Corporate Values Made Real! A discussion with Rho

From the minute I walked into Rho’s lobby, I could feel the positive atmosphere.

It does seem that all companies and organizations have publicly available lofty vision and values statements. These value statements are very often very inspirational and would make you want to work at or do business with these companies. But really? How many companies truly live out their values and have the corporate culture they espouse?

Recently I was at a seminar hosted at Rho, a clinical drug development and contract research services firm headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC. There was such a positive vibe about the building, from the welcoming receptionist at the front desk to the Rho employees signing us in to the Rho employees participating in the workshop. In a time when employee turnover is so high and an ever increasing number of people seem to dislike their work, this positivity was great to witness. So I decided to spend some time with Brook White, Executive Director of Communications at Rho. I really wanted to explore their documented corporate values of “living what they believe,” including integrity, quality, great people, teamwork, and more (link to the full list:

Brook White, Rho’s Executive Director of Communications was more than happy to share about Rho’s culture and values.

STAN: I really enjoyed my visit here last month and the positive vibe that seems to prevail around your campus. What do you attribute that to?

BROOK: We know that our smart, talented people are our greatest asset, so we strive to create an environment where all of our employees can thrive. We encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance—we discourage checking email after hours, encourage employees to use their vacation time, and provide benefits like a concierge service to help employees maintain that balance. We’re also doing work that matters. Our research improves health, extends life, and enhances quality of life.

STAN: In a culture where I see more dissonance between what people say and what they do, how do you succeed in “living what you believe?”

BROOK: It starts with a company’s leaders. Our Leadership Team demonstrates these values in their work and in their interactions with employees. We also make sure that from the beginning, each employee understands the importance of these values to our organization. Our co-CEOs, Dr. Laura Helms Reece and Dr. Russ Helms, have a series of three lunches with new employees to review the values, why they are important, and what that looks like in our day-to-day work.

Rho co-CEOs, Dr. Laura Helms Reece and Dr. Russ Helms, personally meet with new employees to review Rho’s values.

STAN: I’d like to explore team work a little more since often times people sabotage others or refuse to assist their coworkers in a competitive environment where people want to get the best performance rating or get ahead. How do you truly incent team work at Rho? Do you really reward those who demonstrate strong team work?

BROOK: Teamwork is something that is highly valued at Rho. Leaders set the tone by making sure their teams receive credit for accomplishments rather than taking credit for themselves. We also have a peer-to-peer award program where any employee can recognize the good work of any other person in the company. The recipient receives both a gift card and recognition on our company intranet site. We also don’t have annual performance reviews. Performance feedback is given in the moment year round, so that the focus is on helping employees grow.

STAN: How do you handle people who seem to promote their own agendas or careers and aren’t good team players?

BROOK: We reward those who demonstrate teamwork, integrity, and our other core values, and we don’t permit or reward behavior that is out of alignment with those values even if it produces results. Results are important, but it can’t be results at any cost.

STAN: Finally, do have any metrics and measurements that show that good team work and living your other values truly leads to profitability? Can you show that correlation?

BROOK: We’ve been in business for more than 30 years, and we’ve been profitable every year. Even in years when living our values has meant making difficult decisions, we’ve managed to make a profit. While we don’t keep those specific metrics, our profitability year after year does show that a business can be successful and do the right thing. It’s not one or the other.

STAN: Thank you Brook. In closing, is there anything else you would like to share about Rho?

BROOK: On a personal note, this month marks my tenth anniversary at Rho. It has been a privilege to work alongside such a wonderful group of people and to work for an organization that actively demonstrates the values it espouses.

STAN: Thank you, Brook for spending this time with me and I wish you and Rho the very best in the future.

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Photos courtesy of Rho’s Corporate Communications

Seven Insights on Leadership, Success and Diversity from Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good

Photo of Lynn Good when she was announced by Duke Energy as their new CEO and President in June, 2013

Photo of Lynn Good when she was announced by Duke Energy as their new CEO and President in June, 2013

As often as I can, I try to attend the Triangle (NC) Business Journal’s quarterly “Power Breakfasts” where area business leaders are invited to hear from key large corporate executives (see links at the bottom of this blog to a past blog about another TBJ Power Breakfast, and to two TBJ articles about Duke Energy.)

Yes, Duke Energy can be considered quite controversial with their sudden turnover in leadership after the Duke Energy – Progress Energy merger and with the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. And some of these subjects were broached at this breakfast, but I often more listen for leadership and diversity topics from these speakers since those are my consulting areas.

As a diversity consultant, I do appreciate hearing from a female senior corporate leader, especially one like Lynn Good, who was ranked by Fortune Magazine as the 13th most powerful woman in business.

Here are the 7 insights I noted that Lynn shared around leadership and diversity at this March 1, 2016 breakfast:

1. As a senior leader of 28,000 people, Lynn feels it is very important to develop a culture of collaboration and inspiring others.

2. It is critical for people to hear the corporate vision and messages and understand that their role is important in the larger picture.

3. Diversity is indeed important – the strongest solution is reached when multiple views are brought to the table.

4. The three foundations of Duke Energy’s culture are safety, integrity and service.

5. Lynn Good herself is an excellent role model for success and work-life balance. When asked about what most satisfies her in life, she responded “I love what I do (at work) but am truly satisfied at home with a family and 2 college age sons.”

6. Diversity is important to Duke Energy since they want to have a workforce that reflects the markets they serve.

7. Their innovative diversity efforts include their “Aging in Place” initiative where more senior employees are paired with junior employees to foster knowledge transfer.

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As mentioned at the top of this blog, here are links to my past blog about an earlier TBJ Power Breakfast I wrote about, and to two TBJ articles published soon after the breakfast meeting:

Link to past blog on an earlier TBJ Power Breakfast I attended: “Career and Leadership Inspiration from a Local Business Executive” with former Biogen RTP Site Executive Machelle Sanders.

The TBJ’s more in depth article about all items Lynn Good discussed at this power breakfast.

A second article from the TBJ about Duke Energy restructuring and impact on the RTP, NC area workforce.