Taking the long view: building an enduring and trusting culture

Bob Lintz, one of the leaders featured in both our first book Trust is Everything and our forthcoming book Becoming a Trustworthy Leader, had the ability to take the long view.  Unlike many managers at GM, he didn’t skip around from plant to plant, promotion after promotion, but decided to stay in Parma, Ohio to build something that would endure, even after he retired.  Parma is still thriving today as one of the automotive industry’s highest quality stamping plants.

This new McKinsey study identifies three ways that leaders can help employees take the long view

1) root out unhealthy habits: Bob worked with the union to eliminate costly overtime and duplicative jobs.

2) prioritize values: Bob did this by eliminating the executive dining room, abolishing separate parking lots for hourly and salaried employees, and having managers no longer wear coats and ties.  He wanted the union and management to work together to bring in new business to the plant, and knew that they could not do it with old, traditional barriers in place.

3) keep it simple, but meaningful: Bob instituted an Open Door policy that he stood by.  Anyone could come to Bob at any time.

These are important principles to remember: easy to say, but challenging to implement.


Team-Building for High Performance

One of the most frequent requests we receive from prospects and clients is to help develop their teams so that they can be truly high-performing, whether they are teams at the top, or teams at the front line.  We believe that team-building exercises can be a useful complement to the more serious work of getting teams to build the ROCC of Trust with one another, which requires keeping commitments to one another (Reliability), communicate transparently and listen empathically (Openness), develop one another’s strengths and address their weaknesses (Competence), and most importantly, have each other’s and the organization’s best interests at heart.

Alina Dizik interviewed me about my take on team-building exercises for an article this week in Entrepreneur.com.  Here are some excerpts:

3 Teambuilding Exercises Tailored to Unique Business Challenges

SheFinds founder Michelle Michelle Madhok and her team after a playful paint-throwing exercise.   Photo credit:  Whoopee

Teambuilding exercises often get a bad rap as a waste of employees’ time, but some entrepreneurs are finding value in activities that are tailored to resolve specific challenges in their business. Designed correctly, team building programs can strengthen unraveling employee relationships, help sustain corporate culture during periods of fast growth, and build morale amid layoffs, human-resource experts say.
Exercise: To educate employees in an entertaining way, as well as bring them together as a team, Koch came up with Beer Jeopardy, an annual game where roughly half of the 850 employees compete against one another to test their beer IQ. All departments compete, but employees in the brewery play a tougher version of the quiz game separately. In addition to answering trivia questions, employees must do blind taste tests to identify different brews. Top prizes include hop-buying trips abroad and a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich. The game “has a way of knitting us together,” Koch says.
3 Teambuilding Exercises Tailored to Unique Business Challenges

Boston Beer founder Jim Koch at the podium hosting Beer Jeopardy, a company event that tests employees beer IQ.
Photo courtesy of the company

Expert advice: A creative approach works well when trying to teach company and industry knowledge, says Aneil Mishra, managing partner at Total Trust Coaching and Consulting, a Durham, N.C., firm that provides team development programs. “Games and creative exercises such as this are more likely to be retained by employees than rote memorization.”

The most important aspect of team-building exercises is whether they are truly applied to teams’ real work after the “experts” depart.  If the exercises not only surface important issues that the teams face, but also provide the tools to address those issues, and if the leaders make sure to apply those tools and reinforce desired team behaviors, then the money spent on the exercises will be well-spent.  Otherwise, the exercises will be viewed as “flavor of the month” or worse.

What kinds of team-building have you participated in, and how have you applied them in your organization?

Yahoo needs to work on trust

Update 5-14-12:

In the WSJ today, Thompson is out.  Yahoo has a long way to go to restore trust in the company and its brand.

Update 5-12-12:

According to today’s Wall Street Journal:

Yahoo Inc. YHOO -1.62% CEO Scott Thompson agreed to resign this weekend after the company’s board obtained evidence that contradicted his claim of innocence over his misstated academic record, people familiar with the matter said.

The board is continuing its probe of the matter to determine whether it can fire Mr. Thompson with cause, meaning he would lose out on millions of dollars in severance pay, one of these people said.

Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s executive in charge of its media websites, will be named interim CEO with the possibility of the role becoming permanent, this person said. Fred Amoroso also was named Yahoo’s nonexecutive chairman, succeeding Roy Bostock.

The changes at the top of the long-ailing Internet company are a major victory for dissident shareholder Third Point LLC, which brought the matter of Mr. Thompson’s inaccurate academic record to light.

Yahoo’s board plans to give Third Point three board seats to end a proxy fight initiated by the hedge fund, which owns around 6% of Yahoo’s shares. Third Point’s leader, Dan Loeb, will join the board along with restructuring expert Harry Wilson and media-company consultant Michael J. Wolf, this person said.

Update: 5-11-12

Now, Thompson is saying he never submitted a resume.  Well, he may have been hired based on his ability and proven capability, but I think what people are reacting to is that Yahoo in general has had trust issues and now, they have a CEO who has, in the past, lied on his resume.  Even if he did not lie to get that job specifically, it is only semantics–he did lie at some point on his resume.

I have my students write a resume and linkedin.com profile in every marketing class I teach as part of a self-marketing plan.  I always stress (as was stressed to me at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business) that you never lie on your resume–never. There were times I was tempted to change the wording of one of my past job titles to get a job I wanted and I was probably passed over for a job because I did not have the exact wording on my resume that they were looking for, but I knew that I could not change what was true.  If you lie on your resume, it will come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

Thompson might be able to say with a clear conscience that he got his job by his proven track record of ability, but there will always be a glimmer of doubt about how he was able to obtain that experience because of the first time he lied on his resume.

Original Post 5-10-12

Warren Buffett said it–Yahoo has a trust problem.  We agree.  When your CEO is questioned about his credentials, you’ve got a problem.  When Yahoo fired their ex-CEO, Carol Bartz, over the phone, that should have been their first sign that they’ve got trust issues.  We don’t know the ins-and-outs of what is going on there, but obviously, they’ve got some work to do.  Now, it appears they are vetting all board credentials to make sure this is not a wide-spread credential problem.

How can you expect employees and investors and customers to have faith in the Yahoo! product and service when there is so much turmoil going on at Yahoo!?

Yahoo needs to stop for a moment and figure out where they went wrong and what they need to go to regain trust in each other at the highest levels.  There is no way that they can expect customers and employees to be their advocates until they put forth a united front.

I’d like to suggest that the Yahoo board work on the ROCC of Trust and do it soon.

1) Commit to being reliable with each other.  Promise to act in a consistent manner.  That includes sharing information in a consistent manner.  The current CEO can’t say one thing one time and another thing another time.  Either he does have a computer science degree or he doesn‘t.  If he is not consistent about something like his credentials, people will wonder what else he is not consistent about.  This is something HR recruiters will tell you all the time–never lie on your resume–it will eventually catch up with you.

2) Promise to be open and honest with each other.  This is absolutely critical in order to re-build trust.  There is a reason that the board could not fire Carol Bartz in person but felt the need to do it over the phone.  It is not necessarily an indictment of her, but of the inability to be open and honest with each other.  Being open and honest includes sharing the bad news with the good, all in an effort to build the business and make it better for all stakeholders.

3) Prove to all stakeholders that you are competent.  With so much turmoil and mistakes, it makes an outsider wonder who is competent at Yahoo.  The board needs to use their open and honest communication in a reliable way to show its stakeholders that it is truly competent to manage the company.  There are doubts and you can understand why.

4) Finally, demonstrate some compassion.  Despite what they thought of Carol Bartz, it was not compassionate to fire her over the phone, just as it was abhorrent for the PSU Trustee’s to fire Joe Paterno over the phone.  Compassion means having the other party’s interest at heart and your organization’s interest at heart.  Sometimes you have to consider the big picture  and do what is best for the organization, even if it means that the CEO must stepp out of the way so that the organization’s credibility can be restored.

Yahoo has been a pioneer.  It would be a shame for it to all fall apart because of a lack of trust.


Trust is Everything Now Available in Amazon Kindle Format

Our first book, Trust is Everything:  Become the Leader Others Will Follow is now available in Amazon Kindle format, and for only $6.99, a savings of 65% over the print version!

If you haven’t read our book yet, you’ll want to buy it before our sequel. Becoming a Trustworthy Leader:  Psychology and Practice, is published by Routledge Press this summer.  If you have read it already, you’ll want the ebook version for handing referencing and bookmarking.

In addition to the Kindle models, including the new Kindle Fire, uou can read it on any device with the Kindle app, including iPhones, as well as Android phones and e-readers.

Our book is also available on iTunes in iPad format, and for the Kindle Nook at Barnes and Noble.

Please share this with anyone among your networks you who think might benefit from reading our book.

We look forward to hearing from you as you read it!

Aneil and Karen

Great Customer Service Tip: Delicious and Delightful

Update 3-19-12: Starbucks in the UK is launching a new effort to ask customers for their names!  Imagine that!  The big question there is:  Will you share your name?  It seems that such sharing is an American thing, not a global thing, and that a multi-cultural place like the UK will find it difficult to pronounce so many different names.  But, if our multi-cultural family is any indication, that should not be a problem.  Aneil is not a common name, but our local Starbucks got the hang of it pretty quickly.  In fact, I wish I had saved Aneil’s cup today so you could see the personalized message he found on his venti up: Feel better soon!  Our local Starbucks is a pretty multi-cultural place, so if we are a barometer for the rest of the world, I think the personalized approach will go over just fine.  Tanya has a loyal following and so far, no one has left in a huff because she tried to learn their name and their drink!


We love our local Starbucks in Durham, NC.  Tanya, the manager, is world class.  She prepares my mocha perfectly every time.  She is bubbly and vivacious.  She keeps the store well-organized.  She appears to be a great manager–you can tell she has a good rapport with her employees (or partners) as she does with all of her customers.  She welcomes her customers by name and always knows their drink.

This morning, I asked her if she has a secret to knowing and remembering everyone’s drinks.  She said that every day, her goal is to remember one more customer’s drink.  Wow!  That is a great goal and you can tell how it pays off when you see that line melt quickly.

Thanks, Tanya, for making my Starbucks mocha delicious and delightful!

Does your Starbucks know your name and drink when you walk in the door?!


Eastman Kodak Files for Bankruptcy, Could Have Been the First Facebook

My blog post title may reflect my age, but for us Boomers, Kodak really was the first Facebook.  We trusted Kodak with our precious film, and it magically turned it into keepsakes we could share with anyone around the world, albeit at the speed of an aircraft and not light.  Karen’s family took (and still takes) thousands of photos each year.  Mine took fewer, but plenty enough.  Karen and I then did the same once our children were born, filling a score of photo albums with the years and sub-years stenciled or written on the spines.  Then our habits changed.  First we requested photos to be written onto a CD, then we trusted it to the Cloud via Shutterfly, before it was called the Cloud.  Then I took great (for me) pictures of my trips to Istanbul and Punta Del Este, Uruguay using my 5 MP camera on my Blackberry Bold in 2008, and posted them to our blog without ever getting any of the pictures printed.

Where was Kodak when all of our family photography behaviors were changing?  It’s too long and painful a story to write about here, although I discuss it in my leadership development programs.  One example of the firm’s inevitable demise should suffice.  When I was a newly minted Ph.D. back in 1992, Kodak’s Imaging Division flew me up to its headquarters in Rochester to consult with them about a downsizing effort they were contemplating.  They had read my research with my colleagues Kim Cameron and Sarah Freeman at the University of Michigan on how to do downsizing effectively, achieving both bottom-line improvements while actually enabling employees to redesign their jobs so that layoffs could be minimized or even avoided altogether.

I should have known something was wrong from the moment I arrived at the headquarters.  Instead of meeting with the division president as I had been led to believe I would be doing, I spent the entire day with two employees from the organizational development staff.  Rather than seeking my help in crafting an effective downsizing strategy, they had hired me to help them craft a communications plan for a strategy the top brass had already decided upon, one which involved a lot of layoffs.  I tried my best to get them to change their minds, but even though those two employees agreed with me, they had no influence to change the strategy.  So my first big consulting engagement was a failure.  Yes, I collected a nice check for my one day’s work, but as I flew back to State College, PA where I was an assistant professor at Penn State, I knew that Kodak was embarking on the road to failure.  The destruction of a brand trusted by tens of millions, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs lost, and billions in equity gone forever would be the result of a firm that downsized rather than innovated.

For information about the bankruptcy announcement, please go to the Dealbook article.

For a timeline of the company put together by the Wall Street Journal, go here.

For a discussion in the Wall Street Journal as to whether filing for bankruptcy will save Kodak, go here.


According to a Wall Street Journal article by Melanie Trottman today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is weighing in on whether employees who use social media to post negative comments about their workplaces are protected against reprisals by their employers:

Workers fired or disciplined for bad-mouthing employers on social-networking sites are fighting back using a decades-old labor law—a new front in the murky battle over what workers can do and say online.

Since the rise of Facebook and Twitter, companies believed they had the right to fire employees who posted complaints or hostile or rude comments online about their employers.

But in recent months, workers have sought to solve their very modern employment predicament by using the law that kick-started the U.S. labor movement: the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. The law gives private-sector employees certain rights to complain about pay, safety and other working conditions. It doesn’t protect simple griping.

More than 100 employers, including a saloon, a BMW dealership and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have been accused by workers over the last 12 months of improper activity related to social-media practices or policies, according to the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency that enforces the law and decides whether employees’ complaints have merit.

NLRB lawyers in Washington have decided that about half of the complaints they have reviewed thus far have sufficient merit for the agency to intervene, generally in the form of a civil complaint filed against employers on behalf of employees. Complaints are heard by an NLRB judge, who can order a remedy.

The NLRB actions, most of which involve nonunion employees, represent a new arena in which the agency is asserting itself in the workplace. It already is on the hot seat with Republicans and business groups, who say it has favored unions over employers under President Barack Obama’s watch, notably when it challenged Boeing Co.’s decision to install a nonunion production line in South Carolina.

Rafael Gomez of law firm Lo Tempio & Brown in Buffalo, N.Y., who is representing a nonprofit group in an NLRB case involving Facebook postings, said his case and others suggest the agency is “seeking to assert itself in a nonunion workplace.”


In a separate case, Dawnmarie Souza, a paramedic for American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc., was fired after calling her supervisor a “scumbag” on Facebook, from her home computer. She was unhappy the supervisor had questioned her about a customer complaint, according to the NLRB’s investigation.

The NLRB’s complaint on Ms. Souza’s behalf—the agency’s first ever involving a firing related to social media—came after NLRB lawyers in Washington concluded the firing was illegal because the postings were made during an online discussion among employees about supervisory action, which is considered “protected concerted activity” under the law.

The comments were provoked by what the NLRB deemed the supervisor’s unlawful denial of union representation during a workplace meeting about the customer complaint. The case was settled in February before it could advance to an NLRB administrative judge.

Whatever you write on Facebook or elsewhere, just make sure it’s the truth, and that you are prepared to defend it, perhaps in court, with or without the NLRB’s assistance.


Employees in 2011: Take This Job and Shove It!

Right Management has found additional evidence that employees don’t trust their bosses or companies and have very little loyalty as a result:

Workers continue to feel trapped in their jobs and want to find new employment elsewhere, according to a new poll of more than 1,000 employees in North America by Right Management, the talent and career management expert within ManpowerGroup.

Eighty-four percent of the employees polled said they plan to look for a new position in 2012, reflecting the very same level of discontent in the workplace as the 84% reported ayear ago in Right Management’s survey. Like last year, only 5% said they intend to remain in their current position.

Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities in 2012?
Previous years surveyed:                                             2011     2010     2009
Yes, I intend to actively seek a new position.        84%    84%       60%
Maybe, so I’m networking.                                           9%      8%        21%
Not likely, but I’ve updated my resume.                     2%      3%          6%
No, I intend to stay in current position.                    5%      5%        13%

“The survey findings reflect a lot of employee dissatisfaction across North America,” said Right Management Executive Vice President Bram Lowsky. “Employees are restless and feel they are lacking in options. The prolonged period of economic uncertainty has meant much less job mobility than usual, and employees understandably believe they have fewer career opportunities, either internally or via a new position.”

According to Lowsky, the findings serve as a barometer of worker distrust in management as well as job commitment. “It’s a workplace equivalent to whether or not ‘the country is moving in the right direction.’ Sometimes called ‘flight cognition’ by behavioral psychologists, intent to leave is far from an unusual phenomenon but when it applies to four-out-of-five employees for two years running it has to be of top concern to senior management.”

There is plenty of peer-reviewed research over the past decade, including our own, that demonstrates that employees’ lack of trust in their management leads to lower commitment to the organization and greater voluntary turnover, i.e., quitting.  You would think that managers would recognize this, but I’m sure they will when the economy improves and it becomes easier for people to find another job.


It’s Morning in America for George Feldstein and Crestron Electronics

Monday mornings after a long holiday weekend are always a challenge getting started, especially when most of the weekend Karen and I spent nursing our two kids who were sick.  So it was a real pleasure to read this article this morning in the latest issue of Forbes.  Given that our economy continues to sputter along with anemic GDP growth and 9% unemployment, the tonic that our country needs so desperately can come from entrepreneurial leaders such as George Feldstein and his terrific company, Crestron Electronics:

In a quiet corner of Crestron Electronics’ cavernous Rockleigh, N.J. research lab, an aged engineer hunches over a chaotic assembly of plastic tubes, spinning motors and wire. He flips a switch and an exhaust pipe spews a plume of white mist. “This is my Rube Goldberg machine,” says George Feldstein, with an impish grin. “I always have to keep my hands busy. Not bad for a CEO, huh?”

At 70 the founder of Crestron Electronics—maker of myriad home automation devices—is as fit and energetic as a man half his age. He’s also a tireless tinkerer, with 14 patents to his name. His latest project—a more efficient humidifier—has been in the works for over a year. Typical evaporative humidifiers require water tanks (breeding grounds for bacteria), while the steam-injection variety gobble electricity. So Feldstein invented a system that pressurizes a small amount of water and pushes it through tiny nozzles, atomizing it into vapor. When he tested it in his home last winter, the mist left a dusting of salt all over the furniture. (“My wife nearly threw me out,” he says.) With any luck the boss’ latest invention will hit the market next year.

Feldstein doesn’t just create gad­gets—he creates jobs. As protesters, pundits and politicians bemoan corporate America’s addiction to cheap overseas labor (the manufacturing sector now employs 11.8 million people, down nearly 40% in three decades), Crestron has added 500 people—20% of the company’s workforce—in the last five years.

Feldstein owns 100% of Crestron, which could very well make him a billionaire. (He won’t comment on his personal fortune.) Based on sales of similar companies over the last few years, Crestron, which carries no debt and pulls in $500 million in annual revenue (on its way to our list of largest private companies), could be worth at least $1 billion. Yet somehow Feldstein has attracted little attention outside of the trade press, even as he provides new jobs by the hundreds in a prolonged downturn.


“I have great belief in American enterprise,” he says. “When the economy went south we brought everything in-house and paid more for it, rather than lay people off. People don’t realize the importance of the continuity of labor.”

Translation: This isn’t about patriotism—it’s about strategy. By manufacturing 80% of his products—1,500 in all—in the U.S., Feldstein says he is able to build technologically complex devices in low quantities with few errors. Hiring at home also allows him to develop the kind of long-term, committed help he needs to keep expanding. Even with the company’s latest growth spurt, Feldstein estimates around 15% of his workforce has been on staff for at least a decade. “We bring in people, and we give them a profession,” he says. “It’s one of the most important things about a job: It should provide a career for people who want them.” And by keeping Crestron privately held, Feldstein doesn’t have to answer to pesky analysts and shareholders who might have him cut costs by shipping production overseas.

If we had 1000 more leaders like George Feldstein in the U.S., our economy would be well on its way to recovery.


Hilton’s DoubleTree Hotels Makes Amends for My Dissatisfaction

I was recently on a business trip to Minneapolis, and was underwhelmed with me with the room that the Hilton DoubleTree gave me and their lack of follow-up when I asked them to address my concerns (broken handle on the shower door, poor WiFi reception).  I then decided to send an email to send an email to their customer service center.  After being forwarded to a couple of different people, here is the ultimate response I received:

Dear Aneil Mishra,

Please accept my apologies that the hotel did not meet your expectations.  To make amends for your experience, we would like to offer you a Be My Guest certificate which entitles you to a complimentary night stay at any Doubletree hotel.  Please allow 10-14 business days to process and mail your Be My Guest Certificate.  We will mail the certificate to your attention at _______.  We greatly appreciate your patience and look forward to welcoming you again soon.

Warmest Regards,

Jennifer Galford
Guest Assistance Specialist

Hilton Worldwide
2050 Chenault Drive
Carrollton, Texas 75006

True to their word, yesterday I received the certificate good for one free night’s stay at any of Hilton’s DoubleTree locations.  True to my word, I told them in my email response I would continue to be a loyal Hilton customer.