In a 2006 internal memo to underground mine managers, Blankenship’s exasperation with what he saw as excessive caution was evident: As the New York Times reported, in the memo, Mr. Don Blankenship (CEO of Massey Energy Corporation) instructed the company’s underground mine superintendents to place coal production first.
“This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills,” he said.
(read about this here).
Here’s a business book that needs to be written. How to Handle a Real Mistake – I Mean, a Real Whopper.
There is a long list of people who should not write this book: The CEO of Massey Energy Corporation, the CEO of Toyota, Alan Greenspan. And the list is really much longer. They all seem to have the same message, that in one way or another, is this message:
“It’s Not My Fault – I’m Not Responsible.”
Now, of course, I do not believe that the CEO of Massey Mining personally caused the death of those miners (though his company is certainly negligent; possibly criminally negligent), nor did Greenspan personally cause the crash, nor did the CEO of Toyota personally design the flawed vehicles. But in each case, and many more, the warning signs were clear, and no leaders stepped up and yelled fire loudly enough to clear the theater.
And if you listen to interviews with such people, especially Don Blankenship of Massey Energy, they come across as evasive (and, though this is quite subjective, there seems to be a genuine compassion shortage).
Whatever else business leadership is, it is this: the leader assumes and takes and acknowledges responsibility.
And I assume we have now learned this truth (although, many do not seem to have fully grasped it): there will be big time mistakes made in companies.
Some of these mistakes or deficiencies can be life threatening. And it is the job of a leader to say, “if we find a mistake, a deficiency, in our company that is life threatening, then we stop what we are doing, now, and solve this problem. Now!” Any failure to do this is a clear statement of priorities, and reveals the true priority — of profit over human life.
And I will state my bias – any leader that places profits over human life is not worthy of leadership at all.
The Wall Street meltdown may not have endangered human life like Massey Energy and Toyota, but the tendency to say, in one way or another, “It’s not my fault – I’m not responsible” is not the kind of leadership we need in this very difficult era.
Someone needs to actually lead!
My blogging colleague Bob Morris has written a number of posts from one book: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. I am presenting it at the May First Friday Book Synopsis, and have now read it for myself. Now I understand why Bob keeps blogging anew from the book. You find something to comment on and highlight on practically every page, starting with Mark Cubans’s endorsement of the book:
“If given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework or has his MBA, I’m investing in Rework every time… a must-read.”
It will be difficult to boil down into a synopsis. It is multiple subjects, very fast-paced observations, and very comprehensive – yet very focused. Try this for a partial summary: “get to work, now; don’t hire too many people; you don’t have to work 100 hours a week, just focus and get something done – now!; design products and services that you want and need, and an “audience” will find you;” and the list goes on and on…
Here’s just one quote from the very, very many:
“You should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.”
This is going to be a fun synopsis.
Here Are Some Thoughts On The Value Of Listening To A Book Synopsis…
Earlier this week, I presented a synopsis of a book that the audience was especially interested in. A couple of people had read the book. One guy (“guy” is the appropriate word to use – he was a character), leapt into/took over in the middle of the synopsis, and told his favorite story from the book – better than I could have told it, by far. He was animated, enthused, riveting. It was a great moment.
Later in the week, I presented another synopsis of a book to an audience of people who looked like they were serving detention duty at school. (In fact, it was part of a mandatory training within an organization, and I think they did feel like they were serving a sentence they would have rather skipped). The book was important, relevant to the training. And they did not respond with anything like enthusiasm, or even interest. (Not everybody in the room – but enough to notice).
So, I got to thinking. I have studied presentation skills a very long time, and one element that is almost impossible to overcome is this: an uninterested audience. And, one element that is always close to magical – an audience that can’t wait to hear a presentation.
Guess which audience I would rather speak to?
All of that is the introduction to this post. Here’s the real point: Who is the audience for our book synopses? These are available in live versions (Karl or I can come to your company or organization, and present them live), or, the shorter versions that we give at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis and on-line for download into your MP3 player at 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Here are two “audience members” that might really like, and benefit from, our synopses.
1. Those who don’t have time to read, but wish they could keep up with the latest best-selling and best business books. You know how it happens. Someone will ask you, “have you read _______?” And you wish you had, but you simply have not had time. Well, after listening to one of our synopses, you can discuss the book intelligently enough that you are not left out of the conversation.
2. Those who have read the books. Like my audience member who “took over” a story, if you have read a book that we have presented, you feel in the know, and you feel empowered – like you are one of the “smart ones” in the room, and it validates your decision to have read the book.
And, let’s face it, we don’t always remember what we read until we are reminded. Have you ever watched a movie (or a TV re-run), and enjoyed it all over again? To hear a synopsis of a book you have already read reminds you why you liked it (or, why you disliked it!).
This much I know. A few minutes spent with one of our book synopses is a really quick way to gain some valuable content, and/or some content reinforcement, that will better equip you to be a good business thinker and leader in this fast-paced age.