Happy Customers, Happy Employees, Happy Brand

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dan Pallotta wrote a noteworthy entry, titled “A Logo Is Not a Brand,” which examines the importance of one’s brand beyond the logo, ads, and celebrity sponsors. As part of his piece, Pallotta refers to the implications customer service can have on a brand, for better or worse: “If the clerk at your checkout counter is admiring her nails and talking on her cell phone, she’s your brand, whether she’s wearing one of the nice new logo caps you bought or not.” 

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Bad Bosses in Hollywood

My husband and I needed a break from the heat last weekend, so we ventured out to the movie theater. We decided to see Horrible Bosses – I’m a Jason Bateman fan, and my husband (not surprisingly) finds Jennifer Aniston quite talented. As the storyline unfolded – three friends plotting to kill their respective bosses – I started thinking about how many memorable films have depicted frustration and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

One of the first movies that came to mind was 9 to 5 starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin. In 9 to 5 the women dream of murdering their overbearing, humiliating, and sexually harassing boss. In this case, their accidental murder attempt (never keep the rat poisoning with the coffee creamer) resulted in kidnapping their boss and taking over his job. Ironically, the organization had greater productivity, work life balance, and employee satisfaction under their reign. This film provided a great portrayal of some of the frustrations and barriers women faced during the 1980s.

More than a decade later, the film Office Space provided a comedic outlet for anyone who was being downsized, analyzed, or bored by a mundane work environment. After a meeting with an organizational efficiency consultant, Peter Gibbons plots to steal money from Initech with the help of two friends: Samir and Michael Bolton. When this plan works a little too well, the men try to correct their mistake and end up watching their company be burned to the ground by their disgruntled co-worker, Milton.

Flash forward to last weekend. Once again, Hollywood portrayed three friends working for arrogant, micromanaging, and sexually harassing bosses. Each friend faces unique challenges in his work environment, but the sentiment is the same: the work environment will improve with a staffing change.

In addition to providing a humorous take on the workplace’s daily frustrations, these films have a common theme: they illustrate that leadership plays a vital role in employee satisfaction and motivation in the workplace. In a presentation I recently attended, the speaker asked the audience how many people had worked for a bad boss. The show of hands was astonishing! When asked what these individuals found frustrating, we heard responses like volatile, micromanaging, and manipulating – adjectives related to interpersonal style and behavioral characteristics, rather than skill or intelligence.

Although the Hollywood portrayal of these bosses may be dramatic and comedic, these individuals do exist in the workplace, and organizations need to provide opportunities for self-awareness and development.

If not, we may have more cases of disgruntled employees – minus the money laundering and murder plots (of course).
 

There is no “I” in TALENT?

A virtual debate in the business blogosphere has been growing more and more heated over the past several weeks and months.  It appears the debate began with a May 17th New York Times article that quoted Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s illustrious CEO, as saying, “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good. They are 100 times better.”  Although difficult to follow at first, Zuckerberg’s argument is that a brilliant individual is 100 times more valuable than a mediocre team.  His statement reflects a new strategy in the War on Talent that many have also begun to adopt.  According to the Times article, many of the giants in Silicon Valley are so desperate for fresh talent they have resorted to purchasing entire companies simply to acquire the gifted entrepreneurs, engineers, and programmers that created and comprise them.  This new practice has been dubbed “acqhiring,” and is becoming more common in industries where the competition for talent is fierce and requires more benefits, dazzling incentives, and creative ways to attract the best and brightest.

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We Hired You To Drive Change…Now Conform

An acquaintance of mine was recently sharing her on boarding experiences for a job she just started. She was hired her based on her experiences with dynamic talent management projects and they assigned her the mission of driving progressive change in the organization’s candidate selection and leadership development programs. An early indication of the obstacles standing in her way became clear when a colleague said, “Before we brainwash you into doing business as usual around here, tell me your ideas.” At least they were self-aware of their problem!

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Goodbye Michael Scott, Hello New Office Culture

After seven seasons playing the wacky, yet lovable Michael Scott on NBC’s hit series, “The Office,” Steve Carell left the show this spring to focus on his film career. With his crazy antics and hilarious one-liners, Carell’s character enticed more than 7 million viewers to “The Office” every Thursday night. From off-the-wall impersonations to “that’s what she said” jokes, Michael Scott was a staple (no pun intended) of Dunder Mifflin, and his resignation will certainly lead to changes for the fictional company.

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X-Factors of Executive Success

It was only a month ago that President Obama announced the death of America’s biggest villain and proudly proclaimed victory in the name of justice.

For most, the events that unfolded and the success of the mission were symbols of American power. But to those of us who have a passion for leadership, the more subtle story revolved around President Obama and the potential impact this success would have on perceptions of his effectiveness as a leader.

April 24, just days before he announced Bin Laden’s death, Real Clear Politics, a site that averages political polls, showed President Obama’s job approval ratings at just 45%, with 50% disapproving. Experts owed those negative poll numbers to public dissatisfaction with the economy – high gas prices, debt, and signs of inflation. Less than a month later, those perceptions had changed for the better.

The ultimate measure of senior executive selection and succession planning is how well we can identify future high performers. Even with decades of research and industry leading tools, the best we can predict is somewhere around 30% to 40% of leadership potential, and this is better than most of our competitors.

So what’s going on with the other 60% to 70%? The following factors are just some of the complexities of executive performance:

Success often relies on a few key decisions.
The base rate of those critical decisions is low, making them difficult to reliably measure. How many times does a leader have the opportunity to take out Public Enemy No.1 and change his/her foreign policy reputation overnight? If you are Google, is it a good choice to buy You Tube? Skype if you are Microsoft? How much do you invest in your new product, the iPod? It only takes one decision to make or break a reputation, or a company’s value.

Real impact is only visible in the long-term.
It can take years before the value of some executive decisions can be measured. Experts argue decisions made more than 40 years ago to provide covert assistance to Afghan rebels’ fight against the USSR – hailed as a US victory in the Cold War – lead to the creation of modern-day Al-Qaeda. Short-term brilliance can actually have very bad effects, and, likewise, your “dud” of a leader may just have a long-term plan in mind.

Success often means having good timing.
The US economy recently took a plunge unlike anything we could have expected. Sure, there were some leaders who were responsible for the decline (yes, I’m looking at you, Wall Street), and there were policy decisions in Washington that were equally critical (Barney Frank). There were also executives who had no control over the market’s movement. If you would have measured executive performance using a “snapshot” method during that time, you would have seen some ugly metrics: sinking revenue, poor profits, negative stock value, and low employee engagement. Now, as companies rebound, those in power reap the benefits of economic recovery without necessarily doing anything.

Success sometimes comes down to luck.
Social scientists are trained early and often on the importance of statistical significance – identifying relationships that are not due to chance alone. And whatever you call it – luck, chance, or good fortune – there is an element to executive performance which is not entirely within a leader’s control. President Bush took a big hit to his reputation as an effective leader due to his response to Hurricane Katrina, even though so much of what happened – an intense hurricane hitting exactly where it did – was beyond his control.

Politics makes leadership a visible sport, but it is easy to forget some of the lessons it teaches us about measuring executive performance. You may be able to identify who has the right stuff, but judging whether someone will be truly successful is no easy task.

Finally, ask yourself about your own leaders: Do they really make good decisions? Or are they riding the coat tails of someone else’s decisions, reaping the benefits of good timing, and enjoying a little luck?