Introduction: Business and Personal
This book has evolved out of a desire to make a difference. I began my career in 1969 at a Chain Saw manufacturer in Los Angeles, California, and have worked in industry for almost 50 years. During that time I learned many lessons, ones that I would like to pass on to my readers. Somewhere along the line I figured out that I would need to get an education, which I did, and have been blessed through the process. I went back to school in 1988, and continued my studies for about 16 years, from certificate to doctorate, finishing my degrees in 2003. During this time I was many things, father, husband, to a couple of wonderful ladies, Pastor, employee, manager, and Professor. The consistent message I heard through all of those roles was the message of relationship.
I have continued to reinforce this truth in my role as professor and department chair. I have been teaching adult business classes since 1997 and traditionally aged students since 2006. Adult students return to school for various reasons, but one that seems prevalent is the desire to be a better manager than what they had experienced. Many of them have not been managers at the time of their pursuit of a degree, but the desire for promotion was there. Many had experienced poor leadership and wanted to do something different; something that not only made their career more enjoyable, but also the life of their employees.
A While back I heard a speaker say that he had over 7,000 books. This was amazing to me, until I heard that Pope Francis has over one million books. My meager 1,500 seems insignificant, but reading these books have given me a level of understanding that I would never have developed if I had not read them.
Through my pursuit of knowledge, my desire has been to discover what it means to lead and manage well as a practitioner, and pass that knowledge on to my students, and now my readers.
Many statistics are reported on how well, or not so well, organizations are led or managed. Some say that 60% of all employees feel their organizations are not well led, others report different numbers. My experience within the workplace, and listening to my students, demonstrates that the number of bad leaders within organizations is pretty high, which, with all the money that organizations pay to educate and train leaders, seems tragic to me.
Within this book I will explore what I think the reasons are for this reality, and then argue why good business, and leadership for that matter, requires good relationships.
I thought of this the other day when I caught the end of Liam Neeson’s movie Taken. There is this great scene where Neeson’s character has broken free from his capturers and confronts the man who has just sold his daughter to a wealthy sheik. The man who had sold Neeson’s daughter states rather mournfully that it was just business, and as Neeson shoots this man he states, “to me it was all personal.” All of a sudden I saw the essence of the tension we are experiencing. To leaders and managers it is just business, but to the people affected by these changes it is all personal. This tension is why organizations appear to be poorly led.
In Europe people are protesting the reduction of pensions and the increase in retirement age. In Wisconsin people are protesting reduction of wages. Both are the results of austerity needs in response to bloated budgets created during boom times. Governments operating with higher tax revenues due to better economic conditions were able to offer contracts to people that were generous. Money was plentiful, which was like floating a boat down a river. The water was high, therefore all the rocks were covered and the leader could navigate the ship freely to its destination. However, when the water level was reduced, recessionary tax revenue reduction, all of a sudden the rocks are exposed. What we are observing is the result of the lowering of available money. Now we see all the rocks, all the problems of overspending and mismanagement. To me these events illustrate the importance of operations management. Organizations (for profit, not-for-profit, NGO’s, or governmental) need to be run well. Efficiency and effectiveness is just as important today as any time in the past. However, as we move down this road of economic adjustment we need to remember that organizations are made up of human beings: human beings that are afraid of the future. During this chaotic moment of change, managers, leaders must remember to care; let me emphasize this, they must never forget to care.
This book is about how to lead an organization in a manner where people feel valued, instead of exploited. Karl Marx’s critique of Capitalism argues that the process of gaining profit encourages the Capitalist to exploit the Proletariat, the worker, to gain surplus profit. This exploitation has been expressed in many different ways throughout history. The most recent would be sweat shops, etc. But the fact is, exploitation is still prevalent in this country.
The enlightened manager takes this reality seriously. They don’t just want to get the task done, they want it to get done well. To get the task done well, means people engaged within the process to complete the task well. Exploitation won’t accomplish this, but coaching and support will.
Good leadership is not about making business decisions that hurt people, good leadership is about creating good relationships with all stakeholders associated with the organization. That is what this book is about. How to accomplish this!
Introduction: Business and Personal