Ethical Leadership: How to Do the Right Thing Everyday
About This Episode
Embracing a culture of compliance and ethical leadership, at all levels of the business, assures a better likelihood of company success. The first step is to empower your employees to make difficult decisions, do the right thing, and correct wrong doings.
We explore this topic deeper in this episode of The Edge with Asha Palmer, the Senior Vice President of Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft. Together, Asha and host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek discuss the parallel between compliance and ethical leadership, the value of compliance training for leaders and their employees, and how to address concerns regarding ethical behavior in the workplace.
Interested in Learning More?
- Watch the on-demand webinar, Overcoming the Ethical Leadership Crisis
- Read the blog, How to Empower Ethical Leadership in Your Organization
- Learn more about Skillsoft’s Compliance and Leadership & Business solution portfolios
Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the Edge, the Skillsoft podcast, where we share stories of the ways in which transformative learning can help organizations and their people grow together. I am your host, Michelle BB. My pronouns are she and her. Can you believe it? We are well into our third season of the edge now. And if you've been listening, you know, we've welcomed guests from myriad industries, technology, professional services, finance, non-profit, and I've had some enlightening conversations with executive coaches and diversity experts, development directors, marketers, storytellers, and so many more. Each and every one of them, a leader in his or her own right, which brings me to my topic. Today, we're gonna learn about a specific and special form of leadership, ethical leadership, every day, your employees are required to make intentional decisions about what's right and what's wrong for your business.
Michelle BB 00:01:11 So how do you ensure that you're not only setting them up for success, by providing clear expectations, but also empowering them to succeed? You can't train your team to react to every single issue they might encounter. You can only give them the tools they need to become ethical leaders. And for many organizations and their people, that begins with compliance. Now, look, compliance doesn't mean watching a training video every year, passing a quiz to prove you did it. It's not just a check the box exercise compliance is about proactively setting your team up for success, including ensuring that they have the tools to make the decisions they need, and to model ethical behavior. Compliance is key to creating an environment that equips our leaders to be their best selves at work. With this in mind, I am thrilled to introduce today's guest, Asha Palmer. Asha is Skillsoft Senior Vice President of Compliance Solutions and my valued colleague. Throughout our career, Asha has developed, enhanced and optimized effective ethics and compliance programs for hundreds of companies worldwide. She's dealt with every aspect of compliance, including program development, training and engagement, anti-bribery, corruption, risk assessments. She's a former assistant United States attorney and litigator, and she's passionate about making training and engagement stick. I would argue that ASHA is redefining compliance and working to ensure that it is meaningfully embedded in and with business, business and its leaders. Asha, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to the Edge.
Asha Palmer 00:03:05 Aw, thanks. Good to be here. It's great to be here.
Michelle BB 00:03:08 <laugh>. I am so excited for this. I actually just watched a webinar that you did and was just blown away, and I'm so excited that we're gonna be talking about ethical leadership. But before we get into it, I think, you know, look, I, I kind of gave the bio upfront, this is who she is, this is what she does, but I think it'd be really valuable to our audience. Like, who are you? How did you get into compliance, and how do you come to love this topic and this line of business?
Asha Palmer 00:03:40 Yeah. You know, I think that question of who are you is kind of like the question of where are you from, right, <laugh>, it's like, you mean where did I just come from right now? Or like, where did I grow up? I'm the child of two parents who taught me to care for others and to do the right thing through all my life. That's what I've tried to do, is care for others and do the right thing, and to really just make an impact on this world. And so, all of the steps that I've taken in my life and continue to take in my life are about making an impact, about spreading the be good to people, message helping people make the right decisions. Because, you know, I even look back at my life, and if you talk to my parents, it could have gone one of a lot of many ways,
Michelle BB 00:04:32 <laugh>. Oh, I, I, I, I hear that one. <laugh>.
Asha Palmer 00:04:36 We're not talking about our kids at all right now. No, but you know, it could have gone one of many ways. The reason it has gone the way it has is because I've practiced at good decision making. I've practiced at making an impact. I've practiced at caring about people and wanting them to be successful in their lives and in their professions. And at its core, that's why I love compliance, right? I love to help people make the right decisions, to be empathetic, to understand people's individual plights, and to make difficult decisions when it's time to do it. And that takes muscle memory. We're gonna talk about that a lot, right? It takes muscle memory really to do the right thing. You know, with everything in life, A priority without a plan is not a priority at all. <laugh>, right? And, you know, we've talked about exercising and our love for exercising.
Asha Palmer 00:05:30 We were just talking about that before we went live, right? And you just don't get good at anything overnight. And so, I think we should remove that expectation that it happens overnight or that it's something you're just born with that's just not true. Hmm. And that's why compliance to me is so fun. People don't always get it right. Hmm. They don't do, we create this space and the place for people to get it wrong and to correct and to do something differently the next time. And that's what compliance is about. And that's why I love it.
Michelle BB 00:06:03 I just literally took a dozen notes there. I heard a couple of really compelling things. Number one, that you are intentional in everything that you do, and that this is a muscle, which means that you do have to practice and that you will get better over time. But like a muscle, you can't let it atrophy. So, you have to be intentional in everything you do. And I also heard something that just really struck home with me. It seems that you have a moral compass that points due north, and that's something that I've talked about a lot, right? So, if up here is curing cancer, and I'm, I'm drawing an imaginary line, north, south, yes. Down here is doing things not so good. You always wanna be north of center and continue to progress in your career. And I think a lot of people feel that way, but they don't know what's required of them.
Michelle BB 00:06:49 They don't know how to have Ethical Leadership Foundation that encourages them to continually want to get better and to do the right thing, even when it's hard. I think most of us would agree that it's important that we want to do the right thing in life and in business. I mean, we just recently published, as you know, our corporate social responsibility report, and we found that doing the right thing was cited as the greatest influencer for C S R activities by those survey. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I think you might have hinted at something earlier, do we really know what the right thing is? This is where we wanna define ethical leadership. What is it? And how does one embody the qualities of ethical leadership?
Asha Palmer 00:07:39 When we talk about ethical leadership, we talk about something you have to work at, right? And let's just kind of break those two words apart, right? First of all, leadership, right? We often equate leadership with management. It's not, hmm. It is a very different thing, being a leader and being able to speak up and speak out when you have something to add to a conversation, when you see something happening wrong, when you have an opinion to share that you know will add value to the discussion that is leadership. Sometimes it does mean stepping out on your own, but many times it just means speaking up. And so, to be a leader really takes muscle. Sometimes you don't know whether your voice is valuable. You don't know whether what you have to say is gonna sound, for lack of a better term, stupid. Right? We always have been afraid at some point in our life asking a stupid question.
Asha Palmer 00:08:33 Hmm. Now we know there's no stupid questions, which I do actually agree with. But, you know, to be that leader and to step out and have a contrary opinion or lead something in a direction is very difficult. So, you have to exercise that muscle first. And then what does it mean to be an ethical leader is actually even more difficult, because it, it means that you have to care about others more than you care about yourself and others, right? Is this big universe of people, of organization, of society, of the world. How do you take that care for all of those things? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and consider them in how you lead in the way you lead, in the way you exemplify leadership to the people you may lead, or in the spaces you may lead. That's not complicated at
Michelle BB 00:09:29 All, right? No, gosh, not, not even a little bit. To be that ethical leader, we have to practice at it every day. And sometimes it means making really difficult decisions in service of others rather than ourselves. And I, I do love that all of this talk about ethical leadership is great, but we've actually seen lots of examples recently of unethical behavior. In a webinar you led earlier this year, you talked about the Emmy nominated Hulu series, the Dropout, which was about Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, who just got a pretty sizable prison sentence along with her C O O. And it feels like these examples of unethical leadership are abound. Like it's inspired. A number of similar shows. Apple TVs, we've crashed Netflix inventing Anna, dope sick, super pumped, H B O, Max's succession. Why are we so fascinated <laugh> with unethical anti-heroes? Is it because we like to watch people behave badly? Or are we trying to understand what not to do?
Asha Palmer 00:10:41 You know, I'm gonna give you the lawyer answer. <laugh>, I wanna say both, right? It is both. We are fascinated by people behaving badly. If you ask somebody, would you take an action like that, we think of ourselves as very moral characters. So, when we actually see these immoral characters, for lack of a better term, or anti-heroes, we say we would never do that. We isolate our own conduct from them. So, we really enjoy watching that in other people. And we are actually able to take ourselves out of that situation, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, however, mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. The reality is, and this is what we teach from the compliance side and from the ethical leadership side, it is a slippery slope, right? Those people, many of those actors in those films, they weren't those people either. They never start off as those people. But what they didn't do is what we're talking about today is that practice, that intentionality behind making ethical decisions, putting other people's, those stakeholders' priorities above you in the leadership that you exhibit and the decisions that you make.
Asha Palmer 00:12:00 And so, one, yes, we like it, <laugh>. Two, we don't see ourselves in it. And so, we like it even more. And then three, I think your question was, you know, are we facing, you know, maybe a crisis <laugh>, for lack of a better term, with ethical leadership? We are in many ways, because there are so many pressures on people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, all of those things you talked about, how we make decisions, practicing it, being intentional about it, that's hard, right? Yeah. When your kids are yelling, you know, there's like a triple pandemic going on sometimes, and it's hard to take that intentional space to say and be reflective about the type of leader that you're exhibiting outside of yourself. And that takes getting feedback, that takes being reflective, that takes all of the things that are really uncomfortable for people to then begin to say, how do people perceive me? It is much easier for people to identify an unethical leader than it is for them to identify an ethical leader.
Asha Palmer 00:13:04 Hmm. Now why is that? Right? Those unethical actions, they make an impact on this, right? You remember when a kid was mean to you in school, right? You remember it makes an impact on you and you are resentful, and it hurts. And you're like, why would someone do that? We need to begin to express the same kind of emotions toward ethical leaders. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. We begin to see the actions of those ethical leaders and those elicit and emotional response. I also can remember the nicest thing someone ever said to me, right? And so, how do we begin to take outward and intentional actions that make an impact on people, but from a lens of ethics and not the absence of ethics?
Michelle BB 00:13:48 I love that. And I actually wanna do that session with you, so let's schedule time separately, cuz I actually, no, I know, I'm serious. I think it's such a really good opportunity to identify the things or the people who have maybe taught us the path, right? The things that sort of help us understand how to be better people, better leaders, more ethical in our decision making. You know, you said something earlier that really struck me, and I had to think about it a bit, but the people, these unethical anti-heroes, they started off thinking that what they were doing was right and good and believed in it. And at some point, they sold themselves and others a lie. And so, I think really keeping ourselves in check, how do we maintain or make sure that we are not believing or perpetuating this sort of lie or untruth?
Michelle BB 00:14:47 I think it's something that we constantly have to look at ourselves and say, am I really doing the right thing? It's, it goes back to the practice. We tend to think about ethics as incredibly clear cut. And it's obviously not, we tend to think about it as morally unambiguous, and it's not, there are really, really good people who do bad things unintentionally. And so, this to me, it's not as simple as we'd like it to be. So, is this something that can be taught and, and how do we help people understand or be okay with the gray?
Asha Palmer 00:15:24 Yes, it can be. Oh, good. It is also something that can be learned, right? And I think that is the important thing about the willingness to come, particularly for leaders to come to learn, right? Oftentimes, again, people equate leadership to position and power. And in those positions in power, you've done some things, right? I got some degrees, you got some degrees, we all got some degrees, right? <laugh>, we've worked our way up to this. We're a leader that is not necessarily true, right? And so, I think the acknowledgement that we all still have things to learn and we're all still learning is the first thing, right? And in that learning, we have to be reflective. And so yes, it can be taught, and it can be learned because we study this all the time in compliance. I know everyone thinks compliance is like this boring thing that chases after you, but like we study people, right?
Asha Palmer 00:16:20 Because at the end of the day mm-hmm. <affirmative> bad actions happen by both good and bad people, <laugh>. And that's a hard thing for people in compliance to figure out, well what, because you're trying to have bad actions not occur <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So how do you get to both the bad people and the good people to deter bad action? And that is very difficult, but it comes with understanding people, right? And at the end of the day, we all, again have pressures. We all are pressure cookers, <laugh>, we all have all types of emotional and psychological things going on. And so, to understand how people behave, how people make decisions, why people rationalize certain things, Hmm. And how they get to that slippery slope of bad decision makings, where at the end of the day they think what they're doing is good. It happens all the time. So, you have to understand that.
Asha Palmer 00:17:16 And then you also have to understand how do you intervene to change that trajectory? And how do you get to the right pressure points to make people critically examine their own behaviors or the behaviors around them so that you can change the direction that the track is going on. And that is so important about even when we look at, you know, ethical leadership and trying to figure out what skills right might be involved in it. Number one is looking around, right? Some of us, again, have a hard time looking at ourselves, but look around you. What pressures are you putting on people Hmm. That they can't meet, right? Because they're gonna figure out a way to meet it if you know what you're giving them is impossible, right? Think about pressures that come from, you know, society. What pressures are on people, and how do we help observe their behavior in those pressures and offer an outlet and a solution that sets 'em up for success. That is combined with ethical decision making. That's where the ethical leadership and journey comes in.
Michelle BB 00:18:31 I really like that. And this idea of skills, like what skills you need it, it feels to me, and I think that the data supports it, that people are really trying hard to become better, more ethical leaders. The course consumption data that we see supports that when we look at the top Skillsoft courses that learners completed in 2022, we're seeing titles like your role in workplace diversity. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> becoming a better listener, overcoming unconscious bias, developing emotional talent intelligence, developing a personal accountability framework. And these are all power skills that I would imagine contribute to effective ethical leadership. Yes.
Asha Palmer 00:19:20 Yes. The beauty about that is these are courses that people chose for themselves. Yes. <laugh>, which is, you know, yes. In compliance, we didn't tell 'em to take it, you know, <laugh> to tell him to take it, you know? And so, there is an appetite, right? Yeah. And these are human skills, right? Like being a good listener is as great of a skill in the workplace as it is in the home <laugh>, right? It's not hearing what you wanna hear, but it's hearing what someone says and then it's taking action on what they've said to show that you've heard them, not that you just listened to them. Those are skills that take muscles, right? I mean, I always give the example, and by the way, my husband hates this example, right? <laugh>, which is, you know, he says, it's never happened. So why do I tell the world it's happened?
Asha Palmer 00:20:09 But you know, hypothetically, we'll say if I come to him and I say, you hurt my feelings, his response will be, no, I didn't. And it's like, well, wait, I said, you hurt my feelings and they're my feelings. So, you need to hear, listen to what I said, hear it, and do something about it, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. And I think in the context of the workplace, that's so important because oftentimes, particularly managers, when our employees come to us with concerns or worries or areas of improvement, we often don't listen to what they're saying. Mm. We hear what we wanna hear or we justify, or we defend. And that is not one of the skills of an ethical leader. <laugh> an ethical leader, listens. And if there is nothing, you can disagree, right? You can have a conversation that doesn't have to be a confrontation, but you listen, and you do something about it. And if the only thing you do about it, is you tell that person you've heard them, here's what you're doing about it, or you don't agree, giving them feedback, it's very important that that listening is active and that that person feels heard. And that's a skill. And it's hard <laugh>, as we can all tell <laugh>.
Michelle BB 00:21:29 I actually think that's one of the most challenging skills, is active listening. And it takes a lot of practice. And it's not about just sort of sitting there and waiting to say what you wanna say, but really listening, taking it in and understanding innately what that person is trying to tell
Asha Palmer 00:21:48 You. Let me just tell you, it's so funny when you just think about it, right? It's like when you're at a cocktail party and you shake someone's hand, and then as soon as they tell you their name, you've forgotten it because you were so busy trying to tell your name, right? <laugh>, you were getting ready to introduce yourself, and then you're like, I don't remember your name. Tell me your name again. It again is thinking about what the person is saying before you're trying to get out. And the other thing I just wanted to talk about was that the course on developing personal accountability. Hmm. And I think that is such a skill of ethical leadership that can't be underscored. Personal accountability and the ability to admit when you've made a mistake, that vulnerability, that approachability, that authenticity, and then that accountability. It's so important to have it for yourself, but it's also so important to talk about it with your teams and your peers because what they see in you is that you're willing to, you know, open the doors and say, I made a mistake, or I could have done this differently. And there's a vulnerability there that builds trust and improvement because you have shown that you are still learning and willing to learn. And that again, is a skill because sometimes, you know, when we make a mistake, we wanna push it under the rug, or we wanna justify it, or we wanna make an excuse. Personal accountability, when you can exhibit it to the people around you, it is a skill, and it is a necessary skill of ethical leadership.
Michelle BB 00:23:28 I love that. One of the most important things a leader can do is role model the behavior that we wanna see. And that's just such an important aspect, not only being able to highlight what you did well, but more importantly, what you didn't do well. And being able to say it is okay to acknowledge failure mistakes because they happen and I'm willing to do it myself. Yeah. No, I love that. I wanna move on to your specialty and a subject that is near and dear to your heart compliance. And I've heard that you, I've heard you say that your mission is to make compliance fun. And I liken it to the phrase, if you've heard me say it before, but I always talk about how can we make the broccoli delicious? Now, I personally like broccoli, but not everybody does. I do too. I like
Asha Palmer 00:24:15 Broccoli, <laugh>, <laugh>.
Michelle BB 00:24:17 I am guessing that some of our listeners have had to sit through compliance training that was, um, the
Asha Palmer 00:24:25 Most funny notice we've ever had,
Michelle BB 00:24:27 Right? Right, right. Words like du tedious, mandatory come to mind. So, I want you to convince us, otherwise, how can leaders make compliance more than this annual obligation? How do we make the broccoli delicious? In this case?
Asha Palmer 00:24:47 I talk about being reflective and feedback as a leader, right? I think we need to do the same as organizations, and particularly as compliance functions, right? What's working and what's not. You know, if we go in and think that everyone loves to do annual required compliance training, the jokes on us, right? <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's not people's favorite topic, but what I want is to get people to want to learn the things that they need to learn. Because the reality is people need to learn the things that are in those compliance trainings. Why? Because, you know, some people will tell you it keeps you outta jail. It should <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, two, it is infused with, again, these values of ethical leadership that how do you make the right decision even sometimes when you don't know all the rules, right? Compliance is not just about rules, it's about what do you do in the absence of rules.
Asha Palmer 00:25:46 And so there's a lot of good behavioral aspects of compliance training that we really do need people to know. And so how do we get it to be more than just like an annual obligation is something that we have to be introspective about. We have to understand the culture of our organization and the people that are in it. Because if we, and this is my hashtag Michelle, if we lose the learner, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, my hashtag is don't lose the learner. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if you lose the learner, they're not equipped with the armor that they need to go into battle. If they can't hear what they're, what they need to learn in that training, they're not gonna be able to make the right decisions when they're in that battle. And so, it's so important that we figure out what our learners need for it to be sticky for it.
Asha Palmer 00:26:44 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to be tangible for it to be relevant, for it to be interesting. Right? I mean, and you just talked about all of these, you know, Netflix and H B O and all of these documentaries. There is no lack of content in the compliance area. <laugh>, I hate to say it, right? There is no lack of stories. And there's a beauty in storytelling that, you know, I, a behavioral scientist reminded me that, you know, we use storytelling to learn as kids. Why did we stop telling stories, you know, as adults or in our profession, or to get people to learn things, right? So, telling stories and really bringing people into what we need them to do and why we need them to do it is very mm-hmm. <affirmative> important. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think that why is often lost in compliance training. Why are you sitting here? Why do I need you to learn this? Why, why, why? When we start with that why, and we explain that why, and people feel like the why starts with the fact that you want to protect them. And then by protecting them, you're protecting the organization. There's a lot more buy-in. And then if you deliver a compelling storyline and you know, interactive exercises, once you get that buy-in, then we can make it a little bit more fun.
Michelle BB 00:28:11 Yeah. So, you know, here at Skillsoft, one of the hallmarks of a Skillsoft learning experience is absorbing, right? How do you get people to really not only listen to take the course, but actually understand what it means and then be able to shift their behaviors accordingly. So, if a hallmark is absorbing, I have to tell you, I have just taken the new global code of conduct training. Yes. I've encouraged everybody to do it. Yes. And I wanna take it again, and I'll tell you why. This is like Netflix docudrama, it, it, you're right, it, it's bringing a storytelling aspect where I wanna know where somebody went wrong and why, because I don't wanna do the same thing. And the way that this course is structured, it's, it's, it, it really brings you into the environment, into that example. And you really, a acutely understand where someone went wrong, and you're drawn into it.
Michelle BB 00:29:17 And so I think you're absolutely right. For the things that are most critical, where we need our leaders to really understand and model the right behavior, we have to give them the kinds of experiences that are absorbing that make the broccoli delicious, that are telling stories so that they can interpret and understand and embody and shift behavior. And so, kudos to you, you and your team, because it's fantastic and I'm so excited. And so, you've got this now in your toolbox, right? This amazing way of showcasing compliance training. But what are some of the other tools? What are some of the other things that we need to be doing and, and what do we need to equip our managers and leaders with?
Asha Palmer 00:30:06 You know, I know people, you know, may think I'm crazy, but I'm used to that anyway, <laugh>,
Michelle BB 00:30:14 They think that about me too. So don't worry, <laugh>. I know.
Asha Palmer 00:30:17 Cause I love compliance. They're like, how could someone actually love compliance? No, but I think, you know, at the end of the day, there's a parallel between compliance and ethical leadership. And that extreme parallel is that both of them are about actions and behaviors. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, both of them are about actions and behaviors. And so, if you really break it down into that simplistic form, we need to teach people the behaviors expected of them, and the actions expected of them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then we need to teach individuals how to exhibit those behaviors and how to take those actions. So first it starts at the expectation level, and then it's equipping them to be successful in exhibiting those behaviors and in taking those actions. And so, you know, when you look at, you know, what are some of those behaviors, right? You got empathy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you got authenticity, we talked about vulnerability. You know, there are a lot of behaviors that an ethical leader has to exhibit. And it's the same in compliance, right? We don't actually want in compliance you to know all the answers because if you did, I wouldn't have a job <laugh>.
Michelle BB 00:31:35 Right?
Asha Palmer 00:31:36 Right. We don't want you to do the investigation.
Michelle BB 00:31:38 We don't want, we
Asha Palmer 00:31:39 Don't, we don't want that. We want Asha to still have a job. No. But we don't, we just want you to identify when you don't have the answer and come find a way toward the solution. Even sometimes if the answer or the path isn't as clear as, or as straight as you would want it to be, when we talked about the actions you need to take, right? We talked about being a listener, right? We talked about coaching and mentoring. We talked about being observant, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, looking at the environment around you. I always encourage leaders within organizations to say, who's quiet? Who never says anything in your team meetings or in your organization and why, you know, all of us have a little bit of introvert into us, but at the end of the day, we all still have something to say, introvert or extrovert, right?
Asha Palmer 00:32:34 Being observant as to why people aren't speaking up and having that conversation. One specific action that I keep mentioning is feedback. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, are you getting feedback? And are you taking actions in response to that feedback? And that's about who you are as a leader. That's about your business plan. That's about everything on the gamut that you can think of. I'll give a tip to compliance professionals who may be listening to this. Are we getting feedback about our approach, about our approachability, about our training, about whether people actually got from the training, what they needed to, those are important data points that we need to, you know, both qualitative and quantitative data points that can help us do some things differently. Help us understand whether we're exhibiting those behaviors, help us do something better. And I think that feedback is, again, a gift, but it's hard to receive sometimes. And, and when you receive that and do something about it, that is the number one, in my opinion, quality of a leader that you can express.
Michelle BB 00:33:46 I love that. I really do. I'm not gonna guess I'm gonna say that for organizations to embrace this culture of compliance and ethical leadership, it's not at one level, it's at all levels. It's top down, bottom up. But I think it really is important to get executive sponsorship to support the need for these programs. So how do you get buy-in from the very top that this is and should be a priority? Not just the compliance training, but really the instilling in our leaders, some of those human skills that we talked about, power skills that we talked about of e empathy, vulnerability, authenticity. How do we get people to buy in, especially at the very top of an organization in terms of, you know, the importance that it will have, the relevance it will have in in their companies.
Asha Palmer 00:34:38 Yeah. You know, I, I, I mean I think we've said this a few times, right? It's hard <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's hard, it's hard for a lot of reasons, right? And a lot of the reasons it's difficult is because of what has been prioritized in generation. And I can't think of the chart that I was looking at, but it just talked about how, you know, that vulnerability, that empathy, that authenticity is such a now thing when before mm-hmm. <affirmative>, when you were entering in the workplace, it was like, don't show any of that. Right? <laugh>, you never said come to work with your whole self, right? It was like, Nope, nope. Leave that stuff at the door. You come in, you do your job, you know, you put on your black suit if you're a woman and your pants, if you know, you wear the button up shirt.
Asha Palmer 00:35:21 And that was, you know, you masked a lot mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, I think identifying that, particularly depending on the generations in your company, you're going to have to break down those barriers that are deeply rooted in what it means to come to work and what it means to succeed at work. That's step one. And you have to meet people where they are. It's not a judgment thing, but you have to bring people into understanding why those things evolve and the reason that they evolve. So, I think it's starting with that conversation about, you know, where people are and then getting them to understand why some of these traits are so important. And I think, you know, at the end of the day, there's two, we always focus on outcomes, right? Mm. What, what are the outcomes? What are the metrics people are trying to meet?
Asha Palmer 00:36:19 The KPIs, the OKRs, the, you know, whatever other three letter acronyms you could find, right? <laugh>, we want outputs that are measurable, right? And so, there's a lot of studies out there that show not only, you know, do you have a better likelihood of your company being successful when you have a culture of compliance and of ethics, right? People are happier, they stay longer. People buy your products because all of those kind of things permeate throughout everything your company does. Because at the end of the day, words, particularly from a company, you know, we stand for, fill in the blank. Words only go so far. The society right now is looking to see whether the behaviors your company exhibits are consistent with those words. And if they're not, there's no way your company will be successful. And that consistency can only be established when you have leaders within the organization who feel comfortable speaking up, who feel comfortable contributing, and feel comfortable that the organization will listen and have their back when they do. And then they are able to exhibit those behaviors on behalf of the organization because they trust the organization and they will fight for the organization to be successful.
Michelle BB 00:37:48 Wow. It's more than paying lip service. We have to back up everything we say with action. And I, I really love that, especially as we sort of close out our time together, which I don't wanna do cause I'm really enjoying this, and we can talk Peloton and we can talk so many other things. But this has been fascinating. What I would tell you as I have told all my guests, is we started this podcast during the pandemic and early on we began to ask people a question that really is a three parter as a way to impart knowledge, advice, guidance, and maybe just give some insight into you as an individual. And so, we continued this throughout the pandemic. And now as we're sort of emerged into the next phase, I wanna ask you those same questions that I've asked everyone. And so, it's a three parter. So, get ready to write this down. Yes. Uh, number one, what are you learning right now? Or, or what have you learned recently that's had an impact? The second thing is how are you applying it, whether it's in work or life. And then the third, what advice would you give to others? So, it's, what are you learning? How have you applied it and what advice would you give? Go.
Asha Palmer 00:39:01 Go <laugh>. Okay. <laugh>, you know, I, um, I did an exercise at a conference that was really impactful for me. And it was about, what are your six words? What are your six words that describe you when you're at your best, when you're at your happiest, when you're at your most productive, fill in your most whatever, what are your six words? And I'll share with you a few of mine. I'm not actually sure I've figured out all six of mine. But one of mine was learning, one of mine was growing. One of mine was laughing <laugh>, one of mine was contributing. And so, when you think about kind of whatever your six words are, one of the things I'm learning right now is number one, to define my six words. Two to live true to my six words. And I think, you know, for a lot of us, first of all, it's really hard to define cuz it's just six words.
Asha Palmer 00:40:10 And I'm like, I got 20. Right? But hmm. But then to live it, right? And to be reflective throughout your life, whether it's your job, whether it's your profession, whether it's, you know, any of those things. Are you living your six words? And I am learning every day to evaluate whether I'm living it and to redirect parts of my life where I'm not. And that's why, you know, I love when I get to go out and say, making compliance, fun, right? I have fun in a lot of areas of my life. Michelle, <laugh>. No, I think fun. If you're not having fun, why do it? Right? And so, if you think about whatever your six words are, my thing that I'm learning, and I continually evaluate is whether I'm living to those six words. And if I'm not to really redirect, because I can't be my best person for work, for my family, for my friends, for anyone. If I'm not living true to you, know who I am at my best.
Michelle BB 00:41:25 I love that. And so, I think everybody out there, you need to try that exercise. I certainly will. I will, I will be working on my six words. Asha, thank you so much for joining us today and for inspiring all of us to make the tough decisions, do the right thing, and to be ethical leaders. And of course, for encouraging us to make compliance fun. Here at Skillsoft, we propel organizations and people to grow together through transformative learning experiences. I hope you've enjoyed this episode of the Edge as much as I have, and I promise Asha will be back. So be sure to tune in again as we unleash our edge together. I'm Michelle BB. Until next time, keep learning, keep growing and be well.
About Our Guest
Asha Palmer is Skillsoft’s senior vice president of compliance solutions. Throughout her career, Asha has developed, enhanced, and optimized effective ethics and compliance programs for hundreds of companies worldwide. Her passion and expertise are in program development & enhancement, training & engagement, anti-bribery & corruption, risk assessments, and making compliance -- dare we say it?! -- fun. Asha pushes compliance out of the box. As a former Assistant United States Attorney and litigator, Asha is extremely passionate about making training & engagement stick and be meaningfully embedded in and with business and its leaders.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.