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LEADERS: You ARE What You Say––And How You Say It!

"Who you are as a leader becomes reality in the hearts and minds of the people you serve through what you say––and more important––how you say it."

Imagine this scenario…

You’ve found your dream job. You’re a manager in the customer service department of a hip, relatively new online retailer. Business is booming, publicity is fantastic and the company is growing rapidly.

Part of the reason you joined is the company’s “customer obsessed” culture. Everyone is focused on providing the best customer service experience available.

You’re working hard and answering the call when execs, and particularly the CEO ask for extra hours. You’ve cancelled travel plans and rescheduled vacations to accommodate the holiday push or to respond to supply chain or quality control issues. After all, things happen and the customer comes first, right?

During a particularly tough Valentine’s crunch, you and your colleagues are burning the midnight oil. Everyone is driving hard, but customer response is falling behind. The problem is exacerbated by a supply problem with some very popular items.

Despite your initial enthusiasm about the company’s vision, you’ve been having some doubts. People have been singled out for falling short of expectations. You and others on the front lines have shared concerns over a lack of staffing. People have been feeling overly pressured to put in excessive overtime, but despite the extra hours executive management continually expresses disappointment in overall performance. Some people have been particularly singled out and several have quit over what they see as poor treatment or excessive demands…

But hell, there are people who just can’t hack it in any organization––right? And this is high pressure business with little margin for error.

To keep lines open and transparent, everyone communicates on a company social media channel. The day before Valentine’s Day, you wake to find this message the CEO posted at 3AM…

“I know this group is hungry for career development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability. To hold you more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you...I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity and that you’re all excited to operate consistently with our core values.”

What’s your first reaction?

  • Do you appreciate the CEO’s “thoughtfulness” and concern?

  • Do you think the CEO truly has your best interests at heart?

  • Or––does this message seem a bit sarcastic and condescending?

This is not a hypothetical.

This message is quoted from a recent article by Zoey Schiffer in The Verge. It’s from Steph Korey, founder of the highly touted online luggage retailer Away. This article and several messages published therein led to Korey’s resignation as CEO.

The article continues…

“The CEO often vacillated between being funny and relatable to hyper-critical and even cruel…Korey often framed her critiques in terms of Away’s core company values: thoughtful, customer-o