Success Favors the Brave

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — As we continue down a tough economic road, it’s apparent that leaders must assume more and more responsibility and be held accountable. As we’ve seen with the failure of banking institutions, management officials who had assumed responsibility for apparent success that ended up in failure either are stepping aside or have been asked to step aside.
I applaud the boards of directors, stockholders and management officials now being held accountable and taking positive action. Every industry should take note, and every organization must become more transparent to all levels of management and employees, not only when it comes to sharing the bottom line, but how the bottom line was achieved and how it will be improved upon.
When you view our industry as a whole, it’s apparent that those who are lean and mean, and teamed with strong leaders, are the ones who become a success.
I hear stories every day about half-actions that are taken. For example, I spoke to a friend who manages a pretty large laundry facility, and he was told that he couldn’t purchase laundry chemicals, even though he had none, and to just do the best he could. The laundry ended up rewashing about a week’s worth of work, using overtime. Now ask yourself, should that person who said “no more chemicals” still be a manager? I think not.
Are the days of the “good ol’ boys” finally over? Sadly, they aren’t, but the number of good ol’ boys seems to be vanishing in favor of managers who think outside the box and communicate honestly and effectively at all levels of their organization.
Now more than ever, organizations need to reach out for ideas. Making decisions in the management skybox is old-hat and usually only damages morale once tough decisions are made.
In previous columns, I touched on the importance of chief financial officers (CFO), or others with a similar role, to organizational success. While CFOs usually only make recommendations, I am becoming more confident that the decisions should be made by those who are directly responsible for incoming and outgoing resources. This is how the federal government works, so no programs or people are protected and the bottom line becomes the bottom line before it’s too late.
Yes, times are tough, and they’ll probably get tougher. It’s time to face that mirror again and ask those important questions. Am I a success? Can I document this success, or do I just think I’m a success?
I was at a government facility many years ago, and for one reason or another, the meeting I was attending was held in a conference room adjacent to a hospital ward that cared for veterans with demonstrated psychiatric issues.
We took a break from the meeting and I went to the washroom. While I was washing my hands, one of the patients stood next to me and looked at me in a funny way. I told the gentleman to have a nice day, and he asked me if he could ask a question. I said sure, and he reached over and touched my suit jacket and said, “Sir, that must be expensive.” I told him it wasn’t, and told him where I purchased the suit and how much I paid for it. He replied, “Well, sir, no matter what you say, you look very expensive.” I said, “Thank you,” and went on my way.
Naturally, when I told everyone at the meeting what had transpired, it became a laughing matter. The analogy here is that while it may look like you spend a lot for something, it still pays to shop around. To this day, the people who were in that meeting still remind me of this story and ask about that expensive suit. I still have it, and it still looks expensive, even though I have aged accordingly.


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