Saturday, August 13, 2011
As many of you know, I just got back from Maui after a week of R&R with my wife. It was a nice vacation, to be sure. I needed the time away and that is definitely a great place to do so. I mean, what is not to like: beautiful beaches, perfect weather, snorkeling, parasailing, eating WAY too much, and those drinks with the little umbrellas!
But do you know the first thing we did when we got back? We paid off our credit cards! Makes sense, right? We had saved up the money while I was deployed and then settled up once we got back. Now, contrast that with our “leaders” in Washington. What is the first thing they did after running up the credit card to the max and then doing nothing to pay it off? They created chaos in the markets, struck a deal that only raised the credit limit on the card, and then they all left town and went on…vacation!
Now, I don’t want these pages to become a political battleground. I generally stay out of politics here but then again, we find examples of good and bad leadership in all areas and it drives me crazy to see this example of horrific leadership. There is no sense of urgency, no building of consensus, very few new ideas, and no solutions. We have a real economic hairball, one that we would not allow in our own businesses, let alone our families. Yet this mess will inevitably damage our businesses and our families for generations. Those responsible for it pat each other on the back for making a deal, leave town, and avoid accountability! They stay away from hard choices, going for the “easier wrong” instead of the “harder right!” They blame each other instead of working together. Am I frustrated? You bet I am. Aren’t you? Little wonder that we have the lowest consumer confidence in 30+ years and approval rates among our political leaders that suggest they ALL may be looking for new jobs in November! That may not be such a bad thing!
Meanwhile, we HAVE to find solutions! I’d like to think that the framework for Leader Business might offer a few questions to help us figure our way out of this mess.
Plan – How do we develop a national plan for the way ahead? Note: Forming a committee ain’t it! Where in the world have you ever seen the solution to an emergency is to form a committee??? How about locking people in a room until they figure this out? How about cancelling vacations? How do we have an honest framing of the problem so that the citizenry can see the urgency and be ready to participate in the sacrifices that we’ll all have to make? What are our national Goals and Objectives? What is a reasonable timeline to get back to balance? Where are the bold solutions, what are the risks, and how do we mitigate them?
Prepare – How do we build the teams necessary to tackle these problems? How do we communicate with each other in order to prepare people for the upcoming challenges? What metrics can we agree need to be the focus of this dialogue and how do we hold our leaders accountable to them? What are our priorities and how do we align resources accordingly so that we keep our promises, take care of people, defend our interests, stimulate the economy, make meaningful, strategic investments AND live within our means?
Execute – What MUST we do and what can we put on our National “Stop Doing” list? How do we measure performance, hold people accountable, and WIN in those areas that matter the most (jobs, academics, science, defense)? How do we hold people accountable within our government such that they don’t get to retain their jobs when they don’t perform?
Learn -- How are we taking ownership of problems instead of blaming each other? Who is courageous enough to articulate how we got into this mess while describing the steps that ALL will need to take to improve? How do we avoid these problems in the future? How do we educate the citizenry on where we are, where we are going, and why it is critical to do so?
Friends, I won’t pretend to have all the answers. In fact, you’ll note that above is simply a list of questions. But I have no doubt that we need our leaders to start generating answers to these questions. We have a true financial crisis that is growing across the world. This isn’t time to go on vacation! Nor is it time to blame each other and try to posture to win the next election! It’s time to get to work. Let’s roll up our sleeves, quit fretting about our problems, and start solving them.
I regularly share one of my favorite expressions with my daughters when they are wasting time, wringing their hands over a problem instead of getting going on solving it: “We can’t step up the stairs if we are paralyzed staring at the steps!” It’s time to take the first step. Let’s call it, oh…I don’t know, PLANNING! The rest of the steps will follow. It’s a proven approach. The alternative is…paralysis. Unfortunately, that may be where we are now. It’s my firm belief that we are better than this. But only if our leaders get going and figure out a way to show some basic economic leadership like we expect in our own families and businesses. This isn’t a political statement. This is…Leader Business.