As a leader, are you aware of everything that’s happening in and around your organization? Are you kept in the loop of any issue as soon as it arises? Or do your employees stay silent and attempt to solve it themselves?
In today’s episode, host John Laurito talks about how encouraging your people to speak up about these issues empowers them to bring them up to you as soon as possible to avoid negative ramifications. After all, a strong organizational culture starts from the top.
[1:04] John taking us back to 2007
[4:12] Missing out on an FBI sting operation
[6:26] The bottom line of this story
[8:03] When to call in the reinforcement
[11:05] The leader sets the tone
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large for the last 20 years. Today, I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic. What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things related to leading yourself and leading others.
John So this is take two no, take three, actually, of this episode. And I will tell you one of the fun things about doing this sometimes as you’re recording the camera decides to just stop recording. And I don’t know why, but I got halfway through this episode and my camera for those of you watch this on YouTube, which I know you love to watch me do these on YouTube, watch them live, not just listen. The recording stopped, so I had to sit. Stop. Now I’m doing it again. OK, third time’s the charm. We’ll see how this comes out. So I was in the middle of telling a really good story, which now it’ll be even better because I’ve had two times practicing already.
John OK, so let me take you back to 2007. And I was running an office of financial advisers in Boston, Massachusetts, we had one hundred and twenty financial advisers in one building literally, and it was two floors overlooking the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides. Unbelievable. I mean, wow, historic location, beautiful place, a lot of great years there. So and we had a lot of success with really great people, smart people there. So I had one day that that just was telling the story to somebody recently. I’m like, I’ve got to share this on a podcast. So one day I’m in my office and I had somebody come to me, one of my advisors, kind of in a little bit of a frenzy.
John And he said I need to talk to you. I said, OK, you know, what’s up? And he said I’ve got a client in my office that wants to invest a million dollars with me. I said, All right, awesome. That’s terrific. Congrats. That’s great. I said, what’s the problem? He said, No, no, no, you don’t understand. He gave me where they gave me a million dollars. I said, What are you talking about? And he hands me a million-dollar bill, literally. I kid you, not a million-dollar bill. I grabbed this thing and I’m looking at it and I’m like, wait a second. What? This is not real. There’s no such thing as a million-dollar bill. But I’m looking at this thing and I’m feeling it.
John I am looking at it up in the light. I will tell you, this thing looked as authentic as you possibly could imagine from the feel and the weight of the paper to the smell of the paper, to the color of the ink, to every detail, to the hologram and even the little strip that goes through the dollar bill. The bill. I mean, unbelievable. I’m holding up to the light. I’m looking at backward, forwards. I’m like, this is unreal. And it got me thinking. I’m like, is there a million-dollar bill that I don’t even realize is there? And why would this person be carrying this around? What so what? We Google it. Sure enough, there’s no million-dollar bill. The highest, I think, is ten thousand dollars to the US dollar bill, which I don’t even know if that’s in circulation anymore. And I’m like, at that point, we realize this is a counterfeit bill. This is a counterfeit million-dollar bill that we are holding in our hands. And it is as perfect as perfect could be.
John First of all, what an incredibly rare opportunity. I don’t know if any listeners out there are very held to counterfeit Bill. I have I feel special in some way. So, you know, even if this client had given us a thousand dollars in cash, we can’t take it. You can’t take cash. We certainly couldn’t at that point. And we had no choice. Obviously, we didn’t quite know what to do. I’ll be very honest with you. We just gave it back to the client at that time, at that moment, and said, listen, we can’t take it. We didn’t allege or accuse them of anything that they allegedly had done. We just gave it back to them. And that was that.
John Well, after that, we ended up calling up compliance. Our internal compliance department is OK, here’s a scoop. Got a feeling we need to call somebody beyond compliance. We’re going to just let you know here’s what’s happening first. They then go and call the FBI and the FBI gets involved and the FBI says, OK, here’s what we want to do. We want to do a sting operation in your office. We’d like to invite them back in. Don’t obviously tell them anything other than you just would like to talk to them, follow up visit. And we will have undercover FBI agents in the lobby ready to take them down and arrest them. And we’d like you to set this up as a sting operation. I’m like, yes, absolutely I’m in, I’m game, give me a badge, whatever or not. I’ll just I’ll be there. I’ll be absolutely. Count me in.
John Well, our company was not as enthusiastic. They put the kibosh on it. We could not do it. They did not want to be tied to that in any way whatsoever. So I didn’t get the fun of being part of an FBI sting operation. But everything else was pretty amazing. That experience up to that, they ended up catching the people because they obviously had tried. Apparently, it tried that a number of other places beyond us. So Netivot, here’s the interesting thing. There are all kinds of times now in financial services. I’ve seen a whole bunch of stuff. I actually saw a statement of a client of Bernie Madoff’s Bernie. I saw Bernie Madoff’s statement.
John Now, for those of you who don’t know the story about Bernie Madoff, he was one of the most infamous crooks in the financial services industry and had an incredibly complex Ponzi scheme of basically created fake accounts and fake statements. And stole people’s money, millions and millions of millions of dollars. These statements were fake statements. What I was looking at was fake. Now, again, I’ve been in financial services at that time, probably 15 years. I’ve seen all kinds of statements from every single company. Even knowing that this was a fake statement, I could not tell it was a fake statement. It was that good. The bottom line is there are all kinds of people that will go through tremendous efforts to do things in an unscrupulous way.
John They’ll actually work harder. I just think about this person that produced the counterfeit million-dollar bill. It was a piece of artwork, honestly. And I just think about had that person applied their talents to art or something else were actually being good in a legitimate business, they could have been a multi multimillionaire doing something legit. Instead, they’re in prison and they wasted all their time doing something that was illegal. An incredible talent. I mean, I got to say, and an incredible amount of time, I’m sure that went into that and the same thing with Bernie Madoff but applied it in the wrong direction. And that’s to cheating the system and finding a shortcut to success.
John A couple of different points I want to make. One is the obvious one. There are no shortcuts to success. There are no ways to get to ultimately, where you’re trying to get to in a super-fast path other than you got to apply hard work. And I’m not saying there’s a difference. The difference between being smart, applying a lot of hard work to a smart strategy, but you can’t cheat the system and do it repeatedly over a long period of time and expect at some point that’s not going to lead to your downfall. Now, I’m sure there are people that out there, of course, that get away with stuff. But bottom line is, it’s kind of silly when you’ve got that level of skill and you’re willing to work that hard at something, why not just apply it to something that actually works that actually is legit?
John That’s a side that’s not actually the message for today’s podcast. Today’s episode is really just about the concept of does your organization know when to call in the reinforcements? When should they call in the big boss? When should they bring a problem or an issue to your attention now? I think I had one hundred and twenty advisors in that office. Thankfully, that advisor brought it to my attention. Now, I don’t know if all a hundred and twenty would have made the right decision. I think they would have because we had a strong culture. And I think that culture supported bringing any kind of sense is a problem. You’re going to bring it up to your boss or your boss’s boss or whatnot. But it also made me wonder, OK, what about other organizations and other industries? When people see things or sense that something is not right, do they keep it to themselves or do they say something about it? Do they bring it up to you? Are there things going on? And I’m talking to you, CEOs and business leaders, business owners and leaders, are there things happening in your organization that you would want to know about that you don’t?
John That’s a scary thought. Think about that. Are there things that you want to know about that you should know about that you need to know about that you don’t know about? And if that’s the case, that’s a major problem. And why is that a problem and why is that happening? Well, there are reasons why people don’t ask for help. Sometimes people don’t ask for help or bring things to somebody’s attention because of embarrassment, maybe because they feel like they’re maybe they’re wrong, maybe their gut instinct about that. Now, this was an obvious thing, a million-dollar bill, OK? It doesn’t exist, but sometimes there’s smaller stuff that you would want to know. But that person that has the gut feeling or is seen something that’s not right or these numbers don’t match up, they feel awkward, embarrassed about bringing it to somebody else or they’re fearful that they’re wrong and it’s going to have some negative ramifications on them. Let me tell you, that’s a cultural thing.
John As the leader, you have to set the tone. They’ll listen. You see something that’s not right. Bring it up. Just bring it up. You feel like there’s a better way to do a process. Bring it up. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. You’re helping to make the organization stronger and you’re helping to snuff out problems and fires in the wall, whatever they may be. OK, but that starts from the top down. That’s the leader saying, hey, here’s what here’s what are the things that could ultimately cause our downfall. When people see things that aren’t right and you don’t say anything and you brush it under the rug, or do you bring it up to your bubble it up and you involve other people ask for help.
John There are other reasons why people don’t ask for help, too. Sometimes they just feel like it will make them look weak if they bring in other people. Hey, if I have to ask somebody else, then that means I can’t solve the problem myself or I don’t know what to do. It makes me look weak or unintelligent or unskilled or whatever the case may be, not the case. That’s a perception, a misperception. But again, that starts. With a leader setting the tone for the organization, I’m grateful that my adviser brought it to me and brought it to me promptly, not a week later, that could have had negative ramifications.
John So ultimately, I want to know I don’t want to have surprises. I don’t want to hear about something somewhere else. And I used to tell my, my people, all the time, I don’t want surprises. I don’t like surprises. Some people like surprises. I don’t like surprises. Tell me what’s going on. If there’s an issue, if there’s a problem and I will tell you that in of itself caused people to be very much more forthcoming with information that I may not want to hear, but I needed to hear. They may not want to deliver it to me, but I needed to hear it in order to make the right decision. I needed to know that we were headed toward an iceberg so that we can course correct. I didn’t need to know, like when it was one hundred feet in front of us, I needed to know a couple of miles before we’re going to hit it.
John So I had time to make the adjustment. So that’s the type of thing that you need your people in your organization to do. Think about that. I mean, ultimately think about that. They are oftentimes your eyes and your ears as a leader if they see something or maybe your expectations across the organization and people are not living up to those or they’re not adhering to the core values of the organization or they’re downright doing something unethical or illegal, you need to know about that. There are small decisions that are made by one person. Sometimes it can take down a whole organization. It’s unbelievable. I think about the trader for UBS years ago, I think it was 2010 that ultimately lost, I’m going to say five billion dollars or something on one trade. Unreal how that trader could have that much power. Now, that was a mistake, a gross mistake that ultimately almost took the company down.
John But that much loss and there were probably others that realized something was not right there. And you know, so there are all kinds of different situations where someone sees something and it’s only after the fact is, geez, you know what? I should have said something. I felt like that was going to be a problem. I thought that was going to blow up. You’ve got to train your people. You got to set that expectation, that culture, so that, listen, we’re all part of this. You have ownership into this. It’s not OK for you to turn a blind eye on something. If you see something that’s wrong, you have to say something. You have to bring it up.
John That’s the key thing. So I wanted to share that story. Crazy, crazy story as an example of having an organization that now you know what, you pull in the boss when you have an issue or question or need some help. That’s not only not a bad thing, but that’s also a good thing. So any hope that got the wheels turning?
John As always, I love your suggestions for topics and future guests on that kind of good stuff. Let me know the things that you’re struggling with. And as always, reach out to me if you need some help. I’m here and like, subscribe, share, go down below, give a five-star review, all that kind of good stuff and we’ll see you next time. Thanks. Bye-bye.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Once again, that’s John@johnlaurito.com Thanks, lead on!