Follow The Crowd…Or Be Better

Several weeks ago,  I had  breakfast  with a friend who needed to vent—once again–about the companies he’s trying to help.

My friend is an exceptional financial executive who now operates as what I call a commando. He’s been CFO of a number of big companies. After leaving his last position, he decided to help smaller companies bring their financial operations up to big company standards and then help them find and hire the right person to become their senior financial officer going forward.

He arrives, digs in, fixes everything, puts new systems in place, gets the new top financial officer on board…and then moves on except for regular check-ins to make sure all is going well. Of course, if these companies had the right financial officer already in place, my friend wouldn’t be needed. This often points to a bigger problem of an aversion to change and an unwillingness to make tough decisions.

In this recent case that has so irritated my friend, the company refuses to follow his advice which will fix their financial situation and keep them solvent. Sadly, he has had other clients caught in similar situations and undoubtedly there are more in his future. I run into this same problem in other areas of business, particularly when it comes to people issues. Many consultants do.

We all hear every excuse there is for why change isn’t necessary, presented by a united front of senior executives. “The bank likes us and will let us slide.” “Our customers are wonderful and are okay with slow service because we have a good product.” “No need to do anything about Sally or Jim because they’re good people.”

I hate to mention this but no doubt some of you reading this are guilty of uttering similar comments to a head nodding of your fellow executives.

But as Sir John Templeton has told us, “When everyone is saying the same thing, a different outcome is likely to occur.”

Group think is the bane of a successful business. It narrows your view. It enables poor performance and an unwillingness to change as the world changes around you. It helps your competitors rush past you as they encourage open and honest discussion leading to diverse opinions and options and ultimately, good solutions. Which they successfully implement…

Don’t let your company devolve into group think. When everyone is telling you the same thing, don’t simply accept what they have to say. Search out someone who will be open and honest while sharing some diverse opinions and ideas that give you a way to more fully evaluate what to do. It might even be my friend or me.



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