During a conversation today with senior leaders of one of America’s once great companies, I learned of their plans to cut costs during the next fiscal year. After several years of budget cuts, sales declines, sinking employee morale, stress and burnout, and the theft of personal passion and inspiration, the solution for these leaders is to cut more.
It has often been said that we can’t shrink our way to greatness. Yet it is stunning to see the lack of imagination among many of America’s corporate leaders who can only see things in terms of numbers and fail to grasp the concept that until we inspire the hearts and minds of all the souls who get everything done in our organizations – employees, customers, suppliers and everyone else who connects them, we have no hope of growing and restoring recently lost greatness.
The New York Times today published a remarkable piece by Greg Smith titled, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs”. It is remarkable for the courage of the author to write it, for the Grey Lady to publish it, and because it describes one of the fundamental misconceptions that is hurting America’s corporations. I strongly urge you to read it and reap.
Now, more than ever, we need courage not cowardice. Investing in people, inspiring them, inviting them to contribute and serve, and trusting them to do their best, live and work with integrity and set examples for the rest of us – these are the needed steps now to rev up our engines. Employees are tired and burned out (our free Job Burnout Survey receives some of the highest traffic on our website) and the last thing they need to hear is that they are going to be asked to do even more with less. Instead, they need to be asked, “What can you contribute that will put us back on the road to greatness?” and, “As your leader, how can I serve you best to make that happen?”
Failing to grasp this essential wisdom will result in many familiar names dropping off Fortune’s recently published Most Admired Companies list next year.