Published on: December 5, 2017by Michael Sansolo
There’s a constant and unassailable truth when it comes to competition: what was good enough yesterday will not be good enough tomorrow.
Competition always marches forward and that’s why you need to do the same or risk losing ground. It’s a fundamental truth in athletics or retailing. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the winning time in any Olympic event from 1988 would never win today, just as the best store from that era would be woefully outclassed in 2017.
The bar keeps getting raised higher and we all need keep improving.
That’s also true in how we behave in the workplace. What was regrettably acceptable in the past isn’t going to cut it today and certainly not tomorrow. The world has changed and the bar is getting raised at last.
We are currently in the midst of a great reckoning in the workplace thanks to the seemingly endless charges of sexual harassment and the steady stream of powerful men losing high profile positions. I find the parade of stories almost beyond belief.
What’s more I don’t expect the stories to end with politicians or broadcasters. The flood of women posting “#MeToo” on social media makes it clear that this problem reaches everywhere and affects almost everyone.
Let’s be completely forthright here: I’ve been working full-time for four decades and sadly I’m certain that at various points I’ve said or done things that might have upset someone around me, intended or not. I’m not perfect and so it’s absurd of me think otherwise.
However, I don’t ever recall thinking it wise to walk around my office without my pants on or to display my private parts to any colleague. And any interest I had in dating 14-year-olds ended sometime in high school. Honestly I don’t understand the behaviors of some powerful men who thought all of those inane activities (and worse) were good ideas.
My hope is that all MNB readers will agree with me on those last two paragraphs, but I don’t think that is enough. Let’s go back to the competitive necessity for constant improvement and think about how we do something positive going forward.
We have to start by recognizing the need for changing the culture for two simple business points beyond it being the right thing to do. First, our customers are still mostly women who might find it much easier to fight back against stores, products and services than it is to fight a television network or a political party.
Second, we need to attract bright people into the industry and you’ll find young women among them in large numbers by visiting any of the universities with strong food management and marketing programs. If our culture isn’t right, they won’t stay and that deprives the industry of an incredible source of management talent.
All of this should provide ample enough reason for the industry to get pro-active on this issue. That means reinforcing (or starting) in house programs on sexual harassment at all levels. Culture change doesn’t happen any other way.
Nearly 20 years ago during an annual FMI convention, I was summoned to an exhibitor’s booth for a meeting with our female executives who made it very clear that the culture of the trade show was incredibly off-putting to women. Even then, in the mid-1990s, many booths featured scantily clad models. And even top-level female executives were routinely ignored when they entered booths, as proven to me by the female CEO of one mid-sized chain.
Those four women started a movement that grew into the Network of Executive Women (NEW), running a wide range of programs throughout the nation and serving countless women in all stages of their careers.
It’s time to tap that resource, by giving a speaking slot to NEW at every major industry conference. We need to let that powerful group talk about the realities of sexual harassment in our industry’s workplaces. We need to listen, understand and act.
Remember, what was good enough yesterday will never be good enough tomorrow. It’s true for competition and it’s true for culture. We need to act.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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