When he retired he was asked to write a piece for the HBR reflecting on his career and chose to use it as an opportunity to publicly thank everyone who made his work fun.
He’d spent 23 years at Kraft Foods before he joined Mattel, which at the time was losing almost a million dollars a day.
He’d started at the bottom in Kraft and worked his way round and up the organisation supported by 15 different bosses who taught and mentored him. Like most people he did work for a bad boss as well but he just learned from everything.
He believes that people went to work aiming to do a good job and that what they wanted most (after sex and money) was recognition and praise.
At Mattel they had a Rave Reviews programme which allows employees to thank each other with a gift certificate for coffee or a soft drink and for senior managers who excelled they gave out a Chairman’s award at public meetings.
Mattel was named one of the best companies to work for in Fortune magazine 6 years running.
Eckert is a great believer in recognising people’s efforts and saying thank you.
He also says his colleagues can vouch for his toughness and doesn’t want to be thought of as soft touch. Given what he achieved at Mattel you can believe that.
In the HBR article he gives these tips:
- Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work
- Handwrite thank-you notes whenever you can. The personal touch matters in the digital age.
- Punish in private; praise in public. Make the public praise timely and specific.
- Remember to cc people’s supervisors. “Don’t tell me; tell my boss”
- Foster a culture of gratitude. It’s a game changer for sustainably better performance
Source: “The two most important words” HBR April 2013
It’s been suggested by accountants PwC and the London Business School that we shouldn’t scold ‘bad boy bankers’ but treat them like babies and give them the equivalent of a cuddle (Sunday Times today).
The study says threats of punishment for bad behaviour are counter-productive when trying to improve ethical standards. Instead praising good performance and good behaviour is much more effective.
The research also says that competition is damaging and bankers are twice as likely to behave unethically when they feel anxious about competing with colleagues. Then they are more likely to cut corners and make mistakes. Or just cheat perhaps?
The research among 2,500 bankers, insurance companies and wealth management firms which suggests that the key to changing behaviour and improving ethical standards is praise rather than retribution is just wrong-headed in my view.
Some of these ‘bad boy bankers’ at the top of companies are sociopaths and narcissists and praising them will only feed their belief that they are always right.
But you might expect people from financial services to say that (even if one of the PwC team is said to be a behavioural science specialist). Given that banks are reported to have paid out over $200 billion dollars in fines since 2008 but no banker has been convicted of fraud or theft I wonder what cloud these researchers are sitting on.
The report says regulators and financial services leaders should focus on the positive outcomes of good performance – and I’d like to see a definition of that – instead of the negative behaviours they want to stamp out. But where is the evidence that it will work? Is it just the bankers etc being surveyed saying “be nice to us and we’ll behave better‘? Given the outlandish financial rewards financial services seems to offer do you think they are motivated by anything other than money?
After the fiascos of recent years most people would be happy to see bankers and similar financial sector workers taken down a peg or two, not least in respect of their ridiculous bonus levels. The bottom line is that we don’t trust them to behave honourably.
In a speech at the British Psychology Conference in Liverpool he said UK productivity was the second lowest in the G7 group of nations (20% below the average and 40% below the USA) which he believed was due to our embracing technology “too enthusiastically“.
He thinks companies should shut down their servers to discourage employees from checking e-mails in the evening and at weekends and especially when on holiday – which he described as sick. (Some companies are already doing this in Germany).
He would like to ban in-house e-mails between members of staff in favour of face-2-face communication and thought c.c. e-mails a waste of time.
He thinks too may people are just showing up for work (“Presenteeism”) but not doing anything productive.
Research at the University of Sussex confirms that when when staff are given company smartphones they put in an extra day a week checking and responding to e-mails.
Experts say that there may be help round the corner from even newer technology such as Slack and Yammer which provide an open stream of communications not requiring you to open e-mails. (Is that really an improvement?)
However UK employees don’t have to wait long to be criticised in his view but they can wait a long time to get any praise for good work.
And that could be a problem with younger workers who expect praise and good treatment at work.
And that despite years of anti-discrimination legislation and diversity training, and women generally doing better than men at university.
But in a widely reported survey of 3,000 people by UKjobs.net in 2010, three-quarters of the men interviewed said they preferred a male boss – and so did two-thirds of the women!
Male bosses were seen as more straight forward, better at “steering the ship“, more focussed on the long-term vision and less likely to have hidden agendas.
Female bosses were criticised for having mood swings and bringing personal problems to work, being overly competitive, and spending too much time on their appearance.
Women on the other hand were considered better at delegating, at giving praise, and at listening, so it wasn’t all bad news. Nevertheless the majority of people seem to prefer male bosses.
This is not the kind of thing that goes down well in politically correct circles of course and you can imagine what Harriet “Harperson” would make of it. Several columnists also got their knickers in a twist with Barbara Ellen in the Guardian saying women who said these thing should be ashamed of themselves; “We’re doomed if most women want a male boss“.
She does however make a valid point; “the boss thing is not a gender issue – it is a personality issue“. I posted on this a while ago asking; “Do you have what it takes to be a leader?” and I have also had a go at so-called Alpha Males in the past.
I also wonder just how much influence Emotional Intelligence (EI) is having on the current crop of managers. Women are more at risk of stress in high pressure jobs it seems and also can’t afford to be too nice as more aggressive women will compete with them – a point made in the survey about women managers over-compensating. So they are not seen as managing their emotions – one of the core competencies of EI.
On the other hand the positives that women were recognised for in the survey related to other EI competencies eg empathy and relating to others, yet these strengths were disregarded in favour of what might be seen as the less flexible (in management style), straight-ahead approach that male managers are perceived to have.
So what is going on? Do women really prefer to work for men? Some said that they thought they could be a better manager than their present female bosses so why would they rather work for man? Is it “imposter syndrome“, believing they are not deserving, because I don’t see assertiveness being a problem amongst women these days?
More recently a survey in America confirmed this tendency. A survey of legal secretaries found that, although almost half had no preference either way, not one of the 142 questioned actually had a preference for working for a female partner.
Another informal survey found that almost 7 out of 10 men said they preferred to work for a man. Even more women (3 out of 4) said they preferred to work for a man. Only a third of men and a quarter of women said they preferred to work for a woman.
See the full article on these surveys.
Originally posted in SGANDA in 2010