What can we learn from our friends at Goldman Sachs? Are they ready to have an epiphany, face their bad acts, and recover? Is Sen. Carl Levin’s committee likely to help propel them toward healing?
Okay, well, no and no.
Yet maybe we should toast Goldman Sachs anyway. Give them a wink, and tell them we’re here for them whenever they need us.
After all, like any addict still in denial, no one else can make them be ready to improve themselves.
They decided—consciously chose—to bet billions against their own clients, and help create then destroy parts of the mortgage market.
It's "Managing Money while Intoxicated with Greed" (MMIG). Not a punishable offense. It’s nasty, embarrassing, and financially dangerous to others, but you can’t pull them over and make them walk a line for it. There's no greed-alizer test. They get a little shame (“Geez, I did what? I don’t remember…”), a little public embarrassment, but everyone knows what they are.
And REALLY, Senator Levin? This is leadership? Swearing at, and asking Goldman Sachs CEO Blankfein “Why did you…”“Why didn’t you…” of the unchangeable past, lived in a blackout…You’re the active alcoholic’s wife the morning after. It’s useless, dude, because it isn’t changeable, and he’s not ready to get better.
Take a look in the mirror, stop asking about the past, and start testing whether—and how—there might be readiness for change going forward in time. If not, help them expose that for themselves and their clients. It’s the most leadership can do in this situation, and you’re not doing it.
So nowadays is Goldman Sachs still Managing Money while Intoxicated with Greed? Probably, but this time they may be hiding the derivatives under the bed or behind the toilet. I don’t know.
The propellant for change would be pain, and I don't see any evidence of that. When and if they get to the point that what they’re doing and not doing is interfering with the organization they want to be, and if they're not out of business by then, it will be up to them to face facts and recover, or not. That's not going to be induced or regulated onto them.
Take the lesson here: if you’re the leader or leadership on the skids of your organization's bad behavior, ask yourself if this is who you want to be in the world each day. You can be at a true crossroads: denial or recovery, and help is available.
Relapse is typical, particularly for larger and more entrenched organizations: blame, scapegoat, mea culpa before the board or a congressional subcommittee, and then just go back to profit over the greater good.
So I really can’t say whether getting caught red-handed on Wall Street, or, as in BP’s case, creating an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is going to help them put the plug back in the jug.
But I hope it will. Why? Because true recovery—that starts with being at the crossroads, fraught with pain and willingness—is breathtaking and healing to do, witness, and support.
And let’s not forget: it’s always possible.
The Recovering Leader