Recreating What We Know

How many times have you started a new job vowing it would be different and ended up sadly disappointed? If so, chances are good you’re not alone. One of the unfortunate realities of the corporate workplace is that that dysfunction gets spread from company to company as management moves around. It makes sense. According to Booz Allen Hamilton 70% of behavior that is learned is modeled by leadership.

It may make sense but it doesn’t have to be that way.

We all have a choice when it comes time to decide how we want to behave. Witness the recent example of Fresno County schools superintendent Larry Powell. He runs 325 schools and 35 school districts serving 195,000 students in California. Rather than hope that projects would survive state budget cuts, he’s trying to ensure it by foregoing $800,000 in salary over the next 4 years.

While not many of us can afford to be that generous, it’s great to see the other side of the story for a change. There are lots of people out there doing the right thing, we just don’t hear about them. And we wouldn’t know about Mr. Powell either if word hadn’t leaked out. He didn’t issue a press release or seek any attention for his decision. How refreshing is that approach in a world where almost everyone appears to be seeking reality show stardom?

Competing to see who has the most horrible corporate life seems to have become our national sport. Rather than focus on the negative which exacerbates the fear people are already feeling, why not look for what’s working well and spread the word? Corporate suffering is not going to be reduced until we start changing our behavior. We have good reason to take this tact. As Mr. Powell commented when he saw 200 Facebook messages on his page after his generosity was recognized, “When you make good choices, good things happen to you.”

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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