There were 5 speakers talking about their start-up enterprises. All were remarkably different and equally interesting.
Also speaking was Sarah Jane Maxted Executive Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program known as MIT REAP
It is her first time in Australia and she outlined (not surprisingly), MIT work in various regions throughout the world.
However, it was a discussion with fellow attendees that had me thinking.
Not surprisingly, when any group of people gather in a business environment, talk turns to the revelations about the issues in our banking system.
One particular conversation participant spoke about the need Executive Management have to be fed “good news” and how this then makes its way to the CEO and Board creating a very one sided impression of the overall business.
If there are actual issues or concerns about the manner business is being conducted, these tend not to be raised, or at best, are reported wrapped in false positivity.
I recall some years ago working in an environment where any semblance of information in a report that was not “glowing” would be followed by a demand it be deleted or re-written. Our Executive Leader and all their Fellow Executives would simply not allow such information to be relayed to the CEO.
I was fortunate because my direct Leader refused to play this game and insisted any re-writing of the facts would not be performed by him.
Our small group was alone in having such direct leadership.
We were acutely aware that all other areas of the business were only reporting positive information and were doing so because they believed this was what was wanted and was necessary in order to be held in high regard.
This behaviour proved damaging on a number of occasions, including major projects that were being released in to production long before they were ready. Not surprisingly, this impacted our client experiences.
I wrote about Culture a day or two ago.
What was being mentioned last night as a key issue in our banks over recent years was similar to the environment I was in for a few years, some years ago.
If an organisational Culture does not allow open and honest communication up the line, it is significantly flawed and a negative outcome with severe consequences is guaranteed sometime in the future.
If Executives are obsessed with promoting a short term, shiny and always positive persona, they should not have been appointed to the role.
Interestingly, on short notice, I represented a Senior Leader during a business trip accompanying the CEO. Over a two-day period, we visited major clients, hosted a function and did the rounds of the local electronic and written media. A Senior PR person was also in attendance.
Following one media visit, the CEO commented that it went quite well and asked us what we thought. I was second to answer and provided specific feedback as to what I considered were significant areas for improvement.
I completed my feedback and held my breath waiting to see if there were any repercussions.
After what was probably 5 seconds but seemed like forever, the CEO thanked me and wondered out loud how many other people would have been prepared to provide constructive but less than positive feedback.
The CEO I refer to was certainly perceived as someone who only wanted positive information and feedback.
My direct experience with them is this was a long way from the truth and my comments were both valued and appreciated.
However, at some time they must have given a very different impression. Alternatively, the executives recruited were simply the wrong people.
I suspect it was a little of both.
Are your Senior Leaders genuinely open to all forms of feedback and input and if so, do they provide an environment where you feel comfortable and safe in providing it?
I am sure there are many Bank Executives right now that wish they had provided such an environment.