Tag Archives: BP

Our Psyche Trend

I spoke recently with an Israeli lamenting the BP disaster. He spoke of the tremendous environmental efforts the US has made in our recycling programs. Yet, he said, the impact of all of that work can be more than undone by a single tragic event like the Gulf oil spill.

I’m not sure whether our recycling or the oil spill is more significant environmentally, but I told him neither represents the big issue.

The thing about recycling today isn’t that it is going to save our planet. Nor will the BP oil spill destroy our planet. The question is how are they evolving our collective psyche?

Twenty years ago we could barely conceive of recycling. Now we have recycling in our homes, office buildings, train stations, and sports arenas.

Recycling isn’t the answer. Rather it is an early step in a shift that leads us to think of ourselves as people who care, who protect the environment, who sacrifice personal convenience for the long term good of our planet.

The real issue is, how can we strengthen this psyche trend? And what else can we ask of ourselves, one another, our politicians, and the business community to live up to our evolving self-image?

Where to Find Leaders

Nancy Lublin knows how to make something from nothing, to lead, to figure things out, to get things done. At the age of 23, with $5,000 she launched Dress For Success, a not-for-profit that now operates in 70 cities in 4 countries providing interview suits, training and career services to women in need.

So if she has ideas about leadership, we should all want to know. That’s why I love her commentary about the BP crisis. She says we should seek out new leaders in the non-profit sector.

Do-gooders are easily overlooked. We’re supposed to be soft, touchy-feely types, who wear Birkenstocks, compost everything, and write poetry by candlelight. The surprising truth? Some of these crunchies are management bad asses. When it comes to managing in crisis, not-for-profit leaders know how to do more with less, under absurd constraints. Instead of throwing bazillions of dollars at McKinsey or calling in the National Guard, why not utilize some of our nation’s best practitioners to solve one of our nation’s ugliest messes?

The Loyalty Trap

Some people prize loyalty as a virtue, but this virtue has to be tempered and balanced with other values. Some people want no end to others’ loyalty toward them, but there has to be a limit.

  • A wife whose husband begins to beat her must let go of her loyalty to him.
  • What if we could turn back history and have more Germans let go of their loyalty to the leader who led them to commit the Holocaust?
  • What if there were people who considered blowing the whistle within BP but held back due to loyalty?

No. Loyalty should not be boundless. There should be limits. Loyalty should be like a bank account. I do something for you. I hire you. I support you. I encourage you. Each positive act is like a deposit in the loyalty account.

I berate you. I ignore you. Those are withdrawals.

If I overdraw by a little bit, that’s okay. Overdraw by a lot and you should cut off the relationship.

And most important, if I ask you to do something that goes against a value you hold higher than loyalty, that should close the account.

Reward Good Behavior

If I wasn’t sure whether a boycott of BP would be good or bad for the world, I am quite sure of one company I want to buy from this week.

Campbell’s soup this week recalled 15 million pounds of Spaghetti-Ohs.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. So why would I want to buy their products? And why do I think all of you should as well?

Because there wasn’t a single complaint about the product. No consumers. No stores. Not the FDA. No one complained.

Campbell’s discovered a bad can of food which led to the investigation of and discovery of a faulty cooking machine in one of their factories. So they recalled any food that might have gone through that cooker – 15 million pounds of Spaghetti-Ohs (full story).

They didn’t have to do that. This is corporate responsibility at its best. This is the kind of behavior we can only wish BP would have exhibited. I hope every company in the future learns from this action.

And to make that point abundantly clear, I’m putting Campbell’s on my grocery list this week.

Please join me. And if soup isn’t your favorite, Campbell’s brands also include Pepperidge Farm, V8, Prego, Pace and Swanson.

Economic Purpose

I was asked if I would get gas from a BP station these days. The person asking expressed that she wanted to punish BP. I remember avoiding Exxon stations after the Valdez. The philosophy was the same – punish.

Today I think differently. Did the catastrophe occur on the BP rig because they were more negligent than the other oil companies? Or was it bound to happen to someone and the BP rig was the unlucky one?

And even if BP was more negligent, should punishment be the purpose of our economic actions.

Given the scrutiny BP will operate under at least in the near future, might they not be likely to be the safest and cleanest oil company in the next few years? Won’t they be working harder than anyone else to prove they can be conscientious? Is that worth supporting?

Emotions make us want to boycott BP and Exxon. Our emotions turn us off to that big box store that destroys local businesses. It encourages us to shun the coffee chain dubbed “The Evil Empire.”

Pragmatism tells us the big box store has great selection at great prices. It reminds us that The Evil Empire has a ridiculous number of options and gives you consistency in your coffee experience no matter where you are. And pragmatism tells me that BP may be a safer bet for my oil dollars after suffering a tragedy like this.

I’m not sure where I’ll fill up. But as with most economic decisions, neither the questions nor the answers are black and white.