One of the most common coaching subjects is how executives reconcile their leadership and management with the integrity, or lack of it, demanded by a company's actions and strategy. One executive said to me that they were forced to 'collude with customers' to create a feeling that both sides were working together to lessen the brand's revenues. It is like you are pretending to be a customer's friend and also pretending to dislike your own company so much that you were happy to put the brand at a disadvantage, just to keep your customer happy. This is an unspoken ritual that many brands cannot shake off. If you've been colluding with your customers for years and haemorrhaging money as a result, if you suddenly want to change, lots of people talking to lots of customers and make sure that they experience a different, more integrity based interaction - you are going to struggle. And yet you must lead.
Sometimes it's little things. 'I just need to check with my manager.' (lots of companies employ invisible managers) Sometimes it's big things 'I'm sorry but our process just won't allow me to do that.' (blaming the process and in parenthesis, your own company) and sometimes it's completely fraudulent 'It's the last seat on the plane...' (telling lies.).
Leaders whom wish wish to change this face a huge task. Some simply choose to live with it and need coaching sessions to help them square it in their minds. Knowing that something is inherently dishonest doesn't always mean we can or are able to change it.
And yet. We look at companies who have died in recent years, many in retail or hospitality, many media companies and other solid institutions that we believed would be there forever, and the reasons for their failure could be summed up as follows: wouldn't change with the times, wouldn't embrace new technology, wouldn't change strategy or leadership, were taken out by an aggressive competitor or a disruptor, or it was the fact that customers stopped buying. The brands of the future will not have the luxury of having loose integrity because transparency is what all customers demand, and can find out so much more about who they're buying from - so leaders must shake-off the questionable practices of the past and find a pathway through to a more positive and benign future.