How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives

A CEO’S PRACTICE OF CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM

“The coolest part,” writes The Container Store founder Kip Tindell in his book Uncontainable, “is when you’re doing a performance review and give an employee a much bigger raise than she was expecting. She starts crying, you start crying, and the magic spreads across the company, and out into the world.” This short passage about compensation reflects the heart of Tindell’s philosophy of “conscious capitalism” in which the best way to make money is to do the right thing by employees, customers and the community.

Tindell’s authenticity and generosity are shown through his use of words that are rarely, if ever, found in any business book. Words such as “yummy,” which is used as the core description of the company’s culture and environment. “I know, chief executives don’t often use words like ‘yummy’ when talking about their companies,” Tindell writes. “But it’s a word we use all the time around here. When folks ask, “What do you mean by ‘yummy’?” I say, well, it’s the opposite of yucky.” He goes on to explain that “yummy” is “the deeply pleasurable sensation employees and customers get the moment they walk through the doors into our store.”

How do you translate a concept such as “yumminess” into a business model and real-world business practices? The answer, according to Tindell, is found in The Container Store’s Foundation Principles. What stands out in these principles is the unwavering and unapologetic embrace of being kind, generous and even sentimental, of believing that there is good in everyone and that by building on that good, you create a money-making venture. Uncontainable is a respectful (Tindell believes in not saying anything if you can’t say anything kind) but firm rejection of Jack Welch and Milton Friedman.

The Seven Principles are:

1 Great Person = 3 Good People. The Container Store does everything it can to hire the best people, including compensating them at significantly higher rates than the average in retail. With his company consistently chosen as a Best Place to Work in America and boasting a turnover rate of 10 percent (the retail industry average is 100 percent), Tindell proves that his company is filled with truly great people.

Fill the Other Guy’s Basket to the Brim. Making Money Then Becomes an Easy Proposition. This principle is reflected, for example, in the company’s win-win relationships with suppliers, who are treated as partners. In fact, Tindell writes, good relationships with suppliers are win-win-win relationships because the customer also wins.

Man in the Desert Selling. Don’t just give the man in the desert a glass of water. Tend to all of his needs. Don’t sell a box. Sell solutions to the customer’s living needs.

Communication IS Leadership. The Container Store practices open-book management (with the exception of individual salaries). Open communication, Tindell explains, “is a crucial part of our commitment in valuing one another and making sure we all feel appreciated, included, safe, secure and empowered.”

The Best Selection, Service and Price. Most business will not attempt to achieve all three. “We work to hit the Triple Crown every day,” writes Tindell.

Intuition Does Not Come to an Unprepared Mind. You Need to Train Before It Happens. The average length of training in the retail industry is eight hours. In their first year, employees of The Container Store receive 300 hours of training — and the training continues throughout their career.

Air of Excitement! When greeted by enthusiastic employees genuinely interested in helping customers resolve their organizing needs, those customers become just as enthusiastic, Tindell explains.

Conscious capitalism is not always an easy sell, despite the do-good sentiment expressed in every form of corporate communication that emerges from a company’s PR machine. If there is a core lesson from Uncontainable, it is that truly conscious capitalism exists only if the CEO leads with his or her heart.

Maybe most CEOs will never be comfortable using words such as “yummy” or sharing the tears of pleasure that come with a raise. Not all CEOs can be Kip Tindell — but after reading this book, you’ll almost wish they could.

Don‘t Leave Home Without Them

In Frances Cole Jones’ book How to Wow, she include a set of techniques that every business person should know and use every day.

1. Three elements of Face-to-Face Communication – 7% words, 38% tone of voice and 55% body language.
2. The Power of Story Telling – speak from your own experience while acknowledging your listener’s situation.
3. My Name is Bond – say your name with such panache that the listener will remember it.
4. Avoid Useless Modifiers – use descriptive words instead of empty modifiers.
5. The All-Important Diaphragm – speak from your diaphragm to give your voice more authority.
6. Persuasive Words – the number one word is “You.” Focus your communication on the listener. Also: Money, Save, New, Results, Health, Easy, Safety, Love, Discover, Proven and Guarantee.
7. What to Wear – from your clothes, to your shoes, to your watch, it’s all important to consider.
8. Nerves – the nerves in your neck affect your nervousness. Bend over and let your head hang free, and your nervousness will dissipate.
9. Listen Up – it’s not hearing, or waiting to talk, or zoning out because you think you already know what they’re going to say. Instead, listen to find out.
10. More Isn’t Better, Better Is Better – concise is often the best.
11. Because, because… – you need to fill in your listening on the “because”, not just give them the solutions.
12. Entrances and Exits – be aware of the entrance into a situation and the exit from it, the technology guy with your microphone, and bus person with the glass of water. It all matters.
13. Two is One, and One is None – have extra of the things you need to communicate, to avoid Murphy’s Law.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the hands-on tips and techniques that Jones has collected over her years of communicating with others. We will be tapping into her vast knowledge of personal communication through our upcoming Soundview Live webinar Proven Strategies for Selling Yourself in Any Situation on January 6th. Register today and mark your calendar. It will be well worth an hour of your time.

Becoming the Boss

NEW RULES FOR A NEW GENERATION

Lindsey Pollak, author of Becoming the Boss, is a Gen Xer (born between 1965 and 1982), and she will be the first to tell you that Gen Xers are not going to make a huge difference in the world. The reason: there just aren’t that many of them. After the massive boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), the next generation that will make a significant impact on the world is the equally massive Gen Y, or “millennial” generation (born between 1982 and 2000). Millennials are already stepping into leadership roles and will soon dominate the top ranks in government and business. Becoming the Boss is a manual for members of the millennial generation about to step into leadership positions, if they haven’t done so already.

Advice for Future Leaders

Pollak’s first piece of advice for these future leaders is to be the “CEO of You.” In two chapters (entitled “be” and “be.com”), Pollak describes how to build an offline and online personal brand, covering everything from handshakes to eliminating your online presence of any negative images. She also offers an in-depth step-by-step plan for building the most effective LinkedIn profile.

In other chapters, Pollak covers

  •     Communication. Millennials must also know how to mix high-tech and “old school” communication methods — it’s still important to know how to carry on face-to-face conversations.
  •     Managing. Pollak writes that today’s managers have new challenges, such as dealing with a workforce that is more diverse than ever before. With command-and-control leadership no longer acceptable (or workable), today’s manager must also be more transparent and open with their employees and colleagues than in the past.
  •     Prioritizing. Given the multiple, 24/7 digital forms of communication, generation Y is the “busiest and most stressed out generation in history,” writes Pollak. Effective time and information management is key, and that means being able to prioritize and delegate as well as avoid losing too much energy on stress. One suggestion: cut down on trivial decisions by, for example, laying out your clothes the night before or having the same breakfast every weekday morning. It may not seem like much, but research shows such trivial decisions take a toll.
  •     Connecting. Pollak suggests that millennials looking to move up gather a “rotating advisory board” of about five different types of mentors: traditional mentors, who share their wisdom; co-mentors, who are traditional mentors who teach but also learn from the younger people they are mentoring; sponsors, that is, people who can actually offer you that promotion or work on your behalf; peers, who are in your shoes; and (a very generation-specific suggestion) Mom and/or Dad — as long as they stay in the background!
  •     Continuous growth. Pollak closes the book with a reminder that everyone must continuously strive to stay current and improve. Among her recommendations: Stay humble, commit, change jobs and, a bit surprisingly, “make yourself feel old.” “You’ll be amazed at how fast the next generation sneaks up and you’re the one complaining about ‘kids today,’” Pollak tells her Gen Y readers. The answer: you’ll continue to grow if you develop relationships with interesting people who are “young and hipper than you are.”

Pollak is the author of Getting from College to Career, a book she was inspired to write as a result of her own experiences. In Becoming the Boss, Pollak, an independent consultant and speaker, again builds on her own experiences to lay out a thoughtful and comprehensive overview of the skills and attitudes any millennial will need if they ever have any hopes of becoming the boss.

Book Review: Pitch Perfect

pitch_perfect

by Bill McGowan and
Alisa Bowman

Effective communication is at the core of professional success. The difference between signing a deal or losing an account is how you communicate your message. It is important to be pitch perfect, precisely the right tone to the right person, to advance in your career. Renowned media coach Bill McGowan, along with journalist Alisa Bowman, show how to communicate with confidence during the pivotal moments of life in Pitch Perfect. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

“Holding your audience’s attention is like winning a tennis match at Wimbledon. You better have a clearly defined strategy, execute it brilliantly and muzzle any inner voice of self-doubt, or you’ll get crushed,” write McGowan and Bowman. They offer Seven Principles of Persuasion to construct the right message and deliver it using the right language, verbally and nonverbally. These principles are based upon years of McGowan’s experience communicating and succeeding via multiple mediums. Of the seven, the Scorsese Principle discusses keeping your audience engaged with visual aids to illustrate your story. This principle is based upon Martin Scorcese and his ability to tell stories that listeners can visualize. Images are more memorable than words, so in order to capture and hold the attention of your audience, you need to illustrate your point with stories they can imagine.

McGowan and Bowman share how to get people to remember what you have said. Executives will learn how to overcome common mistakes and implement a better way of communicating using effective verbal and nonverbal language with Pitch Perfect.

The Lenovo Way

MERGING EAST AND WEST IN A GLOBAL BRAND

In The Lenovo Way, Gina Qiao, Senior Vice President of Global HR, and Yolanda Conyers, Lenovo’s Vice President of Global HR Operations and Chief Diversity  Officer, tell the incredible story of the world’s number one PC maker, Lenovo. Originally called Legend, Lenovo was some 15 years ago a little-known (outside of China) computer company started by a survivor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. That Liu Chuanzhi was able to build a computer company in China that could compete with the likes of Dell and Apple was already a success story; that his company, now renamed Lenovo, would be able to successfully acquire in 2005 the iconic IBM PC business, which was actually four times the size of Lenovo, was a feat of perhaps unprecedented business skill and daring.

Within Lenovo, the acquisition was described as the snake eating the elephant. Not surprisingly, the digestion of said elephant was a tumultuous, often frustrating process, chronicled in The Lenovo Way by two of its key players.

Gina and Yolanda

The experiences of Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers in many ways reflect the frustrations of the post-acquisition experience for both the Chinese and the non-Chinese managers and employees of the new behemoth.

When English was announced as the official language of the new company, Gina knew exactly three words of English: “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you.” Arriving at the headquarters of the American firm her company had just acquired, she was refused entry by the gatekeeper, who told her she had to do better than say she had “a meeting with Peter.”

In one important strategy brainstorming session, Gina was silent in response to a proposal from her American counterpart because she disagreed but did not want to be disrespectful. The American counterpart took her silence for approval and pushed through the proposal. Gina eventually learned to use the phrase “I am not comfortable” to communicate her respectful concerns.

Yolanda soon discovered that her Chinese colleagues were seething over what they saw as her overly aggressive, straightforward style. Eventually, Gina would sit her down and give her an extensive list of pointers about what not to do. Examples: no group emails; don’t say you disagree, which shows disrespect; take the time to build individual relationships; wear a jacket to work — dress can also be misinterpreted as a sign of disrespect. Eventually, Gina would move to the U.S., and Yolanda would eventually move to China, enhancing their understanding of other cultures.

The integration challenge was heightened by the fact that there were what the authors call “three rivers,” referring to the three different corporate backgrounds of Lenovo’s executives: Lenovo, IBM and Dell (a number of key people brought in after the merger, including the new CEO of Lenovo, Bill Amelio, as well as Yolanda Conyers, came from Dell).The Lenovo veterans were seen as “unyielding and unwilling to communicate” by others; the IBMers were seen as “slow-moving and entitled”; while the Dell hires were seen as “aggressive and arrogant.” With vastly different languages, national cultures and corporate cultures to overcome, the fact that the new Lenovo not only survived but thrives is a testament to its leaders, including the authors of the book.

The Lenovo Story

In some ways, The Lenovo Way is misnamed. There is, indeed, a Lenovo Way, which consists of four Ps (plan before you pledge, perform as promised, prioritize the company first, and practice improving every day) and Lenovo’s Protect and Attack strategy, which is focused on protecting and exploiting current advantages while always looking for new growth areas. And given Lenovo’s global success, after some difficult post-acquisition years, its strategies for success in the age of globalization should be carefully heeded. However, it is the successful integration of the Chinese and Western cultures that is truly at the heart of this book — and its greatest lesson.

The one drawback to the book is that the voices of Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers are lost, since the text refers to them in the third person. Nevertheless, these two incredible women from opposite sides of the world will encourage everyone to believe that the most insurmountable cross-cultural challenges can be overcome with patience and an open mind.