Cindy Olson

PODCAST: When culture goes horribly wrong

‘It was truly a great company—until it wasn’t,’ says former Enron executive Cindy Olson.

October 10, 2019

Cindy Olson has seen the best of times and worst of times a company can experience.

As a top executive at a Fortune 7 firm during the late ‘90s, she pioneered the use of technology in finding, developing, and keeping top talent.

But within a few years, she feared going to prison in the wake of a high-profile scandal that left the organization bankrupt, executives jailed, and thousands of employees without jobs or pensions.

The company? Enron.

In this episode of the CUNA News Podcast, sponsored by LSC, Olson explains why she blames a toxic culture for Enron’s demise—and warns the same fate may await those who stray from their values.

She also shares some early signs your corporate culture may be in trouble, the components of a healthy culture, and more.

“People don’t understand how big culture is,” says Olson, co-founder of Choice Strategic Alliance. “When arrogance creeps in, you feel like you can’t fail no matter what you do.

“Enron was truly a great company—until it wasn't. “

Olson addressed the CUNA Governance, Risk Management & Compliance Leadership Conference in September.

Listen and subscribe to the CUNA News Podcast in Apple’s iTunes Store, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher Radio.

In this episode:

2:47: Olson’s current role

4:17: Enron’s early days

5:40: Signs of trouble

6:55: A cautionary tale for leaders

9:10: Is your culture may be in trouble?

11:00: A culture of integrity

15:12: Memories from that time

17:39: How this experience changed her