Illustrated Blog


Drawing and quote of Fred Keeton

A truly productive business response to racial injustice: Conversing with Fred Keeton

Because I advise brands on social purpose, many business leaders have asked me how their companies can meaningfully respond to the racial injustice that afflicts U.S. society. To best answer this question, I’ve enlisted one of the country’s leading experts on corporate diversity, equity and inclusion, Fred Keeton. Fred is owner and Principal at Keeton Iconoclast Consulting, which offers expertise in business strategy and leadership development, diversity equity and inclusion, government, regulatory and public affairs. Fred enjoyed a 32-year career at Caesars Entertainment that included 10 years as Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer. He served on the boards of Harvard Medical School’s Joslin Diabetes Research Center, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada. He currently serves on the Nevada Public

Bored worker cartoon

How to turn our idle team into a post-pandemic powerhouse

Is there a productive assignment we can give our work-at-home team members who don’t have enough to do? I believe there is. And it happens to also serve the world. For many managers, COVID-19 is an opportunity to invite idle or semi-idle employees to develop social-purpose skills (defined as their ability to help others or a societal cause) and craft plans to apply these skills at work. For example, we can encourage employees to develop their capacity to: Respond to medical emergencies. Having team members who are equipped to respond to medical situations at work is unquestionably beneficial. This pandemic might be as good a time as any for our team members to take a company first-responder online training, the American Red Cross’ first aid/CPR/AED course or the University of Glasgow’s basic

Flowers in hand cartoon

Something in our midst is more contagious than COVID-19

To help people turn COVID-19 “sadness into song,” as his website put it, a music composer gave away $20 downloads in March. This action inspired a musician in Massachusetts who benefitted from a $20 freebie to establish a collaborative music website “to promote peace, understanding, healing and happiness.” This, in turn, nudged a CEO of a technology company to better promote his policy of offering free services to nonprofits operating in areas declared a disaster. The CEO’s actions inspired a Florida art-school owner, whose school is temporarily shuttered, to help newly unemployed customers apply for government assistance. Her actions, in turn, led a manager at an Illinois entertainment company to ask his team to start planning a free post-pandemic event to thank healthcare and other workers who are risking their lives throughout the pandemic. One of

Lyft driver cartoon

From small talk to significant talk

I climb into Kevin’s Lyft vehicle. It has holes in the seat and reeks of day-old tuna fish. “How is it possible that he has a perfect five-star rating?” I wonder. After a few minutes of chit chat, Kevin asks if I know anybody with Down’s Syndrome. When I tell him that I don’t, he says “That’s a shame!” He shares that Ava, his nine-year-old daughter who has Down’s Syndrome, is “a blessing to the world.” He’s so animated when he talks about this genetic disorder that I find myself asking a series of questions. Kevin teaches me that although individuals with Down’s Syndrome are cognitively impaired, they can usually become dedicated and effective employees. I’ve never considered hiring an individual with Down’s Syndrome, but I will now. I ask

Three Profs cartoon

Top CSR academic study of 2019

What happens when your company shares information on its corporate social responsibility (CSR) with potential hires? I’m glad you asked! Daniel Hedblom and John List from the University of Chicago and Brent Hickman from Washington University in St. Louis have a stunning evidence-based answer. In fact, their research is my pick for the top CSR academic study of 2019. (Yes, I’m that nerdy.) Hedblom, Hickman and List went to a lot of trouble to determine the impact CSR communications has on prospective hires in the real world, as opposed to a lab, and to be able to attribute any impacts to the communications as opposed to uncovering only correlations (for you nerds, they did a randomized field experiment). They started by creating a company. For real. “HHL Solutions” (their surname

Alan Rozanski cartoon

How to de-stress in five friendly minutes

I’m on stage in Atlanta facing 350 awards-banquet attendees. I start my keynote by asking participants to assess how anxious they are on a scale of one to ten, with one being “not at all” and ten being “extremely.” Then I ask them to do a work-related charitable act that takes no more than five minutes and costs no more than $5. At first, I get quizzical looks. But soon the ballroom buzzes with people posting a LinkedIn testimonial for a laid-off colleague, donating to a coworker’s fundraising run or calling their receptionist to thank him for his positive attitude. At the conclusion of the five minutes, I ask participants to, again, note their level of anxiety using the same scale. I then ask those whose anxiety increased to please

Gwen Migita cartoon

Job purposing makes you a better leader

I spent nine hours crafting a metrics plan for a job-purposing project. The client responded that it was so “random and disjointed” that it gave her a headache. I typically think, if not say, something like “the heck with you” to criticism like this. (Were I capable of profanity, my retort would have more zing, but we all have our limitations.) This time, however, I calmly asked the client what was wrong with my work, laughed over how badly I misunderstood her assignment, offered to send her aspirin and delivered a strong plan within two days. I found it easy to respond productively and without drama to the above criticism because its source, Gwen Migita, exemplifies job purposing. That is, she routinely pursues contributions to others or societal causes as

Studs Terkel cartoon

So sorry for your inversion

I arrived home from college one summer to find newspaper strewn between my parents’ teak furniture.  Atop each sheet was a different hunk of greasy machinery. My sixteen-year-old brother, Alfredo, had bought and disassembled a derelict Volkswagen beetle with the intent of transforming it into a functioning vehicle. As the summer progressed, the mechanical adornments steadily disappeared from our living room and Alfredo meticulously rebuilt the faded yellow bug. One afternoon, we heard an engine roar to life. Success! Well, sort of. The car ran, but with a quirk. It had four reverse gears and one forward gear. Alfredo had inverted some mechanical contraption. The entire family found this deeply amusing, but no one more than the self-effacing Alfredo. With a twinkle in his eye and keys in his outstretched