Do you remember when a crazy man jumped the White House fence and made it all the way inside before being confronted by the Secret Service? And recently a man piloted a gyrocopter onto the White House lawn. UGH, here we go again…these incidents are being added to the long list of unimaginable screw-ups the agency has had recently: Prostitutes in Columbia, armed men in elevators with the president, mystery bullet holes, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
It was what happened in the days following the fence-hopping incident that really shocked me. As people scrambled to find out who was responsible, a very dysfunctional underbelly of the Secret Service began to emerge. Disgruntled employees came out of the woodwork to talk about how they are fed up with the leadership and culture in the agency. (So much for keeping the secret in Secret Service!) Some agents even took to posting on Glassdoor with comments about how they were “treated poorly” and how the agency “simply does not care about it’s employees.”
It really makes you wonder how an agency that was once admired and respected for it’s professionalism fell so hard and so fast? What went wrong? Did they see it coming? Because America sure didn’t!
The old saying, shoot rolls downhill (you know what I mean), really doesn’t apply here. When failures are this big it is clear that the problems started at the top, and that is exactly where the blame rested. On the leadership. There is a lesson to be learned here. Every company should look at the failure of the Secret Service and use it as a lesson on what can happen when leadership fails.
Leaders don’t just have a responsibility for improving bottom line, they are in charge of guiding a company’s culture. Without thoughtful leadership, mission statements become empty phrases hanging on walls. People need strong leadership; they crave it. A leader needs to define what is important so there are no distractions, and consistently reward people for their achievements. It is only when a company’s values and beliefs are felt by it’s employees that they can apply them to their attitudes and behaviors.
The cookie can crumble really quickly. With social media’s reach, bad news travels faster than ever and a company’s reputation can spread fast. Like a relationship, it takes work to keep a work culture happy and healthy. For the Secret Service the clues were there…right there online. Employees were unhappy with their jobs and were posting about it. Perhaps if leadership took the time to address the problems then this other stuff may not have happened.
It is important to remember that employees across the board are looking to work for a company they believe in. Nobody wants to feel like they are fumbling around in the dark, there is no pride in that. We want those words on the wall to mean something to us.