Lara Hodgson, President, and CEO of NOW Corporation was the inaugural speaker for this year's “Cecil B. Day Presents,” speaker series at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.
A noted Georgia Tech alum, Hodgson’s presentation “Lessons in Ethics from a Serial Entrepreneur” addressed ethics in the workplace and entrepreneurial life, defining ethics as “a system of principles and perceptions around what is right and wrong that govern behavior.”
She discussed how individuals learn ethics from parents, government, society and culture, and that ethics is often defined by one’s cultural norms rather than universal beliefs. Hodgson related there is often a misconception that all entrepreneurs equate success with profits, when many in fact may see success as an ethical responsibility to improve their environment and quality of life for others.
Hodgson strongly believes that defining one’s boundaries goes a long way in gaining respect from others, “When boundaries aren’t set early on, others see only weaknesses."
Hodgson related she had experienced ethical dilemmas in each of her jobs and shared examples of these in her presentation. “When your name is not on the door, you sometimes have to do things you don’t believe in,” she said. Her recommendations when facing an unethical workplace are to leave or try to change the culture.
She also shared the Top 10 lessons she had learned from facing ethical conflicts:
- Stop focusing on success and focus on significance. Focus on making a difference and setting an ethical example that others will inevitably notice.
- Know versus what you notice – Speak up if something unethical is occurring. Don’t ignore signs of unethical behavior in a culture.
- Understand Perspective – Identify what you’re actually seeing, not what you’re used to or think you’re seeing.
- Skillset versus Mindset – Hire for the mindset (a person’s character). It’s much easier to teach a skillset.
- Focus Forward – Don’t look at past successes. Make sure to look at future goals.
- “What” versus “So What” – Ask what impact does an action have instead of focusing on ownership of how something was done.
- Excel versus Fail – Focus on what you do best rather than your failures. However, don’t be afraid to fail since this indicates that you are moving forward rather than just being part of the status quo.
- Balance is about boundaries – Multitasking is a misnomer. No one really succeeds at multitasking. Staying in the present is the answer and devoting quality time to one task or project at a time.
- Business is Personal – If mistakes are made, say “I’m sorry.” Take ownership and be responsible for your actions.
- Be real. Be willing to show weaknesses and honesty.
Hodgson ended her presentation with a quote from Gruenter and Whitaker “The culture of an organization is shaped by the worse behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.” Set an example and remember “you don’t manage people, you manage tasks. You lead people,” she said.
About Lara O’Connor Hodgson
Lara O’Connor Hodgson received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Aerospace Engineering with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Along with being the president and CEO of NOW Corp, O’Connor Hodgon serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School and is an internationally recognized speaker, leading seminars on creativity, innovation, and access to capital.
Prior to NOW, Lara co-founded Nourish (the manufacturing company), and Insomnia, LLC, a firm specializing in investment, development, and management of complex and innovative “world-changing” projects. She also worked with Dewberry Capital Corporation, an Atlanta-based commercial real estate development and investment and Dunk, a performance footwear and apparel manufacturing/retail company built on the concept of mass customization and founded with Shaquille O’Neal & Mike Piazza, where she served as Executive Vice President.
Today, she serves as a Trustee of the Georgia Tech Foundation in addition to other Boards. E&Y recognized Lara as a 2018 Finalist for the Southeast Entrepreneur of the Year.
NOW Corp is a payments company headquartered in Atlanta, GA, that is redefining how businesses get paid. NOW’s mission is to create “A World without AR” for all businesses that sell to other businesses and governments. Its payment system, NOWaccount®, enables businesses to receive payment immediately in a way that feels like accepting a credit card for payment even when a card is not offered and an invoice is required.