Navigating the corporate landscape

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

I have read dozens, if not hundreds, of  business books over many years, the irony is that many, even those among the best, are not really about business; they focus on being a decent -if not exemplary – human being in the context of working with – producing, buying and selling – with other human beings who may  – or may not always be reliable, trustworthy, capable partners in a life of near continual social and economic exchange.

Mastering this ever shifting terrain is not always easy, but it is essential. Some bosses carry it off with grace and finesse. Others stumble through – and their incompetence has become memorialized in an untold number of stories, movies and television series from “A Christmas Carol” to “The Office” or “Office Space.”

And if you wonder if you, or your boss is one of “them,” take a look at this article from The Harvard Business Review - https://hbr.org/2012/08/are-you-sure-youre-not-a-bad-b.

If you have a boss who takes credit for what you – or anyone else does – you might find some strategies here - http://time.com/money/3340928/how-to-handle-boss-who-takes-credit/.

As in every other arena of life, those who force, manipulate, or deceive their way to “success” rarely hold on to their wealth and power for very long and leave an enduring – if not permanent -  trail of fraud, cynicism and betrayal. But it does not need to be this way.

GiveToGetWEB

Business could be defined, at its essence, as the act of providing goods or services at a reasonable profit.

An enduring business, one with a continuing purpose and identity, is one that keeps its shape and character even as the economic climate shifts or as the business expands into new and sometimes challenging territory. This “territory” could be technological changes, shifting demographics or consumer demands or appetites or literal territorial expansions into cultures that challenge or even defy homegrown values or expectations.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
- Peter Drucker
 

Economics has been described as “the dismal science” perhaps for good reason – but enduring, rewarding economic success is inherently optimistic. And authentic business success is inherently human success more than any monetary accumulation.

From the consumers’ side, shopping of almost any kind is an entirely different experience from a generation ago. Operating and maintaining a business is also an entirely different experience.

Platforms, technology and options have expanded. Everything has changed – except human nature. Each transaction is individual and personal, but every transaction is also universal and follows some basic unvaraible principles.

Each one of us – buyers, sellers, actual or potential customers, want to be respected and treated fairly.

Every transaction involves at least two parties – usually far more. Success is never individual. A corporation is, by definition, more than any one person.

Continuing success – and respect – is slowly, sometimes painfully gained – and easily lost.

Helping others succeed helps the company, the community and ultimately your own career. It is vastly better to have colleagues who thank you for their success than even a few who curse you for sabotaging theirs.

These are the principles that guide any business, any project, to success.

In a way, these principles are obvious. On the other hand, a glance at recent headlines shows even the casual reader, that common sense, decency and even the idea of the common good, have become rare and worth fighting for.

The author draws on both his many years of business and management experience and traditional lore. His first leadership metaphor is a comparison of the lion and the goat. His point is that the lion exudes calm authority while the goat – or even a group of them – bleat, scatter and cower. The lion is the ultimate symbol of elegance, defiance and pride – the goat, in the cultures where goats are common, is primarily known as a menu item. Think and act like a lion, the author tells us.

Another principle he uses is that bulldozers don’t make good team players. If you use your power, title or mandate to get your way – and make it clear that you need no one else, your team (or what’s left of it) will only follow you as long as they need to – and will be likely to cheer when you fail. You may meet short term goals, but in the long term no one respects, values or wants to be associated with – a bully.

Demeaning subordinates is something only a goat would do – petty nicknames or derogatory terms for your workers or competitors is infantile and destructive: and NEVER disparage your boss or predecessor.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
- John C. Maxwell
 

One of his most important points was a focus on how to establish your presence in a new situation. It’s very simple, though very few do it: spend time with, associate with and appreciate those you will be working with – not just those other managers.

These business principles are nearly eternal – everyone wants to be respected, we all do our best when we are appreciated, and most of us flourish under our own autonomy and no one stays long in a situation (job or relationship) where they are humiliated, threatened or disrespected. No one lives in a vacuum. Everyone of us thrives (or not) in ever-shifting landscape of parents, tutors, mentors, and all kinds of accidental or intentional teachers and examples along our way.

If there is any lesson of human history, it is that unbridled, unaccountable individual leadership creates chaos. Wise, enduring leaders are not afraid of accountability – in fact they crave it.

Most businesses (and governments, and organizations) have boards or chambers that act as a balance or corrective. Most of the time, these function well. It is their failures that make the headlines.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. – Arnold H. Glasow 

It seems hard to believe that, from the smallest local boardroom to the highest office in the land, we need to be told not to be crude, bullying, blaming or to play the victim, but Mr. Agarwal has learned, as apparently we all need to, that respect, patience, appreciation and integrity are the ultimate investment in any business.

Give to Get: A senior leader’s guide to navigating corporate life, Vishal Agarwal, Lioncrest Publications, 2018.