A nervous group walks into the conference group. They are still trying to shake off the holiday haze, but are totally alert and loaded for bear. It’s our vice president of sales’ first all-hands call of the year and the team has honed in on one agenda item: This year’s quota.

Loni comes on and confidently runs through our end of year results. Then she sheepishly tackles the quota. “We expect that quotas will be handed out at the sales leadership meeting in a few weeks. We hope to see…”

Rizzo thrusts out his arm and stamps down the mute button of the Polycom star phone that sits in the middle of the long oak table. “This is looking at lot like last year, boss.” He stares at me. The rest quickly follow suit.“I suppose we won’t get our objectives until July again,” he finishes.

Loni keeps on talking, but nobody is listening. (read more…)

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In February, CVS announced it would stop selling tobacco products, and take a $2 billion hit to the bottom line, because they were starkly at odds with the company’s core purpose of promoting customer health. Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a news release, “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do … to help people on their path to better health. Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

More recently, Starbucks unveiled the College Achievement Plan for any Starbucks employee that will cover some or all of the tuition for Arizona State University’s online degree programs. If only 3% of its workforce takes advantage of the program, then it could cost Starbucks $50 million annually. That may sound like a lot of money. But, Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, told the press that the program would not only lower attrition, increase performance, and attract and retain talent, but it is also in alignment with Starbucks’ mission: to “inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” What inspires and nurtures the human spirit more than getting a good education? (read more…)

While the ignition problems at General Motors and the falsified waiting lists at Veterans Affairs may not seem comparable, there is one distinct parallel. In both cases, leaders were managing to results.

It’s hard to believe that in today’s business environment, many organizations are still employing practices that not only don’t work but can also harm people. In these organizations, it’s typical for leaders to set the numbers and then monitor results to determine if people are reaching them. What they fail to understand is that results alone are not enough.

Managing by results is similar to driving in a big city by looking only in the rear view mirror: It doesn’t tell you what lies ahead. Problems often show up months or years later, when they are extremely costly to correct, as was true in the case of both GM and the VA

Employees and managers can cheat to get results. (read more…)

Managing human capital as a resource is like assembling a kind of jigsaw puzzle, using talent for pieces and a strategic plan for the box top. If you want results, you need the best human capital management skills possible.

You either have these skills or you hire expert skills. The experts either provide a short-term infusion or become embedded in your organization to uphold the human capital endeavor. No matter how well you manage human capital or how you choose to incorporate the process into your business, human capital strategy is doomed to be just one more plan – indeed, just one more empty ritual — unless it plays out in a vibrant cultural dialogue that motivates, inspires and magnifies greatness in all your people.

As you devise a human capital strategy, you are aiming for the multipliers. You want to plan for the ineffable quality that gets you to a sum of five when you start with two and two. (read more…)

My family has been a Sprint wireless customer for more than 10 years. We’re happy now, but in 2007, we almost fired Sprint because of dropped calls, billing problems and limited support for newer smartphones.

Ironically, if we had called to complain often enough, Sprint might have fired us!

That’s right: In June 2007, Sprint fired about 1,000 of its 53 million wireless customers for excessive calls to the contact center. That decision set off a firestorm of bad publicity at a time when the carrier was struggling to survive. Furthermore, Sprint didn’t address the reasons for the excessive phone calls. At the time, Sprint’s customer satisfaction rating was 61, making it an industry laggard.

To deal with this mess, Sprint’s board of directors appointed Dan Hesse as CEO in December 2007. Shortly thereafter, Sprint posted a nearly $30 billion loss for 2007. Then Hesse began his tenure by laying off 4,000 employees and closing 125 stores. (read more…)