The Importance of Internal Relations during Times of Adversity

February  8,  2017 / By Tony Signore

Taylor CEO & Managing Partner Tony Signore reflects on this excerpt from a New York Times piece published on February 4th titled,
“Is the Met Museum, ‘a Great Institution in Decline’?” February 28th update : Metropolitan Museum’s Director Resigns Under Pressure

 

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As a proud member and long-time supporter of The Met, I strongly believe the education, understanding, respect and appreciation of global culture it provides can have a profound impact on our society. It’s important to note that I’m truly passionate about this fine institution of learning, which has played an important role in my life since the mid-70s.

In 2008-2009, when the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 placed a stranglehold on businesses in nearly every industry, my ability to lead as Taylor’s chief executive was put to the test. While this is not the forum to communicate everything we suffered through, learned and accomplished during that challenging period, I would like to touch on the importance of

INTERNAL RELATIONS

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It is during times of adversity when the true colors of a leader are revealed. It is during those times when a leader must be FRONT and CENTER with everyone within the organization. If the news is good, bad or indifferent, the chief executive must be the one out front early, often and with full transparency. Difficult decisions must be made in challenging times (and let’s face it, most are tough for staff to understand and are quite unpopular), but when a leader stands before her or his colleagues, it is generally respected and appreciated. When you clearly articulate, with confidence AND humility (two key attributes of a great leader) the organization’s rationale for such decisions and more importantly, the steps that must be taken – COLLABORATIVELY – to ensure future growth and success, most executives get on board and move forward as a unit.

When leaders BELIEVE the organization’s greatest asset is its people, they ENGAGE and evaluate a diversity of ideas across every level when preparing to make critical, enterprise-wide decisions. Here’s the problem: EVERY chief executive says, “Our greatest asset is our people,” but the reality is some don’t fully buy into this universal human truth . . . for a variety of reasons. Some leaders flat out don’t truly believe this; others lack the self-confidence to actually engage their team (especially direct reports), and some are simply too stubborn to consider varying perspectives and alternate approaches. I’ve also worked with chief executives who possess the talent and experience worthy of their role, but lack the appropriate communication skills. Strong communicators, in my view, are MADE not BORN, and there are a plethora of excellent consultants to help leaders master this critical skill.

Finally, on the subject of consultancy, I love the idea that Boston Consulting Group was retained to assist with the Met’s restructuring. Along with McKinsey, I have great respect for BCG’s ability to help organizations achieve transformational change, but I learned through this NYT piece that their services include an evaluation of the morale issues at the Met. Let’s be clear about something – organizational change requires an intense evaluation and understanding of numerous internal and external factors and constituencies. BCG is an expert in most, but when it comes to issues of agency morale, staff empowerment, diversity of thought and inclusion, the Met needs to look elsewhere.

I have a certain level of confidence in Thomas Campbell’s ability to continue to lead the Met through challenging times. Privately and publicly, I have applauded his efforts to balance an innovative approach to ‘digitize’ the Met with the deeply held belief (of Campbell and the majority of the Met’s Board) to “sustain an environment in which scholarship could flourish.”

We ALL benefit when the Met, along with many of the world’s finest and most important cultural institutions, continues to thrive. Future generations depend on this more than most people may think.

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