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This business coaching episode discusses the importance of having an ethical corporate culture.

Results-Focused Training, Tools, and Workshops from Expert Business Coaches.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Principles For Creating An Ethical Corporate Culture: 1. Establish your business ethics.
  • Referred to as the "Father of Modern Military Education", General Robert McDermott served as the first permanent Dean of the Faculty at the United States Air Force Academy, and also served as the Chairman and CEO of USAA.
  • Lesson Nugget: Build your business around the idea of treating others the way you want to be treated.
  • Lesson Nugget: Always put people in a position where they can succeed.

HR mentoring like edtech, management training

-My name is Clay Clark, and I'm the CEO of Thrive15.com. Today, I am honored to be joined within NBA Hall of Famer, David Robinson. This guy has been just a successful off the court as he is on the court. And he's going to be teaching us about how to create an ethical corporate culture in this management training. So if you've ever found yourself in your office wondering, how do I grow from me to we without losing the personality, and the culture, and the ethics, this is going to be a phenomenal episode for you.

So as you're watching this management training episode, take notes, because I'm telling you these principles can tremendously help you grow your business. At Thrive15.com, we believe that knowledge without application is meaningless. So as you're watching today's episode, take the time to ask yourself, what do you need to do to apply these principles in your own life and business? Because if not, today's episode may just be more meaningless than a squirrel tennis camp.

David, thank you for letting me come visit you my friend.

-Thanks Clay. Appreciate it.

-All right. Well today, we're going to be talking about creating an ethical, corporate culture. Now this is-- I think you're super qualified to talk about this, and so I'm excited to get your feedback on this. Because you played in the NBA for 14 seasons. And the NBA is known, I mean it gets a bad rap in some areas, and a good rap in others. But there are players who are interesting characters.

-Right, absolutely.

-And the league is known for having some great character people. And then there's also sometimes, the music that's played in the locker rooms and the things that are said on the court are so profane that some parents kind of cover their kids' ears at the game. And so you see both extremes. But yet you carried yourself in an ethical way during your career.

-Well I tried to.

-Well, OK. Except for those maybe one or two times. So principle number one we're teaching here is establish your business ethics. And David before you and I can really begin to ethically I guess, or begin resolving these-- or teaching people how to set up a ethical corporate culture, we have to kind of define what the word ethical means. So in your mind, what does it mean to be ethical?

-Well, I think one of my mentors when I came to San Antonio was McDermott, General McDermott, built USAA, huge organization. Was a phenomenal player in building San Antonio into the city that it is today. And his rule that he lived by was the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And he built his whole organization around that rule. And I think that that's a great example of what corporate culture should be. People who know me know that my faith is a big, big part of who I am and how I approach things.

But that doesn't mean everyone else shares my faith. But there are certain rules as human beings, as a society, that we should follow. And treating other people like you want to be treated I think is a phenomenal place to start. So if you want to define what an ethical culture is, I would say you could build your whole business around that idea to-- it if I'm the customer, how do I want to be treated? An proceed that way. And if you could teach everyone in your organization that mentality, then I think you have a great culture.

-For somebody watching this, and just trying to give kind of the devil's advocate perspective of this. You're very self-disciplined, or least, that's the rumor. So you're a guy who's all about high expectations, and reaching for something more, and press, and press, and don't stop.


-So if you were going-- just say I came to work for you, if somehow I was able to sneak into your organization and you hired me. So if I'm working for you, I would guess that you would want to push me, because you would want to be pushed. That's just my--

-No, I don't think that that's necessarily the case. I think you need to-- I wouldn't want someone to try to turn me into something I am not. So I think that's what you have to understand. One of my personal rules is always put a person in a position where he can succeed. Some people have Michael Jordan type talent-- let 'em loose. That guy, just let them go. But some people have the reserve type talent.

And that guy can still bring something to the table. He can still be a very, very valuable part of your organization. I mean, Steve Kerr was not known as this great superstar who dominated everyone, but he had a role. And he did it extremely well. If you put Steve in the right situation, he was going to kill you. So that's my goal with every single person around me, whether it's a teammate, or an employee. I'm going to figure out what they can do well. I'm going to try to put them in a place where they can be successful, and let them go in that role.

-So you're helping somebody here. So if I'm a small business, and again, I average one as 10 employees or less. And let's say that I'm hiring right now, OK. So let's say I own a Chick-fil-A. And I'm hiring right now. And I'm looking for a extroverted person to work the front. It's kind of a shame on me sort of deal as the owner, if I hire somebody who's an introvert and want them to be the extrovert dealing with customers, is that right?

-Yeah that would be a mistake, yes. No, you'd certainly-- you need to find what their abilities are, what their talents are. Yeah, you certainly don't want to put someone-- if the guy's not a shooter, don't put him on the perimeter. Make sure he understands that, and he can play within the role of the offense.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Lesson Nugget: Success for the organization means success for the individual.
  • Ask Yourself: Am I being purposeful in creating the culture I want in my business?
  • Lesson Nugget: Be specific about the expectations you have for your employees.
  • Ask Yourself: Is my business environment attracting the clientele I want to service?


-So OK, this makes a lot of sense. Now, when you played for the Spurs, you were known as one of those good guys. And I think that what was neat, though, is that the Spurs-- I don't know whether they did it to you or you did to them-- but you guys became known as a good guy team.

So and, again, I don't know if chicken before the egg-- I don't know if you came in and we're the good guy and now the team became the good team. Or I'm not sure if that was the ownership. But you guys were known as a good guy culture. How did you, specifically-- let's just go into the locker room. How did you lay out this ethical culture in the locker room? What sort of rules did you put in effect there?

-Well, our goal was not to be known as the good guys. You know, we certainly don't go about trying to say, hey, we're any better than anyone else. That's not the goal at all. When we came in, I said, look, we're going to do things in a professional manner. We're going to do things the right way here. So that means trying to get the right amount of rest, coming into practice, prepared to practice. It means having the right mentality and being team players.

When we step out on the floor, I don't care about what your stats are. I don't care about how many shots you got yesterday. I don't care about your salary paycheck. Don't bring that stuff to the floor. That's not what we need. We're going to do things the right way, day in and day out. If you're a role player, you do your job. You'll get rewarded. At the end of the day, somebody's going to want you, because you did your job very, very well.

And so that's creating a culture. That is getting them to understand that success for the organization means success for the individual. And that way, they can kind of fit in their role.

-So you defined for people we're going to do things the right way. It wasn't your goal to be the good guys, but you said we're going to things the right way. So let's go into the locker room and here's a situation.

There's one small business owner I worked with a few months ago-- and if you're watching this, this one's for you. But I was working with them, and they have a front desk person who listens to crazy music, like crazy as in music that has curse words within a salon environment. So there's a men's grooming sort of environment and yet, there's music playing overhead with foul language. And he talks to the front desk guy and says, hey guy, can we-- the owner says-- can we please stop doing this. And this is maybe the third--

-That's probably nicer than I would have been about it.

-OK, and so, I want to have you now come into the salon, OK? So we're pretending that you're now, it's-- you have been brought on as an advisor for the day. How did you deal with it in the locker room? Because you know what happened there. And how would you deal with it in the small business?

-Well, we have to understand what the goal of the businesses is. So if the goal of the business is to bring in a certain clientele and that music does not match that clientele, then we shouldn't be playing that music. It's nothing personal against me, against that person. We have different tastes. I have no problem with that if you're listening to that at home. You do what you want to do. But in this place, we're going to do things that build around the business.

And so you just need to be real specific about what the expectations are. And you need to demand those things. Not because you don't agree with this person, or you don't like this person, but because it's what's best for the business.

-So what would you say-- now here's an example-- the same business, perpetually late employee. I'm sure in practice you probably had a guy who attempted to be late just to see what would happen. To see if coach Popovich which would deal with it first, or if you would, or however.

So guy shows up to practice. Let's say, in this case, he shows up to work 10 minutes late. How did you as the captain of the team, or how would you as an owner a business process that? Specifically, what would you say to me if I walk in 10 minutes late?

-Well, I think there's a lot of factors there. If he's doing that purposely--


-Well, perpetually is fine as long as it does not affect the quality of their work or the business goals. I've never been one that's a stickler for time. If we have a business where you could work half the day and you could still get your job done. More power to you.

I'd rather see you at home with your children. I'd rather see you get your children off to school. I don't know why this person's late. There's a lot of factors. He could want to spend the time in the morning feeding his children and taking them to school. I have no problem with that if it doesn't affect the quality of our business. I don't want you to be there at nine just because it makes me look good that you're there at nine. And I have control over you, and I can tell you to be there at nine. That doesn't bother me.

-Let's say that it did affect the team's goals.

-Well, then that's a problem.

-So how would you deal with that.

-We would be very specific about that. If it were we're at a bank, and it starts at nine, and you have to be at your station at nine, and you may not work at the front desk but you may have a station over here for loans or something, but someone is going to come in at nine at some point to get a loan. And you need to be at that desk. That's a different situation. Then that person needs to understand if they cannot make that work, then they are hurting the business. And they don't they don't belong either in that role, or with the organization.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Lesson Nugget: The more your roles and goals are defined, the easier it is to determine the outcome.
  • Ask Yourself: Do I have a mission statement that defines what I am trying to accomplish?
  • Ask Yourself: Do I have a culture established in a way that lets my employees know my expectations of them?
  • Lesson Nugget: You have to build the right team for today's and tomorrow's challenges.
  • Lesson Nugget: Always go back to your mission statement
  • Principles For Creating An Ethical Corporate Culture: 2. Develop progressive disciplinary procedures.


-I just love how you focus on performance. It's black and white for you. It's seems like there's no gray area.

-Well, I try to make things black and white. I think if you can-- the more that you have defined, the easier it is to determine the outcomes. And so I always try to understand what's my role? What's their role? What's the goal?

One thing I learned doing non-profits is going back to the mission statement. You always go back to the mission statement. What are we trying to accomplish? If it doesn't help what we're trying to accomplish, it's a useless endeavour.

-What about the personality type who tries to corrode the culture? So I'm sure-- maybe it never happened on the Spurs, but other teams.

-Mhm, other teams.

-Other teams. But, you know, what happens to the player who is trying to stir up something between another player. They're trying to-- you know, kind of that personality that's for whatever reason-- trying to create animosity. You can't quite pin them on it, but you just, you know what I mean? They're always trying to do it. How do you deal with that?

-Well, there's always people like that. And I think there's a couple things you need to consider. And first of all is, do you actually have a culture established? So if you don't have one established, it's very hard to deal with a person like that. Because there are no expectations there. You don't know. You can't specifically call them out on the types of things that they're doing, because there's no real culture.

But once you have a culture-- which, at the Spurs, we always did have a great culture. When you came in, you knew what you were getting into. And you knew what we expected of you. So it was very easy to call someone out when you're doing things detrimental to what the team is about.

This is we don't talk about your salary. We don't talk about it to the media. We don't talk about it in this locker room. That's your business-- has nothing to do with what we're trying to accomplish on the floor. So that was very clear. And if people came in and they started whining about salary, or they started picking fights with other individuals, then that was clearly unacceptable in our organization.

-So everyone-- I'm writing this down because this is really good nuggets here. You said we always go back to the mission statement.

-Always mission statement.

-Well, let me ask this. Again, in America today nine out of ten of these businesses are small businesses. Some of them haven't taken the time to write a mission statement. We're so busy we don't have a mission statement.

-My first suggestion would be sit down to write a mission statement.

-OK all right, so that's a great action step.

-Understand where you're headed. Understand who you are, what your core business is, and what you're trying to accomplish. Because everything you do needs to go into that. If it doesn't go into that, then you're wasting your time and energy.

-Love it. And I know, like at Thrive, our purpose is to help provide mentorship and entertaining education for entrepreneurs. That's our niche. And it's our focus. And I think that on the Spurs, your goal was to win championships.


-That's your mission.


-And to then do it the right way.


-Was there a certain mission statement that you remember them having or something that was like a-- or is it really just to win the championship the right way.

-It was to win. But in order to win, we felt like we had to build the right team. That was a real key. And I guess there's an analogy there with business. You have to build the right team. You have to build an organization that can withstand not only the competition of the day but the changes for tomorrow, right? So you're trying to build this team that's flexible, that's intelligent, that works together well, that is focused.

And so that's what I felt like when I came to the team. How do I get us from here to there? We were not a very competitive team when I came. How do I help move this organization over here so that we can be competitive?

-What was your team's record when you took--

-The year before I came in, we won 21 games and we lost 61 games.

-And then what were your rookie year? How did you do? Because you were All-NBA I think your rookie year, right?

-My rookie year, we went from 21 wins to 56 wins. And we lost 26 games. So we pretty much flipped the record, which was great. But there was a lot of other factors that came together at the time.

We had a new coach that was a very good coach. We had some players that we have brought in, which were fantastic. But it was the beginning of a change in culture. And we consistently, over the last 20-something years, have been at a high level because that culture was established and has grown.

-Principle number two, develop progressive disciplinary procedures. Now, David, I see this a lot where you see a small business and every time someone does something they say, I'm going to talk to Danny. I'm going to tell Danny we he-- you know. I'm going to talk to her. I'm going to talk to him. We talked. We need to have a meeting.

And there's all this talking and meetings but there's no disciplinary procedures. There's no expectations as to what happens next, or so it's all these empty threats. And its, again, a bunch of small business where they're stuck, they're not growing.

And the key I think of a small business owner is to win, to make money, to feed your family while providing value to customers. You don't want to stay small. It's not a badge of honor to be a small business. We want to grow to be a big business.

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