Saturday, May 21, 2011
The Social Project
We all have had the chance to be part of a variety of different organizations. For some it began when we were taken by the hand into our kindergarten class. For me, the spectrum runs from volunteer organizations, to a cycling team, to an assortment of for profit companies.
The methods of leadership vary based on the organization. In a volunteer enterprise people are free to walk out the door (literally or figuratively) so they are typically handled with more tolerance than in a for-profit company. A drill sergeant as a little league coach usually drives kids (and parents) out of the sport. Conversely, a vice president who just asks that everyone “do their best,” usually finds himself (or herself) quickly looking for a new job.
I have always thought that in business leadership has two obligations, one to their owners to make money, and another to their workers to grow them and keep them employed. My belief is that these objectives are not mutually exclusive and that is the challenge of business. Some companies see these objectives as opposite ends of the spectrum.
A company is free to place themselves anywhere on that spectrum. I have recently become aquatinted with a company that appears to require nothing of their people and the performance of the company reflects that decision. The company, like an enabling parent, allows second and third chances to people who should be sent packing. While this kindness may sound generous, it put everyone’s job in peril.
The problem at this company, which I have dubbed, “The Social Project” is quite simply, leadership.
The Rubix Cube that challenges the folks at The Social Project..
One of the challenges in our global economy is when a leader from one culture leads group that has a different culture, or an assortment of cultures, messages can be lost. A word to the wise may be sufficient in some cultures, while a slap to the head isn’t enough in others. Add to the cultural confusion a liberal sprinkling of below average players and you have a recipe for disaster.
I recall a few years ago speaking with someone about a particular company we knew a few things about. He likened the company to a football team. He said, “They have a new head coach, and he has a great play book, but the players don’t know how to block.”
The last twelve months have seen a heated national debate about unions and corporate greed. As bad as it sounds, with rare exception, people need strong leaders to accomplish the company objectives. True leaders are a lot more rare than we might think. My experience is that without good leaders organizations seldom survive, and people lose jobs. There is no happy ending when unemployment is in the mix. A person who can keep people employed and at the same time make money for their owners is valuable asset to society. I have no moral problem paying those men and women plenty of money.
As I peer into conundrum that is The Social Project, I confess that I see no hint of leadership. I don’t know what those people are paid, but I do know they are not effective, and there is no accountability at any level. While I love my fellow being and show patience and kindness helping people in social situations and in volunteer settings, in a business environment, we aren’t supposed to do our best; we’re supposed to do our jobs.
People generally talk about sustainability as it relates to the environment. A situation where the inmates are running the asylum can’t last for long.
Pudding. We get pudding !!