Years ago I heard businessman Phil Cave’s presentation at the Australian Christian Media Conference. I was so impressed that I wanted to share a couple of Phil’s stories with you. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor level of leadership at non-profits, churches, or companies of any kind, then you’ll enjoy his experiences:
He passionately believes that leadership is about people. Most people think they’re leading companies, but the truth is, they’re leading people. Phil is in the corporate turnaround business, and he buys poorly performing companies and turns them into profit making companies. He said that most people don’t realize that a successful turnaround is about motivating people and re-thinking how they work. He calls businesses he’s buying, “companies who have lost their way.” He said they’d lost their way in most cases because of poor leadership and vision.
As an example of the importance of people skills, he told the story of buying a poorly performing company that was run by a CEO with such poor people skills that he installed three lights outside his office door. If the RED light was on, don’t dare come in. If the ORANGE light was on, then you could knock and perhaps he would see you. If the GREEN light was on, then you could walk right in.
After buying the company, the first thing Phil’s team did was to fire that CEO. The second thing they did was to rip out his door lights!
He also related an interesting story about a factory he purchased in rural China. After buying the company, his team realized that about 5% of the employees in the main factory were on the take. There were 1500 total employees, but the 5% that were corrupt impacted the ethics and productivity of the entire company. Although he hated to penalize the majority of workers who were doing the right thing, they decided to shut down the factory and move the entire operation to a different province and start over. He passionately believes that any corruption or incompetence is unacceptable, and it has to be dealt with immediately. His sense of ethical standards is so high, that it’s worth the (in that case) incredible expense to create a company focused on excellence, expertise, and integrity.
His advice? Deal with corruption or incompetence quickly, because the longer it continues in an organization, the faster your slide to failure.