Sep 10

Would you have kept Peggy working late?

The most recent episode of AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ probed even deeper into the exceedingly dark side Office-window-sam of Don Draper (nee Dick Whitman).

In last Sunday’s episode, ad man extraordinaire Draper worked late into the night to develop new strategies for a Samsonite Luggage campaign. Not content to suffer alone, Don forces his creative aide de camp, Peggy, to work right alongside him. The endless evening ends up costing Peggy a surprise party thrown by her soon-to-be-erstwhile boyfriend (but draws her closer to Don in some very interesting ways).

I’ve never been a fan of making people stay late into the night. It’s abusive. It speaks poorly of the organization. And, it will eventually impact image and reputation.

That said, I’ve heard of more than one PR firm, especially those in the technology space, who suggest their employees leave the office at 6pm, gobble down a quick dinner and then return to complete their assignments. That’s brutal. I’ve heard of other firms that use the ‘West Coast’ excuse to keep East Coast employees working well past 8:30pm. That’s also bogus. And, then there are the corporate versions of Don Draper’s “keep ‘em late and make ‘em sweat” management style. In Jacked Up: The inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company, author Bill Lane says the entire corporate office staff was afraid to leave for the day before their chief had. This was problematic since Mr. Welch seldom departed before 7pm. He knew others feared him, wouldn’t dare leave before he did and, either didn’t care about inconveniencing them or enjoyed the rush that went along with controlling other people’s lives.

We once had a mini version of Jack Welch working at our firm. This guy’s office was conveniently located right by the elevators. So, he’d naturally spy anyone who was skulking out while he was still slaving away. After hearing about the issue, we sat down with the executive (and his reports). We found that he tended to while away his time during normal working hours and, for whatever reason, didn’t really roll up his sleeves until late afternoon. As a result, he’d set meetings that began at 5 or 5:30, mete out assignments and then expect his direct reports to stay and finish their work before leaving. Rather than suffer a palace revolt (I’ve always believed that people quit people. They don’t quit businesses.), we had our strategy consultant work with the executive to help him better organize his day. We ended up keeping our people, but losing the executive to a corporate gig (which was a win-win in my book).

Because of the nature of our business, we still have people who, because of a client crisis or over servicing on our part, stay later than they should. When they do, we try to either intercede or, at the very least provide transportation home and compensatory time off. But, we’re far from perfect.

There are many different ways to manage an organization. Draper’s approach may work in the short-term, but I’ve rarely seen it work over the long haul (unless an employee completely defines himself by his work and thrives on a steady diet of 24×7). I can’t speak for Welch’s management style since I never experienced it first-hand. But, I know we don’t want executives who, intentionally or unintentionally, make their employees stay late. Life’s way too short (which I hope Don Draper figures out sooner rather than later).

Jun 18

Larry Bossidy would be proud of Omar Minaya

Omar Minaya and the Mets management are so inept that they even bungled the firing of their fumbling,Minaya
bumbling manager, Willie Randolph.

Rather than do the humane thing by removing Willie while the team was playing at home and in the midst of a dismal losing streak, they chose instead to make Randolph fly cross country to Anaheim. There, they fired Willie at the stroke of midnight after the Mets’ second consecutive win. What a travesty! Poor Willie.

That said, Minaya’s style reminds me of ex-GE Vice Chairman Larry Bossidy’s approach to executive executions. According to ‘Jacked Up,’ Bill Lane’s kiss-and-tell expose of GE during the Jack Welch regime, Bossidy was Jack’s go-to guy for axing underperforming managers.

Bossidy would start his day by hopping on the GE corporate jet in Connecticut. He’d then fly from one company town after another (ie. Louisville, Syracuse, etc.) He’d be met by the local business unit’s human resources manager. Together, they’d ride to the office in a chauffeured limo. Bossidy would get out, walk into the exec’s office and terminate him. Then, it would be back to the jet and two or three more firings.

Bossidy would be done with the executions by early afternoon. He’d then direct the jet to fly to Augusta, Georgia, where he’d get in a round of golf before returning to Connecticut for dinner. Nice.

Note to Omar: after the Mets dump you at the end of the season, maybe you could connect with Bossidy and/or get a referral to GE? They’d love the way you handled Willie’s going away party.

Jun 17

Where’s Mr. Blackwell when you need him?

Forbes is great at compiling lists. They publish the 400 richest, the 100 best investments, the 300Top_10
Spartans. Oh wait. The latter wasn’t a Forbes list.

Regardless, Forbes has just published its list of the 75 most reputable companies in the U.S. There are lots of names you’d expect (Johnson & Johnson, GE and FedEx, for example) as well as a few surprises (Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley). I found the latter two names particularly interesting in light of the sub-prime disaster.

But, enough about the good guys. I’d like to see a list of America’s least reputable organizations (a Forbes 500 version of Mr. Blackwell’s 10 worst dressed Hollywood stars, if you will).  Who would you put on the least reputable list?

Here’s my top 10 (bottom 10?):

1.) Jet Blue – From a reputation standpoint, this airline is a midair collision. And, what’s with JetBlue and bathrooms? First, they won’t allow passengers to use restrooms during a nine-hour delay on Valentine’s Day. Then, more recently, they forced a passenger to fly in a lavatory for an entire flight? (Note to self: use the restrooms before boarding).

2.) The entire airline industry minus Southwest.

3.) ExxonMobil, Shell and their ilk. How much longer before top oil and gas industry executives start fearing for their lives because of astronomically high gas prices?

4.) New York City crane suppliers.

5.) A New York City political infrastructure that allows crane safety standards to go by the boards.

6.) Ford (talk about being asleep at the wheel as the gas/environmental crisis loomed large on the horizon. They’ve finally begun shutting down assembly plans that make the gas guzzlers).

7.) Chrysler and the rest of the beleaguered American auto industry (imagine losing an 80 percent market share and still being in freefall?)

8.) The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, inc. (Mr. Wilpon: now, that you’ve finally fired Willie Randolph, it’s time to turn your sights on Omar Minaya. He’s the chief architect of this mess. Dump him ASAP and hire a GM who can build a blended team of veterans and up-and-comers.)

9.) The National Basketball Association. The game is a farce. Showboating "what’s in it for me?" players sharing the court with crooked referees makes for an NBA that’s on a fast break to oblivion (or, if not, at least becoming a legitimate rival to professional wrestling).

10.) The fast food industry. I still think they’re part of the problem, not the solution.

Thanks to Rob Longert for the idea.

Apr 25

With friends like Jack Welch, who needs enemies?

Jack Welch never ceases to amaze. He’s arguably the greatest chief executive in American businessWelch
history. He’s earned every conceivable accolade. And he’s worshipped by businesspeople near and far.

So, why does he feel the need to publicly bash his hand-picked successor, Jeff Immelt?

Speaking to reporters after Immelt accepted full blame for GE’s mediocre first quarter, Welch said he would ‘…get a gun out and shoot’ Immelt if he missed his financial goals again.

Ouch. What’s that all about? Talk about second guessing someone. Talk about slamming your own golden boy.

Welch obviously comes from the Vince Lombardi ‘tough love school of management.’ And, even though he’s no longer running the show at GE, he’s still trying his best to motivate Immelt by fear.

Management by fear is totally bogus. I never liked reporting to a menacing CEO and found myself being less strategic, less creative and less productive as a result.

Retired CEOs should stay retired. Or, they should write columns for BusinessWeek. Or they should charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for one hour speeches. But, they should not publicly bash their hand-picked successors.  It’s bad form and reflects poorly on the image and reputation of all concerned.

Feb 11

I’m pretty jacked about ‘Jacked up’

Bill Lane’s kiss-and-tell book all about the lunacy and leadership of Jack Welch’s GE is a ‘must read’ forJacked_up_2
anyone in public relations and anyone looking to lead a business.

In essence, the book distills Welch’s methods for not only transforming GE’s business model but, more to the point, how he totally changed the way company executives communicated.

Welch was absolutely ruthless in the way he coaxed, coerced and chastised company leadership as they’d present in front of him. He’d scream, throw papers at them or get up and simply walk out. And, if Jack walked out, the odds were good the presenter would be walking out of GE on a permanent basis.

Jack’s presentation philosophy was as blunt as the man himself: give the audience something they can act on immediately. Don’t bore them with minutia and pie charts. Don’t wax poetic about the time and effort involved in putting the presentation together. And, by all means, DO share best practices fron within and without the company.

Lane goes on and on about Welch’s egomaniacal ways but comes across as pretty self absorbed himself. In fact, the book jacket laughably calls Jacked up ‘…..the only book a leader or aspiring leader will ever need on effective communications.’ It’s excellent but, c’mon Bill, the BEST ever? What would Jack have to say about that?