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Breaking Down The Real Value Behind Apple’s Recent Leadership Transition

By Pat Shea and Al Emerick

Business Insider (BI) recently published an article detailing Apple CEO, Tim Cook’s announcement of the departure of Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts and the installation of her replacement, long time Apple leader, Deirdre O’Brien.  BI obtained an internal email from Cook to employees in which he announced that O’brien’s new role will include People and Retail and include responsibility for over 70,000 employees in more than 500 retail stores.  Within the email there is a treasure chest of language which speaks to the value Ahrendts and O’Brien have brought, and O’Brien will bring to Apple in the future. What was missing from the communique was any mention of revenue, stock price or shareholder value. Instead, Cook spoke of “love,” “inspiration,” “people,” “collaboration,” and “relationships.” Was this fluff designed to smooth the rails of transition, or was it a reflection of the other side of value we typically pay less attention to; why people care and how they feel?

Connecting The Head and Heart: Words Matter

Regardless of whether you are CEO of a company like Apple or own a small business, it stands to reason that amidst change, others will read your words with greater attention and focus in search of meaning, connection and clues; especially those invested in your future. Here, we want to focus on some of the words, themes and language Cook uses to “hail” Deirdre and “farewell” Angela. Below are quoted excerpts from his email communication obtained by BI.

“I’m writing to let you know about an important leadership change. Today we’re announcing the promotion of one of Apple’s most passionate and experienced advocates for our customers and employees — and the departure of a much-loved and accomplished leader who has played a transformative role in shaping Apple’s retail experiences.”

What’s Here: Immediate connection to the human and core aspects of the two leaders.

What’s Missing (with good reason): Distant language that sterilizes the transition.

“After five years leading Apple’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts is planning to leave Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits. Angela has inspired and energized our retail teams with the vision of stores as a place where the best of Apple comes together to serve customers and communities. During her tenure, the in-store experience has been redefined with programs like Today at Apple, and our relationship with customers is stronger than ever.

This transition gives us an opportunity to reinforce and carry forward the values that make our retail and online stores the best in the world — and our mission to enrich the lives of others. As I’ve said many times, Apple’s greatest asset is its people. And with that in mind, the best choice to lead our team became clear very quickly.”

What’s Here: Impact is led by the emotional outcomes. Business outcomes are still addressed but are identified as related to the emotional leadership drivers. Cook also ties Ahrendts’ outcomes to mission and vision. Lastly, he defines loud and clear what Apple’s greatest asset is, not just one person.

What’s Missing (with good reason): Data, facts and figures that will distract employees (the target audience for this memo) and that they likely don’t care about, understand or view as important yet.

“I am thrilled to announce that Deirdre O’Brien will be taking responsibility for our retail teams in a new role as senior vice president of Retail + People. Deirdre brings insight and experience gained over 30 years at Apple — decades spent focusing on the connection between customers and the people and processes that serve them. Working collaboratively across Apple, Deirdre and her teams empower people to lead with purpose and humanity.

Deirdre was part of the team that planned and launched Apple’s very first online and retail stores. She has been a part of Retail’s exciting expansion and every product launch since. She knows the value of the deep human connections that retail experiences make possible — and she knows this is where Apple shows its heart and soul.”

What’s Here: Clarification of O’Briens’ position and scope of responsibility validated by her impact and connection to people.

What’s Missing (with good reason): Fiscal and operational performance statistics, benchmarks and numbers; in other words, distractions from Cook’s most important message, humanity and people.

“In her capacity as vice president of People, Deirdre and her team have brought elevated focus to how Apple inspires, connects, develops and cares for its employees — essential efforts that she will continue companywide through the People team in her new and expanded role.

As we look forward, finding new ways to elevate our in-store and online experiences, forging deeper relationships with the customers who love our products, I believe that our team, at every level, is the best in the business. I am grateful to Angela for all she’s done for Apple, and I’m looking forward to what Deirdre will bring to her new role. To everyone in Retail, and our employees worldwide, thanks for all you do to help dreamers become doers, to expand human potential and to do the best work of our lives.”

What’s Here: Cook identifies a clear connection between Apple’s success and their commitment to caring for employees. He further acknowledges and promotes O’Brien’s leadership both influencing and maintaining that commitment. Lastly, he closes with a clear connection back to Apple’s core values and the belief in human potential and discovery.

What’s Missing (with good reason): A laundry list of adjectives which could come across as contrived. Overstating wild goals, unrealistic expectations. Any mention of revenue, stock price or shareholder value.


Change Is About People First

In a May 2018 article, Successfully Transitioning To New Leadership Roles, McKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Mary Meaney outline five dimensions for leaders to strategize and manage transition: function, culture, team, yourself, and other stakeholders. The common theme throughout each of these is people, human beings. According to Keller and Meany, leaders rank organizational politics as the main challenge within leadership transition.

“68 percent of transitions founder on issues related to politics, culture, and people, and 67 percent of leaders wish they had moved faster to change the culture.”

Employees look to leaders as guides to the organization’s value, especially in times of change. In business, we tend to view change as an absolute; it will either bring pleasure or it will bring pain. It is a leader’s responsibility to shape, define, communicate, and execute the change to arrive at the desired impact. Whereas many leaders focus more on the cognitive aspects of impact, ValueMapping™ defines impact as a sum balance of both emotional (“heart” – care and feelings) and cognitive (“head” – problem, solution and outcome) impact. Viewed through this lens, Cook makes a very clear statement about what this transition means for Apple and the impact he expects. No doubt, revenue is always top of mind and  on the line; but guiding this change are the people and culture. These are what Cook sees as the drivers that create the output of increased revenue, stock price and shareholder value.

About Pat: Pat excels at constructing and developing high performing teams and has a gift of seeing the “Value theory” in action in both individuals and teams. He has dedicated a professional lifetime of leadership as a former US Navy officer and non-profit executive to help individuals and teams aspire to and meet “big hairy audacious goals.” Pat is a Master Training Specialist with graduate degrees in business administration and international relations.

About Al: Human connectivity is the foundation for Al whose career has remained rooted in communication, leadership and messaging. Al, who holds an Executive MBA in leadership, founded ValueMapping to help society more deeply understand and be able to authentically communicate value through impact. Today, ValueMapping lifts private industry, non-profit, small business, and individuals through consulting, workshops and online training.



Your 2019 Strategy and Goals: Why the High Gears of Leadership Become the Crying Tears of the Company

Isn’t it exciting? Planning for the new year and how your business will fly! Ideas flow, numbers crunch, there’s a battle for selection and then…BAM! The 2019 goals and strategy emerge from the womb of the leadership team like a glistening new baby whose cry sounds like pure joy and happiness.

But then, January shows up with a huge frown and that baby’s cute cry turns out to be colic. Why? Because you realize the people responsible for execution don’t fully understand the value of your strategy and goals. Nor do they understand the value they bring to the table personally or departmentally. This is so common and is why the high gears of leadership become the crying tears of the company; there is misalignment which puts the year at risk. Some would say, “Wait Al, my folks know what to do to make this happen. They know their roles!” – Sorry, that’s not enough. People need to know more than “what to do.” The managers and employees who will do the heavy lifting need to more deeply understand the value and impact of the strategy and goals as well as the value and impact they personally provide to them. They also need to be able to communicate and connect with leaders around that value and impact. Only then can you truly align your organization horizontally and vertically.

At ValueMapping™, we live in this world everyday. This “value alignment” challenge exists in organizations across every business and non-profit landscape, regardless of size and scale. Fear not however, there is a path to shed the crying tears and shift back into high gear for 2019 quickly and efficiently.

Ask The Right Questions Right Now – The ValueEquation™
This does not have to be complicated, nor should it be. First sit down again with your leaders one on one (saves potential ego bruising) and ask them:

  • Word of Value: What one word most clearly defines the value of each of these goals/strategies?
  • Why: Why did you choose that word?
  • Impact: What will be the impact of that word to your teams, our customers and our company?

These questions force them to narrow their thoughts to more clearly focus on what matters – the relationship between value and impact. This creates a very efficient way for you to clarify their understanding of your vision or to determine if you are not in sync. Check out the video below for an example. The ValueEquation provides an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and wipes away assumptions. Its simplicity and directness works for any type of goal or strategy in any business, non profit or government sector.

 

Scaling Organizationally
Once you’ve had this dialogue with your leadership, have them ask the same questions of their management and staff and cascade down. This is the core of where all the hard work will be done. Look for key indicators of misalignment:

  • The why behind the Word of Value is not clear or is out of sync with the desired direction
  • The Impact is unclear, unrealistic or unknown
  • There is heavy disagreement

That’s not to say the words don’t have to be the same, that’s unrealistic. However the why and impact have to have some common ground. They inform the intent which is where the truth lies. If the people charged with executing your strategy and goals are disconnected or don’t understand the value of those goals and strategy, all your efforts are at risk. Departments and teams must understand and be able to communicate the value of their work functionally and cross-functionally otherwise risk silos, redundancy and potentially, failure.

Keeping Your Direction in High Gear
A ValueEquation looks at a single moment in time. As such, it is important to revisit the alignment of your goals and strategy. Make time to regularly check in and ask these questions. Don’t leave anything to assumption, especially if the goals and strategy changes which occurs so often. If you want to ensure your organization is walking step in step to achieve the business outcomes you’re investing in, then make time for meaningful dialogue by focusing on value expressed through impact.

3 Risks of Not Knowing Your Value and What You Can Do About It

Last week, I posted on my Thursday Thoughts ValueMapping™ Video Blog about Value at Risk. Since then I’ve had some great dialogue on the topic so I thought I would expand here while offering some solutions.

“What’s your value?” That’s a pretty heavy question isn’t it? Let me be more specific: What’s your individual value to your customer? What’s your individual value to your company? What’s your company’s value to your community? What’s your company’s value to its employees? What’s your company’s value to its customers?

If you are a leader, executive or entrepreneur and you haven’t asked these questions, why not? If you are a leader, executive or entrepreneur and you have asked any or all of these questions but not dedicated time to find your answers, why not? Because guess what; your employees and customers have and they expect and are demanding an answer! So what’s the hold up? A newly appointed CEO once told me jokingly (but she was totally and nervously serious), “How the hell can I sell value when our own people wouldn’t know it if it hit them in the face?”

If your head has just blown off your shoulders, you’re offended or slightly frustrated; I am sorry…but good! After more than 700 engagements with dozens of companies, employees, leaders and organizations, here’s 180 seconds of content which I’ve found to be “value motivators.” 

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A Lesson In Value From First Responders

2017 has been anything but quiet for natural disasters. We have had hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, floods and most recently;  the strong Santa Ana winds blowing over southern California creating the third largest disastrous wildfire on record. More than 200,000 acres of land have been burned, over 8,000 firefighters with heavy equipment and helicopters are doing whatever it takes to keep growing the percentage of fires contained in the area; and still, only 35% of the wildfires are contained.

During this time, we marvel at the courage, strength, dedication and commitment of First Responders and those who support them. Firefighters, local police and paramedics are risking their lives working around the clock and through the night to help save families and evacuate people from the raging fires that are rapidly spreading and destroying everything in their path. Their impact is evident as lives are saved, homes secured, people and animals are transported to safety. When people ask these men and women what they do and they say “I’m a fireman,” “I’m a first responder,” or “I’m a paramedic,” we are grateful and express our thanks for their bravery, efforts, contributions and heroic acts.

All of this led me to think about the everyday heroes who we work with, sit next to in our community and meet in business. What do they say when they are asked, “What do you do?” and how do we respond when they say, “I’m a lawyer,” “I’m a garbage man,” “I’m an electrician,” or “I’m a secretary?” We often do not get to see or take time to think about their impact and we likely don’t consider them heroes. Why not? 

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Your Value: Trick or Treat

It’s Halloween and that means costumes, candy and spooky things. Which got me thinking, that sounds a lot like the concept of “value.” Now, you may be asking, “what in Hellraiser’s name are you talking about Al?” Bear with me for a moment and allow me to indulge you in some treats with real impact.

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The Value Of Our Labor

Regardless of whether we work or not on Labor Day, the September holiday remains a significant cultural passing of the baton from summer to fall. As millions of Americans enjoy the day today free from the constraints of the time clock, we value the time with family, relaxation, great food, amazing sights we see. For those working on the clock, perhaps they value the increased business growth, exposure and opportunity. This drove me to consider the “value” we all share on this day as well as the 364 other days of the year.

According to the U.S.Department of Labor, the Labor Day holiday is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Labor Day is a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

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How to Communicate your Value to Grow your Business

by 

Let me ask you 2 questions.
My first one: What is your value?
And my second one: What are your values?
Were you able to answer these quite quickly because you had already done the reflection or you had no words?
Well, here is some help for you.
This episode.

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Amazon: The Undisputed King of Value

$1 Billion in sales in one day! That’s what it is estimated that Amazon did during their Amazon Prime Day recently. But how is this possible for a company which just over 20 years ago was not on anyone’s radar except for avid readers intrigued by the ability to buy books online? The answer…VALUE!

Amazon understands that true Value is not just about the “what” and “how” you buy, but the “impact” of the what and how.

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One Battle VC’s and Start-ups Have to Win to Survive!

Values Versus Value

It can be an exciting and exhilarating time. Imagine how it must feel to be a confident entrepreneur armed with your ambition and a venture backed war chest. Rules be damned, it’s time to change the world.

…and this is a good thing, until of course, it’s not.

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The One Question That Could Ignite Your Company’s Future

One question can make the difference in the direction of your company. The answer to that question can be a powerful pivot point for your value story.

The one question? What is the one word that you feel best defines your value?

The answer could describe an individual’s value, a product’s value or the entire company’s value. Sometimes the answer comes easily, and other times people really struggle with it. It is a riveting process to see.

Why do we start out with this question? It’s like the science of distillation—a refining process that collects the pure essence of a substance. The challenge to come up with one word prompts people to focus their thoughts about what makes them, their product—or their organization—special.

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