Cheryl offers: One of the activities I’ve recently volunteered for is collecting wine corks. While this might sound like I don’t have enough to do between running a business and teaching at SMU, I can assure you I am quite picky about how I invest my discretionary time. This opportunity came to me through my friend Linda Wind, dynamic master mind of the Wind Foundation for Woman dedicated to creating educational scholarships for disadvantaged women. Why corks? Besides the value of recycling, we earn 2 cents per cork and the money goes to create these scholarships. Our goal is to collect ONE MILLION WINE CORKS and I can tell you right now, that’s a lot! What I’ve noticed as I’ve made the rounds for the local wine bars and restaurants is how differently people from the various generations respond to the request for their support. By far and away, the most enthusiastic and engaged supporters are members of what we might call Generation Y; you know the ones many refer to as selfish, lazy, not willing to put in the work, entitlement crowd. In 100% of the cases when I’ve asked someone less than 30 years old if they would help, they have said “Yes!” And the best part is, they keep their word. So, to all those out there who are fearful about the future of our world passing to these young people, I say, “No worries , my dear, Gen Y is here. Thank goodness!”
In Getting Change Right published by Jossey-Bass (2010), Seth Kahan explains how leaders transform organizations from the inside out. For example, creating a shared stake in the organization’s success:
“Success at leading change – dramatic, sustained improvement – is largely determined by a leader’s capacity to not only enroll others but engage them in a mutually supported vision of the future. Engagement means getting their whole-hearted support and participation, their involvement and best actions. When this happens, change is held in place by myriad hands, heads, and hearts.
“Achieving a shared stake is critical because obstacles are part of life, and you need all the help you can get to realize success. You want resources to flow to you – people, money, and time to be dedicated by any and all who see a shared road to success. When this happens, synergies will take place you do not mandate or coordinate. You may not even be aware of them because ideas have successfully spread, and other people in other places are taking action.”
So, what specifically does Kahan recommend?
1. Practice exceeding others’ expectations. “Every morning ask yourself how you can ‘wow’ somebody who is critical to your success.”
2. Engage others in conversation to discover their answers to questions such as “What are your pressing issues?” and “What needs do you have that aren’t being met?”
3. Hold meetings with groups of allied players to identify [or reaffirm] mutual goals. “Follow up with regular progress reports showing the results of your efforts and the challenges you encounter.”
4. Create a visible representation of your key players’ interpretations of success. “Post it where others can see it easily. Do not require that different or conflicting views to be reconciled.”
5. Ask senior stakeholders to describe in detail the future state they are working toward. “Go through the details with them and listen carefully, obtaining questions such as “What does the future state look like? Describe it in detail. What will be different? What new capacity will emerge?”
“Write up what you learn in a one-page summary and present it back to each senior member you interview, or otherwise visibly demonstrate what he or she communicated to you. Verify with them that you have captured their point of view [and concerns]. If necessary, refine it with their input until they are satisfied.”
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Seth Kahan works with visionary leaders, helping them achieve to success. He has worked with the president of the World Bank, the director of the Peace Corps, senior managers at Shell Exploration and Production Company, Prudential Retirement Savings, and dozens of associations. He is the author of Building Beehives: A Handbook for Creating Communities that Generate Returns and, more recently, the aforementioned Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, published by Jossey-Bass (2010). He is also the author of Fast Company magazine’s blog, Leading Change.
You are urged to check out the wealth of free resources at numerous publications available for free on his website,
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Here are some factors you might want to consider when crafting your own unique customization strategy.
Degree of customization versus degree of control. Whereas segmentation and modular choice allow for more control—because the specifics of the people practices are defined by HR—broad and simple rules and employee-defined personalization allow for less control, since the specifics of the people practices are defined more by employees with enabling guidelines and structure provided by HR. But less control means more customization—employees can create a greater variety of people practices that fit them using broad and simple rules and employee-defined personalization than with the other two approaches.
• Amount of change. Broad and simple rules and employee-defined personalization can be adapted more easily to change. For example, instead of waiting months for the company to centrally define new learning courses based on new needs, peer-to-peer learning through wikis, blogs and other means can help employees quickly adapt to changed conditions.
• Fairness. The modular choice approach to customization is perceived as being the fairest, since it clearly provides the same set of detailed options to everyone. Since segmentation creates different practices for different groups, some employees might view this approach as less egalitarian. Broad and simple rules and employee-defined personalization approaches fall somewhere in the middle—everyone is given the same opportunity to interpret or define their own people practices, but because HR doesn’t centrally define the details, these practices can vary significantly from one person to another.Although some employers are introducing choice and variation in such areas as employee benefits and job assignments in an effort to recognize the differing needs of individuals, most companies have not yet begun to tap into the depth of this opportunity.
Managing your company’s talent as a workforce of one involves creatively customizing your people practices and applying this principle to your entire workforce in a strategic, thoughtful, proactive way. Customization will transform your workforce—and the human resources team—into a strategic powerhouse and position your organization to win.
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To read the complete article, please visit:
David Smith is the managing director of the Accenture Talent & Organization Performance service line. Mr. Smith specializes in designing and developing talent and organization performance strategies and solutions. He is a guest lecturer at Wharton Business School and Babson College and a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events. In addition, he has authored and co-authored several articles and papers, and has contributed his viewpoints on talent management to various business media and industry publications. Mr. Smith is based in Hartford, Connecticut.
Susan M. Cantrell is a fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance in Boston, Massachusetts, and CEO of The Cantrell Group, a research and consulting firm that focuses on topics related to improving human performance. Ms. Cantrell is a widely published author. Together with Accenture’s Talent & Organization Performance service line, she also developed an award-winning framework for measuring and managing human capital.
Cantrell and Smith co-authored Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management Through Customization, published in 2010 by Harvard Business Press.
In general, people become engaged in the doing of whatever must be done, enduring whatever personal sacrifices may be required, if they believe in the given objectives and, a key point, are able to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate effectively with others involved. They agree with David Packard that “people get together [in order] to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately.” Here are some films that demonstrate what teamwork can accomplish.
Directed by Ron Howard, this film examines an unexpected development during a space flight that created a life-or-death situation (literally), requiring seamless teamwork to return the module safely. Note how calmly Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) responds as does Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) while coordinating the improvisation of a solution under increasingly greater pressure. Without leadership and teamwork both in space and on the ground, Apollo is doomed.
Here is an excellent example of effective teamwork under less than favorable conditions: a dozen soldiers (convicted of various crimes) are scheduled to be executed or to serve long-term sentences unless they agree to participate in a suicide mission. If it is successful, those who survive may be granted a more lenient sentence. The mission is led by Maj. Reisman (Lee Marvin), widely viewed as an insubordinate officer. F special interest to me is the fact that if any one of the “dirty dozen” escapes or fails to make a full commitment to the success of the mission, all of their original sentences will be carried out.
This film is also based on an historical situation (during World War Two) as Allied officers who are inmates in a German prison plan and execute an escape. Preparations are lengthy and complicated, constantly vulnerable to detection. The division of labor is necessarily at a very high level because only exceptional expertise will produce the German uniforms, documentation, and escape routes that needed. Note that only of a few officers will have the opportunity to escape but all inmates are actively engaged in achieving that.
To some extent based on events that enabled a basketball team from a small high school in Indiana to win the state championship (Milam in 1954 rather than the fictional Hickory), “teamwork” in this film includes but is by no means limited to the players on the team. Indeed, much of the plot focuses on the coach (Gene Hackman) as he struggles to convince not only the players but also their family members and friends, school officials, and other residents of the town that he is capable, and, that the team can be a winner if he remains as coach.
Based to some extent on Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, this film examines how residents of a village that has been repeatedly terrorized by more than 100 bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach) retain for a nominal fee seven gunfighters led by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner). Of special interest to me is the fact that, after the villagers observe the teamwork of the seven during a series of violent encounters, they realize that they must assume responsibility for defending themselves. For too long, they have allowed others to dominate and intimidate them. Most recently, they have hired others to protect them. Only by becoming actively engaged can the villagers determine their own destiny.
Teamwork is often required if there is a common enemy to be vanquished. In this instance, that would be Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitten) a former chorus girl who married the owner of the Cleveland Indians. After his death, she is determined that the team lose as many games as possible so that declining attendance will enable her to break a lease and move the team to Florida. (She hates Cleveland). The manager, coaches, and players overcome their personal animosities and character flaws and come together to win the Indians’ first division title in more than three decades. Although this is a loopy comedy in most respects, I think there are a few valuable lessons to be learned from it about engagement and shared commitment, about subordinating personal agendas for a common goal against a common enemy.
As with Hoosiers, this also a dramatized portrayal of events that occurred (n the 1970s) when two high schools in Alexandra (VA) were merged. Unlike Hoosiers, however, questions about the competence of the coach and the effectiveness of his leadership style are anchored in a racial context. Getting everyone on the team and in the community to “come together” and become engaged in helping the football team to succeed is far more difficult. Again there is a common opponent and in this instance, Pogo’s observation is relevant: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
This film is also based on actual events, as presented in Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book of the same name. The voice-over narration is provided by an eminent historian, David McCullough. Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a successful automobile dealer who purchases a horse that seems to have little (if any) chance of winning any races. As for trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), their prospects are no better. Over time, a horse and three humans learn how to work together effectively prior to the narrative’s climax that occurs when Seabiscuit competes against War Admiral on November 1, 1938, in the “Match of the Century.” Of special interest to me is how popular Seabiscuit became among those who had not as yet recovered from the Great Depression. Presumably many of them had also cheered for James Braddock when he faced heavyweight champion Max Baer in 1935.
Although quite complicated, the plot is seamless and sustains a viewer’s interest as Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and his associates plan and then perform an elaborate deception. Their target is a Chicago mob boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), and objective is not only to cheat him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars (several million by today’s standards) but to do it so that he does not realize how and by whom he has been deceived. (That is the essence of a “sting.”) It is worth noting that although all but one of collaborators accept their share of Linnean’s money, their primary motive for engagement is to succeed despite all manner of barriers and perils. Similarly, in the business world, members of peak performance teams accept appropriate compensation because it has been earned and is deserved; however, they tend to be most excited by what they have accomplished together rather than by the recognition and rewards received.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Eric Lamarre and Martin Pergler for The McKinsey Quarterly. To read the complete article, please visit
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Risk-assessment processes typically expose only the most direct threats facing a company and neglect indirect ones that can have an equal or greater impact.
The financial crisis has reminded us of the valuable lesson that risks gone bad in one part of the economy can set off chain reactions in areas that may seem completely unrelated. In fact, risk managers and other executives fail to anticipate the effects, both negative and positive, of events that occur routinely throughout the business cycle. Their impact can be substantial—often, much more substantial than it seems initially.
At first glance, for instance, a thunderstorm in a distant place wouldn’t seem like cause for alarm. Yet in 2000, when a lightning strike from such a storm set off a fire at a microchip plant in New Mexico, it damaged millions of chips slated for use in mobile phones from a number of manufacturers. Some of them quickly shifted their sourcing to different US and Japanese suppliers, but others couldn’t and lost hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. More recently, though few companies felt threatened by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), its combined effects are reported to have decreased the GDPs of East Asian nations by 2 percent in the second quarter of 2003. And in early 2009, the expansion of a European public-transport system temporarily ground to a halt when crucial component providers faced unexpected difficulties as a result of credit exposure to ailing North American automotive OEMs.
What can companies do to prepare themselves? True, there’s no easy formula for anticipating the way risk cascades through a company or an economy. But we’ve found that executives who systematically examine the way risks propagate across the whole value chain—including competitors, suppliers, distribution channels, and customers—can foresee and prepare for second-order effects more successfully.
Risk along the value chain
Most companies have some sort of process to identify and rank risks, often as part of an enterprise risk-management program. While such processes can be helpful, our experience suggests that they often examine only the most direct risks facing a company and typically neglect indirect ones that can have an equal or even greater impact.
Consider, for example, the effect on manufacturers in Canada of a 30 percent appreciation in the value of that country’s dollar versus the US dollar in 2007–08. These companies did understand the impact of the currency change on their products’ cost competitiveness in the US market. Yet few if any had thought through how it would influence the buying behavior of Canadians, 75 percent of whom live within 100 miles of the US border. As they started purchasing big-ticket items (such as cars, motorcycles, and snowmobiles) in the United States, Canadian OEMs had to lower prices in the domestic market. The combined effect of the profit compression in both the United States and Canada did much greater damage to these manufacturers than they had initially anticipated. Hedging programs designed to cover their exposure to the loss of cost competitiveness in the United States utterly failed to protect them from the consumer-driven price squeeze at home.
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Eric Lamarre is a director in McKinsey’s Montréal office, where Martin Pergler is a consultant. Copyright © 2009 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved.
To read the complete article, please visit
You may also wish to check out one or more of five other articles:
Reducing risk in your manufacturing footprint
Leading through uncertainty
A fresh look at strategy under uncertainty: An interview
A supply chain CEO on the global downturn
Understanding supply chain risk: A McKinsey Global Survey
Conley is the founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, California’s largest boutique hotel company, founded in 1987. At the age of 26 with no industry experience, Chip created The Phoenix, taking a 1950s seedy motel and turning it into a world-renowned “rock ‘n roll hotel” that catered to celebrities as diverse as David Bowie to Linda Ronstadt. Building on transformational leadership practices, and an innovative design formula that enables customers to experience an “identity refreshment,” he now leads a company that consists of more than 30 unique and award-winning hotels (as well as restaurants and spas) throughout the state with more than 3,000 employees and revenues approaching $250 million. Joie de Vivre was awarded the 2nd Best Place to Work in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008. Chip and his company’s time-tested techniques have been featured in TIME, Fast Company, Fortune, and People magazines as well as the Wall Street Journal.
In his most recent book, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow, Jossey-Bass, 2007, Conley shares his unique prescription for success based on Abraham Maslow’s iconic “Hierarchy of Needs.” His new theory illustrates how employees, customers and investors are ultimately motivated by peak experiences—and he demonstrates how to create these for each using real-world examples from his own company and from other peak performers like Southwest Airlines, Apple, Whole Foods Markets, and Harley-Davidson. Conley has delivered numerous keynote presentations and leadership seminars to diverse industries from health care to high-tech to non- profit arts organizations. He has spoken to hundreds of corporate groups as varied as Schwab, State Farm Insurance, and Google. His other books include The Rebel Rules: Daring to be Yourself in Business and Marketing That Matters: 10 Practices That Can Profit Your Business and Change the World, co-authored with Eric Friedenwald-Fishman.
He is a member of the Young President’s Organization and received his BA and MBA from Stanford University. In 2007, Conley was named the Bay Area’s Most Innovative CEO by the San Francisco Business Times, among business leaders across all industries in the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and East Bay business communities.
Morris: Before discussing any of your books, a few general questions. First, a great deal has happened in the business world since out last conversation. In your opinion, what is the single most significant change? Why?
Conley: We’re all broke. Actually, the system is broken. It’s time for a reboot and transformational leaders will have a leg-up on transactional leaders. In general, companies like transactional leaders or managers who make the trains run on time. But, when the world is in the midst of change, when adversity and opportunity are almost indistinguishable, this is the time for visionary leadership and when leaders need to look beyond the survival needs of those they’re serving.
Morris: Closer to home, what specific impact has that change had on your company, Joie de Vivre Hospitality (JVH)?
Conley: Well, the timing of this downturn was pretty rotten. We launched 15 hotels around California between the start of 2008 and the summer of 2009…by far our fastest growth ever, but at exactly at the wrong time. The good news is that more than 70% of our hotels are gaining market share, but we’re just getting a large piece of a shrinking pie. So, we’ve rethought how we’re baking our pies.
Morris: How involved are you in hiring and what is your primary objective during each interview?
Conley: I do interview senior candidates at the home office or many of our hotel or restaurant General Manager candidates. My two favorite questions are “tell me about a failure in your career, what you learned from it, and how you’ve leveraged this lesson” and “all of us are misperceived at one time or another, what’s the most common way you’re misperceived in the workplace and why?” Both of these questions require a certain amount of self-awareness and a willingness to not give pat, normal answers that we offer experience in interviews. Three other things I’m looking for: do I trust this person, does this person have passion for what they do and is that a magnet for talent, and do I generally like who they are? Someone could be amazing at what they do, but if you don’t like them, why bother hiring them?
Morris: Because each of your hotels is so different from the others, does that create problems when developing people to manage them? Must your managers be much more versatile and resilient, for example, than managers in other hotel organizations?
Conley: Boutique hotel GM’s need to be independent because they can’t rely on a Marriott or Hilton reservations system to succeed. A great boutique hotel becomes the local’s favorite, so a manager needs to be very grass roots oriented in how they connect with the community. I’ve seen some great big brand managers join us and fail because they didn’t realize how entrepreneurial this business could be.
Morris: I share your high regard for Maslow’s insights, notably his concept of a “hierarchy of needs.” Here’s a two-part question. How specifically has Maslow influenced your own thinking about JVH’s clientele?
Conley: Maslow helped me see that each of us in life is attempting to “be all we can be” and do that which comes naturally that brings us a sense of self-actualization. Boutique hotels are mirrors for the aspirations of their customers. “You are where you sleep” is the way I put it rather than “you are what you eat.” When we get it right, we create a habitat for our guests that make them feel like this hotel was specifically created for them because the words they’d use to describe the hotel might be the adjectives they’d use on themselves on a good day.
Morris: How specifically has Maslow influenced your own thinking about JVH’s employees?
Conley: One of my breakthroughs when studying Maslow’s work was to see there are three key themes: Survival (Maslow’s two lower level needs: physiological and safety), Success (social/belonging and esteem) and Transformation (self-actualization). When you apply these three themes to the three ways we connect with our work, you realize that someone with a Job tends to be purely focused on the comp package or Money (Survival).
Those who see their work as a Career are focused on Recognition on the Success level of the pyramid. But, those who have a Calling (there are fewer which is why the pyramid is smaller at top) are Transformed by their work due to the sense of Meaning they get from the company they work for and/or the work that they do. Money, Recognition, Meaning. Job, Career, Calling. That’s the progression up the pyramid.