Published on: May 30, 2013
On Tuesday, MNB took note of a New York Times
piece saying that a new study from Gallup suggested that people who love their work and careers 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.
I commented: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 The Bridge on the River Kwai, 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.
MNB user Christopher Gibbons responded:Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. Great points on the importance of employees feeling involved, enthusiastic, empowered and engaged. As a store manager for over twenty years, I have tried to promote these values and allow my co-workers to have the freedom to have control over their work, feel part of a team, be creative and have fun at work. I loved your reference to The Bridge on the River Kwai and Colonel Saito’s ironic “Be happy in your work.” Too many leaders talk about the importance of “morale” and “teambuilding,” but their words often ring hollow.
The part of the article that resonated with me the most was the importance of having a good boss. “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.” I am going to send this to every one of my managers. We will read these words out loud at our weekly meetings. I may plaster these words on my office wall, so that I am forced to read them every day. I’ve always felt the importance of a good boss is paramount in most people’s lives, the importance of which is not recognized nearly enough for the impact it has. Many years ago, my older brother relocated to another state to continue working for a great boss. At the time I didn't understand that.
I had the opportunity to make a career change a few years back and interviewed for a position with Lunds and Byerly’s. We were looking to relocate our family to the Twin Cities from the east coast and I knew that if I was going to stay in retail grocery, the only company that I would want to work for was L & B. I flew into Minneapolis on a Tuesday morning and met with the two directors of store operations, Art Miller and John Majchrzak. I immediately found them to be professional and engaging. They both smiled often and told personal stories. We had a one hour interview and I flew back home that evening. A week later they called and offered me a job which I accepted. Here’s the thing: I didn’t take the job because of the salary (which was less than I was making at the time) or the position (which was a step below my previous job.) I didn’t take it because Lunds & Byerly’s has some of the most beautiful grocery stores anywhere in the world (which they do.) I took the job for two reasons: Art Miller and John Majchrzak. In just one hour with these two gentlemen, I knew that they were the kind of people that I wanted to work for and work with. For the past eight years, I have been extremely fortunate to work for a great company and two great leaders. Art and John both retired recently, but their legacy lives on. They cared about their people and allowed them the freedom to be themselves at work. That’s priceless.
As Colonel Nicholson, brilliantly played by Alec Guinness, reflects on the bridge:
“Still, it's been a good life. I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking's very healthy; but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time.”
I don’t believe that the Colonel understood the impact that he had on the lives of his men, the Japanese guards, Colonel Saito or everyone else in the story. He is like the majority of leaders that don’t see the extent to which they influence people’s lives. For good or for bad. The sum total of our lives may seem small to us at times, but for the people we lead, we can make all the difference in the world. Like Art Miller or John Majchrzak did for me.
So as a boss, who do we want to be? We really do need to ask ourselves that, if we haven't done so already. I know that for me, I strive to be a leader that positively affects the lives of the people I work with every day. I don’t get there all the time and I have to constantly remind myself that I’m always “on stage.”
But that’s the challenge. To inspire our people. To give them the tools they need to be successful. To allow them the freedom to grow, to be creative, to connect with others, to have fun.
As a leader, to do anything less would be, well......as Major Clipton says while surveying the carnage at the end of the film, “Madness. Madness.”
Can't do better than an email like that ... rooted in real-life experience, thoughtful, and using ample movie quotes.
From another reader:The timing of your Tuesday morning eye-opener is spot on. I left my job on Friday because of a soul-killing boss. Even though I'm sitting at my home computer and waiting for the state's on-line unemployment registration form to verify my home address, I'm happier than I have been in a very long time. Fortunately, I'm at a point in my career when I'm able to weigh mental health against income — because I qualify for Medicare and can tap into my retirement account, albeit much sooner than I intended.
This is not how or when I intended to to finish out what has been a most enjoyable career, but when when you run into one of those bosses who make going into work each day hell on earth, you have to make a choice. I've worked for some incredibly wonderful bosses through the years and that makes the reality of these last few years even more distressing. Having experienced both sides of the coin, I can attest first-hand that when the atmosphere is positive and the bosses inspiring, employees will go the extra mile and and search out the new, the innovative, the exciting. Deadly bosses kill ideas, originality and any desire to achieve.
In the scheme of things, I count myself very lucky. If I have to cut back on material things, that's small price to pay for saving my soul. It's never too late for reinvention and I look forward to the next phase of my creative life.
Regarding the story yesterday about a new Pew Research Center study saying that four out of 10 US households with children have what are called "breadwinner moms" - defined as "the sole or primary source of income for households with children younger than 18" - one MNB user wrote:The story (and statistics) failed to address households headed by two moms. The assumption by the writer that households with children must either be headed by a single mother or by a man and woman is telling. As gay marriage is now legal in 12 states and DC (not to mention those of us living in red states who are in committed relationships who can't legally marry), those reporting on family issues must take a closer look at their definition of "family".
I used the Pew study as a jumping off point on which I commented on how slowly some segments of the culture seem to adapt to new realities, and segued into a comment about the guy I referred to as a "billionaire bozo" who said that women could not be stock traders after they became mothers because they lost all their focus.
Which led one MNB user to write:What’s with all the drama? Your comments started with an assumption and digressed into a completely unrelated subject. Ultimately, you ended in a spot that was completely contrary to the trends highlighted in the article. Come on, you’re better than that.
Well, apparently not.
Actually, I don't think I contradicted myself at all.
Longtime readers on MNB know that I often will digress into other subjects if I think it is appropriate, if I think it is relevant, or if I just feel the whim.
In this case, though, I think I was commenting on a broader issue and that all the issues were connected.
With all due respect.
Responding to yesterday's piece by Kate McMahon in which she wrote about how Papa John’s founder and chairman John Schnatter responded to a racist rant delivered by two employees in Sanford, Florida, that ended up on the internet, one MNB user wrote:Unfortunately you can have all the screening possible to make sure the employees you hire are good decent people, but as is always the case, people can fool you. Plus the fact that most delivery drivers etc...are temporary employees at best.
All you can do is set policy and act fast when employees screw up. Papa John's did the right thing.
And another reader wrote:Sad to hear the ignorant comments made by two degenerate individuals at Papa Johns.
I was pleased to see the quick response by the CEO. As you said, in today's world news travels fast....and social media will punish any company quickly for events like this. Something to consider though.....is how the CEO is villain-ized or held accountable for the actions of all front line employees. When you lead an organization with the size and volume of Papa Johns, you will always have situations where employees do the wrong thing, have mental health issues, legal issues, etc based on the sheer numbers. While the company culture and ethics need to not tolerate this, to say that the CEO is responsible for every behavior is.....in my humble opinion, ridiculous. How he responds is certainly measurable....and a reflection on him...but everyone wants to attack these days.
Can we really believe that the CEO himself can prevent all poor human behavior....and when something goes amuck that we need to expose the company as racist, intolerant, etc? This isn't about pizza...it's about two classless people that ended up working for the pizza place. It could have been Dunkin, Dominos, or Taco Bell. I'm not going to boycott getting a pizza because two people out of 20,000 make poor choices......I hope this event doesn't have a negative impact on their sales and the rest of the good associates at Papa Johns...that would be the real sad outcome.
I agree that a CEO can't be held personally responsible for idiots hired by the company ... except that when you put your name on the box, appear in TV commercials, and try to use your force of personality to brand the chain, you have to live with the fact that when things go bad, you have to take the hit and respond.
On balance, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Another reader wanted to chime in about the following passage in Kate's piece that referred to another racial issue in Sanford:It ... comes at a time of heightened racial tension in Sanford, where neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman awaits trial on charges he fatally shot unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin last year.
The reader wrote:Kate, this is what is wrong with social media…truth…and lack of research and personal responsibility…by those wanting to be first, rather than right! George Zimmerman has been refuted by neighborhood watch, as neither being affiliated with the group or a captain…he was merely a vigilante. Please check your facts.
There may be some reasonable confusion on this issue. Most of the stories I have read have referred to Zimmerman as either a "neighborhood watch volunteer" or a "former neighborhood watch volunteer," though he was not on duty at the time of the shooting, It also has been made clear that at this point in time, legitimate neighborhood watch groups want nothing to do with him.
On another subject, one MNB user wrote:Read your article this morning about Smithfield being acquired by a Chinese company. We've all heard the stories about tainted meat products in China. My niece is a student at North Dakota State University and grew up on my sister's farm and ranch in central North Dakota. She recently returned from a two week trip to China as part of a student program to learn agriculture in other parts of the world. Part of their program was to document daily the things they have learned and observed. She emailed copies to me and here is an excerpt of one of them:
I was surprised at the difference in technology between the wet market and Metro supermarket. Even though the wet market was the largest market hub in Shanghai, the technology it utilized was very minimalistic. In comparison, Metro (similar to Costco or Sam's Club) was using marketing and technologies that were extremely advanced. Perhaps the most interesting technology at Metro was the fresh product tracking system. Each fresh item-including beef, pork, seaweed, etc.-was labeled with a barcode that could be scanned at an in house scanner. As soon as the item is scanned the location of the farm where the harvested animal or plant was raised appears on screen. It then shows how the products are processed, the journey the product takes, refrigeration temperature, and the face of the farmer who grows the product. A product from Kingbull, a specialized farm we visited earlier in our trip in Yangling, was scanned and the exact farm and farmer we met popped up on screen. We had also seen this same tracking technology being researched in Nanjing Agricultural University a few days earlier. It was incredible to be able to see connections and see a product go from farm to supermarket and also the connections from research to customer utilization. Today really helped me to make connections as to how the whole agricultural system can come together in China.
It seems that the Chinese are ahead of us and I wonder how much information we really get that is accurate. Also, in the United States we have had our own issues with food safety, so I'm not sure we are the right people to be calling the kettle black. As with anything, we only hear the bad and not the good. The good thing about her trip was she got to interact with people on farms who do what she is used to doing and finding out that their techniques and processes are very similar to what American farmers do. She also saw in the universities that the research they do and the equipment they use is much the same as what she has at NDSU. There are still many ways that China as a nation is behind the world, but it appears
they are on the right track. Hopefully our students learned something.
On the other hand, a lot of people may feel this way, as expressed by a reader:I have always looked forward, during the holidays, of sitting down with friends and family with a beautiful and traditional Smithfield ham on the table…never again!
Finally, the other day in commenting about the return of AG Lafley as CEO of Procter & Gamble, I wrote:What is the message to the folks at P&G when the board seems to feel that the bench strength is not strong enough to provide a new CEO, and that it has to go back to the last guy? This is different from the state of affairs at JC Penney, where they brought back a guy who was let go because things weren't working. But I'm just curious. Shouldn't every company the size of P&G have a succession plan to deal with just such an occurrence?
Which prompted one MNB reader to ask:Curious - what is the succession plan at MNB World Headquarters? Are you taking resumes?
I hadn't really thought about it.
I always figured that there were three ways this could all go...
1. I drop dead at my laptop. End of MNB.
2. I decide to stop doing this at some point. End of MNB.
3. Or, some company decides that MNB is worth investing in, because this kind of daily coverage, commentary and conversation has value that goes beyond me, and we figure out a succession plan together. And MNB survives. (This is sort of the Robert B. Parker - Ace Atkins model, except that I'm alive for the process.)
We'll have to see what happens. Life is filled with possibility.