Riddell: Owners, managers, employees and elections
Not Business As Usual
Newsflash: there is an election on the horizon. Regardless of your political persuasion, there is no denying the Newtonian reality of ballots: A program or policy in effect, tends to stay in effect, unless it is acted upon.
Every election is a significant opportunity for every entrepreneurial manager. Unfortunately, the vast majority of business leaders never grasp the fact that election issues are viable means for communicating with employees the relationship between various issues and their direct impact on job security. Not only are important opportunities missed, but to not do so is an abdication of leadership.
Every entrepreneurial manager knows and certainly feels the interconnection between government regulations and the running of his or her business. Where 20 years ago the topic of public policy may have been relegated solely to the world of political science, most pragmatic business people now view it as a prerequisite for any approach to effective management. So intertwined are public policy and business that many colleges are including public policy course offerings in their business curriculum. The operating challenge for business leaders is to view the process of public policy as a cause and not as an effect.
Central to this approach is the recognition of a few simple principles. The first and most simplistic is the realization that the legal basis for policies are voted on and supported by elected officials. As elected officials tend to be responsive to their constituents, it is imperative that these constituents take the time to understand issues and, most importantly, think through impacts. For the vast majority of people, those impacts of most importance are typically those that directly affect some areas of their lives. For many this direct impact is most acutely felt and understood when it is connected to their paycheck. An abstract, perhaps academic issue is no longer abstract nor academic when an individual clearly understands the personal financial ramifications.
This is where the leadership aspect of entrepreneurial management has an opportunity. Successful organizations are founded on committed employees and commitment implies a direct link between personal actions and personal benefits. While many view this direct link commitment solely in terms of job actions and outputs, this narrow view does not do justice to the needs nor the intellectual capabilities of talented workers. Commitment and its resounding benefits are not solely short term activities but also include longer term perspectives with future opportunities. Business leaders can provide the educational information to connect the short term with the long term. It is not the leader’s responsibility to make the decision for the individual, but it is the leader’s responsibility to assist in trying to make the decision an informed one.
The process for doing this does not have to be very complicated. It can be as simple as holding a small meeting where the leader outlines an upcoming topic, states his or her view on it complete with the potential impact on the business, and then answers questions. A bit more involved but equally informative could be a position paper provided to all employees with an explanation of the issue at hand with the connection to the company and the company’s individual employees.
Like it or not, employees do look to managers and leaders for guidance. When confronted with issues that directly or indirectly affect the financial security of themselves and their families, these employees have the right to expect informed leadership. If you see yourself as a leader then you have the obligation to assist them.
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