“If Sunbeam can’t be fixed in a year, it can’t be fixed,” said Al “The Chainsaw” Dunlap as he entered the board room. At the time, Dunlap had a reputation for turning businesses around that were performing poorly. Previously, he had helped increase earnings and stock prices at Scott Paper by cutting a third of the workforce and closing plants.
This time it was different. Sunbeam wasn't fixed in a year and his brutal business practices and lack of concern for people got him fired before his second year on the job. Sunbeam suffered from his short term leadership view point and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
The lesson: Dunlap’s profit over people mentality and focusing on short-term monetary gains as opposed to joining Sunbeam and being in it for the long haul is simply what bad leaders do. If you google Al Dunlap, the second link will say, "Top 10 Worst Bosses of All Time". Great leaders take a long term or long haul approach, valuing people over profit. They do this because they know if they take this approach not only will their people be more fulfilled in the work that they do, but they will produce better results.
There is no question we live in an instant gratification society today, so having a long-term view is probably more challenging than ever before. Here are a few ideas to help you keep a long term view:
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As Jim Collins and Jerry Porras pointed out in “Built to Last,” nearly all of the visionary leaders of successful companies stayed for long periods of time. The average is 32.4 years. I am not suggesting you must stay in the same company or same role for 32 years to be successful, but if your purpose is solely to move to the next big thing, then you are operating with a short-term view. Stop for a minute and ask yourself:
“If I knew I was staying in this job, with this company, the rest of my life what would I do differently?”
It’s “We”, Not “Me”
Shy away from the spotlight and put it on your people. Simon Sinek wrote a leadership book called “Leaders Eat Last,” its title came from how Navy officers eat after their teams instead of before. Ask yourself a simple question, “Do you eat last?” If the answer isn’t a resounding no, then chances are you have a short term view. Here is a simple thing you can put into place starting today. When bad things happen, start your sentences with “I”. Conversely when good things happen they start them with “We” or “They”. Take responsibility when bad things happen regardless of who is at fault. When great things happen, be the first to give praise to your team. Put them first before yourself.
Think Long Term, Act Short Term
Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf fell on the sword for his companies short term sales tactics that created awful long term consequences. Creating urgency and accountability for near-term performance targets can easily encourage shortcuts that destroy value and have insurmountable negative long term consequences. Instead, set targets for near-term results and then outline ideas and tactics that can help the team meet those targets that won't create issues in the future.
I am not saying every leader must commit to working at one company but I believe in my core that the best leaders aren't working with one foot out the door looking for new opportunities. They are completely committed to the job at hand and they handle new opportunities as they arise on a case by case basis.
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