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The Grossman Group CEO and communications expert David Grossman shares his insights on the importance of meaningful leadership communication in today’s business climate. With high level tips on engagement and connection, insights into employee motivations and behavior, and firsthand stories from the frontlines of America’s leading companies.

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Goldman Sachs Execs Missing the Point, Now Looking for Employees to Blame

  
  
  
  
  
  

muppet, leadership, goldman op-edJust when you thought things couldn’t get worse at Goldman Sachs, it looks as if the blame game is starting.  After last week’s 2.15 billion loss in market value, Goldman Sachs is now reportedly reviewing internal emails for the word “muppet” and other ways in which employees referred to clients in less-than-positive ways, according to Reuters. This move comes after a senior leader resigned and shared his thoughts about Goldman in an op-ed in the New York TimesIt was a shot that was heard around the world.

The company said in a conference call with partners this week said that it was taking the employee’s claims seriously.  Last week, in a post on the Goldman website, the company said the employee’s assertions didn’t represent the values of the organization. The post and the reports of this week’s conference call stops short of any acknowledgement of issues within the culture, and what the company is doing to correct them.

It seems as if the company is looking for employees to blame instead of senior execs looking at themselves in the mirror, asking whether there’s an issue or not.  According to reports from inside and outside the company, the employee’s assertions were clearly not an isolated case.

How is it that the senior-most leaders at Goldman don’t think they might have an issue? 

What are they waiting for to acknowledge they have an issue, and move swiftly with actions to help address the cultural issues and their issues with clients? 

This is a leadership litmus test, and so far, the execs at Goldman have failed miserably.

The problem with blame is that it’s often a smoke screen for the real issue or problem, which doesn’t get solved.  The execs might get immediate gratification, which is a trap.  Said another way, focusing on blame distracts you from the real solution, and from valuable lessons.

Maybe that’s what the Goldman execs want.  I would encourage them to stop looking for someone to blame, admit that they might have created the problem, and fix the issue.

There’s a lesson here for leaders everywhere.  Are you guilty of playing the blame game?

-Daivd Grossman

Photo Credit: Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Lloyd C. Blankfein talks during a business roundtable event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington February 14, 2012. Reuters/Larry Downing

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Comments

You raise important points. That the company is compelled to say "it is taking the employee's claims seriously" (and who would not?) smacks of either self-delusion or disingenuousness. While the GS leadership may have good intentions, does anyone there truly harbor the notion that they may NOT have ingrained cultural issues? The gutsiest and most effective strategy would be to 1)acknowledge that there is evidence of dysfunction, and 2)develop and communicate a plan to address it. Agree completely that the accent should be on future actions and not on denying or assigning blame for the past. No one can talk their way out of a problem they behaved their way into.
Posted @ Friday, March 23, 2012 9:55 AM by Anthony D'Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA
All great points Anthony, thanks for sharing
Posted @ Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:41 AM by David Grossman
While I think it's important to remember that there's no such thing as a "perfect" organization or culture, there do seem to be some themes that appear to be endemic across the firm. Ultimately, culture is driven by leadership tone - what is tolerated, communicate and sometimes overlooked.  
 
Sadly, I fear this email scavenger hunt will likely result in finger pointing, some new "anti-muppet" policies and few unfortunate scape goats who were likely mirroring senior leader behavior in an effort to fit in and be liked. Let's hope GS has enough foresight to at least look up to determine who's leading these teams before taking any action.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 28, 2012 12:28 PM by Anonymous
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