Leadership: Avoid Emily Litella Syndrome
Emily Litella, in one
of her typical on-air rants: “What’s this I hear about computer
parking lots? We’re in a recession, people are losing their jobs, and
now we have parking lots for computers! It’s an outrageous waste of land
Jane Curtin, with her
typical disdain for Emily: “It’s commuter parking
Emily: “Oh … Never
A note to those of
you too young to have experienced Saturday Night Live’s original cast
from the 1970s: Look up
Emily Litella on Wikidpedia. Better yet, see her
on YouTube. Played by the late, great Gilda Radner, Emily was a
commentator for the SNL Weekend Update news. Emily always jumped to rash
and incorrect conclusions because she never had the right facts.
Do your employees do
the same thing?
encounter business owners who are worried that their employees will find
out either how well or how poorly the company is doing. Of course,
lately it’s trending toward the “poorly” end of the spectrum – but
either way, here’s my usual response:
aren’t dumb. They’ll probably figure it out. But even if you can
hide the truth, why would you? In the absence of facts and information,
your employees will make assumptions and jump to conclusions. Their
decisions and behaviors will be based on these false assumptions. How do
you expect that to work out?”
A little transparency
goes a long way.
That word –
transparency - seems especially relevant today, given our current state
of affairs. Think about the world of big-business, banking, and high
finance. A string of crumbled companies, bankruptcies, lost pensions,
mass firings, devastated families and broken dreams. Don’t even get me
started on Congressional “leaders” who make deals behind closed doors
and ram legislation through without even allowing their members to read
bills before voting.
Many of America’s
economic woes could have been avoided, but for a lack of transparency.
I’d argue that
transparency gives rise to leadership.
In an open
environment, leadership is a must. It requires you to carefully choose
the “people on the bus” who are worthy of trust and who will act in the
business’ best interests with the information given to them. It also
means that you’ll have to explain the information - to mentor and train
your team – so they’ll know what it all means.
full and effective delegation. “Here’s the goal. Go make it happen.”
Knowing the organization’s goals, financial status, and available
resources allow confident decision-making.
Integrity – a
cornerstone of leadership - goes hand-in-and with openness. Shady
business practices are like fungus and vampires. They don’t thrive in
the bright light of day.
Business owners who
worry that their employees will know the company’s status are
withholding information and keeping their employees in the dark – and
still expecting good results. It’s much like asking someone to play a
sport without keeping score.
secrecy-cloaked environment throws a blanket over every potential
solution. Aside from the top leaders, nobody has the big picture: “What
should I do? What can I do? What resources are available?
What methods make sense for our current financial situation?” The lack
of information will result in questions, false assumptions, and faulty
decisions … making micro-management necessary.
So often, the small
business community looks to the captains of industry for answers. It
sure seems to me that the example set lately by the big business
community calls for a shift in thinking.
Why can’t the small
and mid-sized business community set the tone for a change? Let’s start
a revolution of our own. Let’s be the example-setters. Let’s be the
poster-boys and poster-girls for transparency. For integrity. For solid
business practices. And for leadership.
The Emily Litella act
was funny on TV. It’s not funny in your organization. Open up and get
Emily off your payroll.
Bill Collier is a St. Louis-based business coach, consultant and speaker.
He is the author of the book “How
to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life.”
His website is www.collierbiz.com,
and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org