Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012: Sic Gloria Transit Mundi & More

This letter is a bit of a ramble.  It is a bit of the transformation I went through this month.  So, it is a journey of sorts.  As I have used March to write a travel in previous years, this letter can be quasi-considered in that category even though I did not physically travel anywhere.  The journey was all internal and in the form of a lesson.
Sic gloria transit mundi is a Latin phrase that means "thus passes the glory of the world."  It is attributed to the phrase popularized in the movie Patton as "all glory is fleeting."  In the movie, one of the true classics, General Patton as played by George C. Scott gave this little soliloquy.

For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.

I am not anywhere near being Roman General, yet I got a good dose of this lesson this week which I am sharing with in this letter. 
Monday evening, March 12th, I had just started my Introductory Statistics class at the College of Lake County.  I was giving an exam and answering last minute questions that the students always have.  I was about five minutes into it when Blake Banovitz the President of the Student Government, Ryan Stivers the VP of the Student Government and another senator who I did not know came into the room.  They were carrying small gifts and balloons.  There was a small sign attached to the gift.  They made an made announcement to the class.  The announcement was that they were giving me a wonderful and much appreciated award and honor that is summed up by the card which was attached to the gifts they presented to me:

The College of Lake County
Student Government Association
would like to recognize you as
the recipient of the

2012 College of Lake County
Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Award

Your time and dedication to student success in
and out of the classroom is greatly appreciated.

Please join us at 7 pm on Tuesday, April 17 at the Board of Trustees Meeting in A206
where you will be formally recognized for this award.

I was delighted to get this recognition.  My students applauded.  I may have even blushed.  I rarely ever blush these days.  I felt very good about this and while the students were taking the exam, I texted the family and let them know what had just happened.  I was feeling really good and accomplished.  This award is from the students and it was a great confirmation that they appreciate the effort and style I bring to the classroom.  I love this work.  I cannot say that about everything I have done. 
The advice that is often freely given is some variation of "if you do what you love, you will love what you do."  It is indeed sage advice but, honestly, how many of us are really and truly fortunate enough to be able to say that.  Often that which we are passionate about does not easily become a livelihood.  Most of us settle into something we don't actually hate and perhaps moderately enjoy.  That is good enough for most of us.  But when we do see someone who is doing what they love, we recognize how lucky they are and rekindle our own desires to do the same. 
I enjoyed teaching at the college level back in the 1970s when I first did it.  The need to make more money and, frankly, serendipity led me to a corporate career.  Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed most of that career which took me to from Detroit to Connecticut/New York City, and then to Chicago.  I got to visit and work with great people from around the world and specifically in Latin America.  I did enjoy that to the point that I miss it at times.  Teaching was and is again something different... and more.  I enjoy the classroom.  I enjoy the flow of students from one course to the next.  I enjoy the continual improvement process of how I try to get knowledge across to the students.  I do get better every time I teach a particular course.  I enjoy how I really get to know the material on a different level by having to be able to coherently teach it to others.  I love it pure and simple.
Love aside... it still doesn't pay much.  It especially does not pay much at the adjunct level.  So, I applied for two full time mathematics positions at the College of Lake County.  The full time positions pay more but still not what I could and believe should be earning.  It mattered naught, I was already doing something I loved and this would allow me to do it full time.  I also believed another maxim that "if you can do what you love, worry not, the finances will work themselves out."  Either that is true or you will go bankrupt. 
I had applied for a similar position in 2009 but was rejected.  It did, however, turn into the adjunct position I now have.  As usual with me, serendipity was at play.  If Plan A does not work out, a Plan B that is in the same kind of direction will reveal itself.  Back in 2009, I felt dejected at the rejection then but upon getting the adjunct position I realized I was not ready.  A lot had changed since the 1970s when I first taught.  I had to learn the technology used in the classroom and internet course management software.  What used to be just book, chalk, blackboard, and grade-book had become more complex.  In the complexity, however, was a lot of capability that was of great benefit once it was mastered.  As I have mastered large chunks of it in the interim three years, I was feeling really confident about my candidacy for these positions.  I knew my application was much stronger than it was 2009.  I had better recommendations.  I was a known entity; I had done whatever was asked of me, accepted any assignment offered, and was getting good reviews from the students.  I was feeling golden.
Now, I had been named Outstanding Adjunct Faculty of 2012.  How could they say turn me down?
Actually, quite easily.
Less than 24 hours of getting notification of the award, I received a thanks but no thanks letter from an HR executive at the college.
Dang, it wasn't even a full day of enjoying the accolade.  Sic gloria transit mundi.  Actually, it was barely twenty hours.  It did not take long at all for me to be a mixture of anger and disappointment.  I thought I would at least get an interview.  Nope.  The email I got was polite thank you but no thank you but we have chosen to interview others.  All glory is indeed fleeting.  Sic gloria transit mundi or in your face, I am not sure which.  All I know is that it made me kind of sic... to my stomach.
The first thought that came into my head was age discrimination.  This could be the case.  It might not be the only reason but I was fairly certain it was a contributing vector.  I was thinking that the selection committee, an amorphous and anonymous group, probably didn't even know they were discriminating.  I could most certainly, using my statistical skills, verify some kind of correlation if I could get the ages of all applicants and hires for, say, the last thirty hires. 
I bounced the idea of age discrimination off of some valued friends.  These folks were human resource professionals, executive placement professionals, and even two professors at other universities.  They all agreed that age discrimination is rampant in the work place in general and academia.  One professor in a business MBA program told me that the school she teaches at actually has been discussing how to move away from 60 years old teaching 40 year olds how to manage 20 year olds.  She said that she probably has to find another place to teach.  She is very good.  The other professor simply told I was getting a good solid dose of how academic departments are run and, yes, age discrimination is a factor that exists, no one talks about, and most people who feel discriminated against rarely do anything as there is almost nothing to be gaining by taking any action.
I had to agree.  I could make a stink about it and play the age card.  But really, where would that get me?  It would consume a lot of time and energy.  There is nothing to be gained from being upset in any way at this.  Why waste time feeling bad or negative?  It will not change any of this.  It will not change the mind of the people that did not think I was as qualified or attractive as others for this position.  All negativity will do is make me feel bad and not appreciate the recognition I got from the students.  It really is a special honor and I should not let anything take away from that.  I get to go to the April 17 Board of Trustees meeting for the college and have a formal presentation.  That is very cool.  “Accentuate the positive” and all that.
But, I was upset.  I was upset with myself more than anything or anyone else.  I am upset for putting myself in a position where I was actually counting on the endorsement of anyone else.  In this case, it was the selection committee.  I knew how they would operate.  It is how they are collectively wired.  Their track record for making adjuncts full timers is very low. 
I get upset now and then.  I guess that is natural and it is certainly my track record.  But I am best when I transform the energy I put into being upset into motivation.   That is what I decided to do in this case.  I want to enjoy the recognition I got and I still want to do something exciting and that I love.
I decided to focus on my own business in which I have hung out my own shingle (I am certain this will be a topic of a future posting).  I will create a name for myself through consulting, writing, speaking, and teaching.  Thus, my decision was to create my own opportunities.  That is really what I really should be doing.  I was probably counting on this full time teaching  position because it was an easier path... and it certainly would have been. 
For sure I was interested in a full time position doing what I truly loved.  I had applied and if I got the job, I would have taught and been on auto-pilot until I finally retired.  The rejection made me really that this scenario would not have been enough.  I need and want more.  I love to teach.  But, I will also consult, speak, and write. 
I have a friend friend in Mexico who I have talked about in these letters.  His name is Angel de la Puente.  We met when he was Director of Customer Service and Logistics for Colgate Mexico and I had the same position in the Latin American Division.  He always used to say "You like me, keep me.  You don't like me, let me go."  He realized that he would try to do the best job he could and that was all he could do.  If the powers that be decide that he (or you or me) is no longer a valued member of the team, there is nothing any of us can do to keep ourselves from being let go... or not hired... or not even considered for an interview.
There was a second or perhaps third tier philosopher, Epictetus, who really laid it out perfectly with a couple of quotes that resonate with me.  They have special meaning when I am feeling dissed or rather what I like to call disenfranchised:

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.

People and committees make personnel decisions any way they will and want.  Sometimes, it will feel personal and to a degree it is, as it is happening to you personally.  Do I get upset, stay upset, lash out, or just take it as the roll of the dice (you can't really get upset by something random) and move on?  Was all this insulting to me?  Sure, I can easily look at it that way (after all I am Armenian) or do I just accept their decision for whatever reason and however they came to that decision and move on.  Epictetus would have me taking the more noble approach and forgetting about what I can essentially do nothing about and move on to the next.  This is the same philosophy espoused, in his own eloquent way, by my friend Angel.  It is not so much as what they did and what they decided by more so how I reacted to it.
"Screw them" is certainly a reaction.  I do believe, knowing Angel, that sentiment is exactly embedded and implied in his quote.  You don't get that in the words?  Trust me, it is there.  You have to know the man and have heard the tone in which he delivers the statement.  We used to say something similar in the Johnite's band all the time, "screw them if they can't take a joke."  Of course, we used the f-word instead.
Epictetus lived from 55 -135 AD.  He was born a slave and later freed.  I suppose it was this slave heritage that led him to believe to take things as they happen and are handed out.  He believed in fate.  What else is a slave to believe in?  He advocated accepting what one has no control over as the key to contentment and happiness.   Epictetus is like a saint.  He is like Jesus turning the other cheek.  It is all very easy to say but hard to put into practice.  Perhaps, Epictetus was one of those slaves General Patton was referring to.  Maybe, he was on the chariot behind the hero whispering "all glory is fleeting."
I eventually accept events I really cannot control like Epictetus advocates.   The problem is that I need to and do rage about it first.  I probably rage too long.  Rage may well be too strong a word, but my reaction is certainly in the direction of rage.  While my friend Angel talks like Epictetus, he is also a bit of a firebrand as well before accepting fate.  I do believe he rages more than I do or at least more colorfully.  But, he believes what he says.  If you like him, take him.  If you don't, let him go but be prepared to get an earful of expletives and a frank assessment of what he thinks of you.  I am guessing Epictetus did not openly rage or let loose with the f-bombs if things did not go his way. 
So, what is my plan?  How do I handle this double edged sword of recognition and rejection?  I will focus on the recognition because the source of that is who really matters:  the students.  I am also focusing on building up my consulting business.  If done right, the revenue potential is much higher in consulting than teaching.  Furthermore, consulting will either succeed or fail based entirely on me, my ability to market, sell, and execute.  Creating my own future seems like exactly the right thing to do.
After a few days of being a cross between Epictetus and de la Puente, I began working in earnest to get my business up, running, and generating revenue.  I am kind of happy with what I have done in this regard this month.  I worked with my daughter's brother-in-law Andrew to create a logo that I quite happy with.  I have my company email set up in google apps and transferred all my email, calendar, documents, and contacts from my old consulting company.  I designed and printed business cards using my brand spanking new logo.  I contracted with a web-designer to begin creating the shell of my website.  She will teach me how to add and edit content so I can mostly be self-sufficient.  It is rather exciting.  I am having a lot of fun with this.
What is really exciting is that I also landed my first client and engagement in the past week.  It was a quick intense engagement to help a third party logistics provider prepare a bid to retain a customer that was about 30% of their business.  I liked that from this one week project I earned over half of what they pay me to teach and adjunct course at the College of Lake County.  It was also a lot of fun. 
There is also a religious and spiritual component to all this and I do not say this lightly.  I often tell people that there has to be a God because only a universal divine, all powerful, and all knowing being would have the insight to know and the power to ensure that I am not bestowed with unlimited good looks, power, or wealth. 
I am adding two dimensions to religious component.  First, I believe in God because of the humbling and centering lessons provided to me both randomly and when I seem to need them:  Sic gloria transit mundi.  Second, I also believe in God because quite simply when one door closes, another opens.  Someone or something is providing the lessons and opening the doors that reveal Path B. 
I just have to have the right positive attitude to be able to see the doors that are opening. 

Moirta and Jobs

I read an article in Forbes on-line, Would Steve Jobs Have Released the iPad3?, by Gene Marks.  Apple has been under the microscope more than ever since the passing of Steve Jobs.  They have launched the iPhone 4s and the latest iPad since the passing the of inspirational, brilliant, and enigmatic co-founder of the company.   Critics are looking for flaws in the new leadership in these products.  The people in this school looking for chinks in the armor claim that these two products are not different enough from their predecessors.  This may indicate that the company is now being run be more traditional marketers who may do OK but do not have the Jobs mojo. 
It reminds of a few books I read in the late 1980s and found quite inspirational.  One of the books was actually about Apple.  The other was about Sony.  Actually in looking up the exact titles on, I learned that both books came out in 1987.  I am pretty certain that out by 1984 since I was using examples from both in training I was giving in 1985 and 1986.  The books were:

  Odyssey:  From Pepsi to Apple by John Sculley with John A. Byrne
  Made in Japan:  Akio Morita and Sony by Akio Morita with Edwin M. Reingold and Mitsuko Shimumoru

In those days, Sony was the company that was viewed as Apple is today.  It was the prime innovator of consumer electronics.  They had invented the transistor radio in the 1960s and revolutionized the industry with the concept of portable music.  They continued the walkman and the portable disc player.  The made the best televisions on the planet.  They were innovative and unstoppable.  They were the envy of their competitors and companies in other industries.  Morita was the genius behind the company and drove the product development machine much like Jobs did at Apple. 
At the same time, Apple was emerging.  They had innovated the first PCs but had been overtaken by IBM powered by Microsoft PCs in the workplace.  The had come out with the first Macs that were viewed as innovative but were really used by desktop publishers and in education.  Steve Jobs wanted to be more and he wanted Apple to be more.  He thought he needed to get a solid businessman with great experience in marketing to take the company to the next level.  This would make for a great partnership that would allow Jobs to develop and innovate new products while Scully ran the business side of things.
Sculley was a wunderkind at Pepsi.  He became President at the age of 39.  He was a high flier and still relative early in his career.  Jobs wooed Scully to come to Apple.  As reported in Scully's book, Jobs clinched the deal by telling Scully "Do you want to keep marketing sugar water or do you want to make products that will change the world."  Scully joined Apple.  It didn't take long before Scully and Jobs butted heads... really hard.  Scully out maneuvered Jobs in the Board Room and ended up as Chairman and CEO.  Jobs was out.  It was crazy but everyone thought Scully was the man.  Jobs went on to found NeXT and Pixar. 
Sculley went on and hung his hat on a product called Newton.  It was a decent product but a flop.  It was a Palm Pilot ahead of its time.  Sculley actually coined the term Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) when describing the Newton.  It was too pricey and perhaps not functional enough.  The reality might nave been that people were just not ready for it.  The key thing is that probably would not have happened with Jobs at the helm.  He would have made sure the timing, the pricing, and functionality were all right for the launch.  Apple spent over $100M on this product which did not make the grade.  The Newton was not the only product and strategic mistakes.  The products in his era were bigger and bulkier without the design and functional elegance the Jobs products are known for... especially those that came after Jobs' return to Apple.
Sculley ran Apple from 1983 to 1993.  He left when the sales flattened, margins shrank, and the stock dipped.  The soft drink marketing whiz could not take his skills to another industry.  His book was fascinating and engaging when I read it.  It would be kind of comical now I suppose.  In May 2009 Conde Nast Portfolio compiled a list of the 20 Worst American CEOs.  John Sculley was #14 on the list.
Sony did not fare well without Akio Morita either.  The company that led the consumer electronics world in the 1970s and 1980s became something much lesser.  They dominated personal music players with the walkman and the discman products.  Everyone had one.  Everyone had to have one.  Everyone copied them but the people who really wanted the best had Sonys.  It was that simple. 
Music was about to go seriously digital and ultra compact.  Sony should have owned that market.  Sony should have led the movement into that market.  They tried and failed.    Sony had the people, the music, and the technology but could not put it together the way Jobs and Apple.  Apple created a product that allowed people to carry all their music around with them by putting a small hard drive into their digital player.  They also created a channel to sell digital music via the internet.  Voila.  Game over.  Apple wins Sony is barely a player in the space anymore. 
The main reason for this was that Apple had Jobs again and Sony no longer had Morita.  It is probably not that simple but it is the way that I see it.
That is why I am so fascinated to see what Apple does or does not do without Jobs.  My guess is that Apple will be run by smart business men who are sharp marketeers, finance guys, and maybe some engineers.  If these guys cannot maintain to some degree the Jobs passion for innovation, sleek design, and excellence, the great company will become a good one.   The good company will be vulnerable to the Steve Jobs or Akio Morita who creates a juggernaut of a competitor. 
Is the iPhone 4s and iPad3 a continuation of excellence or a harbinger of future mediocrity?  Did I just say mediocrity?  Oh my!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

I was watching a movie the other day.  It was called Too Big to Fail which is the story of how the US Treasury Department fought to avoid the collapse of our financial system back in the fall of 2008.  The story was about how Henry Paulson, the then Secretary of the Treasury, and Tim Geithner, the Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve at the time, got Congress to bail out the major banks through a cash infusion.  It was also the story of how Paulson and Geithner had to convince the banks to take this chunk of money that they supposedly did not want fearing too much government ownership and guidance in their operations.  They took the money and seemed to have used to line their own pockets via bonuses rather than for the intended purposes of loaning it out to stimulate a recovery (but this is a topic for another much longer blog posting).
In one scene, Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, and another fellow were heading to one of a series of brutal all day meetings.  Just before entering the building, the other fellow bemoaned having to endure another tortuous day "I don't think I can take another day of this."  Lloyd Blankfein told the other fellow and I paraphrase, "You got into a Mercedes to go to the New York Federal Reserve, not a Higgins boat going to Omaha Beach." 
That was the absolutely correct perspective.  These were rich guys, financial lords of Wall Street, going to all day meetings with catered lunches and cushy surroundings.  They were not being put in a dungeon and tortured.
Around mid September of 2008 my career was falling apart.  Our entire management team was about to be and eventually axed.  It was not because of the economy but more so because a new group president wanted his own crew in there.  The US economy was about to fall apart and I was neck deep worrying about my own miserable little career.  It was a bump in the road, not choppy seas taking me to Omaha Beach. 
At such time, I should think of Blankfeins words.  I should also think of my maternal Grandmother, Azniv Frankian Merian who we always and affectionately called Grannie .  She was born into a hard life in 1905 in a little Armenain village, Yeghike around the city that is now called Elazig, in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.  At the age of ten, soldiers came to evacuate the villagers in a pretense of relocation for their own safety.  It was to exile them into the Syrian desert to die of starvation.  It was an ugly event which Raphael Lemkin labeled as Genocide.
My Grandmother survived.  Neither she nor her Mother or sisters made the death march.  They survived because their Turkish neighbor agreed to hide them.  To survive she hid for days in the outhouse... the bottom of the outhouse... the stinking, disgusting, pit of the outhouse.  She did this.  She survived.  She never forgot this though she only told me once.  It made an impact on me.  I think she told me that story that one time to give me a some perspective on things.
I need to remind myself that no matter how bad things seem to be, they are never as bad as they were for my grandmother when she was just ten years old.  No matter what emotional corner I have painted myself into, it is not equivalent to what my Grandmother had to endure.  And, I have to face it, as she survived she had it a lot better than those who died in the Dier el Zor desert or were shot, hanged, or drown en route to the desert. 
It is matter of perspective.  It is a matter of relativity.   It is a matter of not taking things that are not that serious, too seriously.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tough Cookies and Financial Controls

I worked for a multi-national consumer goods company for the bulk of my career.  For two thirds of that career I worked in a particular business unit.  Our CFO in that business unit was what they used to “one tough cookie.”  I am not sure what they might call him today but SOB popped into my mind when I tried to conjure the right word.  SOB is probably too severe though he could definitely become one when it suited him.
In working with the CFO our relationship evolved.  I do not think he thought much of at all the first few years I worked for the business unit.  By getting things I was able to get him to a bit north of neutral.  By the time I left, I think he might have now and then had a positive image of me.  
This CFO staffed the subsidiaries in our business units with finance VPs and Directors that were what we called in that era of Austin Powers movies:  mini-mes.  In other words, the finance team in our business unit were people that thought and acted the way the CFO did.  They were all tough cookies.  
The tough cookie view was my first impression.  As with most observational viewpoints of mine, I changed and refined it with time.  This, of course, is the mark of a world class dilettante.  I developed a theory that I believe is spot on.  The CFO and by default his minions believed that:
  1. They were smarter than everyone else.
  2. If left unchecked, everyone else was lazy.
  3. Everyone else was potentially corrupt.

These points helped me develop an operational working relationship with the finance folks.  It was all business and no nonsense.  There was little likelihood that I could ever be more than acquaintances with them.  The best I could ever be was neutral.  I also decided to involve them as much as possible in efforts and initiatives in my area which was Logistics and Customer Service.  I do believe the above points defined them perfectly.
Now, I had moderate success as a businessman.  I really never ever took business courses so everything I learned was on the job in the school of the real world.  I learned somethings but never the accounting of business or how accountants and finance people see the world.  I am just now taking my first Accounting Course.  One of the benefits of being an adjunct professor at the College of Lake County is that I can take a free class each semester.  I am taking advantage of that this Spring Term for the first time.  I am taking Financial Accounting.
I never took Accounting before because I thought I would hate it.  I love it.  I find it eye opening and fascinating.  I am gaining the language and perspective of the Finance arm of enterprises.  I should have taken this years ago.  I maybe should have even majored in the stuff.  I wonder how my career might have progressed if I had done this.
In the Accounting course, we just covered the section of Internal Controls.  This was also eye opening.  Here is purpose of Internal Control:
  1. Protect company assets
  2. Ensure reliable accounting
  3. Promote efficient operations
  4. Urge adherence to company policies
The intent and purpose of Internal Control is achieved by adopting and living the following principles:
  1. Establish responsibilities
  2. Maintain adequate records (documentation)
  3. Insure assets and bond key employees
  4. Separate record-keeping from custody of assets
  5. Divide responsibility for related transactions
  6. Apply technological controls
  7. Perform regular and independent reviews

Well this certainly explained a large part of what motivated my Finance colleagues.  But, it only partially explains their attitude and behavior.  On one hand they have their duties and responsibilities.  They should communicate these responsibilities and their methods for managing them to the organization.  In a sense, this Internal Control part of their role puts them on par with Internal Affairs of the police dramas on TV and in the movies.  They are a necessary part of the organization but not fondly thought of.  These responsibilities make them the police of the company.
We all know there are a few kinds of police officers.  There are the kind the love the power they have over Joe Average Citizen.  There are the kind that take the Serve and Protect tenet to heart and separate the good guys from the bad ones... not always as black and white as the aforementioned TV dramas make it seem.   There is no question that the Serve and Protect officer can and should be one tough cookie, however, when the opportunity calls for it.
I wonder how I would do with this responsibility?  How would I treat people?  
Based on my past record, I would probably trust people until proven otherwise i.e. innocent until there is enough evidence to conclude guilt.  Upon learning of malfeasance, theft, or other criminal/unethical activities, I would discipline, dismiss, or prosecute the offenders as company policy and the law dictates.  I would also work to put in the controls and rules according to the above mentioned seven principles, to make a bad leaning individual stay on the right and lawful side of thing i.e. to minimize temptation.  
I am not suggesting that in trusting people I do not keep my eyes and ears open.  I should be attuned to things that do not seem right or by actions that seem illogical.  I should question why things do not seem right.  What is the logic, really, behind actions that seem illogical?  I have learned in my career in logistics that if there is a little whiff of smoke, there may well be a fire blazing behind the wall.  A little whiff of smoke raises all my senses and attention toward the person or activity to determine if there is or is not a fire blazing.  
The question remaining is which approach works better the CFO who does not trust anyone or my approach in which I trust people until there is evidence not to?  I would contend, no surprise since I am asking the question, that my way is better.  I do not believe the I am smarter than everyone and everyone is a potential thief method actually helps uncover immoral and illegal activities any faster.  My old CFO did not uncover bad deeds quicker but when he learned about them, it just confirmed his view of humanity is all.  In fact most of the uncovering, came at the hands of others and often by accident.  Things smelled funny for a long while.  I knew that and voiced my concern but none of us had the evidence to do anything.  We put in better controls and that either made the bad smell go away or to uncover the evidence needed to take action.
The other negative side of believing that you are smarter than everyone else and that you believe that everyone else is lazy and potentially corrupt is that everyone will know this what you believe.  Once people sense that you have this awful view of them, their natural reaction is to avoid dealing with whenever possible and, when forced to deal with you, provide the minimal amount of information necessary to get through the meeting or review.  This natural and predictable reaction only reinforced the CFOs view of people.  This dynamic often made the CFO be the last person to learn of bad news... at which point he would react swiftly and very strongly.
One the other hand, people were more willing to share more information with me.  I encouraged the open exchange of good and bad news.  Certainly, information was withheld from me too.  After all I was from the division office and the functional leader of the people I dealt with, but I am convinced the information and details withheld were less than that withheld from the CFO.
I just think it is much better to go through life believing that the majority of folks are decent and honest.  In doing so, it is easier to create a culture of trust and openness which is the right way to run any organization (perhaps even a prison?).  This doesn’t mean you can  ignore the
Principles of Internal Control.  If you do this, you are trusting and naive.  You will eventually be fleeced.
As for the tough cookie part?  This is a skill every leader needs.  I simply you do not have to be a tough cookie all the time but just when the situation call for it.  If there is a whiff of smoke, investigate, review the controls, gather evidence, and if there is a fire... it is tough cookie time... baby.