A Little Less Hollywood and a Little More Mayberry

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We note with sadness the passing this week of Andy Griffith, who though he earned his living in Hollywood, never seemed to forget where he was from. 

A visit to a Hollywood film lot (we highly recommend the Warner Brothers tour) comes with the admonition from tour guides, with evidence aplenty, that nothing there is at it seems. In many respects, that has become the norm throughout much of society, such that in so many respects, form, image, illusion, branding, the avatar, the lipstick on the pig takes precedence over reality.

Earlier this week I engaged in a brief (140 character) online joust with a recruiter buddy who was bemoaning what he considered undue focus on authenticity, and not enough on hard accomplishments. I replied to the effect that, whereas I, too have a healthy respect for results, I’d also like to see fewer people (and organizations) trying to appear authentic, and more actually being that way.

It called to mind a very fine presentation by Chick-fil-A’s Andy Lorenzen (Director, Talent Strategy & Systems) at the recent SHRM global conference in Atlanta. Mr. Lorenzen was refreshingly candid in the Q&A portion of his presentation, especially when responding to three different audience members who, each in their own way, asked if the devout Christian beliefs of the company’s founder and owners didn’t in some way (legal, ethical, or operational) cause workplace problems.

Each time, he patiently but persistently noted that Chick-fil-A is a privately held company whose owners do hold certain beliefs dear, and have a prescribed set of values for their business, but that they do not foist their religious beliefs on others. That said, he added, with equal emphasis, that people who are uncomfortable working in an environment where those beliefs shape the operating culture and norms would likely find that Chick-fil-A is not for them. Then, with a smile on his face but dead certainty in his voice, he added that one thing they do foist on people is that if you work for Chick-fil-A, you better be down with “sellin chicken” or chikin, as their billboards playfully put it.

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a very strong sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks.

With help from John Wiley & Sons Publishing, we released last week the latest in our Contented Cows series of leadership books. Written largely at the request of those who wanted an update of our 1st work, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk offers fresh examples, a new and even more compelling business case, and some largely unheralded exemplars that we can all take lessons from. Indeed, one of those lessons is that our authenticity, at both personal and organizational levels represents the greatest key to bridging the trust gap which is perhaps the biggest problem that every business leader faces today.

We hope that you will purchase a copy from your favorite bookseller (it’s available in all popular formats), read it, and then be among the first to review it online at BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.com.

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