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Forbes reports that Albertsons CEO Larry Johnston has turned to a new source of inspiration as he tries to turn around the company so it can embark on his stated goal: to become the biggest food and drug retailer in the world.

Johnston’s strategy: using a motivational speaker to help managers get their acts together.

Ed F. Foreman runs a company called Executive Development Systems and a series of sessions called the Successful Life Course, during which he exhorts attendees to act enthusiastic so they can be enthusiastic, to keep a positive attitude about life and work. The sessions are replete with healthy food, yoga, and group hugs.

"Positive attitude is the single biggest thing that can change a business," says Johnston, and Forbes does a good job of explaining how when the CEO ran various divisions at General Electric, he successfully used Foreman to help turn around the troops.

It isn’t, to be sure, the only thing Johnston is doing. He’s also spent half his time on the road since getting the Albertsons gig, getting to understand the company, and working with employees on the customer service aspect of the business.
KC's View:
We have to be honest here. As much as we admire Johnston and his approach to the business, our first reaction was to crack wise and suggest that it would be a lot cheaper to simply send all his employees a copy of “The Little Engine That Could.” We’re cynical, you see, and are a little suspicious of the whole motivational speaker genre.

But we thought about it, staring out the window into the darkness this cold February morning, and decided that to make such a suggestion would really be hypocritical. After all, we’re always going on about finding and exploiting differential advantages, and one of the best ones to focus on is the customer service culture of a company.

We’ve always adhered to the “whatever gets you through the night” philosophy of life. In this case, Albertsons doesn’t need to just get through the night; it has to endure a long winter of heightened competition and economic uncertainties, and do so while changing a long-imbedded corporate culture.

We may not be ready to attend such a session ourselves, but we have to applaud Johnston for being willing to employ unorthodox approaches in achieve his goals.