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This month's Fresh Milk is taken from the pages of the Contented Cow Blog. We won't do this often in Fresh Milk - maybe not ever again. But we wanted you to see the kinds of things you're likely to see when you visit the blog. More than just a depository for our occasional braindroppings, we've committed to make most of our postings relevant to our topics: leadership, discretionary effort, and creating a great workplace.
Real Leaders Act When the Wheels are Coming Off
By Bill Catlette
Planning to take my dad to Myrtle Beach this week, I was unexpectedly faced with some time on my hands this morning resultant from a last minute decision by an overly officious Marriott timeshare rep to cancel our long scheduled site visit because my wife was unable to accompany us. Grr! (More on this one later.)
Hence, I opted to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, read the paper, and catch a round of cable news before heading to the office. In a span of less than 15 minutes, I saw one of the world's most famous women put on a virtual clinic on leadership on CNN, and then read in USA Today about a handful of American men who would have done well to heed her lesson.
Whoa! Wait. Full stop! Before you read another pixel, I am not referring to Hillary and the pack of ankle-biters nipping at her Jimmy Choos. No, the woman is Oprah Winfrey; the leadership lesson arises from her actions to investigate and resolve the claims of child abuse at her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa; the men are the CEO's (former or about to be) of Citibank, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, Countrywide Financial, et. al.
According to Oprah's public account of the situation, fifteen students at her school recently summoned the courage to go to the school's CEO and inform him that a classmate was being sexually abused by a staff member, and that others were otherwise being mistreated.
Almost immediately, Ms. Winfrey was on a plane to South Africa, backed up by an investigative team she'd hired to help local authorities get to the bottom of the matter. According to her CNN statement, she met with every student of the school, encouraged them to cooperate with investigators, met with the children's parents, and in general, cleaned house. Indeed, the dorm matrons have all been replaced, and one of the school's employees has already been charged with thirteen counts of criminal behavior. Ms. Winfrey reportedly went so far as to give each of the girls a cell phone and encouraged them to call her personally if they ever felt the need.
Consistent with the organization's core purpose, she made it a point to let the fifteen students who had reported the abuse know that their brave actions were wholly consistent with being a good leader.
Conversely, since early spring, we've been hearing about the misdeeds and efforts by "investment bankers" and others to slap lipstick on the rapidly growing pig called "subprime" that is literally about to eat tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people out of house and home. Had Messrs. Cayne, Mozila, O'Neal, and Prince and company been as determined as Ms. Winfrey to get to the bottom of this mess, it is doubtful that their shareholders and employees would still be watching billions of invested dollars and thousands of jobs disappear each week.
Oprah didn't dodge, duck, delay, or obfuscate. She didn't convene a task force and give them six months to report back. Rather, acting like someone whose name is on the door (it is), she got her fanny on a plane, went to Johannesburg, and started taking care of business.
While they don't go off half cocked, at the end of the
day, good leaders act decisively because they have
two things going for them:
Well done, ladies.
Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.
Contact Bill (901- 853-9646) or Richard (904-720-0870), and let's talk about how we can make your next meeting a colossal success!
Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC