April 09, 2020

Character

There's nothing like a catastrophe to reveal character.

When times are good, it can be hard to tell the good players from the bad ones. On a recent consulting project, the Executive Team were best friends. All was good. Business was great. When you are earning a $200,000 bonus you find it possible to coexist with people you disagree with.

Early in my consulting career, I worked with a client ... a bad client. You can see trouble coming a mile away, but you're starting your consulting career and you have to get paid somehow. On the surface, the client painted a positive story. They never shared sales/profit results (the client a paragraph earlier would share anything you asked to see), they just said they wanted "assistance". I was invited to a company picnic so I could see how well everybody got along. For the low cost of a day-long consulting visit and coach seating, I was asked a plethora of $100,000 questions. Merchants thought the Marketers were nuts. Marketers thought that the Analytics dude was a problem. The Analytics dude thought everybody was a problem.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from Marketing Leadership. Business problems were now caused by ... wait for it ... wait for it ... me!! It was my fault. The Analytics guru and the Marketing Leader beat the living daylights out of me. Was it a great experience? Absolutely! You have to figure out how to manage Business Leaders.

I think about this client all the time. Bad business reveals character. This company assembled a weak group of Leaders, and those folks wanted somebody to blame ... why not the consultant who was paid a couple thousand dollars and was provided with the luxury of coach seating?

What happens when Business Leaders are faced with a modern response to a modern Plague?  You're finding out, in real time, aren't you? Bad business reveals character. If your Leadership Team is paying you not to work, lets you work from home, respects your efforts, pays your bonus regardless of sales levels, well, they've just revealed their true character to you.

Is your Executive Team treating you kindly even though there's only four months of cash left to say in business? Yes? Well, they're revealing their true character to you.

In response to Character, we're going to see a gigantic "reshuffling" of labor. Too many people lost jobs, too many companies were shut down causing damage that will be hard (but not impossible) to overcome. This will send labor scattering in all directions. There's no reason for a furloughed Macy's worker to come back to Macy's in three months when there will be choices (and there are ALWAYS choices ... even when ten million people are unemployed). Business Leaders who exhibit Character will retain employees while getting the pick of the litter of those who have not been treated well.

When we reboot the economy, we're going to see a gigantic reshuffling of labor. Be ready to take advantage of what is coming. Make sure your impeccable Character is valuable to your company. Make sure the Executives who lead your company exhibit Character, or consider finding a new company to work for when we open back up.

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