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    Published on: May 28, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Nice piece in the New York Times over the weekend noting that a new study from Gallup saying that people who love their jobs "use their strengths every day, as do their co-workers," "feel that they are an important part of their organization’s future," "are surrounded by colleagues who care about their overall well-being," and "are excited about the future because of a leader’s enthusiasm and vision."

    What's interesting about people who feel this way, the story suggests, is that they largely have taken responsibility for creating those jobs, as opposed to expecting to find such a climate when they arrive at a company or take a job:

    "Making small changes in our daily activities can make a job more rewarding and engaging, but people who love their jobs also have bosses who inspire them, get the most out of them and truly care about them. That’s no accident. People who want the most from their work go boss-shopping. They may change shifts or make lateral moves in a company or industry to work for bosses who can become influential leaders in their lives.

    "By studying people who love their work, I came to realize that almost none initially landed the jobs they loved; rather, they landed ordinary jobs and turned them into extraordinary ones," writes columnist Shane J. Lopez.

    The column goes on:

    "Making small changes in our daily activities can make a job more rewarding and engaging, but people who love their jobs also have bosses who inspire them, get the most out of them and truly care about them. That’s no accident. People who want the most from their work go boss-shopping. They may change shifts or make lateral moves in a company or industry to work for bosses who can become influential leaders in their lives."

    In other words, they largely accept the construct that people are responsible for their own happiness. That doesn't mean that companies have no responsibility for helping to foster job satisfaction ... just that people have to look out for themselves and be their own best advocates. (Remember that in , Col. Saito urges the British prisoners of war to be happy in their work ... but he's not ultimately interested in that. He just wants the bridge built.)

    Being the architect of your own happiness doesn't seem like it should be such a radical notion. But maybe, these days, we need to be reminded of such old fashioned concepts.

    You can read the whole piece here.

    BTW...

    I have to admit that I loved this piece in part because I'm one of those lucky people ... and I think it is because I've embraced the notion that if I'm going to be professionally satisfied (or personally satisfied, for that matter), it's up to me. Not someone else.

    This was brought home to me the other day when I got an email about the Forbes column I wrote about Ace Atkins, the new author of the Spenser series, and the business lessons that I thought could be learned from the transition to Atkins after the death of the series' creator, Robert B. Parker. (You can read it here.)

    The email said that the reader enjoyed the piece because it made clear that both Atkins and I very much love the work we are doing. Which I think is both pretty fair and very observant.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    Reuters reports that Delhaize, the Belgian retailer, has hired Lazard Ltd. to sell its Sweetbay Supermarkets and Harvey's Supermarkets chains.

    However, CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers will not confirm the report, only saying that the future of the chains "is a question on the table at the moment."

    This has been a time of some tumult at Delhaize, which makes 65 cents out of every dollar with its US operations, which also include Food Lion and Hannaford.

    Late last year, after the retirement of Ron Hodge, the company named Roland Smith as the new CEO of president/CEO of Delhaize America. Subsequently, Smith instituted a broad organizational shakeup, and also decided to shutter about a third of Sweetbay's 104 stores in western Florida. And, just in the last few weeks, Pierre-Olivier Beckers announced his retirement, to take place before the end of the year.
    KC's View:
    I have no doubt about the veracity of this report. Clearly, the folks in Belgium have decided that it is time for Delhaize America to get more from less.

    Lot of moving parts at Delhaize right now. Changes in leadership, changes in structure, and it is hard to see a slam-dunk option for what companies might be the best fits for Sweetbay and Harveys. The challenge is to make sure that even as the company goes through dramatic restructuring, that the focus stays not just on being efficient, but also increasingly effective.

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    The Washington Post reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday posted new regulations mandating that meatpackers use labels that inform consumers where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

    According to the Post, the mandates "are the latest move in a trade dispute that has pitted U.S. consumer groups, which favor the labels, against free trade advocates, who say the regulations are biased against cattle and pork from Canada and Mexico.

    "Nor are the regulations likely to be the last word in the international controversy, which seems destined to wind up - again - before the World Trade Organization, which has previously ruled that U.S. labeling regulations discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock."

    The USDA says that the new regulations comply with WTO regulations.

    "The United States estimates that more than 2,800 livestock processing and slaughtering companies, 38 chicken processing companies and about 4,300 retailers will be affected by the new rules," the Post reports. "Officials estimated the cost of implementing the rules at $33 million."
    KC's View:
    I understand the WTO concerns, but it is swimming against the currents if it thinks that less transparency is a good thing. Not that it should be a huge surprise that a governmental entity would be against transparency.

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    The Washington Post reports that "protesters rallied in dozens of cities Saturday," in 52 countries and 436 cities including Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, "as part of a global protest against seed giant Monsanto and the genetically modified food it produces."

    As the story notes, "Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But critics say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment. The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labeling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe."

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require the labeling of foods containing GMOs, but Whole Foods changed the debate earlier this year when it said that it will mandate that all the products sold in its US and Canadian stores be labeled if they contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and it is giving its suppliers a five year deadline to meet this standard.

    Monsanto maintains that "its seeds improve agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy," the Post writes.
    KC's View:
    I understand the FDA position, but it is swimming against the currents if it thinks that less transparency is a good thing. Not that it should be a huge surprise that a governmental entity would be against transparency.

    Wait a minute. Didn't I write that already this morning?

    The cases may be different, but the lesson, I think, is the same. Be pro-transparency, and you ultimately will be seen as being pro-consumer. be pro-consumer, and ultimately you will be on the right side of history.

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    USA Today reports on the continuing attention being given to the stern lecture that nine-year-old Hannah Robertson gave to McDonald's CEO Don Thompson at the company's annual shareholder's meeting last week.

    "There are things in life that aren't fair — like when your pet dies," said Hannah, who added, "I don't think it's fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food." And she concluded her remarks: "Mr. Thompson, don't you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and healthy life?"

    Hannah Thompson was at the meeting with her mother, who is a member of a Canadian nutritional advocacy group.

    Thompson gently tried to correct Hannah's characterization, saying that "we don't sell junk food." And, he said, while his own kids eat McDonald's, they also do a lot of cooking at home and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

    USA Today framed the debate this way:

    "This is an issue that simply won't go away: childhood nutrition. It is a key element in Michelle Obama's ongoing campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even as McDonald's has made some moves to better its menu offerings in recent years, it's increasingly getting bombarded by activists — and now, their children — to do more. Several other activists also spoke out at the meeting, prodding McDonald's to do more about offering healthy items.

    "For McDonald's, it's virtually a no-win situation that will only grow larger as a generation of fact-focused and nutritionally savvy Millennials continue to have kids."
    KC's View:
    Longtime MNB readers know that I am no fan of McDonald's.

    But I'm also not a fan of parents using nine year old children as a way of spotlighting their own political views or goals. Sure, McDonald's tries to use every method at its disposal to sell fast food. So as a parent, use every tool at your disposal to teach your own kid to make good choices.

    Let Hannah be a kid. Not a poster child for your own issues.

    But maybe that's just me.

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    The New York Times has a story about the challenges of trying to do business in an internet-and-social-media world, in this case focusing on the hotel business, where one estimate is that almost eight out of 10 travelers make their lodging decisions based on online reviews.

    The pressure apparently is even greater in the luxury hotel business, where there are concerns that not enough people actually understand what they are all about - that online reviews often are written by people who may be unfamiliar with what such hotels are supposed to provide, or those who may work for a competitor or could have another dog in the hunt. At the same time, there have been instances of hotels that have actually had their own people filing online reviews without representing themselves.

    And, there is a sense that the chains may feel that it is their responsibility to "cull" the reviews, to make sure that they are representative of the actual experience.
    KC's View:
    I am conflicted about this.

    On the one hand, I think that companies that "cull" user reviews run the risk as being perceived as anti-transparency.

    But ... to be fair, that's exactly what I do on MNB. "Your Views" uses the emails that I choose to post, and I've long resisted a bulletin board approach, because I think MNB readers have limited time, I choose the letters and issues to include.

    So I get it. But I might do it differently if I ran a hotel.

    And I think that people looking to appeal to a broad consumer audience need to think twice about culling reviews.

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    • The San Francisco Chronicle has a piece about Amazon Fresh, reiterating that while the company still has not rolled out the grocery delivery service beyond Seattle, it still seems to be planning a national expansion, though CEO Jeff Bezos seems noncommittal on the subject.

    And, the Chronicle refers to a report by RetailNetGroup that was also the subject of an MNB story that you can access here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "retail beef prices are widely expected to set new records in coming weeks after wholesale prices, or the amount meatpackers charge sellers for beef, hit an all-time peak this past week ... After achieving new highs for three weeks, choice-grade beef, the most common variety in the U.S., jumped to $2.1137 a pound Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That level broke a decade-old record for wholesale prices set in 2003, when a case of mad-cow disease in Canada led to a spike in export demand for U.S. beef."


    Reuters reports that employees at Amazon.com's German logistics center were scheduled to go on strike again this week, the second time that they've staged a walkout over what they call inadequate pay and benefits.

    According to the story, "Amazon employs around 9,000 people in Germany and has come under fire from the union for refusing to implement a collective agreement on employment conditions similar to deals at other mail order and retail firms. The union is also pressing for higher basic pay and bigger supplements for night shifts."
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 28, 2013

    Last Friday, I wrote an Eye-Opener that celebrated Yuichiro Miura, the Japanese man who last week became the oldest man to climb Mount Everest when he did it at age 80. He's done it three times, having previously scaled the world's highest peak at 70 and 75, despite the fact that he's had four heart surgeries and had various other medical issues.

    I wrote:

    Reached by phone on the summit - which somehow in itself is remarkable, Miura said, "This is the best feeling in the world. I never imagined I would become the oldest man to get here, at 80. There's no greater feeling in life, but I've never felt this tired either."

    I'll bet.

    And I was feeling tired just getting up to do MNB this morning. But now I'm feeling a little sheepish about that, and about the fact that sometimes I let my two knee surgeries dissuade me from going jogging.

    A lot of us think, from time to time, that we have things tough. But I would argue that few of us have it as tough as an 80 year old man ... trying to climb Mount Everest.

    Maybe the rest of us should just shut up and get to work.


    I have to say that I was horrified to get the following response:

    I read your eye opener on Friday.. the article about climbing Mt. Everest,  and it was inspiring.  However I hardly think it qualifies for your line “maybe the rest of us should just shut up and get to work”.  To climb that mountain is a choice.. that is not forced.. and it is very very expensive, costing thousands.  Most people I know, especially now, cannot afford it.

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a great achievement.. but I will tell you one that is greater.. when my 45 year old husband took 8 minutes to walk up 13 steps to his bedroom three days before he died from ALS.   I was not yet 40 years old and widowed.  It was August of 2007, we had two children and about 15 months later I lost my job.  I actually went back to school and finished my MBA within the year and then started looking.  Finally, after another  year, I found a job, an hour away from home.. where I make less than I did 7 years previously.. even though I had my MBA.  I took this job, because I did not want my children to think it was okay to sit home and collect social security (I could as a widow with minor children).  When I figure out my cash flow, I should be staying home.. not paying for gas and tolls.  I would be ahead by roughly $400 per month.   But.. I shut up and go to work.  There are many achievements to be lauded and many tales of inspiration, but most don’t come from the top of the world.  It is courageous people we see everyday and perhaps never know what struggles they have overcome, without the help of a Sherpa.


    When I say I was horrified to get this email, it is because the last thing I would ever want to do is suggest that the exploits of one 80 year old man are somehow more important or impactful than the day-to-day efforts of many people to live fulfilling and happy lives. In fact, my goal was to illuminate someone who seemed to be doing exactly that, albeit on a grand scale, though not one that outweighs other people's efforts.

    What I loved most about Miura was that he could have stayed home and nursed his maladies and whined about how he would love to climb Everest. But he didn't. he just climbed the mountain.

    To say that I am sorry about your husband's passing somehow seems totally inadequate. I can only imagine the courage that it took for him to walk those 13 steps, and the courage that it took for you and him to deal with his illness. It sounds like you focused on life, not death. I would hope that I would have the courage to do the same if faced with the same circumstances.

    In so many ways, this brings us full circle to this morning's Eye-Opener, which is about taking responsibility for one's own job happiness. Above, I quoted a line from The Bridge On The River Kwai, but now I'd like to use one from The Shawshank Redemption:

    "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

    My profound apologies if you thought I was only impressed by people who climb the actual Everest. I am, in fact, wowed by people who climb their own personal Everests every day.
    KC's View: