John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Performance matters when managment fails.

When management fails, your work matters more – for you and for others!

So there is a good question posted – and some thoughts on the topic here.

 If management sucks, does your work still matter?  The point of the article was that your work matters in some ways because even if your managers and executives are terrible, your work serves as a resume going forward. The point of the article is that stellar work during difficult times serves as evidence that you perform well regardless of obstacles.  That can lead to future performance. The example given was Motorola’s CEO who held that philosophy. The article did not specify which of Motorola’s current Co-CEO’s, but it isn’t so relevant. There are countless other examples. Let me offer this one – a star professional athlete on an underperforming team is working for his or her team. The athlete puts in practice time, cares for teammates, and performs on the field or court. Every game, every event is in-effect an audition for another team that can bid for his or her services. In some sports, there is a “contract year bounce” in performance in the year before an athlete becomes a free agent.  So – from a selfish me-first perspective, performance matters regardless of management quality.

Is that the only reason? Is that the best reason?  No. It is not the only reason, and it is absolutely not the best reason. 

There is another more important reason why your work does matter and in my opinion, matters even more during times of management weakness and failure. I think that work during those times matters more because good people can produce good performance that can overcome leadership failures.

You can call that managing up. You can call it overcoming obstacles or you can call it whatever you want. A captain can fly a dying plane into a river but every employee on that plane is responsible for getting the passengers out safely.  A captain can make sure a ship is in a good shipping lane, but every officer and sailor on the ship matters. It is the sailor on lookout who has to see the icebergs, who has to decide that they pose risk, and who has to communicate that in a way that results in a new direction for the ship to sail.  The best reason is that management failures do not necessarily mean organizational failures.

Management failure has more impact and particularly important in smaller organizations, and in top-down hierarchies. Performance is important, beyond the self-first perspective, because it matters to everyone. In a corporate environment, everyone’s performance makes a difference in increasing value. That value is delivered to customers, shareholders, owners, and fellow employees.

Consider the financial services meltdown during 2008.  Bear Stearn’s CEO may have known about the asset based securities that the company was involved in, but the CEO at Bear Stearns did not compute the risk of the asset backed securities. Those securities were probably at the root of the destruction of value. That value destruction hurt the shareholders, customers and employees of Bear Stearns, and it was a significant event in the meltdown of the entire financial sector.  How bad was it?

“on March 16, 2008, Bear Stearns signed a merger agreement with JP Morgan Chase in a stock swap worth $2 a share … (the) sale price represented a staggering loss as its stock had traded at $172 a share as late as January 2007, and $93 a share as late as February 2008.”

 Employees should have understood the risk of those asset backed securities. They should have communicated that risk. They should have taken a part in redirecting the course that their ship was taking.  Someone had to make a knowing decision that those risks were an iceberg that they were going to sail into. In titanic terms, sailing that direction promised good returns, and increased risks. Ultimately, the financial ruins caused by that iceberg were devastating to customers, leaders, employees, shareholders, and everyone.  Should the CEO have picked a different course for his corporate ship? Absolutely.   That’s a simple call.  Did the employees see the potential risk? Evidence suggests they did. So what mattered?

Employee performance matters!

 It matters to the employee who performs because of all those intangible me-first things like salary, bonuses, and accolades – and employee performance matters more to everyone else. In a corporate environment, employee performance matters more when leadership fails because employees can help a poorly managed organization avoid the risks that could damage or destroy the organization, the shareholders, the employees and the customers.


August 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Add comments if you wish.

    Comment by John | August 23, 2009 | Reply

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