THE ONE BIG TAKEAWAY FROM THE COVINGTON/LINCOLN MEMORIAL SOCIAL MEDIA MELTDOWN

Sam Silverstein Blog

By now there’s a very good chance you’ve already heard something intense, partisan, and angry about the protests that happened near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Martin Luther King Day. But on the off chance you’ve somehow missed the commotion, here’s a brief rundown. Social media platforms went crazy over viral videos showing encounters between a Native American elder and a group of boys from Covington Catholic High School, who were in Washington as part of a pro-life march. Were the boys the villains of the story, taunting the Omaha tribal leader with racially motivated abuse? Or were they victims of a media conspiracy designed to manufacture a conflict where none existed? Everybody, it seems, had an opinion, one worth shouting about at the top of their lungs. The fervor has yet to die down; the last time I looked, the White House was wading into the fray.

There is one and only one major takeaway I’ve picked up from all of this drama. Figure out what happened before you start drawing conclusions and making accusations.

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ACCOUNTABILITY IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THE TRUTH

Sam Silverstein Blog

For a leader, there is no such thing as “kind of” telling the truth.

If you are a leader, you are either fulfilling your personal commitment to tell someone who is counting on you the truth, or you aren’t fulfilling that commitment. If you aren’t, then accountability within the relationship and the organization you lead is impossible, because you’ve already failed to be accountable to your team coming out of the gate.

That’s the high standard that leaders of teams and organizations must meet: They’re either telling the truth or they aren’t. It’s kind of like the old joke about having a baby: You’re either pregnant or you’re not. There’s no such thing as being “a little” pregnant. It’s an absolute state. And so is being a leader who expects – and shares — the truth.
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UBER: THE EMPLOYEES SPEAK

Sam Silverstein Blog

There is one thing about Uber that everyone agrees on. The global ride-sharing service that transformed the way people get around in major metropolitan areas has a remarkable capacity make news. The problem is, not all of the headlines it generates are good.

For every positive news item — securing an astonishing 69% of the US market, say, or launching a new service providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles, or positioning itself for what looks to be one of the largest IPOs in history — there always seem to be at least two three news stories in circulation suggesting an absence of accountable leadership at Uber. These stories have run the gamut from allegations of sexual assault on the part the former CEO, improper use of software to avoid giving rides to regulators and law-enforcement officials, poor screening of Uber drivers, controversy over Uber’s media “spin” of an incident involving a self-driving Uber car that killed a pedestrian, and bitter, ongoing battles with municipal authorities in important markets such as New York City and Portland, Oregon.
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A Question For The New Year

Sam Silverstein Blog

One of the questions I ask leaders — a question that sometimes makes them a little uncomfortable — is a fairly simple, direct one: Do you tell your people the truth? It’s a deeply relevant question, I think, as we approach the New Year.

Forget, for a moment, whether you feel your people tell you the truth, or how you feel about it on those occasions when you can prove that they don’t. (That’s actually a function of whether you tell them the truth.)

Forget about whether you think you have a good reason not to tell your people the truth. Having an organization where people can level with each other, and expect the truth from one another is an essential of accountable leadership. It’s a commitment you make. You either fulfill it and set a good example on this score, or you don’t. Are there situations where some people, from a practical point of view, don’t need to know all of the details? Sure. Do people need to know the truth about those decisions, events, and initiatives that affect them? Yes, they do. If you pretend otherwise, you’re walking down the slippery path we call “the ends justify the means” — and that is not where accountable leaders go.

Forget about “batting averages.” Sometimes when I ask a leader, during a private coaching session, “Do you tell your people the truth?” I get a list. “Well, I lied to them about A and B, but I told them the truth about C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J, So that’s two lies and eight times where I told the truth. So my batting average is about .800, which isn’t too bad.” Nope. Lying twenty percent of the time doesn’t make you a leader with a commitment to the truth. It makes you a liar.
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JOHNSON & JOHNSON’S FOUR-FOLD FAILURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Sam Silverstein Blog

Word broke recently of what may be one of the most shameful corporate cover-ups in the history of American business. Reuters reported that pharmaceutical and consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson had known, as early as 1971, about the presence of asbestos, a known carcinogen, in its iconic baby powder product.

This disclosure quickly prompted comparisons with similar, devastating, revelations in various consumer-products liability cases, such as those filed against the major tobacco companies. According to reports, the company not only knew about the potential dangers its baby powder presented to consumers, but also financed and coordinated deeply biased studies that were presented to the outside world as objective science … and hired a ghostwriter to revise the findings of a paper that had tried to alert the scientific community, and the larger world, to the truth.
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ACCOUNTABILITY IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THE TRUTH

Sam Silverstein Blog

For a leader, there is no such thing as “kind of” telling the truth.

If you are a leader, you are either fulfilling your personal commitment to tell someone who is counting on you the truth, or you aren’t fulfilling that commitment. If you aren’t, then accountability within the relationship and the organization you lead is impossible, because you’ve already failed to be accountable to your team coming out of the gate.

That’s the high standard that leaders of teams and organizations must meet:  They’re either telling the truth or they aren’t. It’s kind of like the old joke about having a baby: You’re either pregnant or you’re not. There’s no such thing as being “a little” pregnant. It’s an absolute state. And so is being a leader who expects – and shares — the truth.
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ACCOUNTABLE LEADERSHIP DOESN’T PLAY FAVORITES

Sam Silverstein Blog

A leadership lesson from a two-year old.

A while back, we had a birthday party for my two-year-old granddaughter Sophy. As it unfolded, I was privileged to observe a powerful object lesson for leaders.

As the birthday girl, Sophy was sitting at the head of the table. She happened to notice that she had one of her grandmothers sitting immediately to her right. When Sophy noticed that, she smiled and reached out to hold her grandmother’s hand. Of course, her grandmother was delighted to hold Sophy’s hand on her birthday.

Just then, Sophy looked over to the other side of the table and noticed that her other grandmother was seated on her left! I could see the wheels turning inside her two-year-old mind. She realized that she had shared a gesture of love with one grandmother by reaching out for her hand … and now she didn’t want the other grandmother to feel left out. So what did she do? The instant Sophy realized there was the possibility of hurting her second grandmother’s feelings, she reached out for that grandmother’s hand! And of course her second grandmother was eager to reciprocate that gesture of love and caring. Sophy was looking for a way to connect with both of them. And she found it!

So where’s the lesson for leaders? I hope it’s jumping out at you. But just in case it isn’t…
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I AM A MANAGER WHO HOLDS PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE

Sam Silverstein Blog

“I AM A MANAGER WHO HOLDS PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE”

Are you? Do you really want to be?

There are two major problems with the sentence that forms the title of this article. Can you spot them both?

Look at it in two halves. Here’s the first half:

“I am a manager …”

Are you really a manager? Are you sure?

We manage resources. We manage things: computers, real estate, product inventory. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t, and can’t, manage people. The minute we try, we come up against a major obstacle: The person we’re trying to “manage” immediately senses that he or she is being treated like a thing …and resents it, either consciously or unconsciously. That bad feeling of resentment makes personal growth – and peak performance – impossible. People disengage. They go through the motions. Organizations suffer.

What does it feel like when someone manages you? Like you’re being treated as an inferior – as a resource. As a thing. All too often, as something that needs to be fixed. Nobody wants to be fixed. Nobody wants to be managed, either.
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MAKING NO DECISION IS MAKING A DECISION: THE RYANAIR DEBACLE

Sam Silverstein Blog 0 Comments

If you’re looking for a case study in the perils of unaccountable leadership, look no further than RyanAir.

You may or may not have seen the video that recently went viral because of its jaw-dropping scenes of a RyanAir passenger who launched a sickening racist rant and physically threatened his assigned seatmate, an elderly black woman. Whether you’ve seen the video or not really doesn’t matter, because, frankly, the lesson to be learned here is not that, when you fly enough flights and book enough tickets, ill-tempered idiots can occasionally be expected to go off on fellow passengers. We already knew that. That wasn’t what turned this into a crisis.

What turned this into a crisis was RyanAir’s refusal to make a decision … its refusal to take action .. and its refusal to engage with its customers and stakeholders.
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ACCOUNTABLE LEADERSHIP WINS A NOBEL PRIZE

Sam Silverstein Blog 0 Comments

Tell the truth. Commit to “It’s all of us.”

This week, the author and human rights activist Nadia Murad — a survivor of horrific sexual, social, and psychological abuse suffered after she was kidnapped in 2014 by operatives of the so-called Islamic State — was named one of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

After enduring three months of torture, Murad escaped her captors and eventually founded Nadia’s Initiative, a group dedicated to “helping women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking to heal and rebuild their lives and communities.” She wants to track down ISIS leaders and put them on trial for human rights violations. She has been named a special UN Ambassador for the Dignity of for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. In announcing the award, the Nobel committee cited Murad for putting her “own personal security at risk by courageously combatting war crimes and securing justice for victims.” That’s a diplomatic way of saying that the articles and books Murad writes, the speeches she gives, and the justice she seeks, all make extremists want to kill her. She tells the truth anyway, on behalf of the thousands of victims of human trafficking in Iraq, and the hundreds of thousands worldwide. She has emerged as their leader – their voice.
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