Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ozzie to Ozzie

To help leaders influence and engage people, following please find the organizational needs family sitcoms depicted over the past fifty years. Family is a fundamental team unit. Family sitcoms show how leadership and team needs evolved and changed over the past fifty years. Dynamic units, like families, tend to change non-stop, while bureaucratic organizations like the United States Government, Ford Motor, and the Catholic Church, can become too focused on internal issues to meet audience expectations. When organizations respond to market needs with alacrity, they thrive.

It's possible for organizations to change with the times by aligning members around shared values and principles, regardless of members' cultural and demographic differences.

The most popular TV show in the 1950's was "I Love Lucy". Perhaps Lucy's popularity was based on her comic antics, and her manipulating Desi. These were welcome diversions from traditional, idealized, 1950's TV families found on "Leave it to Beaver", "Ozzie and Harriet", "Father Knows Best", "Lassie", and "The Donna Reed Show". These shows depicted fathers like generals, much like Ike, Dwight Eisenhower, the former general who was President for much of the 1950's when hierarchy reined supreme. Fathers knew best. Ward Cleaver, an insurance executive, was trusted and respected. Dads ruled the roost. Relationships on these shows appeared ideal. People from these shows focused on the positive, and expected others to do the same. They had traditional, supportive, and financially sound families. Based on these shows, people weaned in the 50's want authority and structure. Their social status coincided with massive economic growth.

In many of these families, leaders made decisions and announced them with little constituent input or deliberation. This process was not engaging or empowering, but America had just defeated evil in World War II using similar decision making models. Americans appeared willing to follow orders, perhaps blindly. TV mothers, with the exception of Lucy, and their children were compliant and conforming. Perhaps their needs for autonomy and independence were overshadowed by economic memories of the depression and the cold war and their subsequent desire for security. Just as Desi could not influence Lucy to portray an idealized female role, leaders can't expect to lead everyone from the 1950's with an iron fist. However, based on these shows, many people from the 1950's will respond to clear roles and responsibilities, i.e. structure. For those who question authority, civil unrest transcended 1960's TV families.

The most popular TV show in the 1960's was the "Beverly Hillbillies". This comic distortion of a traditional family structure spoofed males as dimwitted (Jethro), overstressed (Mr. Drysdale), or carefree and unbothered (Uncle Jed). The cool, collected male figure of most 1950 families was lampooned in the 1960's. As he entered his New Rochelle home, Dick Van Dyke tripped over his ottoman. Lucy, Wilma Flintstone, Betty Rubble, Morticia Adams, Lilly Monster, and Jane Jetson were the real leaders in their households. Fathers were ostracized for being less competent than their wives. Dads got their families into a jam, and the moms came to the rescue. This humorous spoofing allowed shows to portray dad in a more human light than in the 1950's. Yet this humor may have masked real fear, disagreement, anger and discontent with the country's leadership.

The actual 1960's political leaders like JFK and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated. The United States was involved in the Vietnam War. Rebellion, the counter culture, drugs and civil liberties were touted, perhaps in response to the idealistic and oppressive expectations from the 1950's. People spoke up. Their needs and wants were elevated. As a result, 1960's leaders began to wrestle with decisions after polling constituents and considering varied perspectives. On a positive note, the creative freedom and drive released in the 1960's resulted in Neil Armstrong being the first person to walk on the moon.

In 1960 shows like "Andy Griffith, My Three Sons, Bonanza, Courtship of Eddie's Father, and Family Affair" father figures were portrayed in a positive light. The caveat was these fathers were widowed or single and received sympathy for managing on their own. Julia, a progressive family show about a single black mom, was the only show depicting a single mom. The 60's TV families spoofed and ridiculed the structured and traditional families of the '50's. This may have been an indirect assault on the United States leader, Lyndon Johnson, and his questionable foreign policies. As a result, folks from the 60's may be very humorous, but they'll also use humor to guise their cynicism and suspicion. They are struggling with their roles and responsibilities and to want have input, and to understand, processes and procedures. They want the whole story, and the facts, and creative input. This desire for truth was reflected in 1970 TV shows depicting families.

The most popular family sitcom in the 1970's was "All in the Family". Archie and his family addressed real issue like racism, sexism, homophobia, and abortion. Actual socioeconomic issue in the 70's like the oil embargo, Richard Nixon's resignation, and the recession made the United States question its economic and constitutional strength. Shows like "SOAP", and even "The Brady Bunch" discussed issues never imagine allowed on 50's TV. "The Jeffersons", an "All in the Family" spin off, welcomed the first successful African-American family to TV. Then came "Sanford and Son", "Chico and the Man", and "Good Times". On "The Partridge Family", Shirley Jones was in charge of her household.

As the United States faced some painful truths about its economy and its leader, the 70's family shows attempted to depict family reality. In some instances the mom ran the household. The kids were vocal and influential. However, taking a lead from the 60's, 1970's TV dads and male figures, in general, were still parodied.
Via this attempted self-assessment, and evolvement, the United States became more inclined to facilitate and serve others. The decision-making model used to facilitate these solutions involved polling groups and deciding. The USA became a bastion for resource and hope for countries in crisis. Jimmy Carter facilitated a peace agreement in the Middle East. Retrofitted shows like "Happy Days, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie" did search for squandered values, but we also evolved. People reared in the 1970's want to discuss the truth. They'll seek healthy, collaborative, respectful, and communicative relationships in their work places. They need incentives, recognition, and celebration to perform their best. They may also want to party. In the 1970's, the legal drinking age was lowered and free love flourished. This drive to satisfy one's desires, at any cost, came to a peak in the 1980's.

The most popular TV family sitcoms in the 1980's: "Dallas", "Dynasty", and "The Cosby Show". The common value shared by these and most other 80's sitcom families: material abundance. "The Facts of Life", "Family Ties", and "Falcon Crest" all shared opulent settings and wardrobes. Many of these shows rewarded narcissistic, selfish, and lying people.

In the 1980's a former actor, Ronald Reagan, was in charge and in society, style seemed to outweigh substance. People went to tragic lengths to achieve status. Kids killed each other for their sneakers and coats. Logos appeared on clothing. What you wore or had - external validation, defined a person more than the content of one's character or mind. In the fifties, the economy was jumpstarted by growth. The 80's economy was manufactured by credit and junk bonds. Key decision makers in the 1980's were able to sell their goals, roles, and policies to their constituents.
Capital depreciation timelines were reduced to spark spending. This and the arms race bankrupted the government. The deficit flourished. The great build up of our country's military arsenal did collapse communism. The world sighed with great relief. As a result, people from the 1980's want goals and their economic and emotional benefits. The more cynical may also want proof. Missing fiduciary responsibility in the 1980's led to 1990 sitcoms where people align with people committed to common goals.

The most popular 1990's shows depicting families: "Cheers", "Seinfeld", and "Friends". Characters in these shows created quasi families and in lieu of their biological families. Perhaps in response to divorce being more common than not, or two working parent households, people learned to develop alternative support networks. To make up for lost time and attention, parents over accommodated their kids.

In the 1990's President Bill Clinton and kids, for the most part, were in charge. Social order and decorum took a back seat to self-interest and the me generation's kids. Children ran the roost in shows like the "Simpsons", "Married with Children", and "Roseanne". Cable TV, population explosion, and incessant marketing made people feel like they should have and win everything. People from the 1990's need commitment and support to succeed. Parents felt the pressure to validate themselves via their children's toys, elite school admissions, and victories. Individualism was touted. Soccer moms and hockey dads lost control at games when they, or their kids, couldn't win. Ironically, the parents who couldn't handle the monsters they created had doctors prescribe their kids Ritalin. Many children had excuses for their shortcomings, and the meds to prove it.

This drive for success, and the collapse of traditional organizational economic order aligned with Bill Gates' capacity to create a new economy. Young people no longer have to wait for corporate politics, or "their time" to become millionaires, or billionaires. 1990's people want decisions delegated to them. In general, people from this decade will expect to succeed. But they may not want to do the needed legwork, and their over-structured younger lives may hinder their creative problem solving capacity as adults. They'll want, or need, a leader to fix things when they don't work.

The most popular TV shows in the current decade include: "Friends", "Survivor", and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". In today's TV families, Ozzie Osborn depicts a unit questioning the traditional norms and boundaries of decorum and respect while "Everyone Loves Raymond", "Seventh Heaven", and "Frazier" portray the other end of the spectrum, goodness, concern, and selflessness. Current Americans volunteer to help others more than anytime in history. Charitable contributions are at an all time high.

George W. Bush, the current President, speaks in extremes. He has to win, or he loses. Thus, people raised in this generation are struggling with polarity in our society; the haves vs. have-nots, liberals vs. conservatives, red vs. blue, good vs. evil, selfish vs. selfless, honest vs. lying. Reality TV has flourished under these extremes. The middle class, and independent thought, is evaporating. Although not family based, "Survivor", "Big Brother", "Dog Eat Dog", and "American Idol" all reward and recognize people for competing, and in some cases, being cut throat, selfish, and devious. People come to consensus, with their kind, to make decisions.

The evolution of the manufactured kid, whose parents package the child's skills with overstated successes to prop them up for admissions to great schools, and professional success, evolved from the 90's. In some cases, these parents pay consultants over $40K to market their child to elite schools. As a result, workers from this decade will run the gambit between traditional values and anarchy. They'll need a leader to set the tone with the talent and tools to build success for everyone.

Based on this evolution of TV families, all organizational units in the United States, from families to factories, need leaders who can unify the people in their organizations around common themes and needs. How do you engage a diverse team? What values, and incentives, work with people whether they were reared in the 50's or the 90's, or today? How do you motivate tenured workers to transfer their knowledge to a new generation, considering their demographic, cultural and communication differences? How do people dialogue despite different ages and perspectives and feel as though we're making progress while helping others get ahead too?

Based on TV families, successful audience engagement includes a five-step process.
1. A clear goal / objective (1980's)
2. Mutually agreed upon roles and responsibilities (1950's)
3. Clear and understood, and discussed, processes, policies, and procedures (1960's)
4. Healthy relationships based in trust, cooperation, communication, respect, and collaboration (1970's)
5. Commitment and support to excel (1990's)

Decision-making needs vary as well. Depending on the person, and his or her confidence, a leader can:
1. Decide and announce (Tell) (1950's)
2. Sell, vs. Tell (1980's)
3. Poll individuals and Decide (1960's)
4. Poll the Group and Decide (1970's)
5. Come to Consensus (2000's)
6. Delegate with Constraints (1990's)

Considering the changes caused by last week's elections, and families on going changes, it's hoped this piece helps people adapt, and ultimately thrive.

See you next month!

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