Barbara Bush… In Honor and Memoriam

Not everyone admired Barbara Bush… because not everyone met her.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, and haters are gonna’ hate, but it’s not that far from the truth.

We at Triangle Performance aren’t so pretentious that anything we say about “The First Lady of the Greatest Generation” could compare with the tributes from her family and friends. Those accolades beautifully express the admiration of so many from around the world and from every walk of life.

No, we’d like to express our admiration for her leadership style(s) – as the First and Second Lady, family matriarch, and tireless champion of literacy.

Barbara Bush was never the CEO of a Fortune X00 company, never held elected or appointed office, and never commanded troops or fought in combat. Nonetheless, you knew she was a leader by the devotion of her followers.

In the White House and Naval Observatory, her leadership power came partly from her role as FLOTUS and SLOTUS and partly from the respect and admiration that came from being such a gracious, caring person. At home – whichever home her family gathered – her nickname “The Enforcer” pretty much says it all. In those roles, people desired to gain her approval and sought her counsel accordingly.

It was in her philanthropic efforts that her leadership relied solely on her ability to influence and inspire her loyal army of volunteers and followers. None of them worked for her, but they trusted her to lead them in their fight against literacy. Schools, libraries, parenting centers, hospitals, and the Houston Literacy Foundation, to name a few, all bear her name as a testament to their commitment.

In her memoir, Bush wrote “… a more literate America would benefit every single thing I worry about: crime, unemployment, pollution, teenage pregnancy, school drop-outs, women who are trapped into welfare, and therefore poverty, etc.”

A leader who can articulate a vision and inspire, motivate, and empower others to achieve that vision is a successful leader indeed. But a leader who can do that without being in charge is something extraordinarily special.

We are both honored and humbled to name Barbara Pierce Bush our April 2018 Leadership Leader.

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.

I hate goal setting


   – it’s not the same as setting goals.

I hate goal setting. The whole business of it.

That’s why I was surprised by a conversation I had with my daughter a couple of weeks ago. Home from her fall semester, she was describing her goals to me – her grad school goals, financial goals, career goals, life goals – and I was amazed. When I asked how she learned about goal setting, she unexpectedly answered, “from you, of course.” I didn’t know I’d passed goal setting to another generation, because (if I hadn’t mentioned it) Ihate goal setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate setting goals; it’s the only way I know I’m on track to where I want to go. But there’s so much of the institutional process of individual goal setting that is all about process and almost nothing about the accomplishment of what really matters.

I’ve got the stick for a minute.

Leaders who have vision and can translate it into an executable plan that followers buy into can be the Holy Grail to an organization. On the down side, results can easily be torpedoed by the intermediate level managers who don’t know how to get the people who actually DO work to set performance and developmental goals that support that vision and plan.

I would propose that few leaders have a good grasp on the goals his/her workforce sets. That doesn’t mean they aren’t held accountable for their workforce’s results. It’s past time to get involved.

As 2015 begins, we’re all being encouraged (or required) to set goals for the coming year. We all know what SMART goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. I prefer clear, concise, actionable, and tied to organizational performance, but that would require a new acronym (C-CAT would only appeal to a very narrow audience).

The problem is that a step in any direction looks like progress to someone who doesn’t know where they’re going. Most organizations are horrible at getting individuals to understand how what they do contributes to organizational success. That breeds mediocrity at best, and sincerely misdirected efforts at worst.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: For the workforce to actually tie their performance to what leaders expect their organizations to do this year, serious effort is required at every level. Leaders and managers have to get more involved in communicating both how their people can contribute to organizational goals and how they can develop into more productive contributors.

STOP asking them to write nebulous performance goals (like “superior customer support measured by no negative customer comments”) and developmental goals (like “take an online course on how to get along with others”). They can easily meet those goals with no actual benefit to your organizational goals whatsoever.

Jack Welch said that before you’re a leader, success is all about growing yourself; when you become a leader, success is all about growing others. For those of you who think you’re leading, it’s about time you get more interested in helping others set meaningful goals than in setting your own.

It’s up to you.

You have the stick.

Quit Setting Goals

goals

Since early childhood we are taught about setting goals. As we enter the business world we start hearing acronyms like SMART and HARD to better help us write and allegedly better achieve our goals. Now, there is a move afoot (primarily academic) that says “we shouldn’t write goals, they hurt us.” While I disagree with that academic suggestion, I do believe there is learning for us all in the obvious ignorance of their premise.

First I’d like to start with a question–“why do we need goals?”

To write and achieve a proper goal we have to ask ourselves that question, lest we simply feed academic research. First, we need to define “goal.” Webster’s provides a good starting point:

“GOAL: the terminal point of a race… …the end toward which effort is directed…”

So, what happens if we don’t have a goal? If we don’t have a terminal point of a race, how do we know when it ends or where we are in the race?

The simple fact is this: without goals, organizations (and our lives) would exist without meaning or purpose. Saying we don’t “need” goals is a ridiculous premise. We have to have goals, and even if we say we don’t have any, we do, since it is part of how our mind works.

The research examples cited in their papers point to cases like the Ford Pinto, Enron and Sears Service advisors and even faults GM’s “29” strategy (chasing 29% market share). The concept of “goals” wasn’t what led to failures or bad behaviors, it was the efficacy of the goals, the culture of the organization, the working systems that they were crafted and executed within and the character of the ones using their goals as a justification for doing the wrong things. Having goals is not good or bad, it is simply having goals.

How we set our goals, the motivation behind those goals and how we execute to achieve those goals is where we find the measure for good and bad. My simple question to the academics who state that goals are bad things is “what was the intent of your research, did you not have a “goal” in mind?”

Seth Godin, bestselling author and speaker, wrote an obscure little booked called “Pick Four” in which he simplified Zig Ziglar’s original goals program. In his book he speaks to the brain science behind having goals (yep you guessed it, referring to other scholarly research). Ziglar and Godin point out that:

✓ Goals direct our attention and ultimately our effort – give us focal points
✓ Goals have an energizing function and provide for intrinsic motivation
 Goals positively affect our persistence.
 Goals rally us to apply our knowledge and strategies to the problem at hand.

Every example offered by the scholars against goal setting or the research used to support goal setting is premised on setting the right goals based on:

1) The person/organization involved and the ability to actually accomplish the goal
2) The culture/environment in which the goal is to be executed
3) The alignment of the goal to something bigger than the goal
4) The right measurement system
5) Good execution and performance management

If you’re leadership is guided by the latest research I would implore you to consider the logic of the premise that research is based on. Make sure you aren’t buying into it because it makes your life easier (like doing away with performance appraisals – another rant I’ll deal with some other time). If you want to grow your business (or simply survive), goal setting is a necessity, just do it right! By the way I’m still waiting for a response to the question posed to the academics that said their research shows setting goals is bad – “so what was the goal of your research?”

It’s really pretty simple, just not always easy.