The headline to an article in a February, 1968 issue of the Wall Street Journal read something like, “Domestic Automobile Sales Down, Foreign Automobile Sales Up; Japan Could Be Big Player Someday.”Today, some 41 years later, with Chrysler and GM going into bankruptcy, are we in a position to fully appreciate the profoundness of that headline.The Japanese automakers took on the mighty US automakers on their own turf and in a little over 40 years took control of the American auto industry.What’s more, they made it look easy.
This begs the question: Why was it so easy for the Japanese automakers to walk in and take over?The answer is simple.The senior executives running the American auto companies were completely and totally out of touch with the basics of making and selling cars—they lacked hands on knowledge and experience in dealing with front line employees, customers, suppliers and technologies.This made for pretty easy pickings for the Japanese auto executives who were well schooled in those same basics.Consequently, when the Japanese automakers moved in, the American automakers had nothing to counter with.For the Japanese, it was like fighting a battle where your counterparts had no weapons.And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “You know the rest of the story.”
Far too many American business executives are using the state of the economy as an excuse for doing nothing to get us out of this recession.They’re sitting back and waiting for something to happen rather than taking the initiative to make something happen—they’re waiting for the economy to get better, for economic stimulus money to be doled out, for credit to loosen up and for the federal government to do something. While they’re waiting, they’re hunkering down, tightening their belts, laying people off and looking for additional ways to cut costs.The problem is that these are the very actions that will prolong the current recession rather than shortening it.
There’s something grossly wrong with this picture.This is not the business mindset that has made America the great country that it is.It’s as if American business executives have lost their compass.Now is the time when they should be demonstrating their leadership by putting American businesses on the fast track out of this recession.They can do this by focusing their attention on the one resource available to their businesses whose behavior they can influence—their employees—the people who do the work that their companies get paid for.The better these people are treated, the harder they’ll work and the harder they work, the quicker the company’s revenue stream begins to grow and that’s what the fast track out of this recession is all about.
In our new book, Instant Turnaround! Harry Paul and I provide a detailed program for making this happen.The beauty of this program is that anyone who chooses to implement it won’t have to wait a month, six weeks or a year to see results; things will start turning around on the very first day.What’s more, this program is easy to execute, there’s absolutely no risk, it costs nothing it drives productivity and revenue through the roof and everybody wins.Those executives who choose to implement this program will immediately put their companies on the fast track out of this recession and look like heroes.Those who don’t will soon be wondering why they’re the only ones still in a slump.
In their book, The Invisible Employee, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton estimate the cost of employee turnover in America to be 1.7 trillion dollars annually. That’s a huge drain on American businesses. They also cite studies which point out that the biggest single reason people quit their jobs is the behavior of their immediate bosses–they were either abusive, didn’t care about them, didn’t listen, didn’t notice or appreciate what they did or were only out for themselves. Believe it or not, there’s good news in all of this. If American businesses would simply teach their supervisors and managers how to interact more positively with the people who work for them, they could reclaim the lion’s share of that 1.7 trillion dollars. We’re talking about basic behaviors like being nice instead of nasty or indifferent, noticing the things employees do and saying thank you. These behaviors don’t sound all that profound, but if the majority of supervisors and managers in America effectively executed these behaviors, it would fatten the bottom lines of American businesses by more than a trillion dollars–now that is profound.
The secret to being an effective boss is to recognize that people intentionally regulate the amount of effort they put into their jobs based upon how they feel they’re being treated. If they feel they’re being treated well, they will become excited about giving their absolute best efforts which means they’ll work way beyond their job descriptions. If they feel their efforts are unappreciated they’ll pull back and do only what they have to do to keep their jobs. And, if they feel they’re being abused, they’ll either figure out some clever way to get even or they’ll look for a job somewhere else. The lesson here is that if you treat your people well–treat them with respect and show them you care–they’ll return the favor by making you look like a genius as their boss.
Negative bosses who make nasty comments to belittle or suppress those who work for them are a tremendous drain on the productivity of a business. The problem is that negative comments are hurtful and almost always ruin people’s days. When this occurs, it immediately sucks away people’s energy and now they are no longer able to apply their best effort toward doing their job. A friend of mine who is a manager recently told me that he receives at least one degrading email a month from one of his superiors. “When this happens,” he said, “I completely shut down for the rest of the day.” Let’s assume that 29 other employees received similar emails from that same person. If each of them responded by shutting down for a half-day, that’s 15 days of lost productivity each month all because of one thoughtless email! The message here is: If you have negative people working at your company, especially if they’re in supervisory or managerial positions, don’t ignore them. You need to find a way to get them rehabilitated or get rid of them because they’re a luxury you simply can’t afford.