Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Be the Change You'd Like to See

I’ve been having a number of conversations with people lately about the media. Specifically, how much do today's chronically gloomy headlines on TV and newspapers contribute to recessionary thinking by focusing people on the cutbacks, layoffs and other bad economic news?

Frankly, I’m surprised people take this point of view so seriously. I talked to one executive yesterday who was blaming the media for making the recession worse – and then he slipped into the conversation the fact that AIG had just lost $62 billion - the biggest quarterly loss in history. By his logic, he should now take responsibility for making good that loss.

The media didn’t create this recession. The media didn’t invent funny-money mortgages and horses’-asset-backed paper. The media did not create overcapacity in the auto industry or scare oil prices into falling like a rock.

Still, I agree the media have a role to play. In the last recession, no one was watching CNN, Canada had only one business daily, and there were no round the clock Canadian all-news stations on TV or radio to tell us how badly off we are. So I think they are responsible for perpetuating some of our economic fears.

What can be done about it? You can't turn the media off. And they can't stop reporting problems, such as the Stelco shutdown announced today.

Yes, the media could be more sensible. For instance, today CBC.ca came up with the headline, “BMO Q1 profit dips 12%.” Given today’s sensitivities, they might better have titled the story, "BMO still in the black," which is quite a feat in international banking today. But this is really just a nuance.

The media are just doing their job, but they're as confused about what’s going on as anyone.

It’s up to business to show leadership here. Be your own media filter. Instead of looking for (praying for?) positive economic news, create positivity around you. At work, with your staff, with clients and suppliers, share your vision of the future, and why it’s going to be better than today. Let people know what they can do to help get there, and they will rally around you.

Describe where you want to go. Be the change you want to see. Make hope a weapon.

While your competitors are sitting there in shock, staring at the headlines.

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