Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Can The Pope Clean House?

April 24, 2014



Current actions in the Catholic church offers insight on what some are calling “the Francis effect.” Jorge Bergolgio, 77, is the recently appointed Pope Francis. He is the man responsible for rebranding the Catholic church in the past year.

The Situation

Many would agree, as the Economist suggests, the “world’s oldest multinational was in crisis.” Competitors were gaining share in emerging markets. In traditional markets, scandals were keeping out prospects and the staff were disengaged. Despite guaranteed lifetime employment, recruiting new priests was difficult. Finances were in disarray and insider leaks indicated the bank was riddled with both corruption and incompetence. In addition to poor and fractious governance, the last pope was forced to resign.

What has Pope Francis done so well that suggests great new potential in the Roman Catholic church? Clearly, he is popular. Polls indicate that one of his roughest market segments, American Catholics, are high on him. Both attendance and membership are on the uptick. Analysts say he has focused on some key levers.

Decisive Actions

First, mission. Pope Francis is clear about the Church’s primary aim: helping the poor. He’s demonstrated personal alignment by choosing simple congregate housing (instead of a regal papal apartment), took the name of a saint affiliated with the poor and animals, and ditched luxurious transportation (the loaded Mercedes), clothing and shoes for utilitarian options. He also has avoided lavish displays in official events and spoken with credibility about the mission. These choices set culture and attracts followers.

Second, repositioning. There are new and more inclusive messages which are more accepting on controversial topics. These actions tackle what and how to communicate.

Third, restructuring. A newly appointed group with expert external help will review organization structure, internal processes and the troubled bank for improvements. These moves signal discontent with the status quo.

It’s too soon to say whether or not these efforts are right or enough. But, it appears that intentional decisions have been made to recast a worldwide enterprise. What does this example tell us about change management?

Pope Francis may be the leader who shows how to manage crisis, shake up a stodgy organization and deliver growth.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See:

Crisis, Allies & Trust

June 20, 2011

Just three  months ago, Japan experienced unprecedented damage from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. These three catastrophic events created enormous upheaval with many deaths and huge challenges for leaders in all sectors.

 Black Out Conditions

Japanese  Prime Minister  Kan  became wildly popular 20 years ago for  his ethics and mission focus.  As health minister he  exposed his own ministry’s use of HIV  tainted blood which caused illness and death. This corruption was  long known by others but conveniently ignored. A savvy man, for sure, but in the recent crisis, analysts now say  he was “acting in  near black-out conditions.”  Fortunately, Kan’s work history, his instincts and a handful of trusted co-workers  helped him navigate. During the  crisis and long after, the thick politics between primary stakeholders in the drama have been  obstructions.

In hindsight, deep mistrust was a key factor in this situation. It added delay when urgency was vital, and it cost credibility with both citizens and nations alike. Because Kan could not rely on people in key positions the severe implications from multiple disasters was not obvious for many days. In addition, advisers in important roles were unaware of the resources available to them. The right information was not shared quickly.

Find Capable , Ethical Allies

In an important confluence of events, the plant manager at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant bucked the system.  Despite the pressure of crisis, Mr. Yoshida, who had built a reputation for ethical choices and capable behavior, acted  fast. He allowed seawater to cool the nuclear core and defied orders  from his employer. Experts say this decision almost certainly prevented far more damage.  A day after the tsunami, Prime Minister Kan took a trip to the nuclear plant. Kan met Yoshida and was impressed by his candor. The Prime Minister recognized an ally who would “do the right thing” and was highly capable.

The bold moves of a few thoughtful people  in  the  Japanese crisis offer important leadership examples. It reminds us that credibility is tested in small ways  — daily. People are watching. They see patterns of behaviors. Dishonesty, avoidance, denial are errors that could derail your objectives. Display trustworthiness through transparency, facts, and  thoughtful analysis. Acknowledge mistakes. It underscores your credibility and creates essential trust.

Trust & Mission-Focus

Suspicion is not a hospitable environment for high performance. It can (and does) dramatically affect decisions. Quality information and consistent credible actions contribute to trust. Acting consistently on shared values offers encouragement. It shows a commitment to common good, mission, and to ideals that are bigger than self. Do all you can to squash petty politics for efforts on the “right work.” In the midst of the routine or calamity, build trust and keep a mission focus. These are a welcome refuge for your colleagues.

If you’re hoping people will follow you – act in worthy ways.

 –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author &  W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow.See::

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