Friday, February 27, 2009

Social Responsibility in Business

I'm reading Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman's book "First, Break All the Rules". Good stuff on true management efficiency, and a lot of insights on corporate culture. One of the things that really jumps out at you when you read it is the notion of social responsibility. In looking at and cultivating the strengths of the individual, you create a shift in thinking and consciousness that affects the entire group, and more importantly, develops a bond that can shield against improprieties and missteps that are often lethal to the culture of any business. This may sound lofty, but I think this is one of the main reasons why so many companies are laying people off - not because they didn't see the downturn coming, but the fact that they didn't aptly prepare for it. In other words, a majority of the layoffs probably wouldn't have happened if senior management had truly been responsible for their subordinates by having earnest discussions about things like performance, scope or scalability and then creating action plans that capitalized on strengths and improved upon weaknesses. At the end of the day, it all begins and ends with a conversation. Or a few.

Which leads one to the notion of expendability. How many companies have you seen over the years turn people over like a revolving door? This baffles me, mostly because, in many cases, intellectual capital is a company's most prized asset. In the agency business (and other service businesses), this currency is your lifeblood. Ok, so maybe some people are expendable...but are their ideas? If someone is considered to be a "bad seed", is there any way to empower them to become a "good seed"? The point is that we all need to look at the resources we have and make them work for the collective good of the company. And if that's not realistic, well, it should be. Put it this way, if the pool of employees and candidates becomes disgruntled to the extent that no one wants to be a part of any company culture, then it's not entirely inconceivable that we could have a bunch of consultants (like myself) running around from project to project with no loyalties to any organization, product or service. Recruiters take note. 

If this all seems dire, then let's focus back on the positive. And if you need some inspiration, look no further than the man sitting in the Presidential chair. Here is someone - a transformational figure, no less - who is running the corporation known as the United States of America with the utmost social responsibility (fantastic congressional address the other night, by the way). In less than 100 days of public service, he has done more for the free world than we've seen in years, if not ever. Company execs and senior managers: take a cue from our leader.

Upward and onward, people!

No comments: