An old TRUTH: Business is built on a foundation of TRANSACTIONS. Accountants see the health of those transactions as determining business success. Revenues are the sum of sales transactions. On the other side of the equation are expenses, and those are seen too as transactions. So also with investments. Get those transactions (sometimes called “deals”) right, and you’ll be a success.
But a New TRUTH is Emerging: That Leadership – and work success – is first and foremost about RELATIONSHIPS.
I recently came across two stories about work RELATIONSHIPS. Though each illuminates the power of relationship, one got it wrong and one got it right. See if you agree.
The two stories come from the same person, whom I met recently. Bruce got his MBA from Harvard, then worked at Ford Motor for 15 years. Later he became CFO of three consecutive successful medical start-up companies. When I told him about the book that Ken Bardach and I are writing on The Noble Leader, he told me these two stories:
Story #1: For one of the medical device companies he was CFO of, he was summoned to a meeting with one of the major investors in the company. The investor asked each of the senior executives what he (or she) thought were the determinants of business success. Then he gave his answer: “Screw the customers! Screw the vendors! That’s what it takes to succeed!”
Bruce was taken aback. How could someone be so out of touch with reality?
While this is obviously extreme, isn’t it the way many leaders act? As if business were merely about competing with all players in the industry, not just competitors?
Story #2: While at another medical device start-up company, Bruce was invited into a hospital operating room to see one of those devices being used in a complicated brain surgery. He arrived early, put on a mask and scrubs and waited with the attending staff for the brain surgeon to arrive. One of the nurses turned to him and said, “You’re in for a treat. The surgeon who will operate today is one of the leading brain surgeons in the world!” Before he could think about what that might mean, the surgeon arrived. He immediately went up to each person individually, greeted them by name (even though they all were hidden in their hospital garb), asked each one about a family member, then asked, “Are you ready?” The surgeon had not lifted a scalpel or consulted a chart, yet Bruce was already impressed.
If only all leaders did this at the beginning of an important meeting. Just think what it would do for employee morale – and performance.
What are your thoughts on these two stories?