Jan 22, 2018

Tenacity: What’s your word?

I recently had the chance to sit and have a ‘fireside chat’ with Dixon Terry, Vice-President, Compliance, at Shire Pharmaceuticals, during their Global Leadership Meeting. We talked about a lot of issues, exchanging perspectives on how we can all be better sensitized and aware of the subtle influences on our behaviors and decision making. It was a delightful and engaging conversation.  We reflected on how normal business processes can create pressure points and risk, addressing how leadership has a responsibility to ensure that those pressure points get addressed in a way that’s healthy, so that what everyone wants to happen, in terms of ethical and sustainable business practices, actually happens. And we talked about how to sustain a healthy environment which enables and fosters moments of opportunities where everyone ‘leans-in’ to unpack inevitable dilemmas and tensions,  to everyone’s benefit. It was wonderful to hear what Dixon had to say about this, having spent part of his career on the commercial side of business.

But you can’t help seeing that big word behind us:  Tenacity. I love words where we have to think deeply about their meaning, or what they might mean to a globally disbursed workforce, notwithstanding translation challenges. Can all parts of an organization rally around a word? Would tenacity mean one thing to a compliance leader and another to someone on the commercial front-lines? Is there a word in your organization that could be a call-to-action no matter what someone does or where they reside (again, translations notwithstanding)? We had fun talking about it, and one of my observations was that the enemy of ‘tenacity’ is ‘ambiguity,’ where vague leadership messages might end up with personnel pondering, as I did, “what does management really want?”

I give Shire a great deal of credit for coming up with a word and moving an entire leadership team and event around it, then to cascade it down and across the organizational chart. I can only image the thought process and discourse that went around the selection of ‘tenacity.

So, think about it. What’s your word, and how can it be defined so that it makes sense to everyone, and inspires? Even if you can’t find one, or perhaps end up with a few, or even a sentence, just the process of bringing teams together to find it will surely bring up both fun and uncomfortable issues. So why not?

Personally, I am sticking with ‘tenacity,’ at least for this year. Getting caught by the Justice Department in 2007, going to prison, finishing Federal Probation ten years later, and now having the honor of engaging with some of the most thoughtful and interesting people that I have ever met in my career, well, ‘tenacity’ is good-to-go for me!

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2 Comments


  1. Mine is Integrity. Many use the term ethical but I think the word has been ruined. If you are for some political or social issue you are unethical. If you are against the same political or social issue you are called unethical by the other side. The word ethical has become an exclamation point at the end of a rant. The word integrity is more meaningful to me.

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