In stormy financial seas, which values are needed to right our ship?

Turbulent financial times
e’ve had a spirited exchange of viewpoints this week! If you’re just catching up with our series, we still welcome comments from readers.
    Amid our conversation this week about AIG and its bonuses, I mentioned another company – Valassis – that took a different approach to contractually obligated bonuses. These represent two different types of leadership, two different sets of values.
    On one side, we have AIG, granting bonuses while getting bailed out with taxpayer money. Without paying them, argued AIG’s CEO, the company risked losing the best and the brightest. It took battering by public outrage and badgering by New York’s attorney general to get some of the bonuses back.
At least one AIG executive did exit, feeling “betrayed” by AIG. You can read his entire resignation letter here.
    On the other side, we have Michigan-based Valassis. Valassis is a leading producer of newspaper inserts. Their fortunes are closely tied to the vicissitudes of the newspaper industry – so it’s no surprise to learn that Valassis is suffering, too. Earlier this month, we discussed on the plight of print newspapers.
    Valassis was contractually obligated to pay bonuses to its upper-level executives. No doubt the CEO could have made the case that the company risked losing the best and the brightest should the company fail to pay them. There was no public outrage over the bonuses, no bailout money, no attorney general on their back.
    But, the CEO asked executives to forgo their bonuses, instead offering them to the board to use in the best interests of the company. Every executive did just that, as Dan Mulhern described.
    Valassis is one of the few companies that consistently appears on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.” The company has also been listed as one of the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.” It is obviously a company that values its employees. Their execs’ decision to forego bonuses is a measure of the goodwill the Valassis culture creates.
    What do you think about the issues we’ve raised this week? Scroll down to take a look at the whole week, if you’d like to catch up.

NEXT WEEK: We will continue the theme of leadership and values – with a guest author, Rob Pasick. Rob is an executive coach, clinical psychologist, and author of a new book on leadership.

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