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Thursday, 17 November 2011

We're all in this together!

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the car giant's problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded the United States' Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler's union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler's best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The gambit worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain.

He identified with the workers. He was saying, "We are in this together. And, together we can make it through." He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when they really are going through the trial together.

A similar situation is found in God's Word.  In the historical book of Nehemiah, this godly man is informed of the desolate state of Jerusalem and, having obtained permission from king Artaxerxes, was permitted to return from his exile in Persia (modern Iran) to oversee the reconstruction of the walls.  Here are some of his words to the inhabitants of the ruined city: "But now I said to them, 'You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!'" (2:17).
 
Notice the words we and us in that verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem. Now Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, "You folk have got yourselves into this mess. Let me tell you what you need to do. You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I'll be in my office. After all, I'm not responsible; I wasn't part of the problem. You people will have to get on and do the work. Let me know how it turns out."

There seems, to me, to be a lesson here for our contemporary political leaders!  The Prime Minister has assured us that "We're all in this together"!  However, I haven't noticed him, or any other Cabinet Minister, or any MP, MEP, MSP, or MLA, following the example of Lee Iacocca!  What a difference it might make to the nation's morale if every politician, every local councillor, every senior banker, every CEO, was to announce that (s)he was taking a significant cut in salary until the economic situation in the country improves!

Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.  Now, can anyone ensure that the PM etc., read the above?!

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