It’s hard to miss the furor over Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture official from Georgia who was unceremoniously sacked – okay – “asked” to resign – after a doctored video appeared on a political blog. The doctored video was picked up by a news organization and splashed all over the place. The Department of Agriculture caved, the NAACP over reacted, the news organization in question over reacted – it was a mess. And what’s most troubling – none of the actors even bothered to try and get the whole story. And the whole story is amazing, wonderful and very moving.
So – what can we take away from this sorry episode as we try and direct and lead organizations forward? There are several great lessons the be learned.
- Get the facts before you act. Well – do’h! But – ask yourself. How many times have you seen leaders in an organization jump to conclusions and act before knowing the facts? I’d bet the answer is “lots.” (I know – not very scientific.)
- Act decisively and equitably. You’d think this one is easy. Well – not so much as it turns out. In my experience, I’ve seen leadership do some amazingly inequitable things. How about changing a bonus plan in midstream? Or – how about moving the “end of the fiscal year” forward by several months so none of the sales team can meet goals? These represent decisive acts, but not very equitable acts. These types of decisions sow the seeds of discontent and poor morale. And – good grief – don’t offer a job back to someone you mistakenly sacked! Ever hear of dignity? Pride? Not so much . . . .
- Don’t believe everything you are “told.” Yep – people have agendas. (The crowd gasps!) While this sounds a lot like #1, I am trying to communicate a different issue. Before making decisions – step back and cool off. If you act in the heat of the moment based upon what people are telling you, the decision you will make will almost always blow up in your face.
President Obama called the whole mess a “teachable moment.” I agree. Let’s see if any of us learn anything.