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A 'no excuse' philosophy.

If alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse, so too are the rewards given to some of us. One doesn't have to be a Rhodes scholar to make a comic comparison between millionaire pro athletes "hot dogging" their fundamental elegance on the gridiron or basketball court, and that of a small bevy of American executives picked to revitalize or build businesses but who pillage them on the gridiron of greed - while being lucratively excused for their inefficiency and improvidence.

Some executives, when faced with a day of reckoning, shower themselves in self-righteous excuses. Meanwhile, downsized or merged companies and the thousands of betrayed lower-level associates struggle to maintain a quality of life that they had faithfully entrusted to guiltless housekeepers.

While this situation exists in all walks of business life, there's merit in reflecting upon how it fits into our daily lives as food distributors, manufacturers, outsourcers and even the trade press. When inflation hit the food industry in the `70s, many firms were singing the blues. At Kroger, and later in the `80s at Supervalu in concert with Jack Crocker, we did not join in. We quietly developed strategies to convert an external negative force into a positive force.

During my years in corporate management, we lived by a "no excuses" philosophy. We made mistakes but converted them into building blocks to improve those values expected from us by our owners, customers, associates and community.

A no excuses philosophy, when supported by a strategic vision, creates a positive mindset for finding creative strategies to adapt to constant change and to conduct business fairly and profitably under all external conditions.

A no excuses philosophy - admitting that "the fumble was my fault" - builds pride in the organization and eliminates that unaffordable luxury of focusing on how much more difficult things are today vs. yesterday.

When people are selected for accountable roles in life, there are always innovative ways to successfully contribute to building the enterprise, helping others and leading with integrity. Leaders must become greater than they are.

After years of observation, I concluded that the competitive marketplace adjusts itself to external forces such as inflation, deflation, interest rates and taxes. Superior management will always create new concepts and strategies to successfully cope with any and all external conditions without uprooting other people's careers. Such leaders are always ahead of the cycle of change. That's the value of a no excuses philosophy.

Any management that excuses itself accuses itself. Business has too many highly paid managers who operate under the notion that they are leaders anointed to rule rather than elected to serve all audiences under any external conditions. Such anointed executives are prime time extractors, not builders. When they look in a mirror, they can't hide from seeing a 15-minute celebrity whose soul is for sale.

If you aspire to be a leader in the food industry, don't let that happen to your head. Instead, lead creatively with integrity. Moral: A good shepherd shears the flock, he doesn't skin it. Think about it.

Gene Hoffman is president and CEO, Corporate Strategies International, Minneapolis, and LeaderShape Inc. He is former president of Kroger and former chairman and president of Supervalu Wholesale Food Cos.
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Title Annotation:corporate management in the food industry
Author:Hoffman, Gene
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 1, 1996
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