The Devil Is In The Details

Subhead: Kumbaya Meets Show Me the Money: Gets Squashed to Death

Years ago I was coaching a senior executive who was just promoted to be the global head of one of the world’s largest investment banks.

In his new role, he wanted to instill a culture of higher goals of more than just making money. Great Place to Work stuff. Making a Difference in the World stuff. Most Admired Company stuff.

All went very well! He rolled it out at lush executive retreat. I never would have dreamt that these hard-core investment bank execs, when talking about higher-purpose goals, would have given in to their emotions so much.

They were sharing. They were hugging. They bonded so well over the new mission and values…they stopped just short of singing Kumbaya together.

And then I opened my big mouth.

The goal wasn’t just bonding and agreeing with the mission. It was to get these execs to commit to implementing it. Doing more things than just making money.

So I asked them, “If [HeadHonchoName] was hit by a bus tomorrow, what would you do to keep this mission alive?,” as well as a few specific implementation-level follow up questions. You know: Detail-y stuff that would have led them to the promised land of Most Admired Company.

Everything fell apart.

They just went right back to Show Me the Money mode. All that mattered was who did the bigger deals, and who raked in the biggest bonuses.

Show. Me. The. Money!!! remained the sole mission. At least on that day.

As we can all tell by today’s headlines, Kumbaya Is Still Squashed to Death by Show Me the Money.

Maybe, someday, somebody better than me will lead some investment bank exec to a new place. I know I failed that day. 

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