49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens Coach John Harbaugh may have captured the world’s attention in the run-up to this Super Bowl because they’re brothers who hail from a coaching dynasty. But there’s a much better reason to watch them: their distinctly 21st-century approach to leadership. From politics to business to sports, there exists a growing understanding that what it means to be in charge has changed, and the best new leaders are adapting their approaches accordingly — even in a traditionally hierarchical sport like football. The Harbaugh brothers are part of a surprising vanguard of elite NFL coaches who hardly resemble the screaming field generals of the past, perhaps best embodied by the legendarily tyrannical Vince Lombardi. Instead, this generation’s 21st-century grid-iron leader is defined not by yelling at players but by listening to them; not by wielding authority over players, but by flexing power through them; and not by creating separate rules of engagement for the field, but by treating pro football as inseparable from life. Take a closer look at the past six Super Bowl-winning coaches. NY Giants Coach Tom Coughlin famously transformed in 2007 from an old-school, military-style coach to a leader who listens to his players (and their personal challenges). This shift helped Coughlin save his job and win the Big One (and four years later, another one). Former Colts Coach Tony Dungy wrote an autobiography, Quiet Strength, in which he shared “principles of a winning life.” Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin and Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy coolly exude similar principles. This trend is not unique to football or the U.S., either, showing up among coaches of soccer, cricket, the Olympics, and other elite sports around the world. Why are winning coaches changing their behavior? Because our world has transformed. And football provides us a great metaphor for how our leadership needs to change with it. (MORE: Why Beyonce Will Make No Bills, Bills, Bills for Her Super Bowl Performance) Head coaches, and CEOs, are no longer in charge the way they once were. In a
There’s nothing particularly new about the horrendous state of customer service. What is new is that maybe, just maybe, businesses will take steps to make customers happier this year. Ask anyone for a story about bad customer service, and chances are you’ll get not one but a top 10 list of gripes. Confusing automated phone messages and long waits to speak to a live person have been commonplace for years, and it seems like everyone has a tale about encountering a particularly unhelpful or nasty service representative when a human being actually does get on the line. Naturally, consumers aren’t pleased with the modern-day customer experience. A survey from 2010 indicated that 70% of consumers who had a problem with a product or service reported experiencing rage. A 2011 Consumer Reports study showed that 71% of customers were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a live customer service agent over the phone. (MORE: Amazon’s Low Prices Are Targeted: Target’s Online Price Matching Policy Becomes Permanent) To anyone who has been on the phone recently with their bank or cable company trying to get a problem fixed, none of this is likely to come as a surprise. What may seem surprising, however, is that business executives are only recently demonstrating some awareness that it may be a bad idea to expect customers to simply hand over their money and then never be heard from again. In a blog post listing predictions for businesses in 2013, the consulting firm Forrester states that it expects a renewed focus on improving the customer experience in the days ahead. Here’s why: The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences has started to catch on. Over the past several months, we’ve seen a rise in the number of companies pondering the connection between enjoyment and metrics like satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). After reading such a passage, the average consumer—someone who didn’t go to business school, never uses words like “metrics,”
Resilience was on display in New York City this past week. Subways and commuter trains ground to halt, leaving people with few transportation options throughout the region. Many employees made it to work anyway. A maintenance employee at the New School, where I lecture part-time, amazingly walked from his home in Queens to the West Village campus to help get facilities back online for students. While stories like this demonstrate impressive dedication on the behalf of those who trudged over city bridges or braved the crowds to catch the few operational buses and subways to get to their workplaces, the situation raises broader questions about how companies and employees adapt (or don’t) to get jobs done today. As a proponent of “slow work,” a concept that places emphasis not on speed of one’s work but on efficiency, flexibility, and quality, I was looking for a “teachable moment” from the post-Sandy scene. I recognize that many workplaces rely on physical presence in order to accomplish tasks. Retail and food services depend on employees to be available in person to deliver value. Likewise, first responders, health care workers, and public employees must physically — and in many cases bravely — go to wherever their services are needed. (MORE: Slow Down! How ‘Slow Work’ Makes Us More Productive) But for those of us who might be categorized as “knowledge workers,” it is often not necessary to be physically present at any specific workplace. Considering how compromised the transit systems and urban infrastructure have been in the metropolitan area recently, I have to wonder whether we could have avoided some of the mess if organizations and employers had adopted flexible work practices that give employees more control around how, where, and when they do their work. If widespread flexible work structures were in place, fewer employees would have felt the need to get to work. By leaving the region’s roads, buses, and trains mostly to the workers who truly needed them, it’s arguable that the recovery efforts in our community would have been simplified.
It’s a well-known fact that happy workers are more productive than miserable ones. Unfortunately, far from being happy, many workers (especially in the U.S.) are stressed to the breaking point. How can managers create a work environment that generates happier (and therefore more productive) workers? One answer is to imitate Iceland. Why Iceland? Turns out [...]
The term, which has been around for a few years, refers to any number of ways in which businesses try to engage customers and/or employees using the core principles of, well, games.
Praising good performance is easy, but what about those times when someone on your team needs a kick in the butt more than a pat on the back? In that case, you’ll need to give some negative feedback–and do it without demotivating or demoralizing the other person. This post explains exactly how to do this. [...]
In April, when JPMorgan’s so-called “London Whale” derivative trading scandal broke, CEO Jamie Dimon seemed to know little about the errant trades, praising the chief investment officer involved and dismissing the backlash as a “tempest in a teapot.” Two months later, an investigation estimated the losses from these trades at $5.8 billion. After the LIBOR scandal [...]