Firms Urged To Go Back To Basics

CONSIDER these scenarios: A highly paid manager tells his CEO that he has accepted an offer from another firm. The boss blames his finance man for losses in the company. An employee spreads malicious stories about an officemate. A clerk bolts form his cubicle to the exit, as the clock strikes 6 in the evening.

Are these situations familiar? Before blaming the employee, the boss or everybody, ponder on this: The cause may be a spirit possessing the hearts and souls of employees.

According to Susan and Thomas Kuczmarski, in their book, “Values-based Leadership: Rebuilding Employee Commitment, Performance and Productivity (1995),” that spirit is “anomie.” To exorcise it from the corporate body, values must be put back into the organization through values-based leadership.

They claim that anomie, which means a lack of purpose, makes the individual feel isolated and divides the organization. This term was first coined in 1893 by Emile Durkheim, a 19th-century French sociologist, in his work, “The Division of Labor,” amid the unrest spawned by the Industrial Revolution.

A hundred years hence, the couple Kuczmarski describes a grim scenario of present-day American workplace and society afflicted by anomies. Individuals distance themselves from work mentally and physically, a form of corporate schizophrenia. Some protect themselves from negative work environment through “eggshelling” or figuratively, building a shell around themselves. The rise in incidences of divorce, murders, sexually transmitted diseases and juvenile delinquency indicates the erosion of values in society. These symptoms may well refer to the Philippine corporate world and society as well.

The authors stress that these signs reveal the need to return to values and norms. Values are share goals or beliefs. Norms are patters of conduct. Going back to these basics, individuals and organizations become energized and effective. Ironically, high technology, market-driven, and rapidly expanding organizations of the future are finding relevance in old-fashioned concepts like these.

Rediscover core values

How does an individual rediscover core values? The Kuczmarski provide this formula: strengthen family ties, deepen personal relationships with others, and give more time for self. To find time for these activities, they discourage television watching and shopping on Saturday or Sunday, a prescription that may be hard to swallow for most.

To create a values-ful organization, they suggest a process in which the values of the individual are aligned with those of the organization. Once this happens, individuals will know how to act without being told to. Rules and regulations begin to be seen as guide posts rather than restrictions. Paradoxically, values and norms provide more, rather  than less, freedom for the individual.

Kenneth Blanchard, author of the “One-Minute Manager,” says the same thing. In his talk on “Empowerment Take More Than a Minute,” he likes values to riverbanks. Banks give the river direction. Without banks, a pool of water becomes a puddle. Employees who know their organization’s direction are empowered to act toward the organization’s goals. The authors Kuczmarskis label these processes as “culturbation,” a constant practice of the norms, and “cultural regenerative osmosis,” the integration of individual values with organizational values.

Relationships building

Another old-fashioned concept that appear to be gaining new ground is relationships building. The authors go as far as stating that leadership is relationship building. Most leaders believe that their primary responsibility is to provide the strategic view or increase the stock value of the company or achieve the highest profit margin. The authors believe that a leader’s first job is to build relationships with internal stakeholders like employees and external stakeholders like customers, suppliers and others.

Other best-selling authors also focus on the importance of relationships building. Stephen covey, author of a series of books based on his best-seller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People;” powerful “Lessons in Personal Change” write that the four needs of man which is to live, to learn, to love and to leave a legacy, revolve on our relationships with other people. Daniel Goleman, author of the book “Emotional Intelligence,” cites that it is not IQ which determines a person’s success but rather his emotional intelligence which refers to how an individual handles relationships.

The traditional hard-nosed businessman may find all these concepts up in the clouds. They might contend that these do not apply to the Philippine setting. However, “Values-Based Leadership” is based on several years of research on managers and leaders from various organizations. Moreover Philippine companies are discovering that corporate survival being able to compete globally and adopting world-class standards. With the rapid entry of global companies in the Philippines, this might even mean competing globally even if companies don’t leave Philippine shores.

The authors are well-established in their respective fields. Susan Smith Kuczmarski is an educator and a trainer. She earned her doctoral and two masteral degrees from Columbia University. Thomas Kuczmarski is president of his consulting firm and writes for the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Newsweek and USA Today.

Values-Based Leadership” is filled with practical tips on how to become a values-based leader and interesting questionnaires which can be answered and self-scored, like “Does Your Organization Have Anomie?” and “How ‘Values-ful’ is your organization?

It also offers a step-by-step guide to installing values and norms in an organization. Certain pages, which have a lot of management jargon, rather had reading. But, perseverance in panning for the gold in this book will certainly produce surprisingly weighty nuggets of wisdom.

Values- Based Leadership: Rebuilding Employees Commitment, Performance and Productivity” by Susan Smith Kuczmarski and Thomas D. Kuczmarski. Published 1995 by Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer May 12, 1997.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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