Remember back in November 2008 when the economy was in the tank the “Big 3” automakers (Ford, Chrysler and GM) went to Congress to ask for taxpayer bailout money? Of course you do, however, do you remember HOW they traveled from Detroit to Washington DC? That’s right, private corporate jets (est. $20,000 per flight). Several members of congress were livid. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York said “it’s like going to a soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo.”
The official statement from Chrysler’s spokeswoman Lori McTavish, “while always being mindful of company costs, all business travel requires the highest standard of safety for all employees.” Right, it’s about employee safety…I think I just threw up in my mouth.
Don’t get me wrong, this newsletter isn’t meant to bash lavish corporate perks, rather highlight how obvious signs of excess impact the organizations ability to change. In John Kotter’s book “Leading Change” he describes the eight stages of change with the very first being “Create a sense of Urgency”. He further lists nine methods to create urgency; Method #2 is “eliminate obvious examples of excess”.
So should the Big 3 CEOs have taken a taxi to the airport and fly coach? Absolutely YES! That action would send a message that everyone was going to have to change…including executives. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”
The Big 3 CEOs actions spoke loudly back in 2008, actions that employees would have certainly remembered the next time someone gave a speech about cost reductions. Of course they still received taxpayer money and ultimately survived. Most of us cannot rely on Congress to bail us out if we get into financial trouble, we’ll have to rely on our ability to inspire change. Are you ready?