In the book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman gives some great comparisons of leaders who can create great moments and those that take all the greatness for themselves. What I found most interesting is that those that had short-term views were able to make some amazing progress in a short amount of time. That progress, though, was usually followed by stagnation or decline. Those that had a long-term view of the business would have steady incremental gains that could be sustained for decades. The short-term versus long-term mentality was easy to spot.
The short-term approach to organizational success was easy. Pull up a spreadsheet, look for large areas of expense (like people, learning, benefits, or safety), slash those organizations, and collect huge quarterly gains. These leaders were sometimes heralded as financial geniuses when all they did was create value for a few quarters on Wall Street at the expense of the long-term solvency of the organization. At times, when these slash-and-burn leaders were asked to leave the organization, they were further rewarded financially for not making a fuss. What is crazy to me is that this model still shows up regularly as a means of “making the quarter” for the financial forecast. Just look in the news at the layoffs.
The long-term approach is people-centric. When people are engaged and empowered, they are more innovative and driven for success. They will challenge the status quo with the hope of keeping the company competitive. This creates a team that is working toward a common goal of long-term success. When people see the investment in them, it is a signal that the company is committed to a long-term strategy. Those companies that value the talents and expertise of their team create sustainable methods of continuous success. These are the teams that rise the call and embody a company’s mission and values.
Engagement is for the long haul. I have been part of safety programs that were decimated by bad leadership. I was there to not just fix safety problem, but at the very root of the issue was cultural and people problems. And when I say “people problems” I do not mean the employees. The company had fundamentally dismantled any trust through a lack of action. I as a delegate of the company and leadership had to re-engage and create action in correcting unsafe conditions. These fixes cost money and time. If a company is only there for short-term gains, safety pays in a bad way. There is no investment. There are no fixes. There is plenty of blame. That is why I am a firm believer that if you show me a good safety system, I can show you some good leadership. It is because the company has made a conscious choice to partner for the long term with its people.