A Texas billionaire (he actually holds dual citizenship in US and Antigua) Knighted by the Commonwealth, and a philanthropist. Wow, what’s not to like. Oh yes, I almost forgot those fraud charges. How did he pull it off? Why did people follow him? Was he that good at engaging his employees? My answer is definitely “No.” Let me explain…
Manipulation versus Connections
Highly Engaged employees are committed to an organization because they connected to the organization. A connection is a mutually beneficial bond. If the allegations are true, the only way employees were connected to Stanford is by a misrepresentation. Therefore the bonds were not mutual and were based more on manipulation.
Fear versus Opportunity
In an Engaged organization employees are accountable because they are comfortable. Employees are perceptive, confident, and look for opportunities. According to news reports, at Stanford employees were reprimanded for asking questions and behaved obediently out of fear for their job.
Self Interest versus Interest in Others
Organizations with highly engaged employees act out of interest in others. Everyone has a certain level of self interest, but in highly engaged organizations that natural inclination is managed and tempered. Again according to news reports, at Stanford many people acted out of greed and ego. Those people were happy representing a firm that flaunted riches because it made them feel better. Many overextended themselves living larger than they should have.
Secrecy versus Transparency
The investments at Stanford were shrouded in secrecy and false statements according to the SEC. While in a highly engaged organization transparency is prized. Organizations that value Employee Engagement go out of their way to communicate often and honestly, not only internally but externally as well. When employees see dishonesty or inconsistencies in what is said or done they become concerned and lose trust in their organization and its leaders.
A Narrow versus Bigger Picture
When we talk about Engagement the highest form of Engagement is Enriching Engagement. That means employees believe in and value the organization, what the organization is doing, and what they do for the organization. The culture, the history and the name of Stanford revolve completely around Sir Allen. A company is much larger than one person especially one the size of Stanford Financial. If the reports are true this was hardly an Enriching environment.
Engagement is based on honest, mutually beneficial relationships that center on service to colleagues and customers. Based on the charges and news reports, I cannot see how anyone could mistake Stanford Financial for a firm that focused on Engagement. On the other hand, Sir Allen seemed to be a pretty good illusionist until the SEC removed the smoke and mirrors.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to pull back the curtain and see the culture of the organization before we made an investment with them or in them.