NORDSTROM: A RETAIL SUPERSTAR

by Sarah Van Wagnen

Ever since I was a teenager and began to fall in love with shopping, my mom engrained in me which stores are really worth your time and money. Nordstrom has always been at the top of our list. Quality products, good prices, and customer service are driving forces behind retail sales. Nordstrom’s customer service is outstanding, and they know how to market to multiple different buyers. These may sound like obvious ways to increase sales, yet Nordstrom has continuously outperformed other retailers. Their secret lies within their corporate culture; the customer is the center of all decisions. Looking deep into the companies organizational structure reveals an extremely effective management style, and how Nordstrom continues to successfully adapt to the changing market.

Likert’s Management System is a scale that identifies four different types of management styles. These were developed based off of three decades worth of studies regarding management styles and patterns from over 200 different organizations (“Likert’s Management System”). The scale compares concern for the job vs. employees within the workplace and ranges from high to low.

System 1 is defined as Exploitative Authoritative, this is the most rigid form of management. Top-down communication is emphasized and threats/fear are used often. Superiors have very low trust in employees to get their job done well. Teamwork is almost non-existent and employees should not discuss their ideas with anyone above them. Decisions can be made quickly and easily by management but this can have a very negative impact on team morale.

System 2 is Benevolent Authoritative, communication is also mainly flowing from superiors to subordinates. Rewards are the primary basis for motivation and workers receive little freedom to voice their thoughts. Lower level employees often feel little responsibility and this can lead to poor work ethic that contrasts with the organization’s goals. Competition negatively affects employees because they feel like they are not an important part of the system.

System 3, Consultative, accepts input from employees however decisions are still primarily made by management. Superiors have decent confidence in their employees and there is a good amount of teamwork. Communication flows both vertically and horizontally. Motivation is achieved through rewards and job involvement.  Lower level employees are consulted about decisions and feel more involved, leader to higher satisfaction and production.

System 4, Participative, allows for a free flow of communication between employees and management. Responsibility for achieving organization goals is spread equally throughout positions. There is high trust in employees to be successful. Teamwork is valued and communication is greatly encouraged to benefit the entire organization. Employees have large levels of participation in decisions which allows creativity and innovation to thrive. There is a high level of responsibility for all employees to achieve the organization’s goals. This empowers employees and gives them high levels of satisfaction. Managers use monetary rewards and employee participation in goal setting to drive motivation.

Likert’s system is a sliding scale and many organizations may fall between two systems. The system, according to Likert, contains a profile of organizational characteristics composed of: Leadership processes, Motivational forces, Communication process, Interaction-influence process, Decision-making process, Goal-setting or ordering, and Control processes (“Likert’s Management System”). A questionnaire was distributed to multiple different organizations and differing levels of employees/managers to determine the effectiveness of each system. Systems 1 and 2 proved far less effective than 3 and 4. Systems 3 and 4 were much more productive and had a higher chance of long-term improvement, low costs, high profit, and lower staff turnover (“Likert’s Management System”).

By looking at Likert’s scale a better understanding of Nordstrom’s structure can be studied. Nordstrom was founded in 1901 originally as Wallin & Nordstrom and was a store specializing in shoes with the mission statement that the “customer is always right”(Spector & McCarthy, 1999). As the store turned into two the sons of Nordstrom bought out Wallin and renamed the stores Nordstrom. The brothers struggled through the Great Depression but managed to keep their stores open and grow significantly during the 50’s and into the decades after. By 1965 Nordstrom was selling both shoes and apparel in a wide range of sizes to make sure the customer always got what they needed. In 1968 the company went public by third-generation Nordstrom family members and within the year reach 60 million in sales per year. It is now 2016 and the company is still under some control by the original family. In the company’s 2015 annual report they reached a record of 14.1 billion in net company sales (“Nordstrom Company Review”). Nordstrom now has 347 stores in 40 states and Canada, as well as 215 Nordstrom rack locations, and 3 online websites available to 96 countries (“Nordstrom Company Review”).

Analyzing Nordstrom’s work management and policies reveals why they are now one of the most profitable and loved retailers in the country. Nordstrom has continually strived to be nothing less than number 1 in customer service. The foundation for how they do this includes; empowered employees, employees who act like business owners, a supportive management structure, and a mystique for heroic acts (Spector & McCarthy, 1999). Employees are actually fully entitled to do whatever it takes to have a satisfied customer. The fact that each employee has authorization to do this is comparable to going into a small business, you don’t have to jump through hoops to talk to who is in charge if you aren’t satisfied. Each store has a wide range of sizes to make it easier for the sales team to have a happy customer and find what they need. Managers ensure their team is fully equipped with merchandise. When an employee shows an incredible act of customer service they are rewarded and encouraged by their managers.

It is rumored that Nordstrom’s employee handbook is only one sentence long, but is that true? The answer is mostly; when an employee is hired they are given a card that reads:

nordstroms-employee-handbook-1

However, even though it is true they hand these out to new employees, any company has a multitude of legal rules they must abide by. When it comes to their employees on the other hand, they really do give them great trust. Their goal is to hire nice, capable people and empower them to use their judgement (Solomon, 2014). By doing this they allow their employees to use their power to treat customers in the best way possible.

NordstroNordstromInvertedPyramid-BoostBusiness-CustomerService-JasonForrest.pngm actually has the complete opposite structure of most traditional companies. They use an inverted pyramid company structure with customers and sales people at the top and the executive team at the bottom. Every decision made by upper level employees is to support the sales staff and satisfy the customer. Nordstrom has an incredible return policy and any employee can give full refunds with no questions asked (“Nordstrom Customer Service”). Anyone on the sales floor can also help any customer, even if they are shopping in a different department. All managers must start on the sales floor so they know what the customer firsthand, Nordstrom only promotes from within (Spector & McCarthy, 1999). Buying is also focused around specific tastes of the customers, within each region there is a buyer who concentrates on a few stores to reflect the style of the area (Spector & McCarthy, 1999). Not only does Nordstrom love their customers, but they respect their employees.

As an organization Nordstrom would most directly fall into Likert’s system 4 Participative style of management. Communication flows freely between employees and managers, top advisors frequently ask the sales staff for recommendations. Usually most of the responsibility is on higher up employees but Nordstrom is true to the participative style of management and actually gives a lot of trust to their sales teams since they work most directly with customers. When it comes to customers, employees are always allowed to get innovative with making decisions when it comes to an unhappy customer. That could simply be a refund, finding something new for them, or going above and beyond to fix the problem to make sure they will shop at Nordstrom again. Nordstrom also uses monetary rewards and goal setting to create happy employees. They offer a merchandise discount ranging from 20-33%, medical coverage, an employee-matched retirement plan, and more (Nordstrom). Sales associates are paid by commission so that they can earn more the better they are with customers. Even though it is commission based the retirement plan is profit-sharing revenue which progresses over the employee’s first 7 years and encourages loyalty and motivation (Spector & McCarthy, 1999).  Goals are set frequently and the best sales associates receive the 33% discount by having great customer service and exceeding their goals.

Nordstrom does an outstanding job of applying participative management. There’s a reason Nordstrom is killing it at the retail game. For one part their customer service is outstanding, and they know it is thanks to their employees. They are picky about hiring nice people and have no problem doing what it takes to have a happy customer, and that’s what keeps people coming back (Lutz, 2014). The Ellen show proved this with a hilarious prank where Ellen had a customer have a secret camera and video tape the sales associate while Ellen had the customer say and do a bunch of weird things. The employee took it in full stride and laughed with the crazy customer while remaining nice and helpful the entire time, she even enjoyed herself (“Ellen’s Hidden Camera’s”). Nordstrom has been dedicated to making service one of their greatest selling points, and it won’t change anytime soon (Shoultz, 2015). By empowering their front-line employees to give feedback on what customers want the entire organization stays on top. It takes no special skills to have the lowest prices but the companies that are thriving make decisions about how they want to run their business and then perform them everyday (Shoultz, 2015).

Autonomy and standards with employees creates “customer service magic” (Solomon, 2014). Through the freedom to act alone employees are empowered to benefit the customer because they have the ability to actually help them. By training all Nordstrom employees with the standards that the customer always comes first, the company reaps the benefits. Nordstrom Rack was created to satisfy customers who could not always afford top of the line prices but still loved Nordstrom’s quality. They reached out to a whole new consumer including mainly young people who will hopefully grow into shopping at Nordstrom stores instead of just Nordstrom Rack. Nordstrom is also at the forefront of e-commerce, with 3 billion in sales and a 21% increase over the past year (“Nordstrom Company Review”). Workers even use the Nordstrom pinterest page to merchandise their stores, and it is even now possible to buy items featured on their instagram (Lutz,2014).

For companies moving into the future, the most successful will be customer-led (Swerdlow, 2015). Going forward all retailers must organize operations around a customer based philosophy if they wish to grow, like Nordstrom already has. Many companies have announced going “omnichannel”, a multichannel approach to sales, (such as Nordstrom) which is very important to today’s consumer. Everything is moving online to a multitude of channels and companies have to keep up. With so many options for today’s consumer, customer satisfaction is a huge differentiator for where people will shop, because if they have a bad experience they can always go somewhere else.

Other organizations could learn a lot from Nordstrom’s management and leadership style. They allow their employees to act in the best interest of the consumer and therefore the company. Nordstrom’s founding principle is to put customers first, and when employee’s are trusted to do this they feel empowered. Front-line workers are the one’s closest to the customer and that is why Nordstrom uses the inverted pyramid structure, to put the focus on helping employees satisfy the consumer. When companies allow employees to participate and feel important this will transfer directly to making the customer feel important, which is the driving force behind the survival of the company. In today’s society organizations have to evolve to fit the changing needs of the consumer, from online shopping experiences to how they feel when they walk in the store. For Nordstrom, the number 1 goal is capturing the consumer’s attention within 13 seconds, and keeping it with outstanding customer service. Having happy employees and customers will not only create a better working world, but a better future for any company.

 

 

References

Ellen’s Hidden Cameras at Nordstrom! [Video file]. (2014, October 13). Retrieved                    from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV90Q_b7v-k

Likert’s Management System. (2016). Retrieved from                                                                https://managementstudyguide.com/likerts-management-system.htm

Lutz, A. (2014, October 8). Nordstrom’s simple strategy for beating everyone else                 in … Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/nordstroms-business-            strategy-2014-10/comments.rss

Nordstrom Company Review & Annual Report. (2015). Retrieved from                                               http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/nordstrom-company-review

Nordstrom Customer Service. (2016). Retrieved from                                                                http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/customer-service

Schoultz, M. (2015, December 11). What makes Nordstrom’s marketing strategy                  different? Retrieved from http://www.sailthru.com/marketing-blog/written-nordstrom-marketing-strategy-their-difference-maker/

Solomon, M. (2014, March 15). Take These Two Steps To Rival Nordstrom’s                           Customer Service Experience. Retrieved from                                                                  http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/03/15/the-nordstrom- two-part-customer-experience-formula-lessons-for-your-business/#610ccf9e2335

Spector, R., & McCarthy, P. (1999). The Nordstrom way [PDF]. Ej4.

Swerdlow, F. (2013, October 24). Building the retail organization of 2023. Retrieved                        from https://nrf.com/news/building-the-retail-organization-of-2023

 

A TRUE KIND OF SERVICE

by Sarah Van Wagnen
Within any company, understanding it’s customers and client base is a major factor to building a successful business. USAA is a unique company for how much they value the thoughts and opinions of their customers. Their employees are trained extensively regarding customer care and satisfaction. Not only does this increase business, but it creates very high customer loyalty. USAA’s service reps make up 60% of the company alone, much greater than other competitors (McGregor, 2005).

USAA holds itself to an incredible standard when it comes to their customers. They keep their membership and mission first, live their core values, are authentic/trustworthy, create conditions for people to succeed, include diverse perspectives for superior results, and innovate while building for the future (“USAA”). Their core values include: service, loyalty, honesty, and integrity. These values stem from the fact that the company was started by Army officers to insure each others cars when no other company would (Rohde, 2012). The tradition of former service members working for current service members has not changed. USAA still requires 30 percent of their employees to be veterans or military spousaa-pictureuses (Shevory, 2014).

These standards align closely with both the foundational and relationship-based ethical perspectives within organizations. Within the foundational perspective USAA has a strong tradition of morals and how they treat their customers. They show their customers a great deal of respect and mutual trust; 98% of their customers USAA says they keep. Their company also uses the relationship-based ethical perspective when making decisions. They value open and honest communication with the public and their customers. Their goal is to build life-long relationships, they genuinely want to help people as a company and are less concerned about the “bottom-line”. Relationships with their customers always come first.

Every USAA employee goes through a very different type of training. They are actually emerged into a simulated 3 day boot camp, which is designed after the first few days of Army basic training. This allows employees to actually experience what their customers have on a day-to-day basis. When people go through even a small amount of training similar to what those in the military have, their eyes are opened to a completely different lifestyle. This lifestyle requires a different type of service and unique benefits for those in the military or service families. When employees are faced with a decision, their first ethical instinct based of their training is to do what is best for the customer and to help as much as possible. Employees attend seminars and base visits each year. Even executive officials have actually served in the military, all employees are trained to empathize with their military customers.

When designing a code of ethics, it is extremely important to consider the members of an organization. When asked if USAA puts customers first, 81% agreed that they do, which is extremely high for an insurance company (Fleurke, 2009). Customer and member satisfaction is essential to any group. An organization that plays a big part in my life is my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. We have a creed that guides us ethically, but when creating a code of ethics I would include the following standards that I believe to be the most important to our sorority.

  1. Continue to strengthen personal character.
  2. Remain loyal, honest, kind and true.
  3. Always represent Alpha Delta Pi in the finest light.
  4. Build friendships through true sisterhood.

The most important part of our sisterhood is the bond we share. When a woman joins Alpha Delta Pi, she knows she is going to experience an amazing support system. Our chapter is full of role-models the younger members can look up to. Strengthening personal character and developing into the finest version of yourself is one of the main reasons our chapter is so successful; we grow together. We highly value loyalty within our  sisters, we are a selective group and search for women of substance to help our society flourish. Being kind, honest, and true, to fellow human beings is something every woman should strive for in order to better become the best version of herself. When a woman joins Alpha Delta Pi, she is not only representing herself but the entire chapter and greek life as a whole. Every action could impact the society we have built since 1851, and that’s why it is so important to value our society when making decisions. Finally, without true bonds of sisterhood and friendship ADPi would cease to exist, we call this sorority our home because of the relationships we have created through our membership.

In order to learn these values members must be educated on them. We hold ourselves to high standards within education and our personal lives. Older members of the chapter must communicate with and guide new members around these values. Membership education sessions should always be held to help lead each member throughout her college experience. There would be standards consequences when our values are not upheld, however there is always a sister to help another through whatever she may be experiencing or struggling with. Alpha Delta Pi should always put our sisterhood and relationships first, without these bonds the society would fall apart at the seams.

 

References

Fleurke, X. (2009, January). Walking a mile in the shoes of your customer. Retrieved from http://www.corporate-ethics.org/walking-a-mile-in-the-shoes-of-your-customer/

McGregor, J. (2005, October 1). Employee innovator: USAA. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/53782/employee-innovator-usaa

Rohde, D. (2012, January 27). In the era of greed, meet America’s good bank: USAA. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/01/in-the-era-of-greed-meet-americas-good-bank-usaa/252161/

Shevory, K. (2014, September 1). Boot camp for bankers. Retrieved from http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/boot-camp-for-bankers/

USAA. (2015). The USAA standard. Retrieved from https://www.usaajobs.com/docs/USAA-Standard.pdf

 

FREEDOM IN THE WORKPLACE

by Sarah Van Wagnen

netflix2Netflix is known for its high quality streaming, but they should also be well known for something else. Their approach to how they manage and hire their employees is one of the main reasons they’ve continued to thrive. Looking at how Netflix keeps performing so well could be a guiding light for other companies going through a period of growth. Any company or organization that is struggling to adapt should look into how Netflix runs the show.

There are 7 very important principles Netflix is guided by. The first one is “Values are what we Value” they hire and keep people based on 9 values. These include judgement, communication, impact, curiosity, innovation, courage, passion, honesty, and selflessness (Hastings, 2009). Their second cultural aspect is high performance, this is valued much more over number of hours in the office. Instead of annual reviews, managers use the “keeper test”. They ask themselves what employees they would fight to keep if they had the option to leave for a different company. They want star players across the field.

Freedom and responsibility, along with context and not control are their next principles. By increasing freedom and responsibility talent within the company grows at the same rate as talented needed. Therefore even though Netflix is growing, there’s no need to lay down more procedures and limitations that will strangle the employees and end up hurting the company. Talent is able to thrive and Netflix will accept nothing less. Vacation time is also up to each employee to decide what best will fit their needs. Bosses are encouraged to lead by example and come back from vacation with fresh new ideas. Within how they manage their employees they use context instead of control. They do not micromanage or constantly have a say in what everyone is doing. Goals and objectives with clearly defined roles are set to create the highest quality work.

The remaining parts of Netflix culture are highly aligned, loosely coupled; pay top of market; and promotions and development. There are clear goals and expectations with trust between groups so that projects can move quickly and efficiently. Netflix also always pays at the top of the market for their workers. If their skills are valuable and growing they do not want to lose a star to another company. This motivates workers to align themselves with top of the market qualities 100 percent of the time. Promotions are given when there is a job big enough for a superstar employee; however some divisions in Netflix will grow while others may not, but employees will still be paid at the top of their individual market skill level.

These practices have been so successful because employees are constantly using their talent in the best way possible. While Netflix grew as a company, they made sure their employees did too. They only hired the best, and let go of those who didn’t fit their model. Netflix knew what type of company it wanted to be and did not settle on trying to control change. The company thrives on change because their employees can adapt, and when someone can no longer adapt they are offered a great severance package. The employees who fit Netflix’s needs are happy, and even the ones who no longer do are happy. “We continually told managers that building a great team was their most important task,” said a former employee (McCord,2016). Great co-workers are the key to employee happiness.

Compared to organizations I’ve been apart of, Netflix is very different. Most places I’ve worked have valued control over context. They’ve been very rigid jobs with pay based on the hour, not what I actually get done. In turn I had no desire to stay very long at these jobs and ended up moving on to something else pretty quickly. I did have one internship where what I did was a great deal of my own ideas, and it really helped me get more done in a smaller amount of time. Places I’ve worked could learn a lot from Netflix,”Giving employees greater freedom and holding them to higher standards, while not sweating tiny details, are common-sense approaches that seem likely to help many companies beyond Netflix” (Stenovec, 2015).

If I worked in a culture such as Netflix, I feel like I would be an effective worker. I enjoy being pushed and inspired while having a good amount of freedom. The only problem I might have is adapting to a lot of change quickly, but if I had the skills Netflix needed I would be motivated to allow my talent to thrive. Netflix treats employees like adults instead of children, and I’ve always valued mutual respect within any organization. Nothing makes me more upset than being treated as incompetent within a workplace. By building trust and respect between employees and the company both parties will benefit much more than when employees are restricted too much. Talent and passion is the driving force behind what motivates me, and behind what motivates so many other people as well. Workers are not inspired by clocking in and out; giving people the opportunity to do their best work free of the strict 9-5 shift creates the talent that has helped Netflix grow.

 

 

References

Hastings, R. (2009, August 1). Culture. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664/8-At_Netflix_we_particularly_value

McCord, P. (2016, January 27). How Netflix reinvented HR. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/01/how-netflix-reinvented-hr

Stenovec, T. (2015, March 03). One reason for Netflix’s success — It treats employees like grownups. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/27/netflix-culture-deck-success_n_6763716.html

GOOGLE: THE KEY TO UNLOCKING POTENTIAL

by Sarah Van Wagnen

When people are put into teams, there is always the uncertainty of whether they will thrive together, or collapse into chaos. Some people just click, and others don’t. Is there more behind a team simply “clicking” though? Could it actually be broken down into a science, that anyone could study? Researchers at Google say they have singled out specific qualities needed within a team to make it thrive. By understanding what makes the greatest teams, any person or company can increase productivity and happiness.

Looking deep into Google‘s inner structure reveals what makes their top performing teams so effective. By understanding what made certain teams so productive, Google was able to bring this information to every employee. They launched an investigation called “Project Aristotle” to solve the phenomenon about why some teams excel. Leaders at google wanted to know how to motivate their teams to achieve their best work. They studied over 100 different teams to try and find common patterns.

After collecting tons of different data, the researchers were at a loss. Teams could appear to be completely similar from the outside, but one may function much better for reasons they could not pin-point. ‘‘At Google, we’re good at finding patterns,’’ Dubey said. ‘‘There weren’t strong patterns here’’(Duhigg, 2016). What they soon realized was who exactly was on the teams didn’t really matter, it was something else.

Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on ‘‘group norms.’’ They looked at unwritten rules within groups and how they could affect each individual. Norms differed from group to group, sometimes being affective and other times not; “the right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright” (Duhigg, 2016).

Researchers found a concept called Psychological safety within research papers, “Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk” (“Re-Work”). Within teams, the more comfortable everyone felt sharing their thoughts and emotions the better they all worked together. Other very important factors were dependability and clarity. Each person should all put in an equal amount of effort, and must know what their specific role within the team is.

keybehavior
Retrieved from: http://www.servantleadershipinstitute.com

When forming the most effective teams clear norms must be established. It is very important for one of these norms to encourage an open atmosphere for discussion, so that team members are not afraid to speak up. People that do not feel like they can speak up may feel unimportant and not work as hard. Without an open environment groupthink could also occur because everyone may just go along with what the most out-spoken person says. Sharing knowledge equalizes power throughout the group, so that everyone feels like they have a purpose. Groups with higher “average social sensitivity” also tended to work together better, “basically, these teams were more empathic and better at reading others’ emotions based on nonverbal cues” (Dr. Hall, 2016). Since they could understand each others feelings, it was easier for people to feel comfortable speaking out.

I do believe the findings within the study are accurate, however it takes knowledge of these findings in order for a team to try out the recommendations. It is also very important that each individual on the team know how to do their job, so that more work doesn’t fall on one person. Being clear about job roles, while encouraging discussion about ideas and feelings will usually result in a great team. The last time I participated in a successful team we divided up roles to who knew the most about each thing. We also did not make each other feel bad about speaking up and sharing new ideas.

If I was leading a work team, I would start by sharing something personal about myself, that maybe the team could relate to. People are more willing to work for a boss that they can connect with, and feel comfortable talking to. I would also divide up work to those who are skilled in each category, while also encouraging them to reach out to people on the team if they get stuck. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so everyone must feel like they are important and valued. Google taped into this factor, and may be one of the reasons they are still so successful.

 

 

Dr. Hall T. (2016). 5 Research backed practices to build a high performing team. Retrieved from http://connectionculture.com/5-research-backed-practices-to-build-a-high-performing-team/

Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?_r=1

Re:Work – Guide: Understanding team effectiveness. (nd). Retrieved from https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/understanding-team-effectiveness/steps/introduction/

STRIVING FOR TEAL

by Sarah Van Wagnen

Zappos; one of my absolute favorite shoe websites, is a company that has recently decided to radically define its inward structure. This new system is called Holacracy, and the biggest question surrounding this radical new idea is if it actually works. By looking deeper into Zappos experience, conclusions can be made about how this is working within the specific company. This form of self-managment system has caused the company many trials and errors over the last few years since its installment.

Holacracy is a “complete, packaged system for self management in organizations” (Holacracy, 2016). Within this style of organization, every employee has a say. There is no top or bottom, everything works horizontal. Communication occurs through circles and “links” are the messengers between each team. No one has only one job, instead you invest your time in multiple different areas. Employees choose their own circles and projects as well.

creativity-picture
Retrieved from: http://www.innovationmanagement.se

The goal is to create innovation and eliminate bureaucracy to allow new ideas to thrive. This is much different than traditional styles of management where each employee has one specific job. Communication flows upwards and downwards and only higher positions have a say in the organization.

Zappos decided to try Holacracy when the company grew and lost its innovation. Something needed to change, and CEO Mr. Hsieh, “seems to regard Holacracy as a way to revive the close-knit community feeling that made the company so special 10 years ago” (Gelles, 2015). After a very rough start, Mr. Hsiech gave his employees an ultimatum. Either accept the new system or leave, and take a nice compensation. 14% of his employees decided to take the offer and leave instead of embracing Holacracy.

The system has shown both strengths and weaknesses. While a lot of opinions can be heard and shared, not much work has been actually getting done. Many are also unsure of their role in the workplace, and do not really know exactly what they should be doing. When people split their time and attention between many different projects, it can easily becoming overwhelming and hard to focus. Holacracy could lead to the unlocking of self-management potential but it seems to be a long and painful road. During meetings employees are asked to share tensions, and to use the same set language rules established by Holacracy. In a Forbes article Groth explains that “asking employees to all speak the same language in the name of giving them a voice raises a red flag. Does Holacracy ultimately push employees into groupthink?” (Denning, 2015). With these strict rules regarding communication, workers may begin to all think the same way about each new idea.

Some employees have been very resistant to this change, “employees were shocked and frustrated by the numerous mandates, the endless meetings, and the confusion about who did what” (Reingold, 2016). I think this was hard for workers to adapt to because so much change was being thrown at them all at once. There wasn’t much of a trial period, the whole thing was forced on them. One employee had a career goal of becoming VP of human resources, but that opportunity no longer exists at Zappos. She was unsure what her job was now so, “an avid runner, she became lead link of the Healthy, Happy Zapponians circle, which is starting a race series for employees. But is having an experienced HR executive spend much of her time on a road race really the best use of Delaney—for her and for Zappos?” (Reingold,2016). Without her career goals, Delaney isn’t using her full potential within the company.

Since the redesigning of company structure not only has Holacracy been the goal, but the next step referred to as Teal,”Laloux assigned a color to each type: orange for modern corporations such as Walmart, and green for what he views as more evolved operations, like Starbucks. Teal … characterized by self-management, bringing one’s “whole” self to work, and having a purpose beyond making money” (Reingold, 2016). Mr. Hsieh sought advice from Laloux, who believes history has created different ways for people to organize themselves. Although some employees believe this system will eventually workout, there may be a better option for Zappos.

Holacracy has grown on a few employees, and they believe their teams are functioning much better than at first. However there may be a better option for Zappos. A type of participative human resources management could be very effective. This would still allow for a very open communication pattern while also giving employees higher levels of loyalty and commitment. This is not as radical as Holacracy because there is still management, but new ideas can be expressed freely. This could give Zappos back its edge, without confusing employees to the point of exhaustion.

 

Denning, S. (2015, May 23). Is holacracy succeeding at Zappos? Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/05/23/is-holacracy-succeeding-at-zappos/#72b8ffe640bb

Gelles, D. (2015, July 17). At Zappos, pushing shoes and a vision. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/business/at-zappos-selling-shoes-and-a-vision.html?_r=1

Holacracy. (2016). How it works. Retrieved from http://www.holacracy.org/how-it-works/

Reingold, J. (2016, March 4). A move to “self-management” has shaken online shoe retailer. Can it regain its mojo? Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/zappos-tony-hsieh-holacracy/

How My Strengths Inspire Me

by Sarah Van Wagnen

After completing StrengthsFinder 2.0 I realized how much my internal qualities affect each aspect of my life, as well as the people around me. Understanding these strengths within my personality will help me use them to the best of my ability. Having knowledge of these qualities will allow me to find environments I will thrive in. By knowing more about myself, I can achieve positive and influential outcomes while leading others. Once I find a cause that inspires me, my leadership qualities shine through. My top 5 strengths shape my actions, and can be used to help others succeed as well as myself. The passion I have for what I believe in gives me an incredible edge when trying to share ideas with others.

  1. Individualization

My greatest strength is individualization. This helps me see unique qualities in each individual, and how each person is different. I become frustrated with generalizations, and believe each person has something different they can offer to a team or situation. Observing others and how they relate to different people helps me figure out groups that would work well together.

Each time I’m in class and group projects come up where everyone is randomly assigned, I already start thinking about how I can get everyone to work together. I also notice what groups will have a hard time meshing their personalities, and this can lead to a bad outcome. If the leader is unaware of a person’s qualities, they will not know how to use their full potential. Anytime I am in a group, I understand how we can all work together best, but I can get upset when I see other people not using their full potential to help everyone succeed. My goal is to always see how different perspectives can be used together to create the best result.

  1. Strategic

A second strength I possess is thinking strategically. I can see many different ways to achieve a solution or outcome, while other people may only see one option. This cannot be taught, and requires a different way of thinking about the world. I always look for the best way to continue by thinking of new ideas or scenarios. When strategic thinkers find a cause they are passionate about, they can be great leaders.

Within my sorority I am the Recruitment & Marketing VP and I use strategic thinking almost on a daily basis. With each event I plan I have to think of what could go wrong, in order to make a back-up plan. The only problem with this is people can get annoyed with too many questions. I also have to consider the best way we can market ourselves around campus and the community. For years we have used the same strategies to recruit girls, until this year when my team and I implemented best practices. We developed this new plan to better relate to girls through deeper and more meaningful conversations. People join people, not numbers or statistics, and the best way to have our sisterhood grow is to connect with girls before even mentioning specifics about our organization. My strategic way of thinking helped me see the best option to achieve our chapter’s goals, through straying away from the norm.

  1. Ideation

The third strength I have is ideation. Those with this quality think differently than most people. Originality is held much higher in my eyes than thoughts that are already accepted. Pushing limits to come up with new ideas excites me and helps spark some of my best thinking. However sometimes people are put off by ideas they are not used to, so this must be approached carefully. Hearing thoughts that are creative and spur discussion inspires me.

I specifically chose my major and minor surrounding this part of my personality. I learn best in environments where a discussion is occurring. In my public relations and political science classes our professors do not simply speak at us. I can bounce ideas off of my political science professors without them telling me they are wrong. We read primary texts from all the famous ancient and current political thinkers. When I read these I am inspired by the new ideas I get from each different author, so that I can look at humanity from different angles. Anything I read or hear about that really complexes me only makes me want to learn more about it. Concepts out of the ordinary grab my attention.

  1. Empathy

Ever since I can remember I’ve been able to sense what other people around me are thinking or feeling. Empathy is my fourth most influential part of my personality. This allows me to feel pain or joy from those near me, which can either affect me positively or negatively depending on the situation. Empathy helps people know what to say or how to act when interacting with others, such as someone seeking advice. Many people without much empathy will not pick up on how to motivate and inspire others to do their best work. Knowing when to extend a helping hand or push harder takes a sense of understanding emotions.

My friends have always come to me for advice, because I know when they need someone to talk to or just to listen. Sensing other people’s feelings has helped me connect to a lot of people and create many relationships. Being able to relate to others well and see things from their eyes has helped me in any group situation I’ve been in. I’m very good at forming close connections to people and that has given me a strong support system throughout my life, along with giving strong support to others. People feel like they can trust me; this helps me provide them with reassurance when something goes wrong and encouragement when things go right.

  1. Relator

My final strength is the very close relationships I have with people. Being a relator means I enjoy finding friends and colleagues who I trust. Relator’s care a lot about those or what they love, and this motivates them to succeed. Working in environments where friendships and mentors are encouraged is where I thrive best. Connecting with people is a huge strength when forming relationships that benefit not only the happiness in your life but for future careers. Not many people enjoy working with or having partnerships with those whom they cannot trust.

I work best with those I am close to, because caring for them motivates me to complete tasks. Whenever I am working on philanthropy or volunteer project I am extremely inspired by my sisters in Alpha Delta Pi. Last year we raised over 16,000 dollars at our silent auction for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Going up to RMH once a semester in Cleveland to play with the kids there gives me so much hope when it comes to raising money for them. My sisters only encourage me more because we have the same love for each other, and our philanthropy.

My Leadership Style

What makes me an effective leader is that I can achieve results, but I can also inspire people to work to their full potential. I understand that every person is different and unique. This allows me to use their strengths to benefit the entire group or project. I do not categorize people into groups, so I do not overlook what an individual has to offer. When I do need to see who will work together well it is very easy for me to match up personality types.

During times when decisions need to be made, I consider all options. After looking at every possible angle this leads me to the best option. I always plan for what could go wrong through asking questions to make sure everything will run smoothly. If anyone is ever stressing out, I can sense that they need someone to talk to, so I have no problem taking a moment to make sure people looking up to me are motivated and focused.

Creativity and new ideas inspire me. Listening to other’s opinions leads to the implementation of fresh ideas. I believe no progress is ever made by a leader with a closed mind. Not only do people feel free to have conversations with me, but they also trust me. A leader is strongest when they have close relationships to rely on. People would rather work for someone who motivates them in a positive way than a negative way.

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Photo Credit: quotesgram.com

Informal organizations where new ideas are appreciated and relationships are encouraged would highly benefit from my leadership style. Non-profit organizations and those with a strong moral compass would also gain from my leadership qualities. When my passion is sparked towards a cause or campaign I put every ounce of energy I have into that organization. My mind is always searching for what will inspire me next. Nothing motivates me more than constantly being challenged and always learning how to see life through different angles. I am a passionate innovate thinker, and my leadership abilities would add fuel to the fire of any inspiring campaign.

 

Sarah Van Wagnen

 

img_6824Sarah is a Junior at Ashland University, majoring in both Public Relations and Health & Risk Communication. She is also studying Political Science through her minor and as a member of the Ashbrook Scholar Program.

She is motivated the most within challenging yet open environments, and was drawn to her areas of study for the compelling questions about humanity these disciplines raise.

This semester she is working in the PR office and is enjoying learning more about the field. In the fall of 2015, she interned with the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce to help develop their strategic marketing plan. This experience made her extremely interested in politics relating to public policy and how to help as many people as possible.

Within her undergraduate career, Sarah strives to find organizations that inspire her. She is currently a member of AU Young Democrats,  Alpha Delta Pi, and academic honor societies. When many people hear the word sorority they think of unserious college girls. What they do not know though, is all that one can give you. In her chapter, Sarah runs the recruitment and marketing efforts on the executive board. She has learned to motivate and lead others, while also growing within herself. She knows the value of  leadership, scholarship, and philanthropy; all taught to her by a group of women who changed her life. Since becoming a member of these organizations, she has had the confidence to speak out for what she believes is right.

In the time when she isn’t running around campus, Sarah loves to grab coffee and read novels that really make her think about life from different perspectives. She loves nothing more than her dog Wriggly (who has his own instagram page) and spending time with her closest friends. Over the summer, she had the opportunity to travel to Italy with her roommates, and learned to appreciate the beauty of other cultures. Any new adventure is exciting, and she is ready to see what the next few years bring.

After college, Sarah strives to work for a company or organization that represents her desire to help those who need it the most. She hopes what she finds fascinating to read in or outside of class will give her the knowledge to help create the reform she believes the country needs. Whether that leads her to law school, a nonprofit, or a particularly inspiring company she is unsure, but her passion will be sparked when the opportunity comes.