Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lets learn lessons ... PLEASE!!

It seems we hear every day of hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees being booted out.

I’m getting more concerned about how deep the wounds of this recession are going to be. The human cost of all this is devastating. I suspect the emotional cost of the recession is far greater than the measurable financial cost.

Work is important to us. Not just for the earnings but for self esteem; the need to feel wanted; to be useful; and to feel we are contributing in some way. I have never been of the opinion that people go to work simply for the money – it’s much deeper than that.

Most people I speak to and most of the experts I read agree that greed is at the root of our current problems. We simply wanted too much and we didn’t have the money to pay for it. We got into debt and the debt has to be called in. This applies to individuals as well as big business.

I regard myself as an eternal optimist and so I have been thinking about what good can come out of all this for business. I hope one of the up sides of the recession is that lessons will be learned. As far as the world of business is concerned I hope we see leadership behaviour like the following as we (hopefully) climb out of this mess.

• Managers really getting to know what make their employees tick and to work as partners of those employees to better understand their needs.

• More emphasis on creating ethical frameworks within which managers work that emphasise respect for employees.

• Much greater openness and sharing of information so that everyone on the payroll is aware of where the company is heading - rather than a few people at the top having that information.

• A language in all companies where the word ‘Us’ is used more than the word ‘Me’

What behaviours do you hope to see in the business world post-recession?


Richard Lipscombe said...

I see a new era of Simplicity. It began for me just a few months ago when I deliberately changed the words I use to describe our/my current social and economic situation.

Simplicity is at hand within my world because I stopped talking about recession and started looking for opportunities to do different things or do the same things in very different ways.

Simplicity is at hand in the world at large because for every unkind act by managers, business owners, etc that I hear about (and I hear a lot) there are also great stories of generosity, giving, sharing, sacrificing for others, and simple decency.

Simplicity is at hand because most people are focused on the basics of life - health, shelter, food, family, and happiness (in these despairing times)

Trevor Gay said...

That’s great Richard – thanks for your comments as always.

I believe we have to get back to basics to get through this recession. People tell me that throwing money at the problem from the government will not solve the problem and will be like a finger in the dam in some ways. That’s not to knock government assistance which is of course important.

I say “The basics are the new cutting edge” and I have never believed it more than now.

I do agree there is still terrific giving, caring and generosity from many people. Challenges may come and go but one thing is constant - ordinary folks help each other.

Simplicity rules!

PS – sorry to say Rafa has lost the plot completely!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the simple post to keep our simple spirits up. There are acts and badges of courage that people are wearing to help out their co-workers, neighbors, and, in some cases, enemies.

I find it odd, that the people disparaged the most (front lines) by management and big corporations usually happen to be the first to give, sacrifice, and provide decency to others.

I was speaking with a fellow employee yesterday who'd been with the company for almost 20 years. He stated, "They almost laid me off yesterday." He then gets this grin and states, "You know, I just wish they would, because I'm tired of dealing with and watching all of the b%$sh&t." He smiled at me and went back to work. By my assessments, the employee is great at what he does and is a craftsman with many talents. He's just tired of "it". Add two letters to "it" and you're not too far from the truth of what's happening today.

With that said...long live SIMPLICITY. Jesus, in all of his glory and greatness, was a simple man with simple pleasures. Watching others succeed and do well, by God, was his greatest joy (from my perspective). What a great boss that man ended up becoming; sacrificing himself so others may live. See any of that today? We're beginning to...

Trevor Gay said...

I’m with you Scott – the most selfless acts usually come from those who have the least to give in material ways … and those who are at the ‘lower’ end of the pecking order in organisations – and that is what keeps me optimistic!

Anonymous said...


I have always felt that there has been little original thought in the area of leadership and management since the days of Deming, Juran, Drucker, and Crosby. All advocated that the secret to performance and productivity excellence was focusing on the training, development, health, and well being of their greatest strategic resource...their people.

Southwest Airlines, HP,and hundreds of other companies became "world class" by focusing on what Tom Peters called in In Search of Excellence, "Productivity through People". Worked for them and it continues to work for companies with credible leadership at all levels.

The "lesson" that needs to be learned? Treat your frontline team as your most important customer. Identify their needs requirements and expectattions and exceed them. reat them this way because they are your most importan customer.

Anonymous said...


I've always been convinced, and this is very true of Southwest Airlines, companies that treat their employees better than paying customers are bound to succeed. Happy Employees = Happy Customers.

Therefore, I'm a Simpleton!

Anonymous said...

I agree with quite a lot of what is said here and especially about the need to treat people with respect and dignity. Where I have concerns is with a) the idea that work is THE major and defining part of our lives; and b) the assumption we seem to have that 'lead' and 'manage' are active verbs (which they are) but that being lead and managed are entirely passive actions.

What about an employee's duty to recognise that he's come to work to do a job? That he has an obligation to contribute? That an employer can only provide an enjoyable and rewarding workplace if employees respond to his initiatives with an open and positive mind?

I don't doubt that there are a lot of bad managers around. But there is also a whole load of cynicism, mistrust, apathy and negativity. A lot of it is misdirected as people bring their worries and concerns into work or assume that becasue some high profile figure has been caught with his snought in the trough, his boss must be just as guilty.

By the time people hit the wonderful world of work, their attitudes and skills have been largely shaped. It isn't the job of business alone to shape people's attitudes and make up for a lifetime's problems.So what do I hope to see come from this recession?

- More people to appreciate the value of a good, basic education. This should include health, nutrition, hydration and hygiene awareness as well as decent reading, writing and 'rithmatic skills. (UK has literacy levels approaching the bottom of the developed nations table.)

- People born into a welfare state to realise that it's a safety net and not a lifestyle.

- More parents having children because they want them and not to get onto a housing list or as a result of a drunken fumble. Better parenting skills producing brighter and more active people.

- People to realise that life is there to be lived. No one owes you a living. If you want something out of life, including work and leisure, you need to put something into it.

- If your boss is not a very good manager, help him. If he doesn't improve, help him again. If he still doesn't improve, move on.

Trevor Gay said...

Dave – we agree unsurprisingly!

The best leaders in my experience are humble about their own people management skills – to them it is just normal behaviour. We should not see being a leader as some sort of “job” that you apply for. It should just be an extension of normal behaviour. The most ineffective leaders are those who are too far removed from people at the front line whether they are employees or customers. Show me a manager who spends his/her time locked away in the office and I will show you an ineffective leader. It’s a no brainer. Spend time with your folks and you will be more credible.

Trevor Gay said...


And you are a re a very welcome member in ‘simpleton land’ my friend :- )

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mark – good to hear from you – hope you are well.

I agree that people should not simply be passive recipients and yes of course we all need to speak so that our voice is heard. The best managers will of course encourage that culture.
They listen and encourage that assertive communication from employees who may not always have the confidence to speak up. I have no problem with such managers.

The managers that worry me most are the pretentious, arrogant, superior types who are NEVER seen at the front line. The types that prefer to sit in their very warm comfortable offices writing reports full of BS that no one ever reads. The sort that feel numbers are more important than people. We’ve all seen them.

In my experience most workers go to work recognising they have a job to do and take pride in their work. They desperately want to do a good job. I’ve never met anyone yet who goes to work saying ‘I want to do a bad job today.’

I can’t therefore agree with the implication in your comment that workers somehow don't have the right motivation whilst employers do. There are just as many lazy managers as there are lazy front as far as I can see.

I am more optimistic than you about young people coming into the work place. I definitely feel attitudes can in fact be re-shaped if we have great leaders and managers as our role models. My attitudes certainly changed from when I started work at age 16. My attitudes were re shaped by the behaviour I witnessed in the way front line employees were treated - good and bad - by managers.

I certainly think we can expect to look to our leaders and managers for role model behaviour with such things as integrity, passion and enthusiasm …. Otherwise why the hell do we pay them more money and call them leaders?

I do agree with you 100% about ‘leaving’ your manager if he or she is a waste of time – Tom Peters says “Life is too short to work with jerks” - that sums it up nicely for me.

Anonymous said...

Scott...I'll stand in that line with you and Trevor all day everyday!

markjf...I agree with you 1000 percent that front line folks have to be involved and engaged as well. When I used to consult what I found was that many organizations did not have any viable processes to get them involved in planning, decision making, product and work process improvements. When opportunities are provided to get involved, most will and they know their input is welcome and valued, they will contribute. and I agree? Absolutely my friend!

Trevor Gay said...

Dave – the issue is perfectly summed up in your words about giving people at the front line the OPPORTUNITY to get involved. Too many managers keep information away from front liners to retain their own perceived ‘power.’

A great manager I worked with in my healthcare career once told me “The best way to gain power is to let go of power.”

She was a manager of dozens of nurses and she lived that motto. It worked – she was a great leader and her front liners loved her.

As you folks in the US say “It’s a no brainer.”

JOHN O'LEARY said...

What behaviors do I hope to see in the business world post-recession? A little humility, starting at the top. Works well for political leaders in the international arena too.

Trevor Gay said...

No argument from me John. Over here in the UK there was a time in my youth when politicians resigned when their integrity was in question. Nowadays I am amazed at how they just carry on brazenly as if nothing has happened. If they set that example as our leaders is there any wonder the business world is full of scandal and loss of integrity.