Sometimes, when you start writing on a theme, you continue to see references popping up all over. This Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Greg Smith — Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs — got a lot of press
Greg Smith has much to say about the culture of Goldman Sachs from when he began working there twelve years ago, and what it has changed to today.
“It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
…I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
…How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
…It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.
…I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons.”
This editorial points out the real value of your organization’s culture from two important respects — external and internal. How do your customers perceive you, and how do your own employees perceive you.
Internal culture issues will end up impacting your customers in some way. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. If they are not positive on your organization, that will end up being communicated to your customers – perhaps overtly through what your employees say, or more subtly, through a drop in quality of the products or services your organization provides.
External culture issues are all about your customers. If your organization no longer values its customers, it will be really hard to convince those customers to stick around.