2012 Series 008 – Teamwork

Stewardship

Why put stewardship in teamwork?

Because before business model, before strategy, before tactics, when people gather together to work, they need to agree on the principle of stewardship so that the organization they work for can have a significant and sustained impact.

 

Stewardship leads to sustained impact

Recently (July 2012), the world financial community was rock by news massive trading losses in JP Morgan. The immediate cause of the billions dollar lost is several trades done by few traders.

But a financial institution tottering under a loss cause by a trader is nothing new, Barings Bank collapse in 1995 due to trade loss by a “rouge” trader, and the insurance company AIG also faced trading related loss in 2008.

The real cause of the above example is not the “rogue” trader, the real cause is the incentive structure, monitoring, and check and balance within the organization that is at fault. In almost all the trading loss cases, the failure to say “stop” is the intermediate cause.

Now, what is the root cause of the failure to say “stop”?

It’s the lack of or even failure of stewardship in the organization.

When organization is lead and manned by people who don’t embody stewardship as a personal value, the organization would not have a significant and sustained impact.

Their “profit” is superficial, which holds only as long as the management’s bonus vesting period. When the whale in JP Morgan’s case had his commission, he left, exposing JP Morgan management to the true nature of the “results” the trader had brought.

Stewardship is manifested through decisions

Stewardship: “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving”

People who holds stewardship as a value treats things and resources entrusted to him with the same care as if those things and resources was earned by him.

We treat the things we earn with care and respect, why? Because we spend time, effort, basically part of ourselves in obtaining the things we earn. As we respect themselves, we respect the things we earn.

People with stewardship, extent that care and respect to things and resources entrusted to them, even though those things and resources belongs to somebody else.

When people get into organizations, they manifested their value through decisions. The scope and impact of their decision is limited to their authority within the organization, so the values of the leaders of the organization would have the largest impact on the organization.

What un-stewardship and stewardship do

When leaders of an organization don’t have stewardship value, they make decisions that are designed to fail in terms of sustained results.

Leaders which don’t held stewardship as a key value direct business model, develop strategy, design process, in a way that would make themselves look good at the expense of the sustainability of the organization.

The extent of un-stewardship can vary, from an innocent lack of shrewdness when evaluating a dodgy subordinate’s proposal , to designing incentives system that will momentarily boost revenue at the expense of long term profit, to premeditated and deliberate effort to take company resource by designing a faulty procurement process.

So, organization led by un-stewardship leaders are f from the beginning, for their business model assessment, their strategy development, their organization design, is marred by un-stewardship.

Almost all of those actions would not have occurred if the company is the un-stewardship leader’s own company, funded by his own hard earned cash.

Why? Because he/she would have extended the level of care worthy for his own sacrifices when obtaining that hard earned cash.

Barring lack of intelligence and lack of self-respect, people would be good steward to things that they earned.

Contrast this to stewardship leader, for he extent the level of care worthy for his sacrifices not only to the things he owns, but also to things other have entrusted to him.

Their mindset, consideration, and pace in decision making are directed towards making good and sustainable results for the stakeholders of the organization.

And since stewardship leaders have a common context in their decisions and actions, making good and sustainable results, then teamwork for stewardship leaders is easy.

Ideas, solutions, decisions, are tested against a wall that is common and acceptable to all the leaders. Since all the leaders have a common destination in mind, making good and sustainable results, the friction that happens in the process of decision making is welcomed, not shunned.

Steward leaders welcome challenges to their idea, solutions, and decisions, not because they are stupid, but because they put their stakeholders first, above their ego, their ideas, their knowledge, and their preconception.

If delivering good sustainable results for their organization means putting hold of their own ideas and egos, steward leaders would gladly do so.

Stewardship and teamwork

Now, let’s imagine an organization that is filled with un-stewardship people.

What kind of team work would they have?

At first they will squabble among themselves to take what they can from company. But this kind of individualize un-stewardship is easy to spot and not very beneficial to the culprits. The owner would complain that his team is underperforming or shows lack of teamwork and audit could easily catch on to misdemeanor.

Then as time goes and some become shrewder, they will form cliques and groups so they can collectively, collaboratively, treat company things and resources as if it’s their own things and resources, but without the care and respect if those things and resourced had required their sacrifice.

This second level of un-stewardship is much more dangerous. For the owner might think that his organization is running well, results are good, and teamwork is outstanding. The auditors never caught on to anything massively untoward, because everything the un-steward team members do is within the approved process. But then, one day, when the company or its owners got hold of what’s really going on, things are somewhat too late, as in JP Morgan’s case, that lateness cost billions.

Teamwork, on its own, can kill. Wolf packs have excellent teamwork, but it’s no consolation to their prey.

Before business model, before strategy, before tactics, gather a team of stewards.

 

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_JPMorgan_Chase_trading_loss

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jul/13/jp-morgan-doubles-reported-loss

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303299604577326031119412436.html

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