“If the ship is sinking, go the fuck down with it.You always owe that much.”
You may not share the experiences of the author of this blog, nor may you share his views but I hope you see the important questions he is raising around trust, around loyalty, around relationships and around values. All nice soft words these but there is not a person in the world being shot, a person dying of hunger, a bomb being dropped, a device exploded, or millions living in fear and uncertainty, that do not have their roots in these words. But you might question why I am raising these huge topics in the context of business, of companies! Only because business and companies are perfectly placed to seriously enhance or seriously erode trust, loyalty, relationships and values in our world. As it stands, I am sure you will recognize, the former is much more likely the case. Changing how it is and will be, might seem to call for nothing less than a revolution. Maybe so, but it can be a bloodless revolution. It can be a revolution of the heart and in how managers think and behave. This might seem to call for sacrifice and heroics and for managers reneging on their responsibilities to their companies. But, this is very far from the truth and far from the thinking and experience of those managers and companies in many countries who are going down this road. It seems that having good values and sticking to them is actually good for business…or for many of them. Yes, I know these are still few, a drop in the ocean, but they show that it is possible to be loyal to all stakeholders at the same time and run very successful organizations and organizations that will last.
This is what is required – loyalty to all the stakeholders…always…at the same time and refusing to sacrifice suppliers, customers, our society AND our own people EVER. Why? Because people should never be sacrificed for any reason. Why? Because remaining loyal to all stakeholders will create a Company that customers are proud to buy from, suppliers proud to supply, shareholders proud to own and people proud to belong to.
Yes, you may think that companies are already loyal to all their stakeholders. Don´t they have lovely visions and proudly publish their values statements? Yes they do but everyone knows who is paying the piper and what tune will get played when the pressure for increased financial gain comes on. If you don’t believe me, ready or listen to any review of how a Company is doing! What is most troubling is that we all accept and go along with this. We take it as normal, as ok. We take it as normal to arbitrarily up-sticks and move elsewhere for lower costs without a thought for the cost to the people who get discarded in the process. ‘But, that’s business. That’s how things are. They’re the rules of the game.’ Yes, but it is a game in which there is no loyalty among the players and the onlookers are accomplices in the dismantling of all belief in society and in the destruction of people’s faith in companies and institutions. Someone has to pay for this…eventually. Maybe it is all of us who will pay and are paying. Wars, ‘terrorism’, injustice, conflict, economic domination and inequality on all sides, as well as destroying our own environment, fouling our own nest, are some of the prices we are paying.
But, none of this is necessary. Those Companies who are pioneering new ways of running and managing their business show that this damaging way of running a business is not necessary, and, in the longer term is seriously detrimental to the welfare of the business itself. Not to mention to society which is all of us. Is it asking or expecting too much of Companies to give the lead on this? I don’t think so. I believe it is possible to get in touch with and stir the enormous good will that is present in so many leaders in organizations who, deep down, know that what is, is wrong and that there has to be a better way. If only they can be put in touch with the truth and beauty that is the deepest parts of us as rich human beings. Deep down we all want work, business and our companies to be very different and we will all be so proud when we are party to them truly serving society.