Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
March 2016

The Inconsistency of Being Consistent

A 2014 survey by specialist journal IRS Employment Review found that while the attitudes of employees can make or break a company, bad management was a far bigger drag on a company’s productivity and performance. Bosses must provide sound leadership in order for their direct reports to perform and achieve peak productivity. Of course, no one is perfect and – like all employees — bosses have weaknesses as well as strengths. What is interesting is that managers tend to share the same flaws. The most commonly reported characteristics that employees dislike about superiors include favoritism, lack of communication, micromanagement, incompetence and ruthlessness.

Notwithstanding the myriad of frustrating and off-putting traits workers dislike in their supervisors, there is one characteristic that is consistently disliked most. That is inconsistency. Apparently, even the most odious managers and overbearing bosses are preferred over a supervisor who is inconsistent. Why is inconsistency so reviled? And why is consistency such a valuable element of management? Continue reading

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The Evolution of Business Role Models – Part 2

Certain people rise above regular folks to become so successful, well-known and admired in their field of expertise that they become a household name. They become icons. This is true in every area from aeronautics to haute cuisine. There are few who don’t now the names of the great aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earheart. And most everyone knows the names of chefs Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey and Emeril Lagassi. These individuals possess certain qualities, talents and skills that catapulted them into a stardom of sorts. They are the doers, movers and shakers and innovators of the times. We draw inspiration from these icons.

However, even icons change. Today’s leaders have evolved from the strong, authoritarian traditionalists and business tycoons of the 20th century – think Henry Ford, John P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Walt Disney — into the innovative mavericks and mavens of the 21st century. We are mesmerized by edgy leaders such as Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Tony Hseih, Founder of Zappos, Fred Smith, Founder of Federal Express, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways. So what sets these icons apart from past business role models and what can we learn from them? Continue reading

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The Evolution of Business Role Models – Part 1

Practically every industry these days has icons. It is no longer just about actors and musicians. From inventors to scientists and from business leaders to politicians, every field has its share of celebrities, living and gone. In the world of science, they include Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Jane Goodall, Alfred Nobel, Edwin Hubble and Stephen Hawking. Technology has heroes of its own including Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Sergei Brinn, Larry Page, Dave Packard, Bill Hewett, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Even the world of real estate has icons including Donald Bren, Stephen Ross, Jerry Speyer, Sam Zell, Steve Schwartzman, and, of course, Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And in the category of “captains of industry” are some of the most respected names in business including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch, Jack Welch, Michael Eisner, Lloyd Blankfein, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name just a few.

To some extent, these idols share many traits and talents that propelled them into prominence. But, in recent years, there has been a fundamental shift in the makeup of these renowned individuals, particularly in the world of business. Qualities and skills once considered exemplary have become passé. Corporate tycoons like Rupert Murdoch and Lloyd Blankfein are giving way to new titans of industry such as Brad Smith, Chairman of the Board of Intuit.  Why?
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A Business Bucket List

According to a report investigating 41 countries published by the Bank of Korea in 2008, there were 5,586 companies in existence that were older than 200 years. Of those, 3,146 were located in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands and 196 in France. And in the U.S., there are currently only 72 companies operating for more than 200 years. That makes sense given that the U.S. is a much younger nation that those in Asia or Europe. Still, it is a tough pill to swallow that most businesses eventually perish. While no one wishes for their business to go belly-up any time soon, the facts are indisputable. The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company today is between 40 and 50 years. And the average life span of a family-owned business in the U.S. is only 24 years.

When people get around to thinking about their own mortality, they often create a “Bucket List” , which helps one pinpoint what matters most and focus on making those things happen. It is a useful, personal exercise. But what about a business? Should a company have a “Bucket List” of things to achieve? If so, what should that Bucket List include? Continue reading

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