Monday, April 11, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Anticipate the Storm

"Would you still want the agreement written this way if THAT does happen?"

"THAT will never happen," so said the CEO. Forgetting that foreseeable and undesirable events did happen in two past agreements, he ignored the warning and wrote an agreement that later could have boxed him into an unpleasant and compromising position. Previously, he had written two sales commission agreements that now he didn't like. He found himself uncomfortably renegotiating the contracts to exclude the commissions he didn't intend to pay in the first place. He failed to foresee that the years and changing business conditions can lead to extra business being attributed to the representatives, without them having done anything to engender the accounts. For example, one rep initially brought the customer to this company, but no sales really occurred. Years later, the customer had contacted the CEO on their own. The customer's buying personnel had changed and not known about the rep. The rep hadn't contacted them either over the years. Yet, here they were buying product from the CEO's company...and earning commissions for the rep who hadn't worked with the company for many years. The commission agreement did not have any expiration or lapse based on a timeframe that would have allowed the customer to be reassigned as a 'house' account for commission purposes.

Similarly, I've seen pension plans that failed to evaluate possible scenarios causing payouts to former employees that were not the intention of the management. In one case, the payout was large enough to hurt the current employees' accounts.

Those leaders were put into the awkward situation of 1) showing a lack of integrity by not abiding to the agreement; 2) begging that the other party allow a change in agreement that would be disadvantageous to the other party; or 3) buying their way out of the agreement.

As servant leaders, we serve our organizations when we can keep the ugly from happening as much as possible. When we're sailing, we need to prepare for the storm that could skate over the horizon. We need to run through possible scenarios, understand their probability and plan accordingly. All things are possible, but the probable events are finite. We should be good leaders by making sure we don't jeopardize our organization by assuming the storm won't come because we don't want it to come...or just because we haven't had a storm all the other times we've sailed these waters. (Like buying insurance, you can argue yourself out of it because you've not needed it before, so why buy it now. Unfortunately, accidents happen frequently and it is probable that it will happen in your organization.)

Today, take time to consider the "ugly" event or the storm that could rock your organization. What is the likelihood? What can you do to prepare for it?

For C12 and Truth@Work members, we are asked to think ahead and be prepared in many scripture passages. "Build your house on the rock" (because the storm will come) and "estimate the cost to see if he has money to build it" and "be shrewd as snakes but as innocent as doves" are some of the advisories.

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