3 Leadership Lessons from Market Basket CEO Artie Demoulas

demoulasIf your employees felt you were fired unfairly, would they walk off the job in support of you? Would they stage protests and rallies for weeks on end calling for your reinstatement? Would your customers choose to take their business elsewhere to show support to those employees and their cause?

That is what has transpired in the Northeast U.S. over the last six weeks and it provides remarkable lessons for leaders everywhere.

First, a little background. Arthur T. Demoulas (Artie) was fired as CEO of the Market Basket supermarket chain in June by a board of directors controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, in a classic power struggle of a family owned business. Employees staged protests, warehouse workers and drivers refused to deliver food to the chain’s stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, and the company lost tens of millions in revenue as loyal customers took their business elsewhere. Customers showed their support by going as far as taping their grocery receipts from competing stores to the windows of their local Market Basket. After weeks of negotiations, Artie Demoulas reached agreement to purchase controlling interest in Market Basket and was reinstated as CEO.

As I’ve read various news articles and commentaries on this situation, three important leadership lessons have emerged:

1. A little caring goes a long way – Artie Demoulas has created a unique emotional bond with Market Basket employees that fosters intense loyalty. He is well-known for remembering names and birthdays, checking on the status of ill employees, inquiring about spouses and kids, and attending the funerals of employees. “He’ll walk into a warehouse and will stop and talk to everyone because he’s genuinely concerned about them,” said Joe Schmidt, a store operations supervisor. “He cares about families, he asks about your career goals, he will walk up to part-timers and ask them about themselves. To him, that cashier and that bagger are just important as the supervisors and the store management team.” People want to feel valued at work as more than just workers showing up to do a job. Make the effort to get to know your people on a personal level and you’ll see the rewards of trust and loyalty.

2. Business doesn’t have to pursue profits at the expense of people – Last year Market Basket generated $4.6 billion in revenue and has doubled their profitability since 2008, making it the country’s 127th biggest company despite being a regional chain that operates in only three states. The company pays its clerks starting salaries $4 above minimum wage and full-time employees earn 15% profit-sharing bonuses, all the while Market Basket’s prices are 22% lower on average than their closest competitor. “If there’s anything people should take from this, it’s that America is hungry for this kind of success story where everybody wins: the customers, the employees, and the people who run the show,” said Shawn Dwyer, a manager at the Burlington Market Basket store. Profits don’t have to come at the expense of people. Good leaders value results and people.

3. Work has a higher calling and purpose beyond a paycheck –  In his return speech to employees, Artie beautifully expressed this concept.

The workplace here at Market Basket is so much more than just a job.

You have demonstrated that everyone here has a purpose. You have demonstrated that everyone has meaning and no one person is better or more important than another, and no one person holds a position of privilege.

I have always believed that we are born into this world and at a certain place to be with certain people for a reason and a purpose. Everyone has a destiny, and because of you, I stand here with a renewed vigor and a sense of purpose. May we always remember this past summer first as a time where our collective values of loyalty and courage and kindness for one another really prevailed. And, in that process, we just happened to save our company.

You all have demonstrated to the world that it is a person’s moral obligation and social responsibility to protect the culture which provides an honorable and dignified place in which to work.

Leadership doesn’t have to be that complicated: provide a good work environment, take pride in your work, care about people as individuals and not just workers, and serve your customers well. It seems as though Artie Demoulas and the Market Basket employees have found a formula that works and it offers valuable lessons for leaders everywhere.

Posted in Commitment, Culture, Leadership, Success | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

5 Benefits of Involving Your Team in the Hiring Decision

Thumbs Up GroupYou are making a big mistake if you aren’t involving your team members in the hiring decision of new employees.

Regular readers of my blog will know that over the last several weeks I have been knee-deep in the process of hiring a new team member (using my ten awesome interview questions as part of the process). Although I believe hiring a new employee is one responsibility a leader can’t delegate, I would be stupid not to lean on the incredible discernment and wisdom of my team members to help me make the decision.

I’ve found there are five key benefits of involving my team in the decision of hiring new employees:

1. It makes team members feel valued – Team members consistently tell me how much they appreciate being asked to participate in interviews and give their feedback on each of the candidates. By letting your team members have a voice in the hiring process, it signals that you value them, respect their feedback, and want the hiring decision to be a collaborative process.

2. It provides interviewing and decision-making experience for future leaders – Some of your individual contributors today will be your supervisors/managers of tomorrow. Having them participate in the hiring process now gives them training in interviewing techniques, experience evaluating candidates, and insight into how hiring decisions are made that will benefit them when they move into leadership roles. I’ve had it happen in my own team over the years and it has improved our success in hiring quality people.

3. It creates a sense of ownership in the success of the new employee – I’ve found team members take the responsibility of selecting a new teammate seriously. Because they are staking a bit of their reputation on the selection, they tend to be more invested in the success of the new employee and will work extra hard to prove they made the right decision.

4. It gives you a broader perspective on candidates – Hiring people is risky business. No matter how extensive the interview process, there is only so much you can learn about a candidate prior to him/her joining your team. Having more people involved in the interview process gives you a broader perspective and more insight into the candidate. Inevitably some of my team members see things in people I don’t, and likewise, many times they confirm the positive/negative qualities I’ve observed. Some of the worst hiring decisions I’ve seen in my career are those where the boss independently hired someone he/she was enamored with and didn’t seek the input of others. Leaders often aren’t aware of their blind spots, and getting more people involved helps prevent that problem.

5. It gives the candidate more insight into his/her future co-workers, team, organization, and culture – I view the hiring process as a two-way decision: I’m choosing a person to join my team and the candidate is making a choice to join my team/organization. Having exposure to more teammates allows candidates to get a broader taste of the type of people they’ll be working with and the culture of our team and organization. Candidates need to make an informed decision when joining an organization and interviewing with their future teammates is invaluable in that process.

I wouldn’t hire any new employee without the input of other people on my team. I pride myself on being a pretty good judge of character and talent, but I know better than to trust my opinion alone when making such a significant decision. I’ve found that involving my team in the hiring process has proven the truth of the adage that “no one of us is as smart as all of us.”

Posted in Decision-Making, Interviewing, Leadership, Talent Management, Teamwork | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Put the SERVE Back in Public Service – 5 Ways Government Leaders Can Rebuild Trust

JFKIs it my imagination or was there once a time when government service was considered a noble and worthy endeavor?

Elected representatives, appointed officials, and even hired employees viewed public service as a calling rather than a job, inspired by ideals such as self-sacrifice, civic duty, compassion, patriotism, and social justice. President John F. Kennedy’s call to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” epitomizes these lofty principles of public service.

I’m sure there are many individuals in government service who still hold to these ideals, but our government leaders as a whole seem to have lost sight of their role to SERVE the public interests. Instead, many of our governmental leaders seem to think and act like government exists to serve themselves rather than the public. As a result, Americans have developed a chronic sense of mistrust toward government. Just last week a new CNN poll reported that only 13% of respondents trust the government to do what is right almost always or most of the time, and 10% never trust the government.

So what can government leaders do to regain the trust of the citizenry? They can start by putting the SERVE back into public service.

Start listening – There seems to be an awful lot of talking going on in Washington but not much listening. Trusted leaders apply Stephen Covey’s fifth habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Taking the time to listen to the needs, concerns, and feedback of your people, and incorporating their ideas where appropriate, builds trust in your leadership. Listening to others signals that you value them as people and believe their ideas have merit, whereas constantly talking makes you come across as an uncaring “know it all.”

Embody the ideals of public service – A leader’s actions are a reflection of his beliefs and values. Do the actions of our leaders in Washington show they deeply value the ideals of self-sacrifice, honor, duty, and compassion? Leaders build trust by acting with integrity. That means they hold honorable values, and more importantly, live them out. They walk the talk and not just talk the talk.

Realize it’s not about you – Our governmental leaders are supposed to be public servants. What is the attitude of a servant? It’s one that places the needs of others ahead of his own. Public service should be servant leadership in action. Servant leadership doesn’t mean a mamby-pamby, weak style of leadership that lets “the inmates run the asylum.” It means the leader charts the vision and direction of the team and then works to provide team members the resources, training, direction, and support it needs to be successful.

Veto your ego – Ego is the enemy of public service leadership. Leadership positions in the government often bring access to high levels of power, and nothing is more tempting to the ego than power. Leaders have to actively guard against letting their ego get out of control by surrounding themselves with truth-tellers, people who aren’t afraid to share the unvarnished truth. Too many leaders in Washington have insulated themselves with “yes men,” people who believe and think alike, and that allows group-think to reign and egos to run wild.

Engage in transparent leadership – It’s hard to trust leaders who don’t share information about themselves or the organization. Information is viewed as power, and too many leaders withhold information so they can retain power and control. Withholding information also sends the subtle message that a leader believes people can’t be trusted to know or use the information appropriately. People without information cannot act responsibly, whereas people with information are compelled to act responsibly. Transparent leadership doesn’t mean all information is shared at all times with all people. It means leaders and organizations share information in an honest, forthright manner as appropriate for the situation at hand.

Public service is a noble profession that deserves leaders of the highest caliber. Putting the SERVE back in public service is a way for government leaders to get back to basics, to the ideals of what public service once was and still deserves to be.

You’re invited to join me on August 20th, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific, for a free webinar – Four Leadership Behaviors That Build or Destroy Trust. With a special focus on governmental leaders, but applicable to leaders in any organization, this session will help you recognize the warning signs of low trust and learn a model and process for building high-trust relationships and organizations.

Posted in Distrust, Leadership, Trust | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

10 Awesome Interview Questions to Really Get to Know Job Candidates

Question MarksThe last few weeks I’ve been focused on hiring a new team member. Although time-consuming and laborious, it’s one of the most important things I do and is one responsibility a leader can’t delegate.

I have two main goals when conducting an interview: 1) Assess the candidate’s skills and abilities to do the job, and 2) gauge the candidate’s personality, attitude, values, and beliefs to determine if she will be a culture fit. (And not necessarily in that priority order. I would rather hire someone who is a good culture fit that has the aptitude to learn the job, than hire someone with great technical skills who is a bad culture fit. The culture will chew them up and spit them out every time, meanwhile, your life will be miserable managing the person and the fallout created.)

I try to accomplish the first goal through behavioral interviewing. Over the years, my leadership team and I have honed in on a list of behavioral interview statements/questions that align with the key competencies of the position for which we’re hiring. We look for specific accomplishments from the candidate that demonstrate she has the relevant transferable skills that will likely make her a success on our team.

For the second goal—to determine if the candidate will be a culture fit—I ask questions designed to get below the surface. I want to move beyond the standard, interview response clichés, and get to know the candidate on a more personal level. I want to learn about her motivators, demotivators, personality, and instinctive responses to the highs and lows of the job. In order to do that, we’ve come up with some slightly off-beat questions. Granted, you can only learn so much about a person in an interview, but we’ve found these questions to be pretty insightful. Feel free to use them at your own risk!

  1. Tell me your story. This is probably the most generic of the questions we ask, but it’s helpful to get to know the candidate on a personal level. Asking the question in this way leaves the candidate wide latitude in what she shares, which I find telling in regards to her level of vulnerability. Does she talk about her family or just herself? Does she include any personal information or does she keep it focused on her career?
  2. Let’s play a word association game! This is actually multiple questions wrapped up in one. We have chosen several key words that relate to different aspects of our culture, organization, and the job itself. We ask the candidate to share her first response upon hearing the key word, and then we ask her to expand on her answer. The rapid fire nature of this question and answer exchange helps us assess the candidate’s instinctive response and thoughts to the word/situation at hand.
  3. What is the biggest misconception people have about you? This question is designed to probe the candidate’s level of self-awareness and her willingness to be honest and vulnerable. The first impression we have of someone can often be a misconception, and I’m interested in knowing if the candidate has enough self-awareness to understand and manage the way she is perceived by others.
  4. What do you not want to be doing in five years? Rather than asking the standard “What are your goals over the next five years?” question, we flip it around and ask what the candidate doesn’t want to be doing. It gives insight into the type of work or environment that will be demotivating to the individual.
  5. What are three words your coworkers would use to describe you? Whether we realize it or not, each of us has a brand image at work. I’m interested in knowing if the candidate is aware of her brand image, as perceived by others, and if it’s a positive one.
  6. What are your biggest pet peeves at work? It’s amazing how revealing people will be when you ask this question. Their eyes will light up and they’ll rattle off several things that get under their skin. If those irritants are common in your workplace, you’ve just received a heads-up that this particular candidate may experience extreme frustration in the job.
  7. Who are your biggest role models in life? This question gives me insight into the candidate’s upbringing and values system. Does the candidate have positive role models? Does she credit other people with helping her along the way or is she self-focused? This question can open many doors of conversation in the interview that allow you to learn more about the candidate.
  8. Why should we not hire you? I want to see if the candidate has a realistic view of their skills and abilities in relation to the job requirements. Seldom is there a perfect job candidate and I want to see if she is authentic enough to admit she still has some areas of growth.
  9. What would your biggest critic say about you? We’ve all received negative feedback from time to time. This question probes the candidate’s level of self-awareness to see if she is vulnerable and authentic enough to admit it and to help me understand how she has dealt with it.
  10. What is your biggest regret? If you couldn’t tell already, I’m really interested in getting to know the candidate deeper than surface level niceties. A genuine, heartfelt response to this question often tells me more about the candidate’s character and maturity than any other question we ask.

There you go, ten awesome interview questions to help you really get to know your job candidates. Feel free to leave a comment and share your own awesome interview questions.

Posted in Authenticity, EQ, Interviewing, Leadership, Performance Management, Personality | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

4 Reasons Leaders Should Stop the Foolish Pursuit of Happiness at Work

HappyTo borrow from Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy:” It might seem crazy what I’m about to say

But I really don’t care if you’re happy at work. In fact, I think all the hype about happiness at work is a bit misguided. Now, before you blow up my Twitter feed with negative feedback or blast me in the comments section of this article, let me explain.

I’m all in favor of being happy. Personally, I much prefer happiness over sadness. If I have a choice, I’ll take happy every day of the week and twice on Sunday. When it comes to work, I’ll take happy there, too. I’d much rather work with happy people than mean people, and I know I’m more productive, creative, and a better teammate at work when I’m happy.

But here’s the deal…On the surface, all the talk about happiness sounds great. But If you aren’t careful and discerning about what you hear in the media and popular culture, you’d think that happiness of employees should be the primary goal of every leader and organization. I don’t buy it and here’s why:

1. Happiness is a fleeting emotion largely dependent on external circumstances – Defining happiness can easily lead to a battle of semantics, but a common, basic definition of “happy” is: delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing (e.g., to be happy to see a person). I’m happy when I come home from work and my kids have straightened up the house or loaded the dishes into the dishwasher. When it doesn’t happen (which is often), I’m not happy. Does that mean I love my kids any less? No. Is my life less fulfilled because I’m not happy? No. Happiness comes and goes, so it’s not something I want to build my life around. Happiness is too dependent on circumstances beyond my control for me to make it my goal. However, I can control how I respond to the circumstances of my life and I can choose to have a positive attitude. There are many times when work and life deal us a crummy hand. We have to work overtime, business travel takes us away from important family events, or we make a mistake and get reamed out by the boss; none of those things make us happy. But if we have the right attitude and perspective on work and life, we can put those situations in their proper place and learn and grow from the experience.

2. Happiness should be a pleasant outcome of good leadership and organizational culture, not the goal – My job as a leader is not to make you happy. If that was the case, then I’d serve ice cream every afternoon and cater to your every need. No, my job is to help you develop to your fullest potential while accomplishing the goals of our team and organization. If I’m smart, I will lead in a way that builds your commitment to the organization and fosters engagement in your work. I’ll also strive to create a culture that supports your health and well-being and makes your work enjoyable. Oh, and by the way, if you’re happy as a result, then great! Your happiness is not my goal, but you’re free to make it your own.

It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness. ~ Viktor Frankl

3. Happiness is negatively correlated with meaning – It didn’t take scientific research studies for Viktor Frankl to understand a fundamental truth: pursuing happiness as your primary goal is like a dog chasing its tail. Studies have shown that people who place more importance on being happy end up becoming more depressed and unhappy. Rather than happiness, we need to pursue meaning and purpose. Sadly, according to one study by the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of Americans either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose.The same study also reported that nearly 25% of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Having purpose and meaning in life and at work increases overall well-being and satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency and self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. As a leader, your efforts at helping employees understand and connect to the purpose and meaning of their work will reap more benefit than striving to make them happy.

4. Happiness is self-focused; true fulfillment in life (and work) comes from being others-focused – At its core, happiness is a pretty selfish motive when you think about it. Psychologists explain it as drive reduction. We have a need or drive, like hunger, and we seek to satisfy it. When we get what we want to meet the need, we’re happy. However, lasting success and fulfillment in life comes from what you give, not what you get. The greatest example of this is Jesus and his demonstration of servant leadership. This ancient truth is echoed in contemporary research by Adam Grant, the youngest tenured and highest rated professor at The Wharton School. In his book Give and Take, Grant identifies three ways people tend to operate in their relationships: as givers, takers, or matchers. Not surprisingly, although givers may get burned occasionally, they experience higher levels of fulfillment, well-being, and success in life compared to takers or matchers. I’ve experienced it in my own life and seen it in the lives of others. Those who chase happiness as their primary goal tend to be the most selfish and unhappy people I know. Those who give to others tend to be the most fulfilled, joyful, and happy people I’ve seen.

Happiness is a great thing. As I said, I much prefer it to the alternatives. But when happiness at work becomes such a primary focus that organizations start having CHO’s – Chief Happiness Officers – you know happiness has jumped the shark. Happiness at work is a byproduct of doing a good job in all the other fundamental areas of leadership, but it’s misguided to make it our ultimate aim.

Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, opinions, or questions.

P.S. I originally published this article last week at LeaderChat.org under a different title. I thought the Leading with Trust audience would enjoy it as well.

Posted in Culture, Engagement, Happiness, Leadership, Morale, Talent Management | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments