Jack Welch opined on the essential nature of excitement to spur on the managerial ranks. Get your managers excited about globalization, he once said, because it’s a complex task of gargantuan proportions. Get them excited. It sounds like a worthwhile idea.
But is excitement necessary or even beneficial? Is there real and lasting value to creating a buzz inside the organization?
I don’t believe there is, especially when it is manufactured. But the American businessman feels the need to tell the world that he is excited by…what exactly? How about these stimulating events: The release of a mundane software application…the 20th anniversary of an international trade education credentialer…a new financing program for a hardware store (CLOSED SUNDAYS) in the Midwest. Now can you get more blah than that? In fact, you can. Read a few dozen corporate press releases and you will find the excitement word in virtually all of them. But are statements like these professing excitement in the least credible? Do your best teenager impression and shout out: NOT!
Take this pseudo-excitement cannoned out towards the world and throw it back into the organization. Pep rallies for the sales force might make sense, but in very limited circumstances. All but the novice salesman is skeptical about management hype intended to stimulate action. The more seasoned salesman is disinclined — on the basis of experience — to swallow the hot air emanating from the etheral regions of upper management. [Does that make sense? Hot air should rise, but this stuff sinks.] Commiserating over a second martini after work, I have heard salesmen often say “Give me a product I can sell and the tools to sell it with” rather than “Give me more of that hogwash promising the world.” Dilbert fans working in the corporate world know what of I speak.
And yet American business managers insist upon generating excitement within their corporate structure, imagining it an equal to Fairy Dust. Countless consultants concur. (Chinese executives do not care whether staff is excited and refuse to excite them for any purpose, with very rare exception.)
[One may dispute whether the evangelicalism that permeates American business mimics the missionary zeal of American populist preachers – a parallel perhaps worth exploring, given the concomitant rise to influence of religious evangelicals in American political life.]
In business, however, I consider the need for “created excitement” to constitute, at the very least, a flaw in thinking, a generous waste of time and an effort in deception, if not self-deception.
Business is generally dull and repetitive work. There it is, I said it. Call me a contrarian, but while I surely recognize the joy in being given a challenge to one’s wits and experience, the details attendant to its resolution are rarely more exciting than a collection of 19th century door hardware. And yet a job well done, personal growth and a paycheck may make the grind very much worthwhile in one’s eyes.
Manufactured excitement intended to spur on the faithless to greater faith can not change the objective fact of daily dreariness; it may, to the contrary, make staff less likely to plod through the muck of minutiae. Indeed, in my experience, Chinese, the most unexcited of business managers, are far more likely to stick through the really hard work with far less complaining than Americans. There, I said it again. Americans wax eloquent about how hard we work, but, frankly, we come up short in comparison.
The nuts and bolts of business requires commitment and focus over lengthy periods of time. Excitement is brief – sustaining it requires a constant flow of propaganda. How much time and energy will you devote to creating the fantasy that corporate life is one big Orgasm? How many on staff will see through transparent efforts to manufacture a buzz? Welch’s excitement appears to have been a natural result of an effusive personality. Having never met him, I can only guess. But I have personally worked with only one leader who exuded a natural and genuine excitement on the job that was comparably infective over a long period of time.
The rest of the American managing world would best set its sights on simple professionalism – a plain honesty that recognizes the task at hand for what it is and, despite manifest hardships, sets to its resolution. American staff understand the value of a straightforward approach to their daily work. If you want to be a role model for your staff, don’t try pulling the wool over their eyes. Avoid the hype and simply get down to work.
The A Few Thoughts on Excitement in American Business Culture by AsiaBizBlog, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.