This article was originally published on LinkedIN by ECI's CEO, Pat Harned. Follow her on Twitter at @PatriciaHarned
A hero is someone who teaches you – and more importantly shows you – how to view the world, set goals, and weather the storms that stand in the way of your progress.
I was so fortunate to have such a mentor and unwavering champion; her name was Carol Marshall. Today ECI announced the winner of the 2017 award for Innovation in Corporate Ethics that bears Carol’s name, so I thought it befitting to take a moment to honor the person who inspired the prize. She mattered to me, and to so many others like me.
I first met Carol in 2004. I had just been appointed president of the Ethics Resource Center (now ECI). I was just getting a foothold in the ethics and compliance industry; meanwhile, Carol had already become practically immortal for her work as Vice President of Ethics and Business Conduct at Lockheed Martin Corporation. She was receiving accolades for being the first to accomplish several things. Carol was one of the first designated ethics officers in a corporation; among the first in our field to report directly to the CEO; and certainly, at the time she was one of very few women to oversee a large multinational business ethics function.
From the moment we met, Carol made sure that she and I would never be strangers again. I never asked her to be my mentor; she simply appointed herself to the job. She innately knew that I needed support. To be honest, I also think she saw me as something of a fun project.
When cancer took Carol Marshall from the world five years later, I was among many who deeply grieved her loss. I still do. And as I look back now on the years when I had her in my life, what has struck me is that I had no idea how much of a lasting impact Carol would have on me. I want to be like her. You could participate in a hundred hours of ethics & compliance training; it wouldn’t have a fraction of the impact that comes from just one piece of advice offered by a strong, attentive, and moral hero. That’s the mark of an extraordinary leader.
Allow me to offer a few examples of the ways that Carol made her indelible mark on me.
- She knew what she stood for. I once asked Carol about why she chose to go into the field of ethics. She said, “I found that there were a lot of people out there that wanted to do the right thing but didn’t know what the right thing was to do. They were just looking for rules and regulations and policies and procedures. I just had this fundamental belief that it’s more than that. If you can get people to understand the most important thing that they need to do is to know what their personal ethical underpinnings are and bring that to work with them, then you’d be a huge success. Then you could pile all the rules and regulations on top of that, but fundamentally business ethics is really just letting people be who they are.” That was her conviction, and she pursued it vigorously. Business conduct to her pointed the way to lots of larger questions about humanity, truth, and our purpose for being. She said to me once, “All this ethics work is great, Pat, but how does it help you achieve your larger purpose?”
- She took risks. Carol is still known – widely – for introducing a method of ethics training where the most powerful person in an organization sits with his/her direct reports and works through a series of case studies about values and conduct. Participants, in turn, do the same with their direct reports and so on. To make that chain of training a reality, Carol went to her CEO and confessed to him that the traditional model of training was deadly boring. She insisted that the only way to get people to care about ethics was to move their hearts and minds. She asked her CEO to do something unconventional. He agreed. With that, cascaded ethics training was born. I came to understand that Carol was a calculated risk-taker. She stepped out with great courage when she was sure of two personal principles. The first was that the risk she was taking was consistent with her values and what she knew to be true. The second was that if all else failed, she could be sure of the first principle. Everything else was gravy.
- She seized every opportunity to teach me. Carol never hesitated to email, call, or instant message me when she had something to say to me; especially if it was to applaud my successes or to offer wisdom about the pitfalls or the pit bulls in the industry. At one point during her final days of illness, she called me from the intensive care unit in the hospital. Our organization had just made a big announcement about a strategic decision I had made. Carol wanted to express her excitement and to tell me that she was proud of me. And after she said all that, the first thing I could think to say was, “Are you aware that you aren’t allowed to use cell phones in the ICU? Are important machines shutting down because you are on the phone with me?” I don’t think she cared about such trivial things. Turns out, it wasn’t trivial; that 90 second call sits with me today like it just happened.
- Nothing was out of bounds to Carol. She was also the kind of mentor who felt that there were very few subjects that were out of bounds. For example, Carol took up a personal crusade to work on my image as a rising leader. She told me I had a responsibility as a woman in business to not only represent and guide other women, but to figure out how to drive change in a world of men. One time I was delivering a plenary speech to an audience of about 150 people, and Carol was the person to introduce me. As we approached the podium together, just before we reached the microphone Carol turned and said, “Great pants, Pat. Buy them in every color.” Without missing a beat she stepped up to the microphone and introduced me to the audience. Then she turned back and said, “Get the jacket, too, in every color.” Several hours later she called me from a train to clarify that it’s not about the clothes I wear, but the boldness with which I speak and the truth to what I have to say. Nevertheless, she felt I still needed to understand that because I’m tall, I should pay attention because my pants can sometimes be too short. Not going to lie; she made me mad, but she was right. And not just about my hemlines.
- She was a mess. I’ll just apologize now to her children (who are likely reading this)…but wow. I will never understand how Carol Marshall rose to such a high level in a corporation when she could singlehandedly be such a source of chaos. Carol was predictably late to meetings; she either couldn’t find or operate her phone at the precise moment when I needed her; and I could hand her notes as she entered a room, but by the time she found her seat, the notes were gone. She was a whirlwind. What struck me, though, was that she also made no bones about any of it. She had faults, and she admitted them. She also invited me to admit my shortcomings. I think that somehow in being such a disaster (organizationally), Carol made it easier for me to be honest and to ask for her help when I needed it. So I did.
Carol was an innovator. In so many ways she inspired what I now point to as ECI’s framework for high quality ethics and compliance programs (HQPs). Her influence can also be felt in our benchmarks, and our thoughts about community and best practice sharing. Together she and I conceived of what is now the Defense Industry Benchmark, allowing US defense contractors to measure the impact of their ethics & compliance programs, and compare their performance to an industry average. She seeded ideas about measuring a higher standard for an ethics & compliance program, which is now our HQP self-assessment tool. She believed that ethics & compliance requires leadership, which is now reflected in our LPEC (Leadership in Ethics & Compliance) certification program.
Carol did all that by challenging me, and constantly sending a message of love, support, and yet correction when I needed it.
I know for a fact that Carol’s greatest innovations live on in her children and grandchildren. I also think that she made a great contribution in conceiving of, and working towards, a generation of professionals who want to advance a belief in the importance of ethical conduct. To that end, I hope that I am one of her innovations. I know that I strive to honor her legacy.
For 7 years ECI has recognized outstanding individuals who are the recipients of the award that bears Carol’s name. This year in particular, I can confidently say that Carol would be especially proud because she knew Carrie Penman; this year’s recipient. Congratulations, Carrie for carrying on Carol’s mission of innovation and performance.