Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The First Rule About New GM Is Don't Talk About Old GM"


I was watching this great spoof of the GM hearing that recently left our nation's Senators wringing their hands.

The message: Look at our silly litigious culture. You can't be honest anymore, unless you don't care whether someone will sue you.

We see the same problem everywhere. Screwups abound - they are inevitable - and leaders try to move us past them, largely by quickly apologizing and then ignoring the past.

I understand that impulse. I hate looking back at my high school photos. That miserable sulking face! That depressed, pity-me poem! The weird slogan I chose for my goodbye saying! Oh why!

But you can't wipe the past away and neither should you. It is your life. Your heritage and you own it.

Similarly, employees are stamped by the legacy of the "old way." You can tell them that there is a "new way," but they are not going to feel it for many, many years past the time of your telling. Probably not until two "new way" cycles from now.

You have to have compassion for people. You have to stand where they stand. When you tell the employee a thing they take it the way they take it, not the way you from your high perch want to drum it into them. People are perceptors, they are brains - they are not things.

There is a book called The Chosen that taught me a lot about being a leader. About having radical compassion.

Like the main character Danny, I was a bright but cold young person from a Hasidic background. Like Danny, I was alienated and did not find myself in religion. And like Danny, I learned that you become a compassionate helper of people when you suffer the pain of aloneness and silence.

Don't talk so much about the "new GM." Go to the people of the "old GM," and just sit with them. You may be able to lead the way. But you also have to walk many miles with them in their shoes.

* All opinions my own.

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