Leading by (Poor) Example: Answers

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(Image by Mark Matcho)
(Image by Mark Matcho)

Recap: Chester Franklin, VP of marketing for Dormier Products Group, had created a bad situation among his team, and now he needed to correct it and save his job.

Franklin was “relaxed” with his expense account. Anything he could write off as a business expense, he did. For example, if he met a friend for lunch and discussed work at all, he'd turn it in as entertaining a prospective client. Unfortunately for Franklin, his team picked up on and began to emulate his bad behavior—and the increase in expenses was showing. He knew that Dormier's president, Letitia White, would ask him about the increase at their upcoming quarterly budget meeting.

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May winner: Mike Dukes, Sales Management, Rubinstein's Office Supplies

It is not important how Chester Franklin finally got the message. The point is that his bad example has now come home to roost and he must do something about it. He should immediately schedule a group meeting with all of his subordinates. In the meeting he must convey the seriousness of the abuse of expenses.

He should reinforce all of the examples of proper expenses and inform all that no exceptions will be tolerated. Last, he must come clean and admit he was the biggest offender and that he will revisit his last year's expenses and make restitution.

With the new protocols in place Franklin must present to Letitia White what has transpired. He should inform her that he has taken all appropriate actions and that she will see marked improvement.

Other responses

Christopher Foster, VP marketing, Modern Postcard

Franklin should immediately own up to his transgressions and apologize to his team for his lapse in judgment. Additionally, he should tally up the suspect expenses and pay the company back, either through a payroll deduction or with a check. The last piece would be to make sure to not repeat the behavior, and have specific, set moments or events where lunch for the team is something that makes sense (new hires, promotions, etc.). A nice gesture would be to get approval for other lunches in the future.

Byron L. Goldstein, president, Byron Goldstein Marketing/Communications

Actually, the solution to Chester Franklin's dilemma is quite simple…and can demonstrate proactive efforts and leadership.

He should compile the marketing success metrics record of his team over time. Metrics such as speed to market, social media shares, search engine ranking, sales lead quality and conversions, website traffic, cost of customer acquisition, and so on. He then charts these factors versus recent team expenses, purporting that the expenses were a result of increased contact and understanding of customer needs and requirements. That requires customer contact…and concomitant expenses.

If the correlation is positive between recent expenses and marketing success metrics, he is a hero, the expenses are justified, and he should compliment his department while requiring that expenses increase no further. If there is no correlation—or if there is a negative correlation—he needs to instruct his department that the increased expenses are not justified and need to be cut back by a significant percentage. Then he simply presents the results of his initiative to White. If there is a positive correlation, he is a star and the expenses are justified. If he has to report a negative correlation, he informs White that there will be a moratorium on this “experiment” and expenses will be curtailed.

Alexandra Swan, marketing manager, NAPLIA

Chester Franklin may have thought he was merely bending the rules when he put social lunches on his company credit card, expensed spur-of-the-moment team meals, picked himself up a holiday gift when buying them for clients. But plain and simple: Franklin was stealing from his employer. And since his reports started doing the same, they're stealing, too.

It's quite the messy situation.

If Franklin wants to have any chance of saving his job, he's got some major penance and restitution to do, and he has to undo the damage to his reputation both to the higher ups and his team members.

The best approach for Franklin would be three-pronged:

1. Franklin repays the company for misused company funds. The social lunches and gifts purchased for personal use, etc. get tallied up and Franklin makes payment immediately (or negotiates a payment schedule with his employer).

2. Franklin takes ownership for the error of his ways. He needs to tell his employer he knows he has gone astray and explain it was a temporary transgression that will not happen again. And, just as important, he needs to explain to his employees that the current expense account system has come to a halt immediately. He also needs to explain to them that his behavior and the behavior of those of the team was a violation of the company and will not continue.

3. Franklin and his team should dedicate some of their off-time (weekends, vacation, holiday) to a volunteer project to benefit their community. A collective public service effort will serve as amends for the violation. And, as an added potential bonus, his employees might get some team building camaraderie from the experience and the company may get some good public relations from the effort.

Peter Mendelson, CMO, Binder and Binder

How an employee ultimately manages an expense account provides a very good snapshot into his character. Therefore, the egregious, heavy-handed misuse of company monies speaks volumes about Chester Franklin. His complete lack of judgment makes him ill suited for the VP of marketing role. He must be terminated immediately for intentional misappropriations of company funds.

What was he thinking playing so fast and loose? What a horrendous influence on his team, who began emulating this bad behavior. Dormier needs to hire a strong replacement quickly to undo the damage Franklin caused.

Lawrence A. Tillinger, proprietor, SFLI

Franklin should immediately change his expense account worst practices to best practices, setting an exemplary example for his team to emulate.

Before the quarterly budget meeting with White, he should prepare an explanation, saying that he had recognized that the increase in expenses needed correction, and that he had done so. Franklin should adjust his future expenses claims to account for the mis-claims, until the amount not claimed in the future equals the amount mis-claimed. After he balances the claims, Franklin should resign from Dormier Products Group.

In his new job his expense account write offs should be made with the highest ethical standards.

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