June 1, 2001
In this issue:
Newsbrief: Leadership Retreat Offers Renewal, Surrender and Revitalization
Editorial: “The Founders’ Daughter,” by John Renesch
More Newsbriefs: Corporate Sponsor Wanted for Presidio Dialogues
+ San Francisco Coaches Conference
Next Month’s Editorial: The “Forgetting Organization”
Conscious Leadership Retreat Scheduled for October
John is hosting a small leadership intensive from October 22-26, limited to ten people. The Conscious Leadership Retreat will feature several segments including meditative inquiry with Rob Rabbin, explorations of genuine emotions with David Berenson, health and vitality with Elizabeth Boom and leadership renewal. Each participant will receive a copy of Leadership in a New Era (a Renesch anthology) and The Paradox of Success: A Book of Renewal for Leaders (by John O’Neil). For more information about this retreat contact John at 415-437-6974.
With the increasing focus for CEOs and investors to think only three or six months in advance, who is really putting any attention on the longer term well-being of our business organizations? Board members? Senior management? Stockholders? Employees? Perhaps in the old days, when people thought they might be taking a job for life, or when they invested for the long haul. But, nowadays, employees, investors, senior executives and even board members are more like professional athletes, jumping from company to company every few years. As more and more people USE the organization for their own purposes, fewer people are concerned about its long-term health.
Imagine the startup organization as a beautiful young woman whose parents have founded the company. The “daughter” is particularly talented, vital and intelligent and the “parents” invite some friends over to work with her, to teach her and help her improve her special talent. Coaches and teachers, financial backers, stylists, agents of all sorts, and promotion specialists are invited to meet and work with their daughter because they are so proud of her. They want to show her off and they want help develop her talents to the utmost, so she can be a “star.”
But soon, the people who’ve been surrounding the young woman start revealing their own personal agendas. Some seek fame and glory as a result of being associated with this rising star. Some begin to scheme on her as a sexual object, lusting for her physically – seeking their own short-term gratification. Others want to bask in the limelight that surrounds the young woman, like the groupies who follow rock stars. The parents start becoming concerned about their daughter, but they also see the potential fame and other rewards of having her become a success and having all the pleasures and joys in life they never experienced. So they accept this exploitation as part of the price that must be paid for success, fame and fortune.
Then one day, after a lengthy holiday, the founders come to visit their daughter and find her home filled with hundreds of people, most of whom they do not recognize. There are people camped out on the lawn in front of the house and lots of others milling through the hallways inside. They notice a parade of people – mostly men – going upstairs where their daughter’s bedroom is located. With great apprehension they walk up the stairway and enter the bedroom only to find their daughter lying prone, naked and utterly “wasted” as one man after another rolls off of her limp body. Their “little girl” seems drugged. Her body is lifeless. Her eyes are glazed, staring blindly at the ceiling. She no longer attempts to resist, having resigned herself some time ago to this abuse. The light that once shined through her is gone. Her spirit has disappeared. They barely recognize their daughter and their hearts sink.
In their absence, no one was watching out for the long-term well-being of their daughter. Everyone who was in close proximity to her had acted out of their own short-term and selfish interests. The result: the daughter who was once a beautiful, brilliant, vital and promising talent has been reduced to an emaciated, pale mass of flesh. She resembles a corpse more than the vivacious being whom they have known and raised.
This picture is similar to what goes on in many organizations. Each person who joins in the “gang bang” of the “founders’ daughter” achieves his or her own short-term gratification at the expense of the company’s long-term health. As a result, the organization becomes used to being exploited; its original vitality is converted to passive resignation as a way of coping with the multiple agendas it is expected to service.
Like the once beautiful and vivacious daughter who was asked to serve so many agendas learns to cope and resigns herself to a life of exploitation, the organization also develops methods of coping – but at a very expensive price. It costs the enterprise its vitality. After a while, any vital people who come in touch with this non-vital organization don’t feel impassioned and excited about being part of it. So they either leave, and seek places where their vitality can be reflected, or they adapt – usually by taking what they can during their tenure with the organization (“just making the most out of the situation”), and becoming more cynical in the process.
Like the once beautiful founders’ daughter, this organization has become the subject of everyone’s exploitation – a whore for hire to anyone seeking temporary gratification. It becomes ‘the way to be’ in the company – part of the culture. Employees stay on for a while and add their tenure with the organization to build their resumes. Investors insist on maximizing their ROI, and stress this as their primary concern. Vendors and consultants want more contracts from the company, and are constantly scheming to get more from it. Senior management puts in a few years and walks away with a financially secure future, sometimes with unimaginable fortunes. Local communities often seek all they can get from their corporate neighbors, expecting the enterprise to be a sponsor of sorts. Everyone starts thinking very selfishly (the “what’s in it for me?” syndrome) as each group looks for what it can get from the organization.
But few people who come into contact with the organization enter the relationship as a true steward – a responsible caretaker who is committed to its long-term well-being.
How does one revitalize one of these exploited organizations? How does one breath new life into this emaciated corpse that once passed for a thriving and vital company? Corporate revitalizing can be achieved by responsible leadership rising to the occasion and accepting stewardship for the long-term health of the enterprise. Leaders who can accept that their task is to leave the company more vital, more alive, and healthier than when they joined it, regardless of whether they get “credit” from others for such actions, are the answer. Inner satisfaction replaces external accolades for these leaders, who are committed to the “rehabilitation” of the enterprise. Much like the young woman who’s become strung out on drugs but who can be nurtured back to emotional, physical and psychological health, organizations can be rehabbed.
Like with rehab work being done by the individual, organizations can suffer withdrawal and other side effects as the system tries to prevent change, much like the immune system of the human body tends to ward off anything it perceives as a threat to the status quo. To the addict, the status quo is to be “drugged” – so sobriety is seen as a threat. Organizations are similar. They will fight off attempts to “sober them up” because they have become used to being used and think of it as the status quo – the state they are supposed to defend.
Leaders in the organization who realize this, who can see the possibility of a “clean and sober” organization, can revitalize their enterprises. They can restore the original promise that radiated from their founders’ eyes. They can renew the potential that was part of the founders’ original vision.
Like the founders’ daughter, these exploited and abused companies can be rehabbed by applications of tough love, skill, patience and selfless compassion. These are the qualities needed by these new leaders who offer hope and possibility for healthier and more vibrant organizations – places that are fun and exhilarating to work in, places where people can be themselves – fully and completely expressed spirits.
The Presidio Dialogues Seeks Sponsors
The Presidio Dialogues – enjoying much success in the San Francisco Presidio despite its young life of seven months – is seeking a corporate sponsor. Offering publicity and promotion in exchange for capital to improve and expand the services offered to date, host John Renesch sees great opportunities for new markets and wider audiences for the stimulating dialogues coming out of the meetings. If anyone is interested in exploring the possibility of corporate sponsorship they should contact John at John@Renesch.com or call him at 415-437-6974.
John Hosts Panel at S.F. Coaches Conference
John has been invited to moderate a panel of distinguished leaders in the executive coaching field for the first-ever Bay Area Coaches Conference – “Coaches @ Work” – sponsored by the four chapters of the Bay Area International Coaches Federation, June 7-9. Panelists include:
– Laura Whitworth – Co-founder, Coaches Training Institute
– DJ Mitsch – President, International Coach Federation
– Scott Blanchard – President and CEO, Coaching.com
– Andy Rich – Executive VP of Human Resources, Charles Schwab
– Paul Walker – Senior VP, Conexant Systems
For more information, contact Event Director Helene Dublisky at 510-444-5211
About John Renesch
Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John E. Renesch, a San Francisco writer, futurist, and consultant/coach. John served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.
John is also an international keynote SPEAKER, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.