Tag Archives: Marine Corps

Getting Culture Right: It Starts at the Top

Leading a large organization of people is not unlike raising teenagers. At its core, the goal is to provide enough independence to allow growth and innovation and to fuel excitement about what people are doing, but at the same time to provide the necessary guard rails to help keep focus on the mission and prevent the stray person from getting too far from the flock and encountering danger. Parents are like the C-suite, and their approach to life, their leadership stamina and their commitment are key drivers in the family’s success.

When a teenager makes a huge mistake, or perhaps even worse, does harm to himself or others, people often look to the parents. Are they good parents? Strict enough? Involved enough to know what’s going on? Participating enough to influence behavior? Modeling good values and social norms? The same is true when a business finds itself embroiled in scandal or accusations of wrongdoing.

See also: How to Lead Change in an Organization  

Incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace have dominated recent headlines. These examples are not in the gray area of whether there’s hidden bias impeding the path to promotion for women, or whether there’s a systemic gender pay gap, for example. These headlines include overt sexual behavior that most people readily agree is totally inappropriate at work, and that many judges and juries will likely find are illegal, as well.

The managers at Microsoft’s Xbox division reportedly sponsored a party with scantily clad waitresses and too much alcohol. Uber has been accused of rampant sexism, sexual harassment and an untenable environment for women employees. Members of the U.S. Marine Corps reportedly have a Facebook site with 30,000 followers on which naked photos of female Marines are posted for all to see, comment on and share. Some of the naked photos were apparently taken without the subject female’s knowledge or permission, and some identify the women by name, rank and duty station. Sadly, these are just a few of the highlights. Examples are plentiful and span all industries.

The first questions that came to my mind when I read these headlines are directed at the leadership of the organizations. Have those leaders done something to create or facilitate this behavior at work? Are their policies strict enough? Are those policies enforced? Do the leaders even know what’s going on in their organization? Are they modeling good values themselves? Sound familiar?

Teenagers, even though the vast majority of them are wonderful, caring people of good character, don’t always exhibit those characteristics in their behavior. They are notorious risk takers and exercise poor judgment. Parenting them is hard. I’ve discovered recently that the biggest parenting challenge, however, originates not with my own teenagers, but with their friends’ parents.

Let’s consider underage drinking. Studies show that the vast majority of students drink alcohol while still in high school. Locking up your alcohol, staying up late to chaperone gatherings in your own home or to greet your teenagers when they arrive home, imposing consequences when you discover your teenager has been drinking and even enlisting professional help if it’s a consistent problem requires stamina and commitment. It disrupts your own social life and your own freedom as a parent.

Even more difficult, it draws judgment and scorn from other parents and from your teenager’s friends. If you inform other parents that their own kids are participating in drinking, you could end up being an outcast, and there will almost certainly be negative social consequences for your teenager. It’s hard. And if you don’t, the risks are too scary to imagine. Studies show that teenagers who drink are three times more likely to become addicted than people who start drinking later, and alcohol-related deaths among teenagers (already too frequent) are on the rise. Nonetheless, studies also show that most parents will throw in the towel and ignore the drinking, decide not to inform other parents, fail to follow through with consequences and accept that it’s “normal” for teenagers to drink. My teenager, after all, is a “good” kid.

Creating a workplace environment that is hostile to sexual harassment is also hard. Even though the vast majority of men are wonderful, caring people of good character, when together in groups there can easily be a high incidence of inappropriate sexual behavior that is deeply disturbing (and illegal) in the workplace. Corporate leaders may either be unaware of it or may condone it. Either is problematic.

Reporting incidents of sexual harassment, or punishing employees who engage in it can draw judgment and scorn from fellow leaders and very often results in negative social consequences for both the victim and the leader. When the consequences of speaking out affect career advancement and rewards, the impulse to stay out of it or ignore it altogether can be overwhelming. And yet the consequences of failing to speak out and stand up to sexual harassment in the workplace can kill your business. Sound familiar?

There is a simple solution that will at least eliminate the headlines we’ve seen lately, even if it doesn’t address the whole problem: no safe sex in the workplace. Period. Sex is a personal and private activity that has no place at work.

We as humans easily understand that there are certain environments where sexual behavior by adults is always inappropriate. For example, you would be hard pressed to find a person who thinks it acceptable to expose preschoolers to strippers, pornography, aggressive propositioning or naked pictures of parents. Consequently, we don’t do that in preschools, and not because adults suddenly don’t enjoy that type of behavior on their own time, and not because the people who do enjoy that behavior are not “good” people. Instead, adults recognize that preschool is a safe zone in which adult sexual behavior is not appropriate or welcome.

A similar mindset at work would be extremely effective in eradicating offensive and illegal behavior. No strippers at work gatherings. No passing around naked pictures of colleagues. No standing by quietly and watching your colleague or boss harass a woman in his organization. Work needs to be a safe zone in which sexual behavior is not appropriate or welcome.

See also: Is Your Organization Open to New Ideas?  

A plethora of books about how to be a good parent and how to succeed as a corporate leader are readily available. You can read thousands of pages about which seven habits are most important and effective. I offer a simple tip that applies equally to parenting and leadership. It is hard. The consequences of getting it wrong are significant. But when it comes to the big stuff, there are no shortcuts. Stand up to the potential negative social impact and stop your teenager from drinking. Stop your colleagues from bringing sex into the workplace. You will be very glad you did.

How to Help Veterans on Mental Health

The constant beat of the major media drum often paints a grim picture of veterans and suicide. Sometimes, we wonder if these messages become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consistent headlines include data such as:


  • Approximately 22 veterans die by suicide each day (about one every 65 minutes).
  • In 2012, suicide deaths outpaced combat deaths, with 349 active-duty suicides; on average about one per day.
  • The suicide rate among veterans (30 per 100,000) is double the civilian rate.

Listening to this regular narrative, a collective concern and urgency emerges on how best to support our veterans who are making the transition back to civilian jobs and communities. Many veterans have a number of risk factors for suicide, contributing to the dire suicide statistics, including:

  • A strong identity in a fearless, stoic, risk-taking and macho culture
  • Exposure to trauma and possible traumatic brain injury
  • Self-medication through substance abuse
  • Stigmatizing views of mental illness
  • Access to and familiarity with lethal means (firearms)

Veterans show incredible resilience and resourcefulness when facing daunting challenges and learn how to cope, but employers and others who would like to support veterans are not always clear on how to be a “military-friendly community.”

The Carson J Spencer Foundation and our Man Therapy partners Cactus and Colorado’s Office of Suicide Prevention conducted a six-month needs and strengths assessment involving two in-person focus groups and two national focus groups with representation from Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and family perspectives.

When asked how we could best reach them, what issues they’d like to see addressed and what resources they need, here is what veterans and their advocates told us:

  • “I think that when you reach out to the vets, do it with humor and compassion…Give them something to talk about in the humor; they will come back when no one is looking for the compassion.” People often mentioned they preferred a straightforward approach that wasn’t overly statistical, clinical or wordy.
  • Make seeking help easy. A few veterans mentioned they liked an anonymous opportunity to check out their mental health from the privacy of their own home. Additionally, a concern exists among veterans, who assume some other service member would need a resource more. They hesitate to seek help, in part, because they don’t want to take away a resource from “someone who may really need it.” Having universal access through the Internet gets around this issue.
  • “We need to honor the warrior in transition. The loss of identity is a big deal, along with camaraderie and cohesion. Who I was, who I am now, who I am going to be…” The top request for content was about how to manage the transition from military life to civilian life. The loss of identity and not knowing who “has your back” is significant. Several veterans were incredibly concerned about being judged for PTS (no “D,” for disorder – as the stress they experience is a normal response to an abnormal situation). Veterans also requested content about: post-traumatic stress and growth, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and fatherhood and relationships, especially during deployment.
  • The best ways to reach veterans: trusted peers, family members and leaders with “vicarious credibility.”

Because of these needs and suggestions, an innovative online tool called “Man Therapy” now offers male military/veterans a new way to self-assess for mental health challenges and link to resources.


In addition to mental health support, many other things can be done to support veterans:

We owe it to our service members to provide them with resources and support and to listen carefully to the challenges and barriers that prevent them from fully thriving. Learn how you can be part of the solution instead of just focusing on the problem.