Honest Self Appraisal

Lesson number: 

This past week we have been watching our new president-elect begin to announce his choices for top advisers in his new administration. Eight years ago, I can remember being quite impressed with the choices that president was announcing, whom seemed to have the experience and wisdom to help our country prosper. Only a handful of the former's choices actually stayed with him for the duration of his presidency. Many seemed to leave their posts under duress and strain. Some even left in disgrace. My point is there's more to any man or woman than their media reputation. And in this week's lesson, we'll discuss the importance of Honest Self Appraisal and how it may relate to ourselves; our businesses; and our government.

I believe that one of the most important steps to take in life is "Honest Self Appraisal." It is only after self-appraisal of our personal life, business life, or organization, that we can redirect our energies and make the proper changes to design a plan for positive progress. We must understand where we are today and how we got here, if we want to reach our destination of tomorrow's dreams.

An example of the use of self-appraisal can be understood by looking at how the American car makers bounced back after getting outperformed by the Japanese car makers in the 1990's. (Although the Japanese automakers have re-established their dominance, and the American car makers teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, the U.S. automakers did INITIALLY bounce back).

During the 1970's, the Japanese car makers were the only ones to purchase the J.D. Powers studies on quality and satisfaction. And USE that study seriously! The American car makers ignored Powers' findings. They shunned their reports because it displayed their shortcomings and they did not want to face up to them. The Japanese benefited from the Powers' research by improving their quality and satisfying American consumers. The Japanese focused on making cars that Americans wanted to buy and succeeded by winning their hearts and wallets.

The Big Three hit bottom before starting on their road back by an HONEST self-appraisal. They identified their shortcomings and devised a plan to improve quality and customer satisfaction. The same J.D. Powers research that they shunned during the 1970's became the basis for prestigious awards that the automotive car makers do flips for today. But, unfortunately, the American comeback would not last. The Japanese would STAY FOCUSED on their core business, which is to build high quality vehicles that consumers WANT TO BUY. The American companies should have done the same, but instead turned their businesses into credit issuing agencies.

GM made more money in HOME MORTGAGES and financing than it did in making cars. They seemed too burdened in union and legacy costs to make money in the car business in the U.S. In other words, it came to the point that GM would be better off if it STOPPED making cars altogether and concentrate on their finance business. That is until the credit market melted down!

What happened? Was this based on one bad decision? No. You only get to the point where the U.S. automakers are after a long train of bad decisions. There was never an HONEST assessment on how to put the company on a long-term trend of profitability. When you have $300 billion worth of debt, it is a signal that the short-term has been the primary focus. Now, one of America's trademark companies is headed towards bankruptcy. Their bonds are junk rated, they don't have the money to pay their pensions, and their creditors are going to want to get paid C.O.D. soon.

Unfortunately the new administration is facing enormous challenges. One can only hope that the individuals who are picked to run this administration are not the same individuals who lead us into the pickle we are in – whether from the congress or from other parts of the government, present or past. An Honest Self Appraisal means that you MUST be honest enough to recognize the root causes of problems we face and plan to eliminate them. Not sweep them under a rug because they are political time-bombs or that you will offend those that donated heavily into political party coffers.

I am all for putting smart people in high places. But they must be HONEST – first and foremost. They must not have any future agenda except serving the country to the VERY BEST of their ability. And they must be able to make the tough decisions that may be unpopular to donors and lobbyists for future campaigns. As an example, we can only wonder if Hillary Clinton can pass these litmus tests as our new Secretary of State. I wish the president-elect well and can only hope for the positive change he promises!