Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - January 21, 2009

Everybody Knows . . . or Should!

Yesterday, with much pomp and ceremony, a new President of the United States was inaugurated, and this change of administration was perhaps a bit different from most. One striking aspect of this transition is that just about everyone in the country has heard about the greatest challenges we face, and about many of the options being considered for overcoming those challenges.

Nearly every citizen is aware of the economic downturn, and that we are at war, and even that climate change presents enormous threats to the futures we envisioned just a little while ago. And most have heard the discussions about stimulus packages, taxes, troop withdrawal, and so on.

Perhaps that seems only natural, but it really is an unusual situation, driven by extraordinary changes (and media attention) in the last year or so.

Typically, in a national election, different candidates present different priorities, and even where they agree on challenges, they might present different options . . . or no clear options, at all! When a new administration comes in, many, perhaps most, people aren't really sure what two or three things matter most to the new team, what their first steps will be, what will take precedence over everything else in the months to come.

In other words, after most elections, the situation is more like it is in so many businesses, and so many banks, where the "citizens" -- both employees and customers -- are more than a little unsure about what the "leaders" (bank management) see as the most pressing challenges, and what options, what changes in the way they do business, are under consideration to address those challenges.

We have lots of excuses for this obscurity, stuff like:

Make enough of these kinds of excuses now, in the dark times, and when the light returns, you'll still be making excuses. You'll be explaining why your competitors are getting more out of the recovery than you are, and why the customers and employees you thought would be loyal are headed out the door.

Sure, we're all tired of hearing bad news. But not knowing what's up is always worse. The unknown is a great stressor, and it is also a breeding ground for rumor and assumption. The best way to confirm people's worst beliefs about your company is to keep your mouth shut, to look like you know something you don't want them to know.

And employees simply don't execute "orders" very well, "because management said so." To get through these times, do you want your staff to simply "do the work", or do you want them to contribute?

We don't know for sure, of course, whether the new President has identified the proper priorities, or promoted the best solutions. But surely you don't think we'd be better off, in these times, if we didn't know what he was thinking, or what the government was considering in response to the various threats we all face.

Certainly, there are details and ideas you don't have to share -- I'm not promoting "bare all" management

But unless people can see where you are leading, with enough information to respect your choices, few of them are truly going to follow you along the path you have chosen.