Why CEO’s Care More About Money Than People
The CEO’s job is to make money. Having a great product or service is really useful, but not always necessary. Having smart, caring people and a great place to work is also nice, but not required.
As long as profits show on the books and the stock price is climbing, the CEO is doing the job.
And when times are tough, the first thing that suffers are the people, their salaries, and the work environment. We are told we should be grateful to have a job and that management “needs our support.” We are asked to sacrifice for the good of the company. The real problems are swept under the rug and ignored while everyone focuses on the accounting and how to make cuts.
I’m watching this happen with a business I do some work for. A talented leader just left for all the usual reasons. She wasn’t getting support from senior management, she couldn’t get her staff cost-of-living raises. She couldn’t get the owners to commit to a new contract for a set term. She sees the place falling apart and no one wants to hear it.
The management wants to claim that there is no money for new programs or people because times are so tough. But when asked about the viability of the business, we are told that it is the founder’s legacy and that the company has credit lines and financial backing. This is not particularly reassuring when the best explanation is “we think we can throw some good money after bad.” We are “assured” the company will continue even though the founder is gone and the bankers are running the show now.
The CEO was “shocked” when the leader stepped down, didn’t see it coming, and could not understand what went wrong. That’s because he is only focused on the money. And that’s because it’s his job to be focused on the money.
In this era of tech, repeatable process, metrics, data, and analytics, our focus is on what we can measure and report. We’ve lost track of things that are difficult to measure, like whether people feel trusted and supported, and whether they are given autonomy and the resources to do great work.
It’s time to remember the bigger picture. It’s essential to consider the people who work for the company and what it is like to show up there every day. It’s important to remember the clients and customers and whether pretending to be in great shape and continuing to induce people to buy your product or service actually serves anyone.
Most importantly, if the business is failing, then it’s time to do something different. Maybe it’s time to close or restructure. But asking your overworked and underpaid employees for “support” is not the answer.
People need to be trusted, valued, and given the resources, they need to do a great job, including being paid fairly for their work. If you can’t do that, you don’t have a business.