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Response to the Election

Business leaders have a choice during the next few months in the way they speak publicly about political affairs. The Brexit referendum, the U.S. presidential election, and the growing support for nationalism in many countries have all made it impossible to ignore politics — because every aspect of major businesses is affected by globalization. Top business leaders are reacting to these developments in a variety of ways: They are intrigued by the business opportunities or the presumed reduction in taxes; concerned about the impact on diversity; uncertain about the effect this will have on their access to global markets; disheartened or pleased personally. No matter what their perspective, they may be inclined to share their views openly or they may be tempted to remain silent. Either choice could make things better or worse within their companies. It all depends on how they do it, and how well they understand the personal responses triggered by these political events at levels below explicit consciousness.

For example, many organizational leaders have worked hard in recent years to develop more inclusive cultures; they recognize that people need to feel that they’re part of the same group to collaborate, especially across national boundaries. But the elections of 2016, and the associated public displays of nationalism, ethnic isolationism, and suspicion of outsiders, have reinforced deeply ingrained biases in people’s brains. No matter how inclusive your organization may be, and no matter what your employees’ political perspectives, you will probably see an increase in “us-versus-them” antagonism, and a corresponding reduction in trust, collaboration, and creativity. Just when companies need to innovate faster than ever to compete globally, they face the daunting prospect that millions of employees will work alongside colleagues whose presence subconsciously agitates them.

The Narcissism Warning Sign

Signs of narcissism offer the most critical indicator of hubris ahead. In the classic Greek myth, Narcissus perished after becoming captivated by his own image reflected in water. Psychologists characterize a narcissist as someone with a grandiose view of his or her own talents and a craving for admiration. Narcissists exhibit these qualities to the point where they lose perspective and begin to make unreasonable, destructive decisions.

A narcissistic CEO becomes focused on his or her ego rather than the company’s stakeholders. This trait is all too prevalent among executive leaders, as Arijit Chatterjee and Donald C. Hambrick of Penn State University showed in a wonderfully titled 2007 paper, “It’s All about Me: Narcissistic Chief Executive Officers and Their Effects on Company Strategy and Performance.” Their study of 111 CEOs in the computer industry found that those who demonstrated narcissistic traits tended to make more and larger acquisitions, which led to “extreme and fluctuating organizational performance.” Other studies have tied acquisition premiums explicitly to media praise and relative pay for the CEO.

A prime case study of the destructive impact of a narcissistic CEO features Joseph Nacchio, former CEO of Qwest Communications. Nacchio launched his business career in the telecommunications industry through serendipity: At a career fair, he mistakenly ended up in an interview room for AT&T instead of Procter & Gamble. Starting as a young engineer in 1969, he advanced through the business ranks while also extending his educational credentials by earning a master’s degree in business from NYU and a Sloan Fellowship from MIT. In 1993 he became the youngest executive leading a major AT&T business unit: the struggling consumer long-distance business. While the unit continued to struggle, Nacchio’s intelligent but highly competitive manner made him stand out. He gained the respect of colleagues, but he could also instill fear. In a 2005 Denver Post article about Nacchio, former fellow AT&T executive Dick Martin would later recall, “He can be very cutting in a meeting where he’s in charge. He doesn’t suffer fools easily.”

Indeed, one of the earliest signs of narcissism that Nacchio displayed was a propensity for building himself up at the expense of his colleagues, going beyond the competitiveness one might expect from someone who was openly angling for the chief executive role. As a 2000 Forbes profile put it, he was known for having “sniped at [AT&T’s] top executives, impugned their intelligence and even questioned their psychological stability.” The same article quoted Nacchio asserting that he could have been “a powerful asset” to them as CEO.

But when it became clear in the mid-1990s that Nacchio wouldn’t be chosen as CEO, he began looking elsewhere. He landed the chief executive position at Qwest in 1997, on the strength of a plan to turn this relatively small, Denver-based telecom company (US$697 million in 1997 revenues, compared with AT&T’s $53 billion) into an industry leader. Launched just a decade earlier, in 1988, Qwest had originally been an offshoot of the Southern Pacific railroad line, installing fiber-optic cable for companies such as MCI along its rights of way. Qwest had grown by laying its own cables alongside those of its customers. Now, in the early years of the Internet, Nacchio proposed that Qwest could step out in front on the basis of its technological prowess.

Upon accepting the CEO offer, Nacchio quickly developed a business plan — purportedly on the back of an envelope — for an IPO later that year. He was no longer held in check by a staid culture, as he had been at AT&T, and he articulated increasingly grandiose views when talking to journalists. In a 1998 Wired magazine article, “Building the Future-Proof Telco,” he commented, “I feel like an emerging oil baron.” A Fortune article published the same year, “Wild, Wild Qwest — The Gunslinger in Telecom,” described Nacchio as a “modern-day Wyatt Earp” building a new form of telecommunications company. “People ask if we’re telecom guys or Silicon Valley guys,” Nacchio said in the opening paragraph. “I like to say we are a Silicon Valley company on the other side of the Rockies.”

Strategy and the Board

Some governance experts argue that when it comes to a company’s strategy, the buck stops with the CEO. They say the board’s most important purpose is to choose the CEO, evaluate his or her performance, and make a change if and when necessary. Their view is that inserting the board into the company’s strategy just muddies the CEO’s accountability.

But most CEOs see value in having their boards actively involved in strategy, and most directors want to spend more time on their companies’ strategies, too. This makes perfect sense. Often by design, boards are usually stacked with people who have experience, contacts, knowledge, and perspective that can be tremendously helpful to guiding a company’s strategy.

Moreover, a board can, should, and usually does have a strong role in implementing a company’s strategy by, for example, reviewing and approving its implementation plans, signing off on large capital expenditures it calls for, and making connections through their networks to support it.

Take the typical planning process. It ends each year with a formal request of the board to approve next year’s budget and bless the company’s longer-term plan. The board is pummeled with detailed forecasts of the company’s financials. Left implicit are the choices that differentiate where and how a company competes: what business the company is in, how it adds value to its businesses, who its target customers are, its value propositions, and its winning capabilities. These choices comprise the company’s strategy and give life to its strategic plan. It may be a planning process, but it’s hardly strategic — and it leaves boards hard-pressed to contribute much to their companies’ strategies.

Perhaps realizing that the usual planning process is not enough for effectively engaging directors in strategy, most companies have adopted the practice of having board “off-sites.” These are typically an all-day (or even two-day) event that’s meant to engage directors once a year in deep discussion about the company’s strategy. They tend to occur between annual planning cycles, well after the previous one ended and just before the next one kicks off. There is usually a roll call of presentations from each of the company’s businesses, geographies, or functions. There’s a discussion of goals, market developments, competition, and performance. Often there’s some dialog around possible market expansion (“adjacencies”) and M&A. And, sometimes, there are interesting outside speakers, entertaining videos, and other bells and whistles to spice things up a bit.

Techniques of Marketing Research

1

Companies carry out Market Research to gather and analyse data to understand and explain what people think about products or adverts, to find out about customer satisfaction and to predict how customers might respond to a new product on the market.

2

Market Research can be categorised under two subheadings – Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research. The questions asked with Quantitative Research are structured whereas Qualitative Research questions are much more open and can often reveal consumption habits which the researchers hadn’t previously considered. You carry out Quantitative Research when you need to know how many people have certain habits and the Qualitative Research when you need to know why and how people do what they do.

3

Companies involved in Market Research include the Research Buyer and the Research Agency. The research agency carries out the market research in ways previously discussed with their clients – the research buyer. Sometimes companies only need their own data analysed, or are simply looking for advice on how to carry out their own research. Points that are discussed between the two parties can include:

  • The time duration of the research
  • The budget available
  • Who the target groups are
  • Predictions of results
  • How the results will be helpful

4

  • Street Surveys – stopping people in the street
  • Phone or postal – people fill in questionnaires and send them back
  • Internet surveys – a relatively new technique which functions in a similar way to other surveys except that a large number of people are interviewed at the same time

5

  • Am I asking the right groups of people?
  • How many people should I speak to in order to get representative answers to my questions?
  • Are my questions easy to understand?
  • How am I going to analyse the data?

6

  • Focus groups – discussion between a small number of people about a product, or advert etc. to find out their views or habits
  • Personal interviews – in-depth discussions on a one-to-one basis
  • CAPI – computer assisted personal interviewing where questions are ‘asked’ by the computer and the answers are typed by the interviewee directly into the database for analysis
  • Observation – this can be used as a complement to asking questions to see how people do what they do

Holiday Gifts For Your Employee

Short on cash, but big on love for your employees this holiday season? Rather than get them coffee mugs or desktop Zen gardens, think outside the box and offer an intangible “perk” gift that will give them warm, fuzzy feelings about your business the whole year long. Gifts that focus on demonstrating your deep gratitude for your employees and their efforts don’t have to cost a lot (or anything at all), but chances are, they’ll appreciate those gifts more than something you spent money on. Here are a few ideas. Offer a bonus day off Give your staff members an unexpected paid day off to finish holiday shopping, spend time with their kids or do absolutely nothing.

Lots of research shows that when employees take time off, it leads to an increase in morale, higher productivity and retention, and even better overall health. In fact, according to a recent GfK survey, 72 percent of managers agree that encouraging their employees to take time off makes these workers more willing to put in longer hours when needed. If you can’t afford to give employees a whole day off, allow them to leave early the day before a major holiday or work from home for a day.

While you are at it, do your business a favor and give yourself some time off, too. The GfK report also cites a 2011 Intuit study that showed that 82 percent of small business owners who took a vacation experienced an increase in job performance when they returned to work. Create a nap space Give your employees the gift of being well-rested by officially endorsing workplace naps. Transform an out-of-the-way corner of the office or clean out a never-used storage room. Equip it with the office sofa or a sleeping bag, a pillow or two, and even a white noise machine, and make it acceptable for employees to take a short nap when their energy is running low. This may be a hard sell, since being sleep-deprived is a point of pride for some people, but as the Harvard Business Review and many others have reported, there is a growing body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of getting enough sleep and its impact on work performance. Once employees take their first cap nap, they will never look back. Plan fun events that celebrate your employees’ interests According to a 2013 study by Deloitte, 75 percent of employed Americans have felt the need to hide at least one facet of their personalities when they’re in the workplace, with 51 percent saying that doing so has affected their sense of commitment to their employer.

It can be exhausting and stifling to be all business, all the time. To avoid creating such an environment, offer workplace opportunities for your employees to express their interests and unique personalities. Events like a pajama day or in-house Trivial Pursuit competition don’t cost anything to coordinate, but they let employees know that you value them as individual people, not just as cogs in the wheel of your organization. Take the time to find out what interests your employees and try to work it into an office theme day. Maybe your staff of animal lovers would enjoy a “bring your pet to work day,” or your sweet-tooth employees would prefer a sundae bar one Friday afternoon. Be the reason your employees relax and connect with each other and with you over interests, hobbies and shared experiences.