Today Lloyd Blankfein says he will review all practices in the light of recent events.
We are all quick to point fingers at Goldman Sachs as we assess their behaviour against our moral code and accuse them of lacking integrity. They have lost the trust of many, and fallen from their position as the golden firm of Wall Street. What lessons can we learn from their situation?
Goldman Sachs was considered to have the strongest culture of all the investment banks. It had (has?) one of the finest statements of corporate values I have ever seen - clear, provocative, inspiring. The firm spent a lot of time and money inducting employees in these values, and did the same when it grew overseas and dealt with different cultures. Those who did not fit with the culture were ejected. I have never done any consulting work there, but often quoted Goldman Sachs as a company who really cared about culture.
As I listen to the CEO, I conclude that they did not believe at the time they were doing anything wrong. I suspect that internally they consider that their actions aligned with their values. This I find to be a common view of many executives when asked about their own behaviour or that of their company. I personally have had feedback on leadership 360 that I do not live the values when I felt I was full of integrity. Sometimes I know I have stepped out of line - my conscience tells me that - other times my internal compass is saying 'fine' and others let me know otherwise. (Or they think it, without letting me know).
I take one lesson from the Goldman Sachs experience. Building your culture based on a set of internally shared values is not enough. If customers and public opinion matter to your business, you need to check out with them how they see you measuring up against your values too. At Walking the Talk we have identified three core cultural attributes which are essential in all circumstances where you are seeking to have your culture enable your business success. One of these is open-ness.
Open-ness to feedback, open-ness to see the world from another persepctive, to test your actions on others and ask them if they measure up to their standards.
Without this attribute, your culture can wrap you and your team in a bubble. And sometimes, as in the case of Goldman Sachs, that bubble can wrap you in a self-perpertuating perspective which isolates you from those you serve.
Yesterday, Lloyd Blankfein said: "We understand that there is a disconnect between how we as a firm view ourselves and how the broader public perceives our role and activities in the market. To address this, we need a rigorous self-examination."
This promises well, it opens the first door to humility, listening and aligning corporate values with customer values.
Carolyn is the CEO of Walking the Talk and author of 'Walking the Talk: Building a Culture for Success' (Random House).
Twitter @walkingourtalk or LinkedIn.