Saturday, June 20, 2015

Caring and Giving In

By Steven M. Worth, President at Plexus Consulting Group, LLC

The world and everything that is in it belongs to those who care the most.

How is that for a breathtaking statement? But think about it for a moment, isn’t it true? In the competition for scarce opportunities, how many opportunities fall into the hands of those who don’t care? It happens in lotteries and fairy tales perhaps, but otherwise not often in real life.

In these stressful times, we are seeing things we have rarely seen before—boards of directors giving up on organizations that were placed in their care by deciding to close up shop or to merge their organization into another. Like a person or a favorite pet it is difficult to see an organization die.

But unlike human and animal life organizations do not have a finite lifespan. Theoretically they could go on forever; so any organizational death is premature. In effect a decision to terminate an organization’s existence represents a failure of sorts, of those who were responsible for guiding it.

So what?--failures happen, and when they do sometimes the wisest course is to graciously admit defeat and to move on in the least painful way possible. But these are difficult times. Nearly every organization is suffering and during a time that requires creativity and fortitude I feel sorry for organizations that are being led by individuals with a low threshold for pain.

The late psychiatrist Scot Peck expounded on his thesis in his best selling book, A Road Less Traveled, that many if not most of his patients were people who found themselves in great emotional and even physical misery because of their fear of confronting problems or challenges they had encountered in their lives. I think the same may be true for the leaders of many organizations—that rather than change the way things are done when they clearly are not working, they choose instead to “stay the course” and ignore the obvious until it can be ignored no longer--thereby precipitating the death of the organization they supposedly care for so much.

Is this too harsh? Perhaps for some organizations it is; but I think it might bring relief to all leaders to remember to put things in their context. Winston Churchill did this so well in his famous “Never give in” speech which I have excerpted below:

  • But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough…. 
  • Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense…..
  • Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days…..and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable….
Some time ago we wrote an article that was published about an association that showed this courage—“Be Sure You’re Right, then Go Ahead.” This type of courage is inspiring and could well make the difference between looking back at this time as the time when your association ceased to exist, as opposed to the time when your organization’s leadership proved they truly cared.

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