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Archive for March, 2012

Do You Really Care About Your Staff & Clients, Or Are They Just “Muppets”?

So do you really have respect for and care for your clients? Or are they really just a source for your own wealth and when they are not in the room are you disdainful, disrespectful and rude about them?

Sadly it seems that there are too many parts of corporate business, backed up by my own experience and shocking stories from some of my clients, that there are too many managers who don’t really care a fig about the best interests of their own staff or of their clients.

I include a recent article about Goldman Sachs and how some people were accused of disdainfully describing the clients as “Muppets”. Whether it is true or not I will let you draw your own conclusions. In my book inspiring leadership I explain why it is important, and makes great business sense, to love the work you do and care about your staff and the customers who you deal with.

Here’s the extract from one of the newspapers:

“Departing Goldman Sachs Banker Slams ‘Rip-Off’ Culture.

Goldman Sachs faced an unprecedented assault from one of its own on Wednesday after a banker published a withering resignation letter in the New York Times, calling the Wall Street titan a “toxic” place where managing directors referred to their own clients as “muppets.”

It was the latest blow for the investment bank. The company — dubbed a “great vampire squid” in a 2009 article in Rolling Stone Magazine — has been embroiled in the biggest-ever insider trading scandal on Wall Street. And just weeks ago, a top judge criticized Goldman for big conflicts of interest in an energy deal.
In an opinion column in Wednesday’s Times, Greg Smith, who worked in equity derivatives, said Goldman had become “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’” Smith said.
In the United States “Muppet” brings to mind lovable puppets like Kermit the Frog, but in Britain, “muppet” is slang for a stupid person. (Goldman, as it happens, was at one time also the bank for the family of Muppets creator Jim Henson.)

PAST MEDIA STORMS
Goldman Sachs — fourth among investment banks last year based on fee-income rankings compiled by Thomson Reuters and Freeman Consulting — has a history of tension with client interests, experts say.
“Greg Smith refers to the last 12 years, but in fact Goldman has been doing this kind of thing since going back to the Great Depression,” author William Cohan told Reuters Insider.

“It’s not just the last 12 years; unfortunately it’s part of the firm’s DNA,” said Cohan, author of the Goldman profile “Money and Power” and a former Wall Street banker himself.
In recent years the company has faced other high-profile incidents damaging to its image after the near-collapse of the global banking system in 2008.

Earlier this month it was accused of a major conflict of interest for advising El Paso Corp on its sale to Kinder Morgan, while being a significant shareholder in Kinder.
A lawyer representing an Australian fund in a lawsuit against Goldman over mortgage-backed securities filed in New York last year and alleging fraud and breach of contract, said he may seek Smith’s deposition to help bolster his case.

“Part of Goldman’s defense is everybody is sophisticated and everybody knew as much as we knew did,” the lawyer, Eric Lewis, said. “But if you’re calling your clients muppets — most muppets don’t have the cranial capacity of Goldman.”
Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, called the Smith piece a “reflection of the change in market mentality over the last 15, over the last 20 years” at an economics summit in Washington hosted by the Atlantic Magazine.”

Whether true or not those articles quoted above should make us all reflect on the way we treat and appreciate those we work wiht and those we serve.

Warm Regards Jonathan

Leaders Are Made, Not Born – Brain Plasticity

For years arguments have raged as to whether leaders are born or made. New research on neuroscience points strongly that our experience continually shapes our neural connections in an effect known as “brain plasticity”. Leaders in many cases can be MADE.

So you CAN teach old dogs new tricks. With repetition and commitment, new neural connections are made and leadership behaviours altered.

I have been greatly impressed by the neuroscience work of my friend Professor Paul Brown and recommend you read David Brooks (The Social Animal) and John Medina (Brain Rules).

Two simple sayings are influential:
1. “Neurons that fire together, wire together”.
2. In neural terms, “use it, or loose it”.

So there is hard neuroscience behind our soft skills. It pays to continually keep your brain active, in middle and old age, with learning new skills (helping minimise the risk of Alzheimer’s).

Work with someone to make healthy connections and learn from experience to become a better leader. It’s sometimes cheaper to learn from others mistakes. I’ve made more than my fair share!

Warm regards
Professor Jonathan Bowman-Perks MBE