Leaders & Laggards November 2016

Leadership Leader

I travel quite a bit; I know many of you do as well. In fact, I was on the road for 10 of the last 14 days. Four flights, two rental cars, multiple Uber rides and four different hotels.

And one bus ride (don’t ask).

The relevant number for this story is the four different hotels, comprising nine sleeping nights.

At the end of each day while traveling, I would return to my hotel room and enjoy a freshly cleaned room with a made bed, new towels, and refreshed self-serve coffee. It was like magic; I leave, work, return, and abracadabra my room is made like new. How did that happen?

I’ll tell you how. A housekeeper, part of the hotel staff, came into my room and did her job. And in doing so, she helped me be refreshed and ready for a new day. In other words, she helps me make money.

The national average wage for hotel housekeeper is about $9.30 an hour. Less than $20 grand a year. And for that money she does chores that your mother made clear she wouldn’t do… remember the “Do I look like a housekeeper to you?” or, “I am not your maid…”?

schuylerMatt Schuyler, chief human resources officer at Hilton Worldwide, knows the value of those housekeepers. Breaking tradition with other major hospitality companies in the US, Schuyler led the effort to include hourly hotel staff, including housekeepers and cooks, in the parental leave benefit offered by Hilton Worldwide.

And before you dismiss this as a hollow gesture, given these hourly employees’ typical wages, realize they account for approximately 75% of the company’s US workforce—nearly 125,000 additional employees. Now I’m no math genius, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express on my last trip (not really, but I couldn’t resist). This is a significant cost, yet Schuyler and the Hilton leadership team feel the investment is the right thing to do, both for the company and the employees.

“When our Team Members feel great about where they work, it is reflected in the exceptional experience that they provide to our guests,”
              –Matt Schuyler, CHRO Hilton Worldwide

hw_colorlogoThis is another example of Hilton Worldwide’s culture. In 2015 they announced a GED assistance program to help staff earn their high school equivalency. More significantly, the company introduced a ten-day advance scheduling initiative for hourly team members, unheard of in the hospitality world.

Great job, Matt. We salute your commitment, and congratulate you on being November’s Leadership Leader.

Leadership Milquetoast

Samsung has a problem. Maybe more than one.

samsung_logoThe problem that brought them this award is their Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. Seems it’s been spontaneously combusting recently. Strangely enough, phone owners take exception to their device blowing up while in their back pocket.

CEO Kwon Oh-hyun last Tuesday said the South Korean tech firm must get better.

Really, Captain Obvious?? That’s your media alert after setting countless Miss Me jeans and Jeggings ablaze??

Hell, your exploding devices are included now in flight attendant’s monotone preflight monologue, as they stress that your Galaxy is banned from flight. Something about the whole exploding-not-conducive-with-manned-flight. I wasn’t listening closely because I don’t own one.

Seriously, dude… I believe real change—not simply improvement—may actually be in order here.

Kwon said in a statement that “Samsung employees should look back and ask whether they had been complacent in their work.” He further added “Let us use this crisis as a chance to make another leap by re-examining and thoroughly improving how we work, how we think about innovation and our perspective of our customers.”

So, in all fairness, Kwon’s statement about employees’ introspection does not rise to the level of Wells Fargo’s Stumpy insisting it was all lower-level employees fault, or Volkswagen’s Winterkorn’s attempt to blame a small group of middle managers. But still, Kwon avoided his own culpability in the debacle. And the buck—or in this case the Korean Won—stops with Kwon.

Yes, the Won stops with Kwon.

kwonHe should have clearly and unhesitatingly claimed accountability for the crappy phones. That’s what leaders do. Instead, he said “… Employees should look back and ask…” while stating “we have a long history of overcoming crises.”

So… Samsung employees should ask whether they had been complacent (a bad thing), but we have a history of overcoming (a good thing). What a truly botched opportunity to engage employees—all employees—in a discussion around quality, complacency, and customer success.

Can’t wait to see how he handles the exploding washing machines.

Botched Opportunity is a tell-tale sign of a Leadership Milquetoast.

Tag, Kwon, you’re it.

Leadership Laggard

marlaheadshotMarla Malcolm Beck is the CEO of Bluemercury, some sort of luxury products retailer. As a business maven, her McKinsey background and Harvard MBA paid off big; last year she sold Bluemercury to Macy’s for $210 million in cash.

As a CEO, however, responsible for leadership and talent management (including hiring), she kinda sucks.

According to Mrs. Beck, interviewing quality talent effectively and successfully takes just seven minutes. In fact, she even claims blue blood as “the queen of the seven-minute interview” in an interview with the NYT’s Adam Bryant.

No, that’s not a typo, I said seven minutes. And in that microscopic amount of time, she says she asks (and, we presume, listens to the answers to) three questions: one for skill, one for will and one for fit. In just seven minutes.

Now, I’m all for efficiency, but if you’re not particularly good at something you do fast, perhaps—just perhaps—you should slow it down a little. And evidence shows that Beck and company are not good at hiring and retaining employees.

A cursory review at glassdoor.com gives Beck an abysmal 2.7 out of five stars from current and former Bluemercury employees. Further, Beck has a 40% favorability rating—less than some polls give both presidential candidates—and just 31% of would recommend Bluemercury to a friend for employment.

bluemercury_logoSome representative comment headlines include:

  • “Terrible company culture”
  • “Biggest mistake I ever made”
  • “Marla has no idea what’s going on underneath her”
  • “The turnover is insane!”

Sure, there are some positive reviews as well, but frankly they were a bit suspect. Even so, they were eclipsed by the negative. Do these sound like her seven-minute interviews are effective:

  • “Get a clue. Hire managers and district managers that know what they’re doing. I’ve never seen such incompetent people in my life.”
  • “Worst job I’ve ever had. It’s not a good place to work, please don’t do it.”
  • “The turnover was ridiculous. This company cares nothing about their employees.”
  • “Terrible culture at headquarters. People at the top hate each other and it shows. No maternity leave for a company run by a mom.”

It’s not a contest, Marla. Maybe you need to back off that gas pedal a bit and extend the interview time by a few minutes. Maybe then (and it’s a big MAYBE), Bluemercury hiring and retention can be an asset.

In the movie American President, Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) said to Sydney Ellen Wade, “Perhaps I didn’t properly explain the fundamentals of the slowdown plan.” That was in a discussion about sex, not interviewing, but it’s a damned good line and it fits here: Marla, you need a “slowdown plan.”

Without that plan, you’re this month’s Leadership Laggard.

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