I like it when big, dinosaur-like companies notice the mammals entering the food chain, and don’t immediately dismiss them. In fact, I think it’s their only hope of keeping up in the evolutionary race.
So, when I read this article today about Microsoft acknowledging that watching Google has been a “wake-up call” for them, I thought — OK, now it gets interesting.
But here’s where the hard part begins. It’s one thing, when you’re big (really big!) and wildly successful, to recognize that the competition is doing something to which you need to pay close attention. It’s quite another to actually respond: to move yourself out of your pre-determined path and do something different. It’s like turning a battleship.
I’ll be watching carefully to see what happens now…
I just read today about the memo from Howard Shultz of Starbucks, lamenting that the “romance and theatre” have gone out of their stores and that expansion and efficiency measures have “diluted the brand.”
Interestingly, when the memo first appeared on starbucksgossip.com. many people thought it was a fake — assuming that a positive, visionary leader like Schultz would never express such harshly negative thoughts about his own brainchild.
I was thrilled when I found out the memo was real, and it increased my respect for Schultz (already high) dramatically. When Jim Collins talked about “brutal facts” in Good to Great – noting that great companies perfect the art of looking at uncomfortable data without flinching – it made perfect sense to me. The most effective leaders I know are those who let in both the bad news and the good; who don’t make the mistake of thinking that telling themselves that nothing is wrong makes it true.
This kind of equanimity is particularly hard for me in my own life (though I’m quite good at helping clients to do it!) and over years of working to improve in this realm, I’ve decided that this ability – to be truly honest about one’s own current state – is essential to success.
I think it’s only possible to get where you’re trying to go when you can see where you’re actually starting from. So, good on ya, Howard – I hope your executives respond with open eyes and ears, so you can all get back on track toward your envisioned future.
Just heard some personally exciting news today: Changchun Publishing has acquired the Chinese rights to my book, Growing Great Employees! Ever since reading The World Is Flat, I’ve been thinking about managers in India, China and other “flat world” countries, and their need for management skills – both business management and people management – and hoping my book might be useful to them.
I know the idea of millions of smart, capable professionals in India and China is scary to some people (regardless of Friedman’s assurances that there’s more than enough wealth and opportunity to go around), but I have a feeling this shift in the world’s economy could create many kinds of healthy competition that are good for everyone. Just today, I read an article on Personnel.com, proposing that British managers need much better training if the UK is to remain competitive with India and China.
Maybe the acceleration of business development in these distant countries will provide the needed impetus for US businesses to do a better job of hiring and training excellent people managers. Americans seem to want to win at everything: here’s a useful way to direct that competitive urge.
I was very happy to read that PepsiCo has named Indra Nooyi its Chairwoman, after having named her CEO last fall. By all accounts, she’s not only a good leader, but an excellent strategist as well, and seems to have her finger on the pulse of what consumers want.
That’s all good news. The not-so-good news is that Ms. Nooyi is one of only 10 female CEOs now running companies in the Fortune 500. Quick math: 2%.
Research done over the past few years seems to show that women CEOs may be more effective, as a group, than their male counterparts, and that companies with the highest respresentation of women in top management achieved better financial results than those with fewer women.
I suspect that when leaders focus more objectively on their employees’ performance, instead of over-relying on limiting assumptions or a friendship-based path of least resistance, we’ll see a greater proportion of women being promoted into senior management jobs.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about limiting assumptions and how to change them.