Crisis of Confidence

The current situation in Afghanistan is turning out to be more dire by the day. The issue at hand is two fold. First: The entirety of the situation in regards to people, ongoing calamities, casualties, ___________(fill in evolving list here) are far too numerous to quantify at this moment. And, in some respects, not fit for this site. For, I’m not a political analyst, journalist or something other of that realm. Nor, do I want to go down any political rabbit-hole that causes far too many into picking a side to argue right or wrong (via Right or Left), before they even understand my first point.

It’s not what I do nor, care to.

However, with the above said, I do believe I can give some context as to what might unfold or evolve at breath-taking speed further, catching everyone as off-guard as the administration appears to have been regarding current events.

In other words, I’m going to discuss it from my forte in business. i.e., Through the lens via situations I’ve dealt with that are far more similar than most understand. e.g., A Turnaround Specialist (TS).

Let’s set things up as a baseline by first describing with a brief statement what a TS is, and why it is such a coveted title in the business world for those that may not be aware. It’s explained here only for context as to help solidify the premise as to the how-and-why of my larger assertions, and why you should give them any weighting, nothing more.

In simple terms: A TS is the person usually brought in by either the Bank or Board when one or both have lost all confidence in the current management (e.g., from CEO down) and, already resolved to the notion that the company will be closed, sold, et cetera should the efforts of the TS fail. (caveat: if it’s solely the Bank that calls in the TS – the Board, by default, is no longer relevant and joins the CEO in relevancy going forward. i.e., fired, absconded, etc., etc., etc.)

The TS is given full authority to make whatever decisions and implementations they deem necessary there and then, as they see fit. They can fire anyone, while also, have full authority to over-ride any and all others prior authority. e.g., CEO’s either do what the TS says – or leave. Period. In other words – once the TS walks onto the premises, at that moment: “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Now that I’ve laid out the above, a good question would be: Why? Why does such a position command such authority? And, why is it such a “coveted” one as I alluded?

Good questions, here’s why…

It is one of the hardest jobs in all of business. Repeat – all. It’s only equivalent is that of the budding entrepreneur that starts from scratch and develops a multi-$million or $billion enterprise. The TS has to come into a multi-$million or $Billion enterprise – from scratch – as to try and save it from going out of business. Sometimes, from that same budding entrepreneur that founded it. Many try, but few are successful doing it just once. I’ve done it twice, both were their market leaders.

[Side note: TS’s don’t really grab headlines and/or lauded over media darlings. Usually they are brought in much like a consultant (usually to clean up the morass the prior “consultants” have created) then quickly leave (unlike those prior “consultants”) the enterprise to now be run under “new management.” However, there is an equivalent of this you have seen in real-time over the years: Lee Iaccoca coming in to Chrysler. Lou Gerstner with IBM. And yes, Steve Jobs return to Apple. All are examples of TS authority and application at work.]

Now, the first reason why it’s (TS) so difficult, is for all the innate understanding one has to have in regards to management, unions, logistics, equipment, suppliers, customers and more. i.e., The moment one walks in – you have to be able to hit the ground running making decisions to keep, jettison or alter, all on the fly, in real time. It’s daunting to say the least.

However, as daunting as that is, it is not that aspect which is the hardest. And, primarily, not the one that earns you “The big bucks!” as they say. For, there’s another aspect which runs in conjunction that needs to be understood – that is far harder – and far more imperative, which is…

Re-installing confidence. This is the primary objective, for without it, everything else is futile.

Confidence in all aspects of the enterprise, both at that moment and going forward. It is the primary mission. The “logistical pieces” as they say, work in unison. However, installing confidence, too all – is job one. Emphasis on “all.

It’s from this perspective I want to give some context as to what is currently playing out via the administration regarding Afghanistan. i.e., You could not script a worse showing for confidence if you were trying. Yet, it is not solely contained here, as I’ll explain.

So, now with all the above for context, I’ll put my spin on what we’ve all been watching unfold and approach it from a pure business perspective – not political nor, ad hominem.

First: Any leader, of any organization, regardless of size, that doesn’t end a vacation immediately to address existential concerns regarding their company – is derelict of the duty and responsibilities in the eyes of its customers, as well as employees.

There’s no debate on this point.

You may not be able to get to “the office” immediately. However, you announce that as of that moment – as you are making your way back – that you are in full contact and available 24/7 to those that need to contact you should any need arise, and you’ll update those in the press (if needed) when circumstances warrant. Period. Full stop.

In other words: The primary job as CEO (or TS, if applicable) would be to instill confidence that not only were they aware of the situation, but also, immediately back in command to administer the where, what and why’s to be initiated going forward.

If a press conference was warranted, they would (should): Address the situation succinctly, take a few questions and offer up as generic an answer as best they could i.e., “We have protocols in place and we’re evaluating their effectiveness making real-time adjustments in this very fluid situation. We’ll let you know more when we do. Next question.” All while delivering it via their best “in command” demeanor.

What have we witnessed so far?

A press conference days into a complete unraveling of synergy and control, pasted across the global media – and – a very easily discerned shift-blaming exercise with no questions permitted. Then, allowing for back-side photos of the “man in charge” walking away to go back on “vacation.”

Sorry, can’t make this stuff up. For, it gets even worse.

Second in command? You know, the next in line, aka VP? People, for days, were checking milk cartons.

Press Secretary (PS) i.e., Your very public face to all the media? “On vacation.” Literally, not snark. When reporters originally tried to get through to the PS (again, for days) they were greeted with the robo-message that will live in infamy (paraphrasing): “Sorry, I’m on vacation…”

Again: You can’t make this stuff up. No one would believe it in a fictional story. Yet, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction, yes?

Estimates range that some 10,000+ U.S. citizens may currently be stranded in Afghanistan with no way to find or get them out.

The response? (paraphrasing)”We can not guarantee your safety to get out. You’re on your own.” Oh yeah: “And, if you do, it’ll also cost you $2K for a seat.”

If you think the above is bad? Hold on, it gets even more bizarre.

The above was followed up with another press conference that was (supposedly I ‘m guessing) an attempt to instill confidence. It had the entire “team” from the VP down, all standing right behind – all wearing masks and social distanced out of frame. This picture alone said more about the lunacy of current things than anything else. In other words: The entire edifice of “Super-power” status and efficacy is falling apart, in real-time – and to project confidence you mask up and social distance.

Sorry, but this did far more to crush any illusion of confidence – than instill it. It was appallingly pathetic. There on the stage were the people, supposedly, to exude confidence, and, they social distanced so they could not be included in the camera shot.

Again, you can’t make this stuff up. (Seems to be a recurring meme, yes?)

From my perspective: The only thing that moved this exercise for “confidence building” away from the already lowest rung of efficacy, was that the President was then reported to be leaving directly afterwards to go where? Back on vacation! This time to his “beach house” in Delaware. Only after howls of outrage a day or so later has that since been rescinded (aka cancelled out of humiliation).

Juxtaposition time…

Think of this using a construct such as the business equivalent of a drug manufacturer finding out it had 10,000+ doses of medicine they knew were hazardous, then claimed, there was no way to get them off the shelves so, you’re on own should you be the beneficiary of one of those tainted ones. Oh yeah, and you’re also responsible for any medical bill you may incur as a result.

Think that’s off base? Fair enough, how about this…

Television screens and more report places such as air strips and warehouses filled with caches of guns, vehicles, ammo, high tech weaponry and more just left on shelves or in surplus piles. All left behind for the insurgents to now confiscate and use.

Imagine, using our business example, if our hypothetical company manufactured opioid pain medication then suddenly closed its facilities so quickly: it left behind barrels of finished drugs, the manufacturing equipment, transportation and warehousing for distributing said drugs – along with – all the private security forces weaponry to protect it, in place. And, it was now in the hands of street gangs. All while broadcast live on social media.

But, not to worry you’re told, for the gangs have been explicitly warned “Do not use them for nefarious purposes.”

Well that solves that, right?

I could go on and on but, there’s no need. From a pure business equivalent – this alone would be enough for a 101 text book example: “You can’t make this stuff up.” aka What not to do in a crisis.

However, we now are going to balance the hypothetical with the very real, where this gargantuan crisis of confidence is still increasing in severity by the day. Here’s why, first…

Think of other countries that are allies or trading partners. Think of them using our business example as the equivalent of suppliers, customers, creditors, competitive rivals and more. Guess what they’re all now doing? Hint: Rhymes with – seeking alternatives ways to either fulfill, suspend, sell or take market share of anything that you have dealings with.

If they owe you money? They’ll slow or stop paying and wait to see how things progress. If they use you as a supplier? They’re already looking to either split the orders going forward with your competitors or, dropping you in toto in favor of them.

If you owe others money? They’ll be looking (and will) to put pressure for you to pay outstanding balances in full before any idea of increasing one’s credit line sees the rays of a banking light. Or, they’ll just call any notes in (aka foreclose) arbitrarily.

That is what a TS deals with the moment they step foot in the quagmire of crumbling confidence For it’s all about confidence. Doesn’t matter how good one is at all the other stuff. If confidence is not restored? Everything after is meaningless.

I believe this is what is now transpiring at all levels, globally. And, it will not stop. It will only get worse manifesting itself in ways and in areas most have no understanding for severity and complexity. It is now a monster unleashed on a diet of steroids.

I’ll end with this thought exercise for you to conduct on your own as to see if what I’m stating has any efficacy. Ready…

Now that you know the documented reality (e.g., Afghanistan) that what was presented at these press conferences and more, which bore no relation to what was actually happening and televised globally. Replace the context of all them i.e., Afghanistan, insurgents, experts, safety and more, with the following, such as: masks, vaccines, lock-downs, experts and more.

I will argue, you now have a further crisis of epic proportions building by the day throughout the citizenry. Because, it doesn’t matter if you’re for something or against it – this glaring detail is now too obvious to explain away, as in…

They (administration) were saying one thing, while it was demonstrably proving to be the exact opposite, in real time. So, the inherent thinking will go: If they’ll say that regarding this? What else are they saying, lying, doing ___________(fill in your own here) that I should question?

Hint: see above paragraphs for clues.

Here’s one last item for your consideration that I said to a friend who asked for my reaction after I watched the original press conference that had everyone on stage masked up I referred to above.

If you want to see if you’re being truly honest with yourself, I’ll answer you this way…

If Mr. Biden was head of the country’s largest bank, knowing and viewing that press conference with what you know as fact and continuing to see unfold. If you replaced his words for ‘safety of people and execution of a plan to keep them safe’ – with ‘deposits and safety of one’s money?’ Again, being honest with yourself. Would you still be talking to me or, would you be running to the nearest ATM?

Think about it.

© 2021 Mark St.Cyr