The business environment is generally highly professional. You (ostensibly) only get to be a true leader if you have spent years and decades in your career. You, as the professional, hone your skills and learn your industry nuances over time. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll find a mentor to help guide your career as it progress. By the time you have some grey in your hair you know the ropes, you understand the process. You know what it really takes to be successful for the long haul. You have realistic expectations on what can be accomplished. Even if you are an entrepreneur it takes time to become a seasoned leader and even the most successful tech startups with historically unprecedented growth have process in place where the tech company investors will bring in management with gravitas as soon as the company looks like it’s going to turn into something really big. This is ultimately a well understood business process that includes a mature professional outlook and the related responsible decision making.
Their was a moment recently when I was fruitlessly arguing with my 7 year old over some ridiculous and obviously flawed point he was trying to prove, like the importance of staying up past his bedtime on a school night. I took pause for a minute when I realized that there is a flipside to the aforementioned professional maturity. There is an immaturity to wall street and the business world that rivals and surpasses that of my son. Here are a few ways in which the corporate world can be as immature as my 7 year old.
No Concept of the Future:
Wall Street is all about the future, right? The problem is that wall street thinks in quarters, not in decades. This trickles down to the CxO board rooms. We have to meet the number this week, this month, this quarter, this year. If we don’t there is going to be massive layoffs, even if the company can afford to keep the workforce around for the long haul. It’s so rare when a company intends to keep people around during a slow time it’s considered news.
The reality is that the mature approach is to get the right people and continually invest in them for the long haul. Tuition reimbursements, benefits, mentoring programs, identified career ladders, etc… Have programs that are structured around keeping your people around and focused on skill growth. As long as the organization is profitable, then the organization leadership should always keep at least half their focus on the long haul. Otherwise they get in the cycle of continually being in a crisis mode for not enough staff, not enough organizational knowledge, or not enough tools and equipment to scale when the eventual uptick in the business climate calls for it.
No Ability to ease off:
“Why don’t you go to bed?” I’ll ask my 7 year old as he rubs his eyes after a long day that included swimming, playing, a birthday party. His resistance is palpable. He says no, fusses, and then starts crying when I send him to bed. He still wants to go 24/7, non stop. He’s exhausted, but won’t comprehend he’s nearing his version of a breaking point. Employers are the same in that they never understand the balance between work and rest. They don’t comprehend that the big push should not be a chronic thing, the company’s projects should never be in constant crisis mode. Organizations as a whole need down time, rest time. From Technicians to Certified Nursing Assistants, from forklift drivers to CAD/CAM operators. Everything doesn’t need to feel like they have to put in overtime 24/7. The slow season should be embraced by the company not used as a reason for a right sizing. Rest time should always be rest time and planned for and enjoyed. It takes maturity to see this, in the same way an adult will say “if I don’t get my 8 hours of sleep in, i’ll have a bad day tomorrow” our companies need to say “If we don’t have at least X time of not pushing, then we will not have a workforce ready for the next season.
They want it all:
“Do you want a poptart or a doughnut for breakfast?” I will ask, and the answer comes “Uh.. both”. It’s the same response when I ask “Do you want Ice Cream or cake for your dessert?” or when I say “You have enough money on your birthday gift card for the dinosaur or the transformer, which one do you want more?”. The challenge isn’t really in the limitation of resources.. It’s the resistance, the temper tantrum that shows itself when the reality of only having one or the other.
The corporate office equivalents are “Do you want to be at the show, or do you want me in the office working on the big project?”. Do you want to be the high priced leader or have marketshare? “I’m triple booked” is the response from the manager. This scales organizationally. Casper now offers sheets and pillows (obvious and reasonable line extension). When Casper starts offering household management software, or living room furniture you know they will have jumped the shark organizationally. If a company is good at one thing then they should be the best they can be at that one thing, and not try and be everything else. Yes organizations can have many different lines, but the good organizations tend to be really good at only one thing, a single core element, and focus all their business around that.
This analogy can go on for a good long while. Instant gratification, irrationality, etc.. It’s like Wall Street inspired corporate behavior really is about as mature as a screaming child. I get that organizations need to push so as not to become complacent. What i’m surprised is that organizations are made of people, and organizational leadership generally is made up of seasoned professionals. You would think that a reasonable, consistent, measured and moderate approach would be the primary driver of corporate culture. But that approach is superseded by the demands of wall street. Maybe corporate leadership is really made up of 7 year olds like my son who have all gone grey because they are continually triple booked.