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Tag Archives: perspective in leadership

Leadership lessons from the American bald eagle

leadership lessons from the bald eagleI am continually amazed by the insightful leadership lessons that can be learned from the animal kingdom; in the past I’ve written about sea otters, goldfish, long-nosed bats, Canada geese, and penguins.  Recently, I had the opportunity to have a close-up interaction with an American bald eagle at a bird rescue sanctuary (I took this photo on the right), and not surprisingly, there were leadership lessons to be had here as well.  Here are two interesting parallels between bald eagles and exceptional leaders.

The ability to stay high AND come down low

Eagles tend to spend most of their time in elevated locations.  When they are hunting, they soar high in the sky.  When they are resting, they look for the loftiest spot they can find in trees, craggy rocks, or even rooftops.  They can stay at higher altitudes because they have excellent vision.  Continue reading

Can a destructive workplace culture cross international boundaries?

A destructive workplace cultureIn August 2015, I wrote a column for The Globe & Mail that addressed the “bruising” workplace culture at Amazon.  Amazon’s culture was reported to be characterized by demanding hours and a gruelling pace, with no room for mistakes or missteps. Employees battered with unrelenting deadlines, constant criticism, heartless disregard for personal health and life circumstances, and zero boundaries between work and life – a system inherently designed to “burn and churn.” New recruits who can handle the relentless pressure tagged as future stars; the rest burn out and leave within a few years.  But a workplace culture with zero or little regard for work life balance isn’t unique to Amazon, or for that matter, to North America.

The Japanese even have a word for it!

Apparently this malaise crosses international boundaries … all the way to Japan.  So much so that the Japanese actually have a word for it – “karoshi”.  Karoshi means “death from overwork”, and it’s a social problem prevalent in many corporations in Japan.  Continue reading

Can the latest apology from United Airlines heal the rift?

United AirlinesOn April 12, I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  On April 19, I wrote a further commentary in my regular column for The Globe & MailLessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand) – in which laid out five leadership lessons that any CEO should internalize so as not to find themselves in similar shaky situations in the future.

Is it too little, too late?

I still maintain that this unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  But I am pleased to say that on April 27, Munoz also demonstrated how to do it right.  United issued the results of their internal investigation as well as a public apology in major newspapers, individual apologies to the airline’s frequent flyers (I got an email) and a statement on their website.  Granted, it may be the proverbial equivalent of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but in my opinion, late is better than never.  Continue reading

Leadership lessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand overnight)

Last week I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  My column in both the online and print editions of today’s Globe and Mail continues on this very topic.  This unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  In today’s column – Lessons from the United Airlines debacle – published in this morning’s print and online editions, I outline five leadership lessons that any CEO can take to heart.   In the interest of not destroying your brand overnight, these five things that are well worth considering and internalizing so as not to find yourself in a similar shaky scenario at any point in the future.

Five lessons that every leader should internalize

This is a topic that has been fodder for many a water cooler and coffee station conversation for the last 1-½ weeks with opinions that have ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.  You know my point of view, but I’m interested in yours.  What could Munoz have done differently to manage this situation more effectively?  With the benefit of hindsight, what other lessons would leaders take away from this unfortunate situation?  Your comments welcome.

Essential leadership lessons from the United Airlines public relations debacle

unitedlogoSo you’d have to be under a rock or in a dark cave some place to have missed the firestorm that is United Airlines which ignited sometime this past Sunday night.  After all, it’s not every day that an airline literally beats up its customer!  If you haven’t seen the video that accelerated into cyberspace (where have you been?), just Google it; you should find it within seconds.  There’s a lot of conversation about the circumstances leading up to this event, but one thing is clear.  United Airlines’ CEO, Oscar Munoz didn’t handle things well, and in today’s post, I’d like to focus on his apparent (lack of) leadership.  In this age of the Internet, there is example after example of the public relations nightmare that can fall out of a poorly-managed situation (heck, I remember the Papa John’s incident five years ago!), and unfortunately, United Airlines’ handling of this situation is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act.  Let me give you a quick rundown, at least as of last night.

United Airline’s Mistake #1

When the videos of this regrettable event first hit the worldwide web late on Sunday night, Munoz issued a public statement on Monday, which went wrong from the very beginning.  His choice of words — “re-accommodate”, “inconvenienced” and “upsetting” — came across as tone-deaf in a situation that would have more aptly been described as terrible and horrible and shocking and distressing.

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Source: View from the Wing

Blunder #2

Continue reading

Your leadership focus should be at two different levels

The best way I can think of to explain how there are two different levels of leadership focus is to use the metaphor of tornadoes versus termites.

Two levels of leadership focusA tornado can level a house.  You know what else can?  Termites.  Over time, termites, left unchecked, can bring a 2,500 square foot house down to a pile of brittle lumber.  A tornado gets attention because it can destroy a house in a matter of mere minutes.  But termites, eating away at the skeleton of a home over a period of six months to two years, tend not to get the same degree of attention, simply because their damage happens slowly.  But let’s be very clear on one thing – whether it’s a tornado or termites, the eventual result is exactly the same – a house that is completely destroyed.

Tornadoes get attention

As a leader, catastrophes in your workplace get your attention.  Whether it’s a virus that shuts down your computer network, a rail accident that impacts deliveries of your product, a flawed recommendation your firm made to an important client, or a significant accounting error that is discovered only after the financial cycle has closed, such situations bring your crisis management skills to the forefront.  Continue reading

Lack of client responsiveness … pushes customers to your competitors

It’s mind-boggling to me that so many companies still don’t understand the importance of making it easy for their customers to buy from them. In fact, I outlined two specific examples of customer service failure in Are you easy to work with? – a lesson in client responsiveness just less than a year and a half ago. Well I’m back again today with yet another stellar example of how to push revenue out the door and directly to your competitors.

WoodFurnitureJust recently, I was in the market for solid wood Canadian-made furniture, specifically six pieces for the bedroom. Since wandering from store to store is not my idea of a good time, my husband and I pored through manufacturer’s catalogues, both print and online, for months, looking for ideas and styles that caught our attention (and that were within our budget). A few weeks ago, we narrowed our interest down to three specific furniture lines. Despite the fact that I adore the convenience of online shopping, I knew that it was now time to look at them “in person” before we made the final purchase decision. So I fired off emails to the manufacturers (using the contact info on their websites, no less) asking them if there were any dealers in my area who had the specific lines in their showrooms. Two manufacturers wrote back to me within 24 hours, letting me know the names of stores that carried not only the lines I was interested in, but also information about several of their other products. One of them even let me know that they’d let a local store in the area know of my interest, and the next day, someone from the local store called me to follow up to see if I had any questions. The third company, well, I never heard from them. Continue reading

Trying to motivate your employees? Could you be inadvertently demotivating them?

Demotivator on Warning Road SignA while ago, I wrote a blog post titled How to lower productivity and demotivate your workforce that illustrated how process bottlenecks stopped employees from being productive and motivated. And sometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, inadvertently create situations that are non-productive and demotivating. In fact, I wrote a column about just this topic in The Globe & Mail last November titled Why do smart managers do stupid things? Today’s blog post takes this quandary further. Today’s topic is about when things that are intended to motivate people not only turn out to be hugely demotivating, but also actually incent people to act in the absolute opposite way than was meant. As leaders charged with inspiring and encouraging staff, it’s important to consider whether our good intentions may in fact be producing an unexpected negative result. Let me share some interesting (and unusual) examples of incentives that, while good-intentioned, were hugely demotivating. Continue reading

Five foolproof ways to demotivate your employees

My latest Leadership Lab column in The Globe & Mail is up on their site today.

Five foolproof ways to destroy employee morale

is about what some managers do to completely destroy their employees’ self-confidence, drag down team morale, and create a negative working environment. In short, they demotivate their people! Fortunately, most of the leaders I work with are keenly focused on keeping their people committed and loyal because they know that engaged and empowered employees perform to their highest abilities and produce exceptional results. But every so often, I come across managers who seem hell bent on doing just the opposite. Not surprisingly, their staff hate coming to work, and positivity and productivity plummets. This is their story of failure.

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Well, what do you have to add to the list? What have you seen that demotivates, demoralizes and disempowers employees? Rather than comment here on the blog, please add your viewpoint directly to The Globe‘s site, as their (much larger) readership will also have a chance to join the discussion. Or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks). I’m eagerly looking forward to your reactions and perspectives.

And please do me one more favour – help me get the word out … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love to hear their thoughts as well; I bet they have a few to add to this list!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/ELDe

Leadership lessons from a penguin

In the past, I’ve been inspired to blog about Leadership lessons from a mountain and Leadership lessons from a sea turtle, and many of you were motivated enough to add to these lists. Today (stirred by a recent weekend visit to the Calgary Zoo), I thought I’d begin a list of what leadership lessons a penguin can offer.

PenguinsThe penguin is a bird that does not fly. With feathers and a beak, it looks like a bird. And in most behavioural aspects, it acts like a bird. Except of course in this one very significant characteristic … that it cannot fly. But what the penguin lacks in flight power it makes up in aquatic grace. In the study of bird evolution, paleontologists have determined that many eons ago, the ancient predecessor to today’s modern penguin could fly. But over millions of years, penguins’ wings evolved into fins as they adapted to marine life in the Antarctic Ocean. And if you’ve ever watched penguins swim, you know that they perform with as much elegance underwater as their avian relatives do in the sky.

The successful existence of the penguin offers at least two apt metaphors for leaders. Continue reading