G. Richard Shell On Standing Up For Your Core Values Against All The Pressures

Imagine that you’re in a top-notch school and you got a C on a Math test. What are you going to do? Are you going to give up or are you going to learn from it? These are the pressures you will tackle in life and you need to be prepared to face them. One way to face them is with your values and ethics. Learn more about values and conflicts with your host, Dr. Diane Hamilton, and her guest G. Richard Shell. Richard is a global thought leader, an author, and a senior faculty member at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Richard’s latest book The Conscience Code talks about how your core values can aid you against life pressures. Join the conversation today to learn more about his book and how to lead with your values.

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core Values


I’m so glad you joined us because we have Richard Shell here. He’s a global thought leader and faculty member at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s got a book, The Conscience Code. I’m excited to talk to him.

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G. Richard Shell On Standing Up For Your Core Values Against All The Pressures

I am here with Richard Shell who is a global thought leader and senior faculty member at one of the world’s leading business schools, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s also the author of The Conscience Code: Lead with Your Values. Advance Your Career. It’s so nice to have you here, Richard.

Diane, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

The pleasure is all mine. I was looking forward to this because you deal with a lot of the things that I’m interested in. I know we have some background in common and some of the things we deal with, like MBA programs, career issues and all of that so it’ll be a lot of fun to chat. I want to get a little bit of background on you, for those who aren’t familiar, how you got to this point.

I’m living proof that you can start your career at almost any stage that you don’t have to get it right the first time. I began as an assistant professor at Wharton when I was 37. Prior to that time, I had had careers as varied as being a lawyer, which was just before I got to be a professor. Before that, I was in a rock band in Cyprus and I sold insulation door-to-door in Rockbridge County, Virginia. I was a waiter in a classy colonial restaurant where I had to dress up in colonial garb. I’m a social worker. I worked in Washington DC in some of the poorest parts of the city helping families that were in condemned buildings.

All of that as well as a two-year journey around the world where I ended up meditating in Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka and South Korea to find myself is what happened before I got to Wharton. A lot of my work is centered around the issues that I found the most illuminating for me when I was coming along, which are self-awareness and compassion for others. I try to help them with things that cause them anxiety or uncertainty. I’ve got five books and my fifth book is The Conscience Code. Everything that’s preceded it has, in one way or another, been part of that overall journey to help people gain greater self-awareness about what they ought to be doing in this life.

That’s interesting because the background ties in so well with my research on emotional intelligence. For my dissertation, I wrote my work on self-awareness and a lot of the factors associated with emotional intelligence tied into performance. I was fortunate to have Daniel Goleman on the show talking about that. As you were saying all these things, that brought to mind the biography of Steve Jobs and what he went through. Did you find that particularly fascinating?

Yes. I teach both undergraduates and MBA students as well as executives now. A lot of young people think they have to get it right with their first shot. They only have one arrow and they have to shoot it and it has to hit the center of the target. If you look at the lives of many people, there certainly are some people like that. I have a colleague who is in the finance department who knew he wanted to be an economist since he was five years old. He’s been doing it ever since and he’s never looked back.

A lot of people need to think of the whole adventure of finding the right work and the right place to serve others as a trial and error. It’s almost like radar. You send out a little signal to the universe and then listen to see if you get an echo. The stronger the echo, the more likely it is that you’re on the right path and you’re doing something that both you’re good at, that other people will value and that you’re passionate about. You just have to keep pinging. Sometimes it means you end up not doing something very long or having to quit something that looked like it was going to be great but turned out not to be great at all. My advice to my students is to always keep navigating. Make better, not perfect.

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I don’t know if you know Rich Karlgaard who wrote Late Bloomers. His work with Forbes is impressive. His book was interesting to me because I wrote a lot about what you were talking about. A lot of us think we have to be into Harvard by this age and have made our first $1 million by that age. It discourages people if they haven’t done that. Do you see that a lot with your students that they’ve put so much pressure on themselves?

Yes. I’m in an Ivy League university so the parental pressure on our undergrads has been enormous. They’ve been in a performance-based, metric-based culture since they have gotten into a competitive daycare center in New York City. A lot of times, it takes them a while to step back and realize that they are the ones who are going to be in charge of their lives and it’s not going to work for long to be implementing the expectations of their parents.

It’s interesting, “failure” plays such an important role in this because when you’re at an Ivy League university and all the people who get admitted are valedictorians, have perfect SAT scores, they’ve been president in 25 clubs in high school and all these things. The first semester, something disappointing happens because they’re all like that so 1/3 of them get a C. It puts them into a state of depression because they feel like, “This is unthinkable. This is not me. What am I going to do? If I get a C, it’s over.”

What’s interesting is the response that the students have. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I broke it down into three responses. A third of the students who get that C checks out. They decide, “This is a game I can’t win so I’m going to get through this by not playing.” They check out and party and do a lot of self-handicapping things to make sure that they never test themselves again fully. That’s sad because they’re in a great, amazing environment and they’re trying to keep it at bay. The second 1/3 take it and go, “Whatever the C was in, I’m going to not do that again.”

If they were thinking they’re going to be pre-med and they got a C in some chemistry courses, that’s okay. Although they haven’t quite taken into account that they were getting used to a new environment and this may be a sign they need to work harder or work differently or something. They want to Major in Sociology now or something. The third group is the people who are going to thrive without further instruction because they take that C and go, “What can I learn from this? How can I do better?” They pick themselves up and show their resilience. They consult broadly with the people that love them and that they love about what happened and how they’ll be able to make it right.

They end up doing well, whatever that means. They keep doing stuff, keep giving their best and learn how to be great at whatever they’re going to be in college. That’s the kind of response you want to see from people throughout their lives. These people are showing this early resilience that’s going to be part of the habits they have, their character that is going to stand by them for the rest of the time. The failure thing is a test. It can happen when you’re a freshman in college, in the workforce and you get laid off. That was unexpected and unthinkable where you end up working for some nightmare boss and you’re fried with anxiety, stress and you don’t know what to do with it. All the books that I’ve written, in one way or another, have been trying to help people understand their strengths and weaknesses, not take their weaknesses as limitations and also try to use their strengths as much as possible by being self-aware.

You touched on so many important things. I wrote an ethics course for one of the schools for which I have taught a lot of different things. I based it on one of my older books. I brought in a lot of things that you’re talking about that tie into some of the research I did in perception and some of these issues. I noticed in your book that you’re talking about how some of your MBA students had quit their post-college jobs after being pressured to engage in unethical and sometimes illegal behavior. Those are the things I love to talk about in ethics classes because ethics is so subjective. Some of the stuff we talked about is clearly illegal but some of the stuff is maybe not.

I teach for a bunch of different universities still and in one of the classes I’m teaching, I didn’t write this particular course but the person who did talks about, “Do you buy clothes from a third world country where their kids are creating this, they’re young and they’re supporting their families? What do you think of that?” Are you going into issues like that, that people have to deal with in the business setting?

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core Values
Core Values: People need to think of the whole adventure of finding the right work and place to serve others as trial and error.


I’m the Chair of a department called Legal Studies & Business Ethics at the Wharton School. Although I’m a fully recovered lawyer now, I’ve got lots of colleagues who do nothing but business ethics. There are two fields within what we call ethics. You’ll notice in The Conscience Code, I try not to use the word, ethics. I tried to use the word, values, more. In the field of ethics, one branch is essentially corporate social responsibility and that is, “What’s the role of a business enterprise in the global economy? Should you be sourcing from a firm that uses child labor? What’s the role of the firm in trying to combat social justice if they’re like Coca-Cola in Georgia and state legislature passes a law that seems to disenfranchise a lot of black voters? Does the corporation have a duty to step up and say something on behalf of the corporation?” That’s one trail.

The other is the trail that I’m more on, although the two connects, which are individual responsibility and character and that is, “How do you bring your conscience to work?” The issue is not so much, “Do you know something’s wrong?” It’s so morally fraught that you can have a PhD seminar about what the duties are when you have a child supporting their family and also a child being subjected to job labor where they’re not getting an education. What’s going on there morally is totally difficult and real. The thing I’m trying to address and help my students with is you know something’s wrong. That part is already done. You’re being bullied, there’s a sexual predator in the office, people cheating on their expense accounts and people lying and patting their billable hours. There’s stuff there that’s not complicated in terms of it being wrong.

What do you do about it? First of all, do you let yourself get drawn into it because everybody’s doing it, it’s social pressure and it’s an expectation? Do you let yourself be put to sleep and try to make your conscience go away? If you still got a conscience, you’re awake and you’re realizing that it’s wrong, what are the effective things to do about it? That requires some skill, thought and strategic thinking about the organization you’re in and your own personality. If you’re a conflict-averse person or you are worried about confrontations especially with people in authority, that alone, which has nothing to do with ethics, is your personality. It might stop you from saying something that could save the firm.

There’s a person there who’s doing something that is fraudulent and the firm’s reputation is at risk. It blocks your personality from doing anything and then the firm does blow up. The fraud does occur. A lot of these big frauds, the things that you read about in the paper like Theranos as an example. There are a lot of people that were working at Theranos who were dimly aware that something was wrong but chose not to do anything and then here come these two 22-year-olds, Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung, who were just out of college and their eyes were wide open. They looked around and they saw this fake data going out, rigged test of their device and misrepresented reports going to regulators and then they looked at each other and said, “Do you see what I see?” The other one said, “I see what you see.” They said, “What are we going to do about it?”

That’s where my book provides some traction because there is almost a structured process you can engage in to be effective at doing what you can. Sometimes, you try and it fails. It doesn’t work out and you end up quitting because everything you did got blocked by the powers it be. That’s what happened to both Tyler and Erika. They both ended up quitting but by that time, they were sources for the Wall Street Journal reporter who had come down to the story and they became important. Both of them filed regulatory complaints. One before he left, that’s Tyler and one after she left, that’s Erika. Those reports in combination with the Wall Street Journal anonymous series of articles were what ended up bringing the firm down.

If those two people had not decided to be proactive, take action and own the problem then this would have gone on much longer and probably hurt a lot more people with faulty blood tests, fake income and all the other things that went along with the enterprise being corrupt. It’s an ownership problem that I’m trying to help people step up to and not a moral puzzle. That is a perfectly valid enterprise if you’re going to write a book about moral puzzles and what are the duties of a multinational firm in a complex place where culture sometimes discriminates against women, gays or what are your duties when it comes to child welfare and all that. Those are great but it’s not my focus.

I was glad you brought up Theranos because I’ve talked about this on the show before, that fake it until you make it mentality like, “How could she get that board to go along?” I’ve had Bethany McLean on the show talking about her book on Enron and what happened with Ken Lay and the guys behind that if there was a whistleblower in that situation. There’s so much pressure out there for these leaders to either fake it until they make it or they get all wrapped up with the success. How much do you blame stakeholders, shareholders or whoever that it’s become almost impossible for anybody to not think that you have to be the next unicorn whatever it takes?

Two things. First, one of the things I’ve tried to do in The Conscience Code is to break those pressures down so you can understand better what they are. It’s one thing to say there are these pressures but where are they coming from? I have an acronym, PAIRS, to help people think about, “What is the enemy I’m facing off against here?” It helps. P for Peer Pressure. That’s one pressure that you can face. Everybody does it. Keep your head down. A for Authority Pressure. That’s what it feels like when your boss is responding to some pressure that they’re getting. By the time it gets to you as a regular line employee, it’s just authority pressure being brought to bear.

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I had a former student emailed me. She’s an emergency room nurse. She’s an amazing woman. She got a Wharton undergrad degree and then went back to nursing school so she could be a nurse. She said that she was in a meeting and her manager wanted her and her team to backdate a bunch of documents that would show that they have done certain protocol tests on days that they hadn’t been at work. Leah, my student, said, “I refuse to do that.” The boss said, “You have to do it. Everybody else is going to do it.” There was staffing confusion and nobody was the person in charge at the time. Leah said, “It’s against my principles to backdate documents. It’s wrong.”

She said that having finished a little chapter in The Conscious Code, it reminded her about this notion of a person of conscience. It’s not a whistleblower or flamethrower or moral hero. Just be a person of conscience at work. She realized that she couldn’t get under that pressure, even though it was strong and it was authority-based. I’m sure that the boss was feeling it because of the regulatory expectations that this thing had and they didn’t want to look bad.

She stood her ground and felt great about it. The team around her respected her more because she’d done it. When you say lead with your values but advance your career, advance your career means you’re acting as a leader and people will respect you for being able to stick by your guns when you know your values are being put at risk. The P and A are Peer and Authority then I is Incentives. That’s the one you’re talking about. It’s the street. The street expects the stock price to go up. It’s the pay package. The compensation is based on the stock price. It’s the goal, deadline, client demand and the stuff that’s coming that causes people who are otherwise good people to lose their way and to start pressuring others to do stuff to cut corners.

The incentive pressure is perverse. You can create a corrupt organization of wonderful people by giving everybody the wrong incentives. Knowing that that’s what it is and then countering this pressure from incentives with the internal pressure of your moral identity. If you’re a parent and you were at a grocery store and you’ve got your three-year-old child with you and then a stranger came up to you and said, “I need you to take this survey but you’ll have to leave your kid here for five minutes while we take it.” I don’t think many parents would say, “Junior, stay in the aisle there by yourself.” Why would they not do it? Because their identity first and foremost is as a responsible loving parent. Whatever the claim is of this person taking the survey, it doesn’t hold a candle to that moral imperative.

If people bring their conscience to work and think of themselves as a person of conscience before they’re a manager or a salesperson, they’re a person of conscience. In the same way, they’re a parent or they’re a responsible member of their spiritual community. A lot of problems start looking simpler because against this pressure of incentives, you say, “What would a person of conscience do in this situation?” The answer is it’s clear what they would do. They would stand up for their values and they would say that these incentives are perverse. They’re leading people to behave in ways that they’ll later regret and that are bad for the company.

The problem is, “What do we do about it?” That’s a strategic question that the answer is not obvious but at least you know where the duty is and where the balance is. The balance is toward being proactive and taking a stand on your values in some way, shape or form. The R and the S of PAIRS is the pressure that can come from a Role. You’re a soldier so you should take orders or you’re a salesperson so you should make your quota and say, “A good whatever does X.” Roles can sometimes exert positive pressure, “You’re a good parent,” or negative pressure, “You’re just a summer intern. Shut up.” S is for Systems, which is the biggest pressure.

Theranos is a good example of systemic pressure in the sense that the entire corporation had been corrupted by its top people. All the things were wrong. The incentives and leadership were bad and they were hiding stuff. When you’re little Erika and little Tyler, your ability to take on the whole system is small. They tried but in the end, they had to leave and try to change it from the outside. Other systems are racism, sexism, global corruption and bribery. They don’t get changed at the retail level. You can experience them at the retail level and then you have to ask, “How do we deal with this? What are the effective mechanisms to at least exit the system ourselves?”

Coca-Cola doesn’t pay bribes and they’ve made it clear to every developing country at every port officials throughout the world that they don’t pay bribes. People stop asking for bribes from Coca-Cola. If you have enough market power of your own, there are ways to exit a corrupt system but then there are also ways to change it. That’s why Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and what the Google employees did when they all had a simultaneous walkout across the globe on a given day and a given hour to protest the firm’s sexual harassment policies. An executive has been given a $90 million bonus even though the firm had adjudicated a sexual assault claim, not even a harassment claim. It found that he’d committed it and then they gave him the $90 million and told him to leave

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core Values
Core Values: Students in Ivy leagues have a performance-based metric. A lot of times, it takes them a while to step back and realize that they are the ones who are going to be in charge of their lives.


Enough people in the firm said, “No.” They look to try to move the needle inside the firm using the usual procedures. They weren’t getting what they wanted so then they engaged in collective action then they did get what they wanted. In the wake of that, the firm did changed its sexual harassment policies, reporting procedures, who’s in charge of it whether people can bring complaints directly to the board. A lot of things changed because of few people on the problem and they were acted effectively to be agents of change within this system. It pays to know what pressure you’re facing and then work the process so that you are trying to take the steps that will be most effective. They may not involve you being at the tip of the spear. They may involve you persuading someone who’s got more authority or persuading a group to form a coalition that can address the issue and make the values come back into their proper focus.

I’ve seen some changes based on generations. I know you discuss why Millennials and Gen Z demand more value-based organizations in your book and you address some of this. I could remember in 1980, that was madmen time for me when I was in a job. You didn’t upset the applecart. You just did what you were told. It’s how I was taught. I had a boss who did all kinds of crazy stuff and they ended up walking him out with all his belongings one day for embezzlement.

I didn’t know. I was young. It wasn’t my first job but it was one of my first big jobs. I remember thinking, “This isn’t right.” When I started, he would say, “You have to be eighteen to work here so we’ll forge your birth date on this and it’ll be fine,” and things like that. I can remember thinking, “That doesn’t sound right.” Back then, when you’re young and it’s what everybody’s doing, you don’t want to be the squeaky wheel. I see younger generations being much more vocal. Do you see a difference?

I do. I noticed this started several years ago in my MBA class because I teach this MBA class on the responsibility which is what the book’s based on and there are stories and examples. Prior to that time, we tended to treat these issues as the big moral questions about business and society. When it came to individual conflicts over values that they’d had in the past, they were shy about talking about them. There wasn’t a lot of traction to get them to open up.

Several years ago, somebody broke the ice in a class one day and then somebody else resonated with that. It came about in the first instance because of the #MeToo Movement. That opened the door to a whole set of values related to honesty, transparency, fairness and justice that had been lurking in the room but hadn’t found its voice yet. This generation is different in their willingness to step up and vocalize these things in the action sense.

You relate a story about something happening and you didn’t feel empowered to do anything about it. About half the stories that I hear in class are regret stories of students who, like you, even though they’re in the modern workplace and maybe have a more passionate approach to their values, it’s more probably acceptable to step up. I still didn’t have the tools to think about how to do it effectively so I’ve adapted this concept from combat pilot tactics. It’s called the OODA loop. Have you ever heard of the OODA loop?

No, I was going to ask you about that. You covered that in the book about building ethical conflict.

OODA is the acronym and then loop. If you’re a combat pilot, those letters stand for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act and then react to what your counterpart does. It’s fast-moving and instantaneous. Tactically, you’re observing, orienting, deciding, acting and then adjusting. You’re going at supersonic speed. In an ethical conflict or in a values situation, I adapted it where observe is still the first step. You have to realize something in front of you is wrong as well. You have to let yourself feel that and not just minimize it or put it outside your pay grade. You have to recognize, “My conscience is hurting me here. It’s telling me something’s wrong and I’m going to face that.” That’s number one.

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There are a lot of rationalizations that will try to take it out of play. The O, instead of Orient, I say Own. That’s the internalization part. It’s crucial that you observe this ethical problem or values conflict then you say, “I’m going to make this my responsibility.” This is not something that someone else will take care of. Not my pay grade or whatever. That ownership step is crucial and that’s where the Millennials are ready for. Some of them haven’t quite figured out that the implications of having values is you have to own them. They have to be your responsibility. That doesn’t mean you’re the one to take action. That just means you’re on it.

D is Decide among the options of available actions. What do your templates look like? It could be report it, talk to a mentor, escalate it, find a coalition partner and start talking about others, find out there’s another victim of the sexual predator or investigate. There are all these different options that might be there at the decision point. Pick one. A is for Action so you take that step. Loop is crucial because it is not a one-move game. You take action, see what happens, make adjustments and then take the next opportunity with the information or the alliance you’ve gained or the fact that this person was interested in this whole thing and you need to know somebody else.

The loop is crucial because then you start over again then you go, “Observe what happens. Own it, decide and act.” Keep the loop going until you think you’ve done your best. When you start thinking about it that way, it’s much more satisfying and fulfilling. You’ll feel like a whole person at work. Instead of there’s me at home and I’m a person of conscience at home but when I go to work, I am alienated from it and I keep it at arm’s length. There are all these people doing stuff that I don’t approve of but I try to sit down, keep my head low, get my paycheck and go home again where I can feel good about myself.

When you bring your conscience to work and you’re effective, first of all, more often than you realize, the firm is going to appreciate that and they’re going to elevate you for it. Even if they don’t, the fact that you’ve made the effort even if you fail means you’re going to feel good about yourself. It’s going to be a different story. You’re going to have more self-confidence. It’s going to teach you things about how to do better next time and you’re going to feel more like a whole person. Even a great job has moments when there are value conflicts. No job is perfect. Being ready to step up and engage the outer loop is a good way to think about it.

You brought up Coca-Cola and how they won’t pay bribes. I’m wondering, some of the readers are trying to start their own company and they follow the US Code of Ethics when they’re here. They come up against some of these challenges when they try to expand into other countries. They don’t have the clout that Coca-Cola has but they want to do business. Do you go by the code of ethics that you have personally, the US Code or by where you have to do business? What do you think of in that respect?

We’re going to get to a lot of if-thens because it’s going to depend on the culture. It’s going to depend on whether you’re a public company or you’re a private company and you own it yourself. The building where I work is called Huntsman Hall. Jon Huntsman, the entrepreneur who started Huntsman chemicals, Wharton alum, who’s done well and who helped us build the building. His son, Jon Huntsman Jr., was Ambassador to China, Governor of Utah and another Wharton grad. Jon Huntsman was famously a person of character and virtue no matter where he operated in the world. Even in the smallest matters, he approached everything as an aggressive business person. He was an astute strategist and a tough negotiator.

He’s got a book called Winners Never Cheat and he tells a story in that book that is indicative of the attitude entrepreneurs should have about their values. In general, I said, “The only thing you should never compromise in any negotiation you do is your integrity. I don’t care what part of the world you’re in.” Jon Huntsman had a negotiation going with a person that he was going to buy their company at a certain stage of their mutual careers. It was somebody he had been a competitor with in the past. He was a tough negotiator and he was driving a hard bargain. He had some leverage and he was advancing the ball and then he found out that his counterpart who’d been looking a little more distracted in the last round of negotiation has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. For him, that changed everything about that negotiation.

What he decided to do was he closed the deal at the last offer and said, “I understand the stress you’re under. I don’t want this negotiation to add to your suffering. I’m willing to stick with the last offer I made and let’s do the deal. You go pay attention to your family.” That’s what he did. When you’re abroad and you’re dealing with different cultures, you have to ask yourself what values are negotiable and what values are non-negotiable. It’s probably negotiable that you don’t want to eat a certain food on a certain day if in that culture it’s wrong or you’re going to give up alcohol while you’re there because that’s the way the culture operates and you want to salute that culture.

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core Values
Core Values: When you’re dealing with different cultures, you have to ask yourself what values are negotiable and what are non-negotiable.


If the culture is doing something that injures people or insults the dignity of people that you think is illegitimate then you have to say, “This is the way we do business and we understand the way you do business. We have a non-negotiable standard of ethics. How can we work together with our standard being non-negotiable?” It’s amazing sometimes, once people realize that there’s a value you have whether you’re Coca-Cola or merry entrepreneur, they will respect it and say, “We could probably structure the transaction this way or that way. We could use a different currency that would involve this interest rate problem that we have in our culture,” or whatever it is.

You find your way around it. A lot of values conflicts, although they look like they’re stark either/or, when you put the stakes down on one side and say, “This is non-negotiable. This is not going to be part of this exchange that we have or this way of doing business,” problem-solving sets in. People have a way of inventing their way to solutions that maintain the value and solve the problem at the same time. What it takes is someone who’s unwilling to negotiate their values in order for that constraint to be a motivation to solve problems.

In negotiation research, which I’ve done a fair amount about, we have some interesting outcomes that impasse in negotiation. When the people say, “No deal. We’re walking away,” it prompts more creativity and more problem solving than if you don’t go to an impasse and you compromise and all the different things accommodate that you might do in the face of a strong position from another side. You’re going to have impasses of their values that prompt creativity. Creativity is your sweet spot.

Isn’t it the case that the constraints of a form of poetry, the meter, the rhyme scheme or whatever it is often are what prompts the poet to be creative in a novel in the way that they invent and deploy language? Isn’t it the fact that you have a canvas that’s a certain size that sets the parameters within which infinite amounts of creativity can be exercised? It’s when you have no constraints that you get lost. Values are like that. You have to learn where your constraints are and then stick with them.

I research curiosity but it ties into creativity as well. There are a lot of questions we need to ask to lead to motivation, creativity and a lot of the things that we’re not getting in corporate cultures. I’m looking at this not just from the top’s point of view but mid-level and anybody reporting to leaders. How do they know if they’re reporting to an Elizabeth Holmes?

On the one level, you can never read another person’s heart and mind. It’s not the way we are designed. Humans are existentially alone and that’s a problem. If you’re paying attention as opposed to looking the other way, it isn’t that hard to see sometimes. I had a student who was working in a tech company and she said that one of the leaders in this division left the firm to start his own firm. It was a medical field innovation company. He sent word back that he would be interested if a number of the people used to workaround would visit his new firm for the day and then see if they might not want to join him in the new firm.

This young lady was given that invitation. She went over there and she got there. It was interesting that teams and everybody seemed excited. This guy who was the entrepreneur approached her and said, “It would help us if we had the customer list of the old firm. If you join us, which we’d love to do and we’ll pay you twice what you’re going to learn, we’d want you to bring the customers with you.” She didn’t make a big stink about it but she looked at that and said, “This is terrible and I don’t want any part of it,” and didn’t come back. This guy ended up being the guy who wanted to charge $75,000 for some drug that was non-essential and he went to jail.

I’ve had him in a lot of my case studies.

[bctt tweet=”Even a great job has moments when their values conflict.” via=”no”]

She had this first encounter with a psychopath, essentially. Psychopaths are generally charming and they’re not so easy to read but this guy was easy to read. When you see smoke, assume there’s fire and go the other way. The problem is our incentives. “There’s more money. I might get more power. I might get more responsibility. The commute’s shorter.” Whatever the reason that looks attractive, you want to overlook it and then you underweight it. Six months later, you’re in a toxic workplace and you’ve got this huge moral problem because you’re partly complicit in something and you didn’t even know you’d gotten there. I’m a big believer in keeping your eyes open and it’s often that the world’s telling you something if you’re just listening.

That was Martin Shkreli. That was an interesting case study. I bring that up in my ethics classes as well because he was boldly obstreperous.

It’s like Travis Kalanick when he worked at Uber, same thing. He’s a driven individual, pillage and burns and he’s top all over values. “Either lead, follow or get out of my way.” You have to watch out for those people. Elizabeth Holmes is the other way around. She was charismatic and driven. Sometimes, charisma is also a signal. My colleague, Adam Grant, did some interesting research before he got to be famous. He went through annual reports and looked at the size of the pictures of the CEOs in the annual reports. He compared that to the performance of the firm in the following two years in terms of a bunch of metrics. Sure enough, the bigger the picture, the worse the performance.

Narcissism is a common condition. Elizabeth Holmes was suffering from a severe case of at least narcissism, maybe more. When you see somebody who’s doing that and spending all their time getting on the cover of a magazine and making all these claims that sound exaggerated and you’re in the company, you just have to open your eyes, see what’s happening and say, “Time to go somewhere else. This is not going to work.”

That’s such an important thing to do. That’s back to your comment about pinging and figuring out if this is the right thing. Reading your book is a good start for a lot of people to find out what they could be doing to lead with their values. A lot of people would be interested in finding you and finding your book. Is there a site or something you’d like to share?

First of all, they can find the book on Amazon.com, The Conscience Code. It’s easy to get there. For myself, I have a personal website, GRichardShell.com. On that, I have information on all the books I’ve written, the ones on success, negotiation and persuasion and then two assessments that readers may have some fun taking. They’re both free. One of them is something called the Six Lives Exercise, which is a self-evaluation of your theory of success and how you balance happiness and achievement as two factors in success. It’s a simple thing. It takes about five minutes. The other is something called Conflict Styles Quiz and that’s a self-assessment to see, as a matter of being a values advocate, what is the style that you would bring to a values conversation where there was some danger of conflict involved? There are five different styles and the assessment will give you a result there.

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core Values
The Conscience Code: Lead With Your Values. Advance Your Career

I love assessments. I create them as well so I’m going to have to take those. This was fun, Richard. Thank you for being on the show. This was a great conversation. I’ll include these bits in the courses I teach because it ties in so well to ethics and leadership courses. Many people can benefit from this.

Diane, it was a pleasure. I appreciate you having me.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Richard for being my guest. We get so many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them all at DrDianeHamilton.com. We’re on iTunes, iHeart, Roku, you name it. There are also tweetable moments. If you find something from the show that resonates with you, please tweet it. We’d love to hear from you and what you think of the show and give us some feedback because it always makes things better.

I enjoyed talking about ethics and some of the things that we talked about in this episode because I teach so many courses that deal with these issues. This is such an important topic. It ties into the work that Dr. Maja Zelihic and I did in our book, The Power of Perception. If you’re interested in taking the Perception Power Index or reading more about perception, you can find that at DrDianeHamilton.com. You could also find the Curiosity Code Index and Cracking the Curiosity Code information there.

Anything that deals with behaviors, emotional intelligence, soft skills, curiosity, culture and all these kinds of things are so critical. I have so many people who are asking me all these types of questions and a lot of them we dealt with in this episode. Richard is such an expert in some of these important questions. I hope you take some time to check out his book. He has some amazing work that he’s done. A lot of it starts with being curious, asking questions for us to get to that next level and recognize our values.

One thing I found in the research that I did was that curiosity led to improving engagement, innovation, motivation, you name it. If we could ask more questions, we can find out more about other people’s values and their belief systems and that’ll help us interact with them more efficiently. A lot of these topics are super critical. You can go to DrDianeHamilton.com/blog and search for any topic that we talked about or who we talked about on the show. Take some time to explore the site. There’s so much content on the site. There are free chapters and all kinds of information for you. I hope you take some time to explore. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode.

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About G. Richard Shell

TTL 855 Richard Shell | Core ValuesG. Richard Shell is a global thought leader and senior faculty member at one of the world’s leading business schools, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as Chair of Wharton’s Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department, the largest department of its kind in the world. His forthcoming book, The Conscience Code: Lead with Your Values. Advance Your Career. [June 8, HarperCollins Leadership] addresses an increasingly urgent problem in today’s workplace: standing up for core values such as honesty, fairness, personal dignity, and justice when the pressure is on to look the other way.

Shell is a skilled communicator across many diverse audiences. His students have included everyone from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 CEOs to FBI hostage negotiators, Navy SEALs, and United Nations peacekeepers. In addition, he has worked extensively with public school teachers, labor unions, nurses, and hospital administrators to help them become more effective professionals.

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