Small Business Leadership Daily Brief: June 11, 2018 – Let’s Avoid Being Stupid This Week

On Saturday at Bonnaroo in Tennessee rap artist, Eminem ended his show with sound effects of realistic gunshots. As you’d imagine, panic rolled through the crowd. 

It’s just another example of something that I guess seemed like a good idea to somebody, at some point. But turned out to be pretty foolish. 

As we begin this new week, let’s consider how we can better protect ourselves from foolish decisions. The day is young and I’m sure within the next few hours we’re going to be blitzed with new reports of one foolish thing after another. And it doesn’t matter when you’re listening to this. The date, the day and the time aren’t going to matter. Within a short time frame after you listen to this short episode you’ll become aware of some foolishness you didn’t know earlier. Foolishness abounds. There’s a limitless supply!

We want to avoid it being part of our lives. How?

Don’t expect me to give you a list of 10 things you can do. Or avoid doing. Instead, I’d like to offer you something a bit more practical, thoughtful and challenging. 

Artists sign their paintings declaring authenticity and the facts of their having created it. 

Authors have their names emblazoned on the covers of their books. 

Writers have their byline, their names, giving them attribution for their work.

Every day that you open your business, your name is on the line. As the business owner, it’s your name. Maybe the business bears your actual name, but even if it doesn’t, your name and reputation are still on the line. Well, that’s not likely a bunch of help. Eminem’s performance was totally his own. It was still a rather foolish choice. 

Context matters.

Context includes time, place and circumstance. 

Realistic gunshot sound effects are commonly found in video games where players know they’re participating in a game. Judge that all you want. That’s not my point. I’m not a gamer, but I’ll let others debate the topic. My point is that if shooting weapons is part of the game, then the appropriate sound effects make sense. It fits.

Realistic gunshot sound effects are commonly found in TV shows and movies depicting those things. We’d be puzzled if the character in The Godfather fired a weapon and we heard the sound of a trumpet. Gunshot sound effects are congruent with what we’re watching. 

Realistic gunshot sound effects are not expected at a concert. We expect to hear musicians. Not gunfire.

And given the sniper shooting during a concert in Las Veags last October – that killed 59 people – and given the number of public shootings we’ve seen around the world – it would be reasonable to expect people to be caught off-guard and not even know it’s a sound effect. 

Two simple things may have prevented this – and will hopefully prevent us from making an equally (or worse) decision.

Ask yourself (and your team), “What purpose will this serve?”

I have no idea what purpose Eminem or his people thought that sound effect would serve. I doubt they asked the question. If they had, that alone may have stopped it. Maybe not. 

Maybe they thought everybody would know it was just an effect. For all I know, it’s all one big publicity stunt aimed at putting Eminem in the news. If so, well done. It worked. I’m not so naive to believe that some bad publicity isn’t created and carefully crafted. We’re manipulated daily by such things. You can certainly play the game that way and succeed. Many people have. I won’t judge you if that’s your choice. But I’m clearly working from the assumption that you don’t likely roll that way. 😉 

What purpose will this decision serve? We’re running a business. It should serve a purpose that moves our company forward. Since we’re aiming to hit the trifecta of business building (speaking of horse racing – since “trifecta” is a horse racing term – congrats to Justify, 13th Triple Crown winner), our objectives are heavily focused on our customers. Getting them and serving them better are two thirds of the trifecta. So as you wrestle with this question think about the impact on your customers.

If Eminem had thought about his audience, he may have made a different choice. We’ll often get into more trouble when we start focusing too much on ourselves and take our eyes off our customers. It’s going to be difficult to make too foolish a choice if your intentions toward your customers are always on point. 

Next, ask yourself if this decision will make you and your team proud. If we do this, will we step up and be the first to own it because it’s such a spectacularly good idea. Or, if we’re caught, are we going to deny it? Or blame somebody else?

You and your team know the things you’re hiding. I’m going to suggest you behave with complete honor and integrity 100% of the time. I know that’s hard. And I know why. Greed. 

Business owners who teach, train or condone taking advantage of suppliers and customers are foolish for thinking their employees won’t take advantage of them, too. But I’m hopeful that you’ve got a culture based on high integrity. If not, then get busy changing it. Yes, it’ll cost you in the short-term, but you’ll make up for it in multiples over the long haul. And you’ll be able to sleep better, too.

If we do this thing we’re proposing to do, are we going to be willing to step forward and fully own it. “Yes, we did that. And we’re proud of that decision.” 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

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