Why Companies Die Young

Several years ago, I had a disturbing conversation with a close friend who had been employed by a Fortune 500 company for thirty years.  Upon asking the question, “How are things at work?” this individual replied, “Not good.”  The obvious next question was, “Why?”

The rest of the conversation was a case study on how bad things were at the company that he and thousands of others formally referred to as one big extended family.  Probing further, I asked how he felt the majority of employees would respond to the following three questions:

  • Do you enjoy coming to work?
  • Do you trust management?
  • Do you feel appreciated?

His immediate response: “My feeling is that the majority of employees, for certain in my department, would answer “NO” to all three questions.”  He concluded with the following words, “I love this company, but we are headed for disaster.  My main goal is to make it to retirement.”  What a tragedy!

As a company who works with organizations interesting in developing authentic leaders and passionately engaged teams, we must be honest in that this conversation is more the rule than the exception.  This company, like many others, has lost touch with reality and is making the deadly sin of focusing only on the bottom line.  This insensitive handling of peoples’ hearts and souls has destroyed the loyalty that was once the heart of its caring culture and is a powerful example of what happens when all focus is placed on bottom line results.  Arie De Geus, in his enlightening book The Living Company, shares some powerful findings as to why companies die young:

“Companies die because their managers focus on the economic activity of      producing goods and services, and they forget that their organizations’ true      nature is that of a community of humans.”

What is the solution to this terrible problem?  The heroes are the servant leaders who realize the worth of people, who understand the power of love and compassion and place the well being of employees above the daily value of their stock.  These men and women understand the wisdom of serving others and the positive influence that compassion has on the balance sheet. 

We feel passionately that servant leadership is the “High Touch” solution to most of our problems in the work place and home place.  Our hope is that many will respond to the call for more effective servant leaders.  If this occurs, thousands of people will achieve their dreams and, most importantly, will understand that there is hope for the future!