Culture, Leadership

Who Holds the Real Keys to the Organization, Anyway?

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What is the narrative of your movie reel?

The rank-and-file workforce had weathered layoffs, had their commissions slashed, and on top of that, their salaries had been frozen over the past five years.

However, the chief executive’s decision was this — let’s have the senior management team take a lavish trip down to Bermuda and live it up.

That was the story over at Benjamin Moore, where the CEO and top executives recently took that fateful trip.

How does clueless look?

The results were not pretty. Warren Buffett, who owns Benjamin Moore, made the decision to oust the CEO basically for being clueless. He flew in a group of officials and they fired Benjamin Moore CEO Denis Abrams on the spot. They even humiliated him by giving him just a few minutes to pack up his things before escorting him from the building.

Incredulously, it was noted that he kept asking what he’d done wrong. ”They told him to clear his stuff out while they stood and watched every move he made.”

It has gotten to the point that I have become jaded with corporate behavior. Nothing fazes me anymore. I heard the Benjamin Moore story on the radio as I was driving home. My reaction? I just shook my head and moved mentally to something else.

Reality and the new world order

The company is in bad shape. No salary increases, commissions slashed, and the decision as soon as the first quarterly sales increase since 2007 comes into view: Fly the senior team down to Bermuda, charter a yacht, have a sumptuous meal, and live large to celebrate.

That is the way it used to be done, but welcome to reality and the new world order. Those types of celebrations are relics of the “Mad Men” era.

I had a friend call me during the past Christmas holiday. His firm had just gone through another round of layoffs. He told me how despondent everyone was and that the CEO had just taken a seven figure bonus. Although their company was really struggling, this leader still took the money.

In a divorce, I have always said there are three sides: husband, wife, and the truth. In the corporate world there are also three sides: CEO, HR, and the employees. Instead of assuming what your employees want, just ask them.

Assumptions can no longer be made

It seems that there is no connectivity between the three aforementioned prongs of an organizations. CEO’s and their team see it one way, while HR has another view — and the key to it all is people.

Want to know who has the keys?

  • Employees matter, more than any other entity within the organization — be it products or hard assets.
  • Employees are the ones that will innovate and build the products.
  • Employees are the ones that support and serve the organization’s customers.
  • Employees create value.
  • Employees undermine value.
  • Employees cultivate relationships and, by the same token, can kill relationships. Employees drive success but they can also undermine success.

The power of energized & motivated employees

Regardless of what the organization’s goals are, if they are in the hands of mistreated, misinformed, and forgotten people in the process, it is not going to happen.

There is no comparison to being in the hearts and hands of energized, informed, and motivated people.

Organizations are ever-changing and are dependent on the engagement, talent, and energy of their people to operate successfully.

At a companies own peril, they can ignore the mental well-being of your people and culture. Step inside any company, no matter the size, stage of development, or level of success, and the culture is either driving the strategy or undermining it.

Ron Thomas is a human resources officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was director, talent and human resources solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He's also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a faculty partner and executive facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com or on Twitter.