I just attended a seminar on product marketing and could not help but connect the presentation to the inevitable onslaught of political campaign messages we see at this time of year. The issue I had with the main presentation at the seminar was that, while expertly crafted by an individually knew how to sell, it in no way had any connection to the stated mission of the company. Furthermore, it was clear that the product offering was to be of greater benefit to the shareholders of the company than it would be to the customers or employees of the company. My question to the VP of Marketing of the company was “Who do you serve, the customers, employees, or the shareholders?”. The answer was a very clear and confident “The Shareholders!”. Honest but also disturbing.
As I listen to the scripted debates showcasing local aspiring congressional candidates I ask a similar question “Who do you serve, the citizens, party or the vested interest groups?” but sense a far different perspective from the first-time candidates than those seeking re-election. I truly felt that the incumbents were not even answering the questions posed, choosing rather to take the opportunity to deliver a message they wanted the audience to hear. Well prepared statements and slogans were the order of the day and while very well delivered they consistently lacked the sincerity or foundational values proposition. It became very clear that their objective was clearly to say what had to be said to get re-elected. What standards they would perform by never took the stage.
I would like to believe that the VP initially thought he would serve the customer and the first-term politician could make a difference but upon reflection, I don’t believe that either have those respective position at heart. The difference in the two individuals was that the VP told me that the customer was not his first priority, the politician tried to get me to believe the constituents were. The VP was selling his product (share price) to the shareholders and the politician selling his product (a friendly vote) to his party and special groups.
What we, the customers and constituents too often get is not the best we could get or even what we really need – but we buy it! We eat the junk food (that kills us), watch the junk TV (that entertains but demeans) and re-elect those that we dislike (defined by the polls). We talk a great game – then sit on the sidelines and let others play theirs.
Being a good citizen is not always easy. It requires high values, standards and ethics but not just on the podium, on the couch or on the sidelines. As individual citizens or having the stewardship responsibilities as business leaders it is up to us to take a stand, take responsibility for our actions, influence and take action. Why? Because we own it. There is no “they”, only “us” and we are the stewards of our world and the people who live in it. It isn’t a matter of choice either, it can only be us, we are the stewards. What is stewardship? Often defined as “… the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”.
We are the stewards of our world – our lives, our businesses, our communities. Let’s not just change the world, let’s make it a better place.