Tag Archives: interview

A Dream Interview

January 16, 2015 by

Mary Barra runs General Motors. She worked her way up and earned the title of CEO in January, 2014.

We all know what happened after that. In April, and three more times since then, Barra was called to Congress to testify about faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles linked to 13 deaths. What has become clear from these investigations is that the GM culture is bureaucratic, and to say the least, ethically challenged. There is no accountability built into the behemoth.

Any business ethicist would celebrate with chocolate-coated strawberries and champagne if she scored an interview with Barra to learn her plan to turn GM’s ethical culture around. Well, I can’t drink the champagne yet because I haven’t gotten that interview. However, I’ve decided to craft an imaginary interview to allow Barra to channel her plan through me.

Bev: Thanks for this opportunity, Mary. From seasoned business leaders to young professionals, we all want to hear you talk about what you are doing at GM.

Mary: Happy to be here.

Bev: Experts say that your challenge is to change GM’s ethical culture. What is culture, Mary?

Mary: Organizational culture is to employees like water is to fish.  It’s all around us, it keeps us alive, but if we don’t look for it, it is invisible to us. But once we recognize it, we realize it is essential to our lives and work.

Bev: How would you describe GM’s ethical culture when you took the role of CEO?

Mary: In a large firm, we need effective processes. But we had developed a culture where we have process for the sake of process. An issue would go from one committee to another to another. And we had no accountability. There was no resolution. The issue would just die. The buck didn’t stop with anyone.

Bev: How are you going to change that?

Mary: One of the best ways to affect ethical behavior is the use of moral words. Really brings intentionality to our ethics. So I’ve developed a tactic where I practice using the word “accountable” at least five times a day when I’m talking to staff, vendors, and the like. I even keep track of it on my calendar.

Bev: Really? That seems a little corny.

Mary: Corny is good when it works, Bev. And it works.

Bev: What else do you do to drive accountability?

Mary: Well, I love thinking out of the box. So I thought of having our creative group develop an accountability cheer that we can all do before team meetings. But that idea is really corny.

Bev: Yeah…even I think that’s over the top.

Mary: And there is another concept we are rolling out…it’s the mirror strategy.  Research indicates that the feeling of invisibility that contributes to acts of fraud and embezzlement can be mitigated when people are confronted by mirrors that are strategically placed. In order to focus on accountability, we are posting mirrors across our workplaces with the message “The buck stops here.”

Bev: Can’t wait to hear how the strategy works. Say, one final question before you go. Do you think GM’s culture would have been any different if you were headquartered in Omaha?

Mary: Well, I know that one of the identified Omaha core values is accountability. I think it would have been front-of-mind for us if we were headquartered here. So yes, being Omaha-based would have made a difference.

Bev: Thanks again for your time, Mary.

Mary: It was a pleasure.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

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Greg Groggel

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Native Omahan Greg Groggel, 29, has always had an adventurous spirit and an ambition to see the world.

As a high school student at Millard West (Class of 2002), Groggel spent a semester as an exchange student in Finland. He went on to attend the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, where he pursued a degree in International Political Economy.

During a college break, he volunteered as a runner for ESPN during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. “Mostly, I carted around athletes to and from the ESPN studio for interviews,” he said. “I had to learn how to drive a stick-shift in 24 hours,” he remembered with a nervous laugh.

Following college, Groggel applied for and won a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which awarded him $25,000 to pursue his proposed project: travel to six former Olympic host cities—Mexico City, Mexico; Sydney, Australia; Seoul, Korea; Sarajevo, Yugoslavia; Munich, Germany; and Bejing, China—over the course of a year to study and document the social, economic, and political ramifications of hosting the Games. The experience taught him to be self-reliant and resourceful. “I spent two months in each city,” he said. “Each time, I was on my own to find my own housing, transportation, my sources…it was challenging.”

“I was Bob Costas’ right-hand man, researching and writing for his prime-time [Olympic] show.”

When NBC Sports learned of Groggel’s ambitious efforts, they offered him a job with the network covering the Beijing Olympics. “I spent about eight months on that job,” he said. In 2009, NBC hired Groggel back for a year to research and conduct pre-interviews with athletes in preparation for their coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I was Bob Costas’ right-hand man, researching and writing for his prime-time [Olympic] show,” Groggel added. He served a similar role again for NBC this summer during the Summer Olympic Games in London. He’s been recognized with two Sports Emmy Awards for his work with NBC.

Today, Groggel works for a television production company in New York, producing and developing new television shows for CBS, Bravo, CNBC, and others. “It’s a lot of fun, and very interesting—jumping around, doing field shots, some writing…”

When asked if he’s ever been star-struck either at the Olympics or on the red carpet, Groggel replied, “Just once, really…I was excited to meet Tom Brokaw.” It seems the former KMTV reporter/NBC News anchorman and Groggel had a good bit in common.

“We visited about Omaha mostly.”

One of four kids, Groggel said in his family, venturing far from home is the norm. “I have three sisters. One lives in San Francisco and is a lawyer, one is in grad school, and one just moved to NYC after doing a stint in Togo with the Peace Corp.” Where did the Groggel kids get their wordly ways? “…Our mom, Martha Goedert. She works in the medical profession and goes to Haiti every year to do mission work and act as a midwife,” he shared proudly. Her example is all they needed to fly.

Brandi Petersen

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up in Papillion, Brandi Petersen didn’t dream of becoming a television news anchor; she was interested in theatre and speech, and entered college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln intending to study drama. But she quickly realized that a future in musical theatre was “not meant to be.” A class on the history of broadcasting inspired her passion for broadcast journalism, and after she switched majors, Petersen sought an internship at KETV in 2001 simply because her family had always watched that station’s newscasts.

“Our joke is that I kind of hung around long enough until I got a job; I just wouldn’t leave,” she says. “I had three internships and got very lucky that they took a chance on an intern…and it worked out very well for me.”

Petersen became a full-fledged reporter in 2003 and an anchor three years later. She says she has found many role models and even friends at KETV through the years, from the reporters who let her tag along on assignment during her earliest days as an intern to her current colleagues on both sides of the camera.

“People ask if we really get along that well,” Petersen says. “We’re very much like a family, and that sounds so cheesy, but all of our reporters and anchors and team members, we really bond very, very well.”

“We live here with you; we’re your neighbors. And we’re kind of the microphone for what you want to say.”

Her career highlights include interviewing President Obama (“It was really an experience having security sweep through twice and snipers on the roof of the building behind us,” she recalls) and Warren Buffett, and she was on-air during notable events such as the 2007 Westroads shooting and the 2008 tornado at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in western Iowa. Petersen says she credits not only experience, but also her high school drama training with helping her maintain composure on camera, and although she spends most of her time behind the news desk, she still enjoys reporting from the field.

“The great thing about this job is that you get to see and interview so many people,” she says. “Reporting is our first love. We’re storytellers.”

Petersen says she’s become accustomed to being recognized wherever she goes—“Are you the news girl?” is a common greeting often followed by, “You’re a lot taller than I thought you’d be!”—but she says people are nearly invariably nice to her when they meet her in public, and she strives to be polite and friendly in return.

“As an on-air journalist, you do need to remember that you’re in the public eye,” she says. “I don’t want to let people down.”

Petersen, whose son Easton was born in 2011, says the unusual work schedule associated with live evening broadcasts has meshed nicely with motherhood, especially since her husband, Brian Paul, a high school coach, works traditional hours. Easton smiles and claps when he sees her on TV, she reports, but adds with a laugh, “He does the same thing for Bill Randby and Jeremy Maskel.”

Petersen has watched broadcast journalism evolve to be more immediate and interactive with coverage available around the clock and through multiple means. But she says one thing hasn’t changed: she still loves her job.

“It’s great to work in the market where I grew up,” she says. “I think we’ve really built a reputation with our station…that we’re good, kind people. I hope that people pick up on that. We live here with you; we’re your neighbors. And we’re kind of the microphone for what you want to say.”