Leadership Lessons From the Unusual Story of Market Basket

An Uplifting Corporate Story

We often read stories about corporate greed, about slimy executives, about profits at the expense of people. These stories grab headlines because they hit a nerve and fuel anger. I have never read a story quite like We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business where employees and customers joined together to demand the return of a fired CEO.

The story may be unique, but it offers powerful lessons and insight into the changing nature of how we view corporations and what we expect as employees.

I recently spoke with the authors, Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, about this story.

 

Loyalty is Demonstrated Every Day

This story has so many powerful lessons. One of those is about loyalty. What does the We Are Market Basket teach us about loyalty?

Arthur T. and much of the senior management team have been extraordinarily successful at engendering loyalty. But loyalty at this company tends to be viewed as a two-way street. Employees – they call themselves associates – we speak with tell us that they feel loyal to the company and top management because they feel a loyalty to them from that top management. So what we see at Market Basket is people who are reaffirming their commitment to each other over time. The result is these very strong bonds we see. The lesson for managers is that you can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself. You’re not going to gain loyalty just by changing the pay or the job responsibilities; it’s something that has to be demonstrated every day.

 

“You can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself.”

 

A Respect for Others

Why did Arthur T. inspire such passion and loyalty?

Arthur T. is beloved as the CEO largely because he gives all associates, customers, and vendors respect. He says explicitly that no one person is special at the company, and from what we’ve seen he walks the walk.

But it’s also important to point out his place in the protest. Bringing back Arthur T. was the central demand of protesters, but in our view, they were fighting to save the company’s culture. Reinstating Arthur T. became the critical step in making sure that this New England institution continued to serve those who have known it for years, and sometimes for generations.

Market Basket 

A Lesson for Boards and Corporate Leaders

What does the Market Basket experience teach boards of directors?

Most business schools today teach that the fiduciary responsibility of directors is to look after the interests of shareholders. However, this idea is simply not supported by the corporate code in Massachusetts and many other states. The code states explicitly that the board is to be a steward of the corporation, which includes customers, employees, shareholders, and others. We need to hold our boards to this higher standard.

Leadership lesson: A corporation’s duties extend beyond shareholders to the broader community.

 

A Commitment to the Community

6 Leadership Lessons from a Banker, Pope and CEO

This is a guest post by Rowena Heal, writer at RocketMill. She spends a lot of time with her head in a book or watching too much Sci-Fi. For more information, please check out the Cryoserver blog.

Heading up a team is tough and, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership doesn’t exist.

From menial tasks, like enforcing a tidy desk policy and coaching best practice for a tidy inbox, to motivating a team to double revenue year-on-year, it’s difficult picking appropriate techniques without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mario Draghi, Pope Francis and Tim Cook; all of whom have appeared within the top four of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List.

Mario Draghi

As President of the European Central Bank, and second on Fortune Magazine’s list, Draghi has a tough job on his hands. Despite this, his abilities to motivate and remain calm are great examples of skills that should be emulated by managers in all fields.

1). Keep your team motivated:

We wouldn’t blame Mario for succumbing to the stress of maintaining financial unity across 18 countries, although he’s yet to do so.

Despite having one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to preserve the euro – as well as boasting the nickname Super Mario – highlights his motivational skills.

Managers should take heed of this approach, remembering staff morale often rests heavily on your own emotions; if you’re stressed, rest assure they will be too. If things are getting a little shaky within the business, keep the team motivated – chances are the positivity will help pull you all back out of a slump.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca

 

2). Stay grounded:

Mario’s often praised for his down-to-earth approach to his job; something arguably unexpected when under so much pressure. Draghi’s less than lavish lifestyle outside the office – his family celebrated his son’s graduation in a pizzeria in Milan – keep him grounded in work, too.

We’re not suggesting you remove all luxuries from your life, just don’t spend hours bragging about big expenses to staff that cannot afford the same – it’ll only create barriers. Remaining down to earth is a great way to ensure team members can speak to you openly and avoids issues with secrecy or intimidation.

Pope Francis

Now a few months into his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is responsible for economic reforms at the Vatican and has driven a spiralling discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church.

Author Jeffrey A. Krames believes there are at least 12 leadership lessons we can learn from Pope Francis, but we’ve picked two we deem important and applicable.

 

3). Listen to advice:

Unfortunately, a manager isn’t always right, so it’s important to accept that decision making isn’t a lone task.

Francis demonstrates enthusiasm for learning from the people around him, creating a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprised of eight members from across the world with ideologically varied views. This group advises him on all major actions and has been deemed the ‘most important decision-making force in the Vatican,’ by John L. Allen, author of The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

When heading a team, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from staff. Weigh up opinions and come to a conclusion based on this. Even if you still opt for your original decision, it’ll feel reassuring to know others are backing your verdict.

 

4). Lead with humility:

Asserting authority doesn’t have to go hand in hand with bossiness, and it’s important to remember how important your staff are – you wouldn’t be able to do your job without them.

Be more approachable by immersing yourself into the business – as well as the office. Francis is a clear advocate for leading with humility, and you can imitate this quality, starting with simple steps, like abandoning your office for a desk space next to your colleagues, or spending less on lavish business lunches.

Tim Cook

Quotes and Leadership Lessons from Joel Osteen

Qualities of A Winner

You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner is the latest book by Joel Osteen. Fans of Joel Osteen’s positive message will enjoy the stories throughout the book of inspiration and encouragement.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Joel, who is the pastor of Lakewood, the largest church in the U.S. He’s immediately recognizable from his television ministry, bestselling books and stadium appearances. Not too long ago, I noticed he has his own SiriusXM station.

My Mistakes

9781455575718As I look back on my earliest interviews for this website, I laugh. My first three in-person interviews included Pastor Joel Osteen, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and writer and producer John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

Let me be frank: I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t a professional interviewer. My colleague, Drew Bordas, had vast video and audio experience.  At that point, I think his total experience was that he occasionally videotaped his kids at home. Looking at this interview, I am thankful that Joel was so kind, so encouraging, and so forgiving to allow us to stumble through it. What makes it more remarkable is if you know Joel Osteen’s backstory. Joel is a true pro when it comes to production. Before he stepped up to minister after his father passed away, he worked behind the scenes and became a video and audio expert.

Here are some lessons I learned from that visit.

 

6 Leadership Lessons

 

1. Don’t condemn and judge others.

He says it, but my visit proves he lives it, too.

How often we waste time condemning, criticizing and complaining.  It wastes time, drains energy, and is counterproductive.

 

2. Encourage others.

Not only was he unaffected by his platform and position, humbly spending time with us, but he also was incredibly encouraging. He frequently quotes Proverbs 15:4:  “A gentle tongue brings healing.”

Organizations thrive when individuals are recognized and encouraged.

“A gentle tongue brings healing.” -Prov. 15:4

 

3. Find your life purpose.

Whatever you do, you want it to be in line with your life purpose. Observing Joel, I can see that he knows his own gifts and his purpose.  He focuses his energy and talent on it.  He genuinely wants everyone to have a blessed life, and he believes in the positive nature of people.

An organization with a unifying purpose will galvanize everyone to achieve.

 

4. Choose happiness.

As he says, “Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down, you can choose your response.  How you live your life is totally up to you.”  His books are full of strategies on how to live a happier, more abundant life.

 

5.  Know what to ignore.

Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Lessons from Frank Perdue

A Visionary Leader

He entered many of our homes via television, winning our hearts with his clever ads about his chicken.  Appearing in hundreds of ads, Frank Perdue turned Perdue chicken into a national brand.  “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” the ads touted.

Frank Perdue was a visionary business leader.  He focused on culture, leadership development, packaging, promotion, and operational excellence perhaps years before others.

Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

Recently, his wife, Mitzi Perdue, wrote a biography Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue.  The book paints the picture of the man, allowing us glimpses into his personal life, but also is full of business and leadership advice.

Mitzi herself holds a BA in government from Harvard, a masters in public administration from George Washington and was for years a syndicated columnist for Capitol News then Scripps Howard.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her late husband.

 

“Find out what the customer wants and then make it better.” –Frank Perdue

 

Take Care of the Customer

There are so many business and life lessons in this book.  Let me just ask about a few areas.

One story you tell was about packaging.  It grabbed my attention because he wanted better packaging, but his team said no.  They said it was too expensive.  I know he was frugal, so his commitment to make it happen speaks volumes.  That little story says so much about his style and determination. Would you help us understand why this was so important to him?

Funny you picked on that story because it happens that I’m (I think) unusually qualified to comment on it.  My master’s thesis from George Washington University was on the importance of packaging.  I felt that the packaging of an idea or a product wasn’t as important as the content, but it was way up high as a consideration.  Frank intuitively understood this concept without having to get a master’s degree!  In the cases of the cartons that chicken was delivered in back in the late 1960s, it was pretty much industry standard to have flimsy boxes that might leave someone’s processing plant looking fine, but by the time they arrived at the distributor’s loading dock in a big city, the box might be crushed and leaking.  Crushed and leaking boxes were a mega-headache for the distributor because it’s hard to handle them on a forklift, and it’s unsanitary.  Frank realized that if he could create boxes that wouldn’t crush or leak, he’d be solving one of the distributors’ major problems.  His attitude was that as long as his goal was to be the best, the price almost didn’t matter, he had to fix the fragile boxes because, “We can’t afford not to.”  It fit in with his motto of, “Take care of the customer,” and the result was that when a distributor wanted chicken, he probably had Perdue on his speed dial. Packaging was an extraordinary competitive edge for us.

Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

“A business that doesn’t change is a business that is going to die.” –Frank Perdue

 

Build A Culture of Disagreement

Take us into the culture of the company.  It tolerated disagreement and strong opinions.  As you say it tolerated “really forceful disagreement.”  How did Frank encourage this?  When did he, as a leader, stop the argument and unify the team?

Take Command: Leadership Lessons from A First Responder

Not many of us will face hostile enemy fire in foreign lands.  We won’t lead a team to intervene in humanitarian situations, nor will we need to manage a crisis with lives literally on the line.  Still, the leadership principles from these experiences are adaptable and applicable to all of us.

Jake Wood served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning numerous awards for his distinguished service.  He has been named a 2012 CNN Hero.  In 2010, he co-founded Team Rubicon, a non-profit organization focused on disaster response. The organization gives military veterans a purpose as they intervene in various humanitarian situations.  His new book Take Command: Lessons in Leadership offers a unique perspective on how to lead a team through any situation. 

 

Build a High-Impact Team

How do you build a high-impact team?

I think first you have to understand the critical value of having the right team.  Oftentimes people think that process trumps people; or willpower triumphs over interpersonal dynamics.  That’s just not the case, so understanding the need to build a high-impact team is the first step.

 

“Passion trumps talent, but culture is king.” –Jake Wood

 

I write about five components of building a high-impact team in the book, but I’ll just highlight two.  First, we have a saying at Team Rubicon: Passion trumps talent, but culture is king.  When we’re looking to add team members, we aren’t looking for resumes laden with accolades.  We’re looking for things that demonstrate passion.  We try to start that weeding-out process from the get-go by having really quirky job postings.  We demand that only the most awesome candidates apply and generally warn about how underpaid and overworked any candidate who is accepted will be.  If someone reads that and applies with a resume and cover letter that screams, “Bring it on,” then we’re on the right path.  The second part of that saying though is critical: Culture is king.  Passionate and talented people abound, but are they right for your team?  We’ve had high-output, high-passion people in our organization before who were total cultural misfits.  They proved cancerous to the morale of the organization, and we had to eliminate them despite their talent.  Nothing derails morale faster than a poor culture fit.

 

“Nothing derails morale faster than a poor culture fit.” –Jake Wood

 

The second thing I’ll highlight in building high-impact teams is roles.  My football coach at the University of Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez, always talked about roles.  “Know your role!” he’d scream time and again.  What he meant was that starter or backup, star quarterback or water boy, we each had a role.  Furthermore, each role was critical to the success of the whole–the team.  Some were more high profile, others received more praise, but damn it, if we didn’t have new cleats on our shoes when we went to play in the rain, then nobody was going to succeed.  Effective leaders communicate the importance of roles throughout all levels of the organization.  When people understand and embrace their own role, they tend to take more pride in its execution and are more likely to hold others around them accountable for the execution of theirs.  That’s a win-win.

 

“Effective leaders communicate the importance of roles throughout all levels of the organization.” –Jake Wood

 

Cultivate Trust and Transparency

Trust is crucial on the battle field, as a first responder, or in business.  How do you cultivate trust?

When I talk about developing trust, whether from my time in the military or in Team Rubicon and the corporate world, I talk about three things: training, transparency and trials.  When everyone is trained to a common standard, then people feel like they can operate liberally, knowing that everyone around them is competent in the execution of the functions necessary for mutual success.  My time in the sniper teams was a great example of this.  When our team needed to call in close air or artillery support from a unit we’d never met, never worked with and often didn’t speak the same language as us, we needed to know that that unit was trained in the same protocols and to the same standard as we were.  If that wasn’t the case, we might hesitate to call in a life-saving artillery mission, or worse, we might call it in and have an artillery shell land in our foxhole.

cover.takecommandTransparency is critical because it levels the playing field.  When people feel that they have access to the same information as their leadership, they feel like they are empowered to come to the same conclusion.  Secrets naturally breed mistrust.  Naturally, some information within a corporation needs to be held in confidence, but to the extent that information can be shared, why not?

Finally, I often talk about the need for a galvanizing trial or tribulation.  The best teams come together in times of duress.  Those periods reveal what’s necessary from each member and displays each member’s respective worth.  Getting all the chips on the table allows a true assessment of one another, and that’s critical for truly coming together.  The Marine Corps attempts this in boot camp with the “Crucible” exercise, but nothing compares to the first time a unit gets in a firefight.  Doubts about who is capable of what disappear, and suddenly the team is flooded with unwavering trust for one another.