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Are you serious?

Two weeks ago, I was a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the San Diego, CA chapter of the American Society for Training and Development.  The theme of the conference was: “Breaking boundaries in Training and Development”.

Thank goodness and kudos to the organizing committee, it was not titled doing something in “bad economic times”. I find that so cheap and especially shallow because the secret to doing business in bad economic times is exactly the same for doing business in good economic times. The difference is that when money, the universal measurement for success and failure, is not an issue, you have more room for maneuver before you dip into the red and have people start asking penetrating and possibly embarrassing questions. This situation is similar to driving your car through bad weather. In other words, you must be performing the exact same activities only within narrower margins for error. Therefore, the elements that determine success or failure are your aptitude for the job, your ability for critical thinking, your personal judgment and how well you have prepared your organization up until now.

Consequently, the boundaries to break are not found in optimizing the activities that we perform but in changing our thinking and judgment about the activities that we select to perform every day in order to bring us one step closer to the organization’s purpose. Just imagine what extra-ordinary organizations we could build during prosperous times, but fail to do!

What bothers me about the notion that there would be a secret to doing business in bad economic times is the suggestion that “the economy” is a condition happening to us; we are victims of some outside force that we cannot influence. But, who is the economy? Is it possible that we experience an adverse economic climate because of an adverse way of doing business? In that case we CAN influence the economy because we ARE the economy.

During the conference it occurred to me that different trusted advisors to executive decision makers display two different, and sometimes mutually exclusive approaches:

1)  Ask the CEO what s/he wants and then cater towards that goal in an effort to manage her/his expectations.

2)  Conduct a root-cause analysis about what the organization needs to thrive/survive and suggest a course of action to arrive at an Authentic Solution™.

It takes guts or a real sense of duty placing the needs of an organization over the wants of a decision-maker. You may loose the assignment but at least you’re not assisting in the erosion of our economy. I believe that advisors fall into the following categories:

A)  Those that mean well but who are ignorant about the bigger picture effects of their advice on an organization’s chances for future survival.

B)  Those knowing full-well the bigger picture effects of their advice on the organizations future survival but who gave-up trying to overcome an executive decision-maker’s resistance to change.

C)  Those whose purpose in life is to assist executive decision-makers in their pursuit of sustainable business practices that prosper all, by choosing humanity to define organizational behavior.

The first time I heard a successful advisor admit to telling executives just what they wanted to hear so they would feel good about themselves, I said to him: “Are you serious?”

One Comment

  1. Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:51 | Permalink


    I think that you are absolutely right when you say that “the boundaries to break are . . . in changing our thinking and judgment about the activities that we select to perform every day in order to bring us one step closer to the organization’s purpose.” This is the essence of employee engagement and what I call spirit at work. The key is to be on purpose. Yet, how many of us know, really know the deeper purpose of our organization? Moreover, is the work we do in alignment with that purpose? It is indeed time to rethink our work.

    Val Kinjerski, PhD

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