The juxtaposition seemed striking: on the one hand, Pope Francis in the U.S. with his message of taking care of the poor and the forgotten—a Pope who had published an encyclical speaking to the challenges of inequality and reminding us that “human beings too are creatures of this world”—and on that same day, an article describing the inconsistent way in which Starbucks was implementing its proposed policy to give its hourly store workers more notice about their ever-shifting schedules and total hours of work.
While pundits endlessly debate Carly Fiorina’s record at Hewlett-Packard — how much of the stock price decline during her tenure was her fault; was the Compaq merger, about to be undone in the impending split of the company, smart or dumb; how much did H-P really increase its sales and inventiveness during her reign, and so forth — there’s one thing no one should question: Fiorina has mastered some important lessons in leadership, lessons relevant for anyone.
Here are four things that anyone, running for president or not, can and should do:
At breakfast, Steve Westly, employee No. 22 at eBay, former California state controller, and a candidate for governor in the 2018 race, explained that his political campaign was like growing a startup from scratch to $30 million in about 18 months, with all the scaling up and operational issues such growth entailed. The challenge would be many orders of magnitude larger in a national presidential campaign.
The recent New York Times profile of Amazon.com describing its relentless, high-pressure, measurement-obsessed culture is scarcely the first to depict what it is like to work there, either in its warehouses or its offices. While CEO Jeff Bezos has denied (no surprise) the accuracy of the reporting, a quick Web search reveals numerous articles painting a picture remarkably consistent with this most recent portrayal: Amazon is a tough place to work, Bezos is famous for his temper and put-downs of employees, and many people who cannot stand the stress and pressure leave.
There are numerous lessons to be gained from considering Amazon, its culture, and its success—lessons that pertain to many other workplaces. Here are three:
In the spring of 2014, I turned in a book manuscript about leadership that, because of the turmoil within the publishing industry, will only be published next month. In the index for that book: entries for Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.
I wish I could say I was prescient about the unfolding race for the Republican nomination, but I wasn’t even thinking about this ever-entertaining spectacle. Instead, I was trying to address a topic that’s vitally important to individuals who want to thrive in today’s intensely competitive work world: the enormous disconnect between the leadership prescriptions regularly offered to an unsuspecting public by the enormous leadership industry and what social science and everyday observation suggest is the best path to individual success. For the most part, real-world success comes from behaviors that are precisely the opposite of typical leadership prescriptions.
When I first met Andrew Berlin at a Stanford executive program in the early 1990s, Berlin Packaging was a small enterprise doing maybe $40 million in sales in what was then, and still is, a very tough, almost commodity-like industry. Today, the packaging company brings in close to $1 billion in annual revenues, Andrew Berlin has an ownership interest in the Chicago Cubs and a World Series ring from his past ownership interest in the White Sox, and he runs a company growing earnings at a low double-digit rate that achieves good margins.
Last May, suffering from a back problem that would require surgery by early July, and facing the prospect of climbing up long and steep steps to board a British Airways 747 flight from London to San Francisco, I requested assistance. I didn’t get any help boarding the flight—not even someone to help me haul my carry-on up the stairs.
Americans are a positive and optimistic lot, emphasizing that people need to go out and solve their own problems. That’s why there are myriad stories about Detroit’s comeback. And that’s why there are narratives like the following: “technology companies have contended that their virtual marketplaces, in which people act as contractors and use their own possessions to provide services to the public … afford workers flexibility and freedom,” writes The New York Times.
Of course, the California Labor Commissioner’s recent ruling that Uber drivers should be classified as employees has sparked renewed discussion as to whether being a contractor—and having access to no benefits, ranging from unemployment compensation, to worker’s compensation, to employer-provided health insurance—is actually such a good thing for workers.
A few years ago, when I had a hideously bad auto repair experience, I posted a negative rating on Yelp. And then soon the rating disappeared from the first page as positive ratings poured in. That experience made me suspicious about what has come to be called the reputation or ratings economy.
Over the ensuing years, ratings and ratings websites have proliferated. Everyone and everything from mental health providers to, as Times columnist Maureen Dowd humorously noted when she had trouble getting a ride, Uber passengers now get rated.
McDonald’s recent decision to raise the pay for workers at company-owned restaurants to an average of $9.90 an hour and provide employees, once they have worked a year, some paid time off made news for what that action says about the tightening labor market and the campaign to get low-paid people a living wage.
But pay levels and other working conditions such as vacation and paid sick days affect more than just standards of living. People spend a lot of their time at work and, unsurprisingly, what happens in the workplace profoundly influences people’s mental and physical health. So if you think your job may be killing you, recent research suggests you just might be right.