Da Da Da Daaa Da! Who's Lovin' It?

Posted February 4, 2015

Relying on the expertise and coaching support for a top-level executive can seem somewhat stifling – after all, why are we paying the execs so much money in the first place? The reality is professional coaching can help everyone, including senior executives, if not especially.

Yesterday when I read that McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, was stepping down; I was very shocked, but not surprised, if that makes sense!? It occurred to me that I have seen more McDonald’s news, of late, than advertising. First, the turnover that led to the hiring of Don Thompson, then longtime McDonald’s executive and CMO Neil Golden, then the hiring of a host of new technology executives… Yada, yada, yada.

First, I must say, I’m not personally a big fast food supporter. That said, I have always thought that McDonald’s advertising and ability to capture younger markets through genius tactics had truly been their “secret sauce”. But, try walking into the golden arches or is it arcs [Coming To America reference anyone?], and see for your self; there’s a disconnect between the patrons advertised and those actually dining-in.

Where are all of the teenagers I see in their commercials? [As I said, I am not advocating that you eat at McDonald’s, but as a marketer, I must ask that all important question.]

In short, the answer is: not at McDonald’s. What for years had been its ‘bread & butter’ [youth demographics], McDonald’s is simply not speaking the millennial language. And what’s worse, if you’re McDonald’s, they don’t even know it – as evidenced by the game of executive-musical-chairs going on in Oak Brook, IL.

So, here’s the thing – where am I going with all of this?

If a company as powerful and ubiquitous as McDonald’s can do something amazingly well for decades then just cease to be effective almost overnight, what is to stop that from happening to your organization?

What do I suggest? 

Imagine if rather than shuffling executives around and hiring outsiders to change the “secret sauce”, and for the first time in the company’s history, chasing the competition rather than leading it – McDonald’s had decided to hire professional coaches to help its previously successful executives mine the changes presented by millennials.

I do know McDonald’s has access to the greatest resources available when it comes to consumer insights, demographic trends, forecasts and projections, etc. It’s all about data-driven decision-making, right?

I also know that in making senior-level decisions – and using that data – there is a person, a human being, at the core of that decision. These leaders carry with them doubts, fears, and histories that don’t always allow them to make the best decision in the present.

What if, senior staff had the opportunity to hear and be open to non-McDonald’s insights that might have fostered a keener understanding of environmental shifts taking place within the fast food industry? What if they had the confidence to listen to their gut – or others – and make more impactful decisions?

Now maybe McDonald’s hired coaches and consultants, I don’t have any personal knowledge on this, but the recent behavioral pattern suggests otherwise.

And, I am not saying that a few good coaching hires would have saved kept the bun on the sandwich, but I honestly believe that supersized change is only good when it’s the only alternative.

"The Cell is an Ideal Place to Know Yourself"

Posted November 1, 2014

Leadership According to Nelson Mandela.

I’m currently traveling in South Africa. It’s an amazing place for the natural and cultural beauty. And, you’re never too far from an image of Nelson Mandela. His face appears on signs, souvenirs, sides of buildings, and even as graffiti in places it “should not” be. But you know it will not be removed.

My beautiful wife and me visiting South Africa.

My beautiful wife and me visiting South Africa.

Conversations about him are full of reverence and admiration, but also laced with fear of what might happen now he is no longer around to propel the vision and control those that might stray.I participated in anti-apartheid rallies in Philadelphia in the mid-80s and organized letter-writing campaigns to release an imprisoned a South African pastor. And now I am walking the streets of Cape Town and driving past the Townships.Tonight I read a posting from the respected theologian and author, Jim Wallis of Sojourners. He too traveled to South Africa recently and shared this quote from Mandela:

“The cell is an ideal place to know yourself. People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones, such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety. You learn to look into yourself.”

I can’t think of a better explanation of why leadership begins first and foremost with an understanding of self. And, I can’t think of a leader worth emulating more than Nelson Mandela.