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Leadership, Goodwill…Good Grief

As the steady drone of “budget crisis” and “federal government shutdown” continues to pound every sensory receptor, I find myself thinking of that great accounting term “goodwill”.  By nature I abhor the entire idea of politics, and to even slightly touch on the topic makes me feel, well dirty, but at the moment it is the topic de jour.  And as is often the case when things are not going “well”, a quick look at things reveals some classic, fundamental truths.

It was one of the more interesting parts of accounting, and that is saying something. It is easy to take a shot at accounting classes.  To my rather unsophisticated business mind during those early MBA years, the idea of goodwill made a great deal of sense.  If the customers, industry and society believe in the firm, the product, the service, the team, the leadership, etc., well that is worth something.  Name brand, product recognition, the benefit of the doubt, whatever it might be, it all falls under that umbrella of “goodwill”.  It all has value and it is quantified, listed and quite literally accounted for on an annual basis.  It was one of those things I knew intuitively, but to see it recognized and quantified, well that lesson stuck with me.

The concept of goodwill became one of those things that was never far from the surface.  When in a direct leadership role, maintaining the goodwill of the team was always important.  Caring about your people, helping them advance their careers, find work-life balance, grow professionally and personally, they were all deposits in the “goodwill account”.  When times were tough, when the team needed to really dig deep, we had that “goodwill account” to draw upon.  Same concept has applied to business in general – treat the clients well, go the extra mile, under promise over deliver, treat vendors and competitors well, and just generally do the right thing…it has paid dividends.

Good governance.  Good leadership.  Goodwill.  It all goes hand-in-hand yet no one in our collective “ruling elite” seems to get it.  The very idea that a business would act in its own self-interest with complete disregard for its customers, stakeholders, suppliers and shareholders is absurd.  Every successful business realizes the value of goodwill.  They have to list it and quantify it in their Annual Reports.  It might be wise for “our leaders”, regardless of party, branch, or level, to take a moment and think about the idea of goodwill.  Dare I say it would change their behavior…maybe.

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Filed under Business, leadership, Politics

Something of Value From Congress?

Hard to believe, but there just might be something of value that came from Congress and the Debt Ceiling vote this week. Well, something of value that happened in that building during the vote is a better way to put it. Strip away the politics, the sound bites, the rhetorical garbage and for a moment reflect on Representative Gabriel Gifford’s walk into that chamber to vote…incredible.

Yes, it is incredible to see anyone survive an assassination attempt, but a gun shot wound to the head – it ranks up there on the miracle scale. But to see her “show up for work” at such a moment, that is a lesson for us all. And do not forget, her husband, Mark Kelly also “showed up for work” as commander of a space shuttle mission in April. No slouch himself in his ability to focus in trying times.

So what is the point? Remember these two when the temptation is there to sluff it off, to take the easy way out, to put comfort and ease ahead of commitments and responsibilities. Clearly everyone has their priorities, but when you make a committment and a promise to others, as a Representative, a Shuttle Commander, a boss, an employee, a teammate, a parent, a friend or a spouse, that committment trumps your own needs. It is just the way it is, or at least should be.

Oh, and to think, a fair number of her “peers” in Congress do not even have the guts to vote yes or no, they abstained or otherwise vote present or some such noncommittal move. Leaders lead, they make decisions and they live with the consequences, and they do what is best for others, not for themselves. Thankfully something of value came from Congress this week.


Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, leadership, Politics

Credible Leaders – The Only Kind

Not to get all political, but it has been tough not to notice the ongoing stream of ethics issues and corruption emanating from the world of politics.  From Charles Rangel in Congress, to the farce that it Rod Blagojevich and the state of Illinois and their string of incarcerated former governors.  It is a sad commentary on the general state of our political “leaders”.  Of real importance, it is a classic example in leadership – credibility is an absolute must in true leaders.

Charlie Rangel is the perfect example.  The short story, and about all the story I have really cared to read, is that he has had some challenges when it comes to rules and laws, taxes and judgement.  Ethics issues as they refer to it in the House.   Here is a quote from the NY Post:

It found after an exhaustive two-year investigation that Rangel had a “pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules and regulations of the United States and the House of Representatives.”

Clearly, the guy has some issues.  Dare I say the rest of us would have more than an ethics committee to worry about if we had a “pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules and regulations”.  Maybe he is an elected official, but he is certainly not a leader.  And sadly, his is not an isolated case, both within Congress or in politics at large.

We can step back and look at that other great story of the last several months, BP and the Gulf Oil Spill.  With BP we see yet another leader who had lost credibility – Tony Hayward.  He was the face of BP in the midst of the crisis; the face and voice that blazed a trail of PR gaffes that eroded his credibility both within the organization and in the eyes of the public as a whole.  However, BP realized the issue and made a leadership change, appointing Bob Dudley as CEO.  From the moment Dudley took over the leadership role in the Gulf, to his appointment as CEO, he has proven to be a credible, empathetic, and effective leader.  He has instilled confidence in the organization and began to restore the public’s confidence in BP.  Where Hayward lacked credibility, Dudley has it in spades.

The heart of the matter, and what we can really gain from all of this, other than confirmation of yet more “dirty” politicians, is that a leader must be credible.  It is another of the age-old adages of leadership – people follow those that they believe in; they trust; they respect.   When credibility is lost, the ability to lead is lost.  Look to our current situation – the faith in the political “leaders” in the United States is at historic lows – justifiably so one could say.  Yet BP makes a change in leadership and they are slowly earning back the confidence of the public and their employees.  Interesting stuff credibility – it cannot be bought or traded, faked or trained – it has to be real and it has to earned.

Are your actions reinforcing your credibility as a leader, or are you eroding the faith and trust of your team, of your peers, of your friends and family?  Credibility – it is such a simple thing to lose and such a simple thing to earn.

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Filed under Current affairs, leadership, Politics