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    « Why Do Robbers Rob Banks? | Main | The Optimist, the Pestimist, and the Leader »

    January 26, 2009

    Tough Talk

    Guy Kawasaki has an a relevant post on the American Express OPEN Forum on how a CEO should communicate with his or her employees in these difficult times.  Some of the statements are very tech industry / venture capital oriented, but the others apply to almost any business feeling stress from the economic downturn.

    The statements remind me of the Stockdale Paradox in the book Good to Great.  The author Jim Collins found that leaders whose companies outperformed their competitors "faced the brutal facts".  The Stockdale Paradox refers to Vice Admiral James Stockdale who was the ranking officer in the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam.  James Stockdale did not tell his men "we will be rescued any day."  He basically told his men "It is going to be awful.  We will face more difficult times.  It may take years for us to be rescued.  Some of you might not make it.  But in the end we will prevail and we will get out of here."  This is the tough talk that employees need to hear as difficult as it may be.  They will have more faith in you as a leader if you are honest.

    The Stockdale Paradox

    Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

    AND at the same time

    Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

    A book by Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, describes a similar phenomenon.  Frankl, an Austrian psychologist, was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.  He found that the people who survived unimaginable difficulties held on to some sense of meaning.  They believed that their circumstances would not change quickly, but they had their own very personal reason for holding on.  Those who lost that sense of purpose didn't make it.


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    Steve Bova


    This is so on the mark. People want the truth, communicated directly. Rose-colored glasses and sugar coating are passe. Today's emplolyees can see through b.s. in a heartbeat because they see so much of it. As leaders, it is our job to offer hope but also to confront reality.

    The optimist says the glass is half-full.
    The pessimist says it's half empty.
    The realist suggests that, either way, it's another glass to wash.

    The reality is, those most fit will endure. From Collins to Covey, don't forget to Sharpen the Saw!

    The comments to this entry are closed.