Responsible Career Management: Doing The Right Thing, Even When It's Hard!

Responsible career management means building a career around economic, social and environmental value creation.  It is a wonderful concept, but as always, it's not the concept that is difficult to agree on, it's the implementation that is difficult.  Recent news reminds us that doing the right thing even when it's hard is one of the most important leadership qualities a responsible leader can develop.

For instance, Mark Hurd is making headlines for resigning from HP this month over a sexual harassment investigation.  About his resignation, Hurd said he "realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at HP".  Furthermore, he added that he believed it would be "difficult to continue as an effective leader at HP."  Really?  Is this coming from the same man that implemented a wage freeze on the HP employees in 2008 while his own total 2008 compensation package was $33,952,237, which included the largest bonus of any CEO in 2008 (namely $23,931,882)?  This does also seem like an instance when he "did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that have espoused at HP."

We can find lots of such examples of 'Me First' instead of 'Me Too' in the majority of traditional business models, which emphasize short-term gain and short-term shareholder value creation (yes Wall Street firms, you are included in this list).  But instead on focusing on what can go wrong in management, I want to focus on people and companies that are doing good work and are showing us that doing the right thing is simple, but not easy!  Of course, this is not the first recession that the US and the World face, and as one of my favorite college professors use to say "look into the past to better understand the present and build a better future".   Applying this idea to responsible career management, what examples can we find in the past that can help us get business done better moving forward?  One example is the story of Jack Stack.

In 1983, Jack Stack was a plant manager in Springfield, Missouri.  He came to know that the plant's owner, International Harvester, was going to close the plant.  Mr. Stack realized that the plant was a major employer for this local community, and that closing the plant would have an enormous impact on the community and the employees he supervised.  So instead of letting the plant close and relocating to another plant management job elsewhere, Mr. Stack made an important responsible career management decision.  Along with 12 other managers, Mr. Stack laboriously put together $100,000 in cash, and succeeded in borrowing $8.9 million to buy the plant and save the employees' jobs.  Under Stack's leadership, the plant became SRC Holdings Corporation, one of the most successful and competitive companies in America.  Mr. Stack’s pioneered the Open-Book Management approach (now renamed The Great Game of Business).  Open-Book management revolves around two deceivingly simple principles: (1) Complete financial transparency with employees and shareholders, and (2) proactively engaging employees by enabling them to innovate and get business done better in their own function.   This approach significantly contributed to creating SRC Holdings, which currently employs 1,000 engaged employees in 17 business units across a variety of industries, $300 million in annual sales.  Transparency and employee engagement, along with innovation from within also paid off for investors:  SRC Holdings Corporation's stock price went from 10 cents per share in 1983 to over $199 in 2010.

There is no question that through his responsible career management strategy, Jack Stack has done well for himself while doing good for the Springfield community.  And we are all lucky, because instead of retiring, Mr. Stack decided to found 'The Great Game of Business' (@Gr8GameBusiness), a community hub and a consulting firm dedicated to help businesses (and any organizations) generate better results through open book management.  No matter whether you are a college student, a recent graduate, an entrepreneur or an experienced manager looking to get business done better, I would highly recommend that you visit the Great Game of Business website, and take advantage of its resources, and free 30-minute session, to learn more about open book management.  Learning more about the Great Game of Business is sure to help you design and implement a responsible career management strategy that will enable you to keep doing the right thing even when it's hard!

It is my hope that many of you, aspiring and established responsible leaders can learn from this rich past to better understand the present failure of traditional business models and build a future focused on getting business done better!  Furthermore, if you are an MBA student or graduate, be a changemaker, and make sure that your friends and colleagues learn more about open book management and about the responsible career management strategies they can use to get business done better!

As always, I look forward to reading your questions and comments!

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