Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

There has been an outpouring of reaction and response received from the NY Times editorial of “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs .”  When executive director, Greg Smith blew the whistle on Goldman Sachs before retiring, he put in writing what most of us already knew. Greed rules the financial sector and in many ways – a large segment of the business world. Gone are the days when customers and clients were an organization’s focus and ethical business decisions  were made for the good of the organization and employees as a whole. Or is it just that the courageous whistle blowing of Mr. Smith has opened yet another closed door to the inner sanctum of a deteriorating business culture?

How Much Did We Make?

Mr. Smith goes on to say, “These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave.”

Mr. Smith further states a very fundamental law of business, “I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist.”

How much plainer and simpler can it be? Without customers, your doors will close and your business will cease to exist. Open and shut case.

Morally Bankrupt Workplace Cultures

The former Goldman Sachs executive director also goes on to warn: “ Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons.”

We need to wake up and pay attention folks. Somewhere along the way, our business culture made a wrong turn and it became all about filling the coffers. “Golden Parachutes” and “Occupy Wall Street” are all phrases that have recently been coined to illustrate the current business culture sentiment.

So how do we swing the pendulum back and start focusing on ethics, customers, long-term business strategies, and building “engaged” teams who believe in the organization? It starts with our business leaders.

As Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive recruiting firm put so eloquently, “Leaders’ primary objective is to empower others to make decisions and take actions that are aligned with the organization’s vision, purpose, and strategy. The spotlight is always on the results of the team. It’s not about you.”

As you define and distinguish your leadership, here are some strategies to strengthen your role and provide the upcoming generation of business leaders with solid mentorship: 

  • Become the Mirror Image You Want the World to See. Good leaders have the ability to “set the stage” and empower employees to make wise decisions, display empathy towards other team members and customers, and help an organization thrive into the next generation with a following of loyal customers. 
  • Identify your leadership style.  Master effective leadership skills  to promote open communication and honest dialogue among your team members. Be transparent and get your workforce on the same page with organizational standards of conduct, ethics, and policies. 
  • Take charge of your Organizational “Message” by setting the strategy and agenda you want team members to follow. Develop core values, policies, and business strategies for the long haul of the organization not just the rein of your leadership.  
  • Be humble – As Mr. Burnison stated, “It’s not about you.” Humility means that you know who you are, where you’ve been, and what you have accomplished. With that knowledge, you can get out of your own way and focus on others with confidence that you can lead, inspire, and guide them.

 Recognize that your leadership has an endpoint – the organization should not.

Organizations are initially built on the dreams of entrepreneurs. By building sound business practices, a well entrenched ethical culture, good succession leadership development and reputation organizations should thrive from generation to generation. Leadership is to be passed on to the next set of capable hands to ensure the company’s viability. Clients and customers who lose trust in an organization essentially shut the organization’s doors.

By bringing back ethics and a strong code of conduct into the business arena, organizations will thrive in any economy. But when organizational leaders have the attitude, “How much did we make off the customer/client?” perhaps it is time to blow the whistle as in Mr. Smith’s case.

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