Friday, January 12, 2018

Of Presidents, Estate Managers, and S***holes

Like most ordinary people with access to world news, I quickly formed an initial opinion last night, after the President of The United States referred to people from El Salvador, Haiti, and the entire continent of Africa as being from "s***hole countries."  

It then hit me: this is a much larger issue than Trump himself, and we are doing a large disservice to ourselves by stopping the conversation at Trump; by blaming Trump.  He's simply parroting a core element who helped him to become elected, a quite significant percentage of the country who are frightened of a black or brown person one day moving in next door to them.  This is what we in organizational development refer to as a systemic issue, and it can only be understood within a context of solving problems through systems thinking, and one that this blog has based its premise on for many years.

Meet U.S. Army Pfc. Mensah - immigrated from 
Africa which Trump only knows as a "s***hole." 
Read his heroic story: HERE.  This is the type of 
person my agency would have presented for the 
very highest level of Estate Manager positions.

Most of those who remember today the President's "s***hole" comments made yesterday about black and brown people, whether Democrat or Republican, will have simply dismissed it as just another kooky comment from that crazy, nutty uncle of ours that everyone has come to accept as having checked himself into daycare at the White House for four years.  And that's sad.  I mean, it's sad the conversation just stops there at Trump.  Again.


We miss these opportunities in our domestic staff workplaces, as well.  We easily become dismissive of problems on our estates, by blaming them on individual staff members' bad behaviors - and we then blame and/or fire them, fooling ourselves into thinking we've solved the problem.  But problems that cause toxic workplaces that are the catalyst for bad service - and toxic governments and entire populations that are the catalyst for racism - cannot be solved by blaming the one person who acts out.  The entire system must be addressed.  And, it's hard work.  But it's worth it to try and fix.

One of the first posts on this blog many years ago was the promotion of a book, The Fifth Discipline.  The book, in my opinion, is required reading for anyone attempting to lead a work team, no matter the size.  And also required reading for anyone attempting to understand human behavior,  no matter in what context.  

This book is not for the lazy, and it's not for the faint of heart.  This  book is only for those having the courage and leadership to go beyond blaming singular incidents and individual people, and thus being able to understand and to initiate repairing the real, much larger issues.

Studying The Fifth Discipline - and a dedication to systems thinking - will help Estate Managers and Family Offices to rethink about firing the Housekeeper for being late, or blaming the Nanny for snapping at the kids, or firing the Chef for complaining about an extra guest having arrived for dinner, and instead, it will help them think about their own contributions to causing each of those events to reoccur on their estate, over and over again - to think about how they now own these problems - and therefore are now responsible for solving them.

The point is - whether one finds oneself leading an entire country, or leading a domestic staff team, or anything in-between, behaviors and problems in any size or type of group are interconnected as a system, and can only be addressed systemically, which requires first taking the responsibility for understanding how behaviors affect (and often maintain) the very actions of everyone around us - behaviors and people which they, themselves - must always be addressed, as well.  Those behaviors includes those which come from every person in the organization - regardless of their position.

If leadership were as easy as blaming problems on the color of people's skin, or as easy as denigrating their homes as s***holes, then anyone could be a President, and anyone could be an Estate Manager.  But that's not the case.  Authentic, effective leadership requires critical thinking skills, requires the ability to connect the dots and see how behaviors both good and bad are created and then manifest within the group, and how owning the responsibility for knowing which and how to create - is at the pinnacle of the entire group's success.

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