that's a tough position, but I don't think we're after admiration

Bill O Rourke:

in these areas or in our career.

Bill O Rourke:

We're after respect.

Bill O Rourke:

And I'll bet.

Bill O Rourke:

If you went back to that president or the CEO and the, naming

Bill O Rourke:

his brother's situation, then ask the, you respect that guy.

Bill O Rourke:

I think they'd say yes.

Aaron Narration:

It can feel scary doing something like that,

Aaron Narration:

but it pays off in the long run.

Aaron Narration:

If you're really worried about people liking you, the secret is to consistently

Aaron Narration:

treat others with kindness and respect.

Aaron Narration:

That way you have the trustworthy reputation you need

Aaron Narration:

when it's time to intervene.

Aaron Narration:

Bill notes, that we too easily trade away respect just to avoid conflict.

Aaron Narration:

We confuse people, liking us with people, respecting us.

Aaron Narration:

We need to think about our reputation in a different way.

Bill O Rourke:

I've had that.

Bill O Rourke:

I've got students address that to me in different ways.

Bill O Rourke:

I had one student from the university of Florida told me she

Bill O Rourke:

was on her way to class one day.

Bill O Rourke:

And she got a text from a friend that said, I can't make it a class today.

Bill O Rourke:

Please sign me in.

Bill O Rourke:

And I asked her, well, what did you do?

Bill O Rourke:

And their answer was, I played, like I didn't get the text until class was over.

Bill O Rourke:

So she tried to run away from this ethical dilemma.

Bill O Rourke:

Rather than face up to it.

Bill O Rourke:

And I told her what you should have done was text back right away.

Bill O Rourke:

No, I won't do that.

Bill O Rourke:

That's wrong.

Bill O Rourke:

I would never ask you to do that.

Bill O Rourke:

I wouldn't put you in a position like that.

Bill O Rourke:

Don't ask me to do something that's wrong and think about that.

Bill O Rourke:

Now you've just established your character and integrity for that person.

Bill O Rourke:

They'll probably never ask you again and that's not so bad.

Bill O Rourke:

So my recommendation, when people say, I guess, to shy away from this because

Bill O Rourke:

of what people will think of me, That's exactly what you should be thinking.

Bill O Rourke:

What do you want them to think of you?

Bill O Rourke:

If they think you have character and integrity and, and they respect

Bill O Rourke:

you for that, that's not so bad.

Aaron Narration:

But Bill does note that, You don't want to go overboard.

Bill O Rourke:

Yeah, there's probably another side to this Aaron.

Bill O Rourke:

It's a wearing intervention on your sleeve.

Bill O Rourke:

If you become holier than thou and you're the person that walks around the office,

Bill O Rourke:

telling people that they're wrong doing this, and doing that, and doing that.

Bill O Rourke:

That's not right either.

Aaron Narration:

And now for a word from our sponsor.

Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

it's deliberate as a leader.

Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

your chances that the people around you will make wise choices at Merit

Aaron Narration:

Leadership, we help companies of any size do regular exercises to build a

Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

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Aaron Narration:

company with thousands of employees, we provide engaging ethics exercises that get

Aaron Narration:

people talking and sharing their values.

Aaron Narration:

To learn more, click the link in the show notes or visit meritleadership.com.

Aaron Narration:

Sometimes intervention threatens more than just some injured egos.

Aaron Narration:

You might face a situation where your career's on the line.

Aaron Narration:

Here, we're talking about those times when really bad stuff is taking

Aaron Narration:

place, the kind of behavior that could seriously hurt other people

Aaron Narration:

and you're in a position to stop it.

Aaron Narration:

But if you speak up, you'll face a lot of backlash.

Aaron Narration:

How do you have the courage for those moments?

Bill O Rourke:

It might be helpful.

Bill O Rourke:

If we talk a little bit about whistleblowing, which is, I guess

Bill O Rourke:

one of the eye points of intervention is when you decided to blow the

Bill O Rourke:

whistle on a corporation, they're usually high profile kinds of cases.

Bill O Rourke:

But if you think about the following, once you decide to do that, you have

Bill O Rourke:

to blow the whistle all the way.

Bill O Rourke:

I remembered that there were at least three employees who initially

Bill O Rourke:

blew the whistle at Enron, but then they were given promotions

Bill O Rourke:

or bonuses to buy their silence.

Bill O Rourke:

And it worked.

Bill O Rourke:

They kept quiet.

Bill O Rourke:

Well, at the end of all the litigation, I think those three went to jail.

Bill O Rourke:

But when Sharon Watkins blew the whistle, I think she was offered bonuses

Bill O Rourke:

and promotions as well that she said, no, I want the situation handled.

Bill O Rourke:

They didn't handle it.

Bill O Rourke:

So he said, if not handled, I'm going to have to go public with it.

Bill O Rourke:

It wasn't handled.

Bill O Rourke:

She went public and she sure didn't end up in jail.

Bill O Rourke:

She ended up being the hero of the entire situation.

Aaron Narration:

Sharon Watkins was the Enron whistle-blower and

Aaron Narration:

her commitment to do the right thing was incredibly inspiring.

Aaron Narration:

History remembers her far better than the other Enron executives.

Aaron Narration:

The key is to prepare for moments like these Bill explains that we're

Aaron Narration:

much more likely than we realize to face what he calls quitting decisions.

Bill O Rourke:

I I've told the students that they can expect to have two

Bill O Rourke:

quitting decisions in their life.

Bill O Rourke:

And I believe they'll arise.

Bill O Rourke:

Whenever a situation occurs that is so bad, it has to be corrected

Bill O Rourke:

or you can't work there anymore.

Bill O Rourke:

And you need to raise that issue.

Bill O Rourke:

It needs to be corrected, or you have to be told that you

Bill O Rourke:

were wrong in your accusation.

Bill O Rourke:

And if not, then I think you can't work at an organization like that.

Aaron Convo:

How do you prepare for that moment?

Aaron Convo:

I mean, there are quitting decisions in a lot of people's career paths.

Aaron Convo:

And do you make sure that you're ready for it when the time comes?

Bill O Rourke:

It's very, very difficult.

Bill O Rourke:

Hopefully you have the self confidence that you're going to end up on your feet

Bill O Rourke:

because of this, that your righteousness is going to serve your right,

Bill O Rourke:

because it is the right thing to do.

Bill O Rourke:

And your motive needs to be positive.

Bill O Rourke:

You want to be trying to make the corporation a better place.

Bill O Rourke:

You want to be correcting wrongs.

Bill O Rourke:

If you have a negative intent or an ulterior motive, not going to give you

Bill O Rourke:

the courage that you need to do this, but if you're driven by the positive intent

Bill O Rourke:

and righteousness, I think that'll help.

Aaron Narration:

That last part about having a good intent is critical.

Aaron Narration:

If you blow the whistle, your intentions will immediately be

Aaron Narration:

questioned along with your character.

Aaron Narration:

Be sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

Bill O Rourke:

Then you have to ask yourself that am I

Bill O Rourke:

done my doing this, honestly?

Bill O Rourke:

And I'm, am I doing it with facts?

Bill O Rourke:

And especially, do I have a good intent here?

Bill O Rourke:

If you have a positive intent, that means you want to correct the situation

Bill O Rourke:

and you want to make the accused employee a better person in the future.

Bill O Rourke:

If that's your intent, I think you're on the right path.

Bill O Rourke:

However, if you have a.

Bill O Rourke:

Hidden motive or an alternative agenda.

Bill O Rourke:

That's not a good intent to be proceeding with.

Aaron Narration:

Most people think of whistleblowing.

Aaron Narration:

When they think of an intervention dilemma, they don't realize that this is

Aaron Narration:

a dilemma faced all the time by leaders.

Aaron Narration:

It's true that pretty much anyone in an organization may come across a

Aaron Narration:

situation where they need to intervene, but Bill's experience has taught

Aaron Narration:

him that leaders have to intervene all the time, even in small ways.

Bill O Rourke:

In fact, I try to make the point to a lot of employees

Bill O Rourke:

that if you're a leader of a work group, but department's a company.

Bill O Rourke:

If you're the leader, you have an obligation to intervene.

Bill O Rourke:

That's part of your responsibility.

Bill O Rourke:

If you hear off-color jokes, profanity, passing inappropriate photos, things

Bill O Rourke:

like that, and you're the boss, you better intervene because you're the one

Bill O Rourke:

that's going to establish the culture.

Bill O Rourke:

You're going to make sure that all the employees know that they're

Bill O Rourke:

expected to act professionally, to treat everybody with dignity,

Bill O Rourke:

respect, and by intervening quickly,

Bill O Rourke:

to the point with the objective of improving the culture of the organization

Bill O Rourke:

or the work group or the department, I think you have an obligation to do that.

Bill O Rourke:

And that those frequent interventions are part of the responsibility

Bill O Rourke:

of mentoring or counseling of your employees along the way.

Bill O Rourke:

I think they're appropriate.

Bill O Rourke:

If you're the leader and you send a fair and consistent message, that

Bill O Rourke:

inappropriate conduct is not going to be tolerated, that's going to

Bill O Rourke:

set the tone for the organization.

Bill O Rourke:

And that tone needs to be audible.

Bill O Rourke:

We talk about the tone at the top, but if you're the leader, you've got to set that

Bill O Rourke:

tone and do it often, do it consistently, and do it fairly in the organization.

Bill O Rourke:

So I think that's an important part of intervention.

Bill O Rourke:

If you're the leader you have an obligation to.

Aaron Narration:

Intervening really is at the heart of leadership.

Aaron Narration:

Like Bill said, it's one of the ways that leaders mentor their

Aaron Narration:

team and how they set the tone.

Aaron Narration:

And if leaders don't intervene.

Aaron Narration:

They endorse the behavior.

Aaron Narration:

Bill actually has a really fun story about that.

Bill O Rourke:

I got, uh, a situation once I was in charge of a warehouse

Bill O Rourke:

operation and quality of the product was very, very important.

Bill O Rourke:

And I was walking through the warehouse one day and a forklift driver comes

Bill O Rourke:

around the corner and put the tongues of his forklift straight through one of

Bill O Rourke:

our wrapped packages of mining parts.

Bill O Rourke:

You don't know if he's caused damage and I'm standing there and I'm looking

Bill O Rourke:

at him and he stopped the forklifts.

Bill O Rourke:

And I just didn't even have to say anything to him, that was intervention

Bill O Rourke:

enough, he shook his head got off forklifts, opened the package to make

Bill O Rourke:

sure he didn't do any damage, but had I walked away, I would've sent a

Bill O Rourke:

message that, you know, we don't really care about the quality of our parts.

Bill O Rourke:

Yeah.

Bill O Rourke:

You can drive unsafely around the warehouse.

Bill O Rourke:

That would be okay.

Bill O Rourke:

So you really do have to intervene because when you don't, that's acting, it's

Bill O Rourke:

sending a signal that you don't care, or that's appropriate behavior, or you'll

Bill O Rourke:

cause confusion in your organization.

Bill O Rourke:

So I think you have to act.

Aaron Narration:

A tricky part of this is correcting the wrong

Aaron Narration:

behavior without making things worse.

Aaron Narration:

One pitfall is that if a leader criticizes, it invites

Aaron Narration:

other people to join in.

Bill O Rourke:

You're right.

Bill O Rourke:

That that happens.

Bill O Rourke:

I don't know what it is that incorporations, when a person is being

Bill O Rourke:

criticized or getting a performance review or whatever, there's almost like

Bill O Rourke:

piling on, that other people want to jump on it and add to that, to that issue.

Bill O Rourke:

So I think if you keep it very focused and based on the facts of the issue and

Bill O Rourke:

don't allow other people to bring in issues that aren't really pertinent to

Bill O Rourke:

what this current issue is, I think.

Bill O Rourke:

That'll help.

Bill O Rourke:

But boy, people do like the pile on whenever you get into

Bill O Rourke:

these situations like that.

Bill O Rourke:

And it's very, very difficult.

Bill O Rourke:

That's also another reason why you don't want to be calling people out on every

Bill O Rourke:

little thing instead, call them aside and give them some personal counseling.

Bill O Rourke:

And hopefully that'll correct the matter.

Bill O Rourke:

So, and it works.

Bill O Rourke:

I found enough other steps that works is I've gone to individuals

Bill O Rourke:

and say, I have some input on some of your behaviors that I saw yesterday.

Bill O Rourke:

And if you want it, let me know and sure enough wait, but the next day, or maybe

Bill O Rourke:

a couple of days later, they come through our office and say, Hey, you remember,

Bill O Rourke:

you mentioned you had some input for me.

Bill O Rourke:

Yeah would give me that?

Bill O Rourke:

I found that does work.

Aaron Convo:

Yeah, who's not going to follow up on that one.

Aaron Convo:

Right?

Aaron Convo:

I think this is a great, and it tempers it, right?

Aaron Convo:

Because they come in ready for some bad news.

Aaron Convo:

And so they're ready to hear it.

Aaron Convo:

Maybe in a better mindset than if you just sort of delivered

Aaron Convo:

it unsolicited right up front.

Aaron Narration:

You can see why I love learning from Bill.

Aaron Narration:

He is so skilled as a professional and as a leader.

Aaron Narration:

And the thing is these are skills that everyone can learn

Aaron Narration:

to drive that point home,

Aaron Narration:

I want to end with a great story.

Aaron Narration:

This isn't about a time when Bill intervened, but when he coached someone

Aaron Narration:

else, the plant manager at Alcoa.

Aaron Narration:

Look for the kind of skills that we've talked about.

Aaron Narration:

Things like gathering the facts, seeking perspective from

Aaron Narration:

others, acting confidently and setting the tone as a leader.

Bill O Rourke:

That was in the North Carolina plant that we had,

Bill O Rourke:

the plant was 37% black employees.

Bill O Rourke:

It was a union plant.

Bill O Rourke:

And on the day in question, the plant manager drives onto the property and his

Bill O Rourke:

HR manager met him as soon as he came in and explained the situation that they

Bill O Rourke:

had one employee who was a notorious for causing trouble and things like that.

Bill O Rourke:

And he drove onto the property with a four foot by eight foot Confederate

Bill O Rourke:

flag hanging off the back of his truck.

Bill O Rourke:

And the police were complaining that they didn't like that.

Bill O Rourke:

So the HR manager asked the plant manager, what are you going to do about it?

Bill O Rourke:

Well, the plant manager wasn't even from the United States, he

Bill O Rourke:

was born and raised in England.

Bill O Rourke:

He didn't have an appreciation for the civil war for the flag, or for

Bill O Rourke:

many racial issues for that matter.

Bill O Rourke:

So he called me and said, here's the situation?

Bill O Rourke:

What should we do?

Bill O Rourke:

And I told him, I'm not the right person either.

Bill O Rourke:

I was born and raised in the north of the United States, which

Bill O Rourke:

is completely different from the south where this plant was located.

Bill O Rourke:

I said, let's, let's call a friend.

Bill O Rourke:

So I called Harold into the room and we spoke on the conference call.

Bill O Rourke:

And Harold started talking about racism, bigotry, and what that flag stands for.

Bill O Rourke:

And it almost brings tears to your eyes when he told you from his

Bill O Rourke:

perspective, what that meant to him.

Bill O Rourke:

So the plant manager took that information and decided he would act on it.

Bill O Rourke:

We went to the employee and asked them, would you take down the flag?

Bill O Rourke:

And he said, no.

Bill O Rourke:

He said, okay, then you are not permitted to fly that flag on company property.

Bill O Rourke:

He said, you're free to fly it.

Bill O Rourke:

You have freedom of speech, but not on this property.

Bill O Rourke:

And he ordered him to, Park away from the property, which was a burden.

Bill O Rourke:

The next closest place where he could park was probably close to

Bill O Rourke:

a half mile walk to the plant.

Bill O Rourke:

And he did that, but that sent a pretty strong signal to the whole organization.

Bill O Rourke:

I believe that the plant manager did care and that the plant manager

Bill O Rourke:

was going to intervene whenever he determined that it was appropriate.

Bill O Rourke:

And sure enough, the next day, The Wall Street Journal caught wind of this story.

Bill O Rourke:

And on the front page, in the center column, they had the story about this

Bill O Rourke:

plant manager of Clinton, North Carolina, that ordered the employee to take that

Bill O Rourke:

flag down or park off the property.

Bill O Rourke:

And he came across rather, rather positive.

Bill O Rourke:

Sometimes we think these issues are minor.

Bill O Rourke:

They'll blow over but often that's not the case.

Bill O Rourke:

People are going to notice when things like this happen.

Bill O Rourke:

So that that plant manager came off very, very positive and think how

Bill O Rourke:

the rest of those employees felt.

Bill O Rourke:

I think he sent the message that when you have a legitimate

Bill O Rourke:

issue, you bring it to me.

Bill O Rourke:

I'll act and I'll act appropriately.

Bill O Rourke:

I think he did.

Aaron Narration:

Imagine being that plant manager, seeing your

Aaron Narration:

decision in The Wall Street Journal.

Aaron Narration:

Think of how relieved, you would feel for having done the right thing.

Aaron Narration:

This is actually a common tool for ethical decision-making,

Aaron Narration:

called the front page test.

Aaron Narration:

Would you act this way?

Aaron Narration:

If it ended up on the front page of the news now it's not likely

Aaron Narration:

that that will happen to you, but it sure helps you to think deeply

Aaron Narration:

about your character and integrity.

Aaron Narration:

Pretty much everyone prefers to be known as an ethical person.

Aaron Narration:

To have a reputation like Bill O'Rourke's, but no one ever got that reputation

Aaron Narration:

by making easy choices, being known for your integrity means that people

Aaron Narration:

saw you stand up for what's right.

Aaron Narration:

It's a reputation that you earn.

Aaron Narration:

Many, many thanks to my friend, Bill O'Rourke for teaching us how to be

Aaron Narration:

more confident and ethical people.

Aaron Narration:

If you'd like to book a speaking engagement with Bill, there's a link

Aaron Narration:

in the show notes to learn more.

Aaron Narration:

I try to have him come as a guest speaker and all of my ethics classes.

Aaron Narration:

And the day when he speaks as easily, one of my students favorites.

Aaron Narration:

Something, I try not to take too personally, if you enjoy How to Help,

Aaron Narration:

please take a moment to give us a positive review in your podcast app.

Aaron Narration:

This helps us to reach more listeners.

Aaron Narration:

Also be sure to subscribe so you can get future episodes automatically.

Aaron Narration:

Next time, we're going to talk about the idea of meaningful work.

Aaron Narration:

Nine out of 10 people say that they would take less pay if it meant

Aaron Narration:

they had a job with more meaning.

Aaron Narration:

My guest is philosopher and professor Andrea Veltman, who has thought

Aaron Narration:

in deep and sometimes provocative ways about why we work and how

Aaron Narration:

we find meaning in our work.

Aaron Narration:

This is an episode that's going to change the way you think about the job

Aaron Narration:

that you have and the job that you want, even if they're already the same thing.

Aaron Narration:

To stay up to date with how to help subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

Aaron Narration:

Each edition recommends high impact organizations and shares ideas for

Aaron Narration:

how to have more meaning in your work.

Aaron Narration:

You can find it@how-two-help.com.

Aaron Narration:

We're grateful as always to merit leadership who sponsors this podcast.

Aaron Narration:

And our production team, which included Cyndi Hall, Travis Stevenson,

Aaron Narration:

yours truly, and Eric Robertson, who did the editing and the music.

Aaron Narration:

Our music comes from the Pleasant Pictures, Music Club.

Aaron Narration:

And if you want to use their music in your projects, you can find a link and a

Aaron Narration:

discount code in the show notes as always.

Aaron Narration:

Thank you so much for listening.

Aaron Narration:

I am Aaron Miller and this has been How to Help.

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