Tag Archives: New York Times

March 14, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

What every company should learn from Goldman Sachs

I’m sure the water coolers on Wall Street are buzzing over this piece, “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” which appeared in today’s New York Times. The world’s communal water cooler – Twitter – certainly is.

A damning recitation of changes in culture, lack of ethics and putting profits ahead of people – this piece confirms what we all suspected was happening behind the scenes at the big banks, but until now, couldn’t prove.

It certainly isn’t the first time these accusations have been leveled at Goldman Sachs or any of its investment bank peers.  But unlike most exposes, this isn’t informed by unnamed sources or disgruntled employees firing back after dismissal.  Rather, this is the tale of an executive who worked his way up from an internship at Goldman Sachs, who once believed so strongly in the core mission of the firm, he appeared in the recruiting video shown at every college campus in the nation.

But after 12 years at the firm, he could no longer look recruits in the eye and tell them Goldman is a great place to work. And so he did the noble thing – he left. And then he wrote this piece, powerful in its simplicity, notable in its lack of exaggerated accusations, and backed by the ultimate action – walking away from a great, presumably high-paying job.

No doubt the pundits and spin doctors will have loads of advice and counsel to help Goldman Sachs counter this piece and discredit its former executive. But these approaches are ill-advised, only reinforcing his main message: the culture at Goldman is indeed, awry.

In my view, his most serious accusation is his assertion that Goldman leadership lost hold of the culture – and replaced it with one where it was all about profits for the firm, not about what was best for the clients.

Let this be a cautionary tale for every professional service company – when you put your own needs ahead of your clients, you’ve lost your way.  When that event becomes commonplace, you’ve lost your culture.   What comes next?  Losing your clients, and ultimately your business. 

A professional service firm should be professional, and it must serve.  To borrow from SNL’s Coffee Talk – discuss amongst yourselves

My advice for Goldman? Demonstration is more powerful than discussion. When your reputation is under attack, these issues can only be fixed from the inside out, leading with your policies, your people, and more importantly your practices.  To be the gold standard again, Goldman needs to act like it.  Employees need to understand that the firm is only as good as the actions and choices of each individual.  Reputation, like charity,  begins at home.  

Next, clients need to be assured that their interests are being served, above all else. That, more than profits, their business is what matters most. But trust isn’t earned in a day – it’s earned every day. So keep working hard every day to build it back.

Finally, understand that there is no silver bullet or easy fix to counter the proponderence of evidence that something is amiss at Goldman Sachs.  Might some bold, symbolic moves or changes be helpful?  Sure.  But, while reputations can be blown in an instant, they can only be repaired slowly, over time.  Start now.

October 5, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

Finally, some good PR for PR: Amanda Knox’s Reputation Rehab

Amanda Knox arrived home in Seattle last night, tearfully thanked her supporters, pinched herself to be sure it was real, then went home to sleep in her own bed after four years in an Italian prison.   Four years is a long time to remain relevant in the American psyche…and I’ll admit that I didn’t follow her case week by week, blow by blow.  But I do remember early reports of the wild, promiscuous girl partying, I mean studying, abroad.  Fast forward two trials and four years, and we see a completely different picture – one of the girl next door – our sister, our daughter, our BFF.   That’s quite a reputational turnaround.

This story in the New York Times is one of the few I’ve seen recently that provides a realistic, constructive view about the role of PR – in litigation support and in reputation management – rather than the popular hobby of bashing the “spin doctors.”   With time, diligence and working with the media – vs. trying to either ignore them, trick them or bully them, Amanda Knox’s family successfully evolved her from “Foxy Knoxy” to the accurate view of a girl unfortunately caught up in a wrong place, wrong time scenario, halfway around the world.

Would an image overhaul alone have secured the reversal of her conviction?  Not likely.   But when the DNA evidence came in to play, the image of the demure girl next door gave the judges and jury emotional permission to reverse that decision – and the public “air cover” for doing so.

That, my friends, is a good day – for Amanda Knox.  And for our industry.

August 1, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Leadership Lesson: Trust Begins at Home

If you read this blog, you already know that I love the Sunday columns in the New York Times, especially “Corner Office.”  This week’s column features the new CEO of Siemens, and reaffirmed many of the things I’ve long believed, advocated and practiced about CEO transitions….you begin by listening, trust is earned and the importance of diversity of thought and experience in the team that surrounds a CEO (A place where the “yes-men” phenomenon tends to thrive).

But what really caught my attention was the emphasis on trust…internally…as the foundation of great teams.  At MWW Group, our POV is simple, and straightforward:

TRUST + RELEVANCE = ACTION

Typically, and particularly in our current environment, the discussion of trust centers largely around earning and preserving the trust of your stakeholders – mostly customers, investors and other external constituencies.

The notion that teams can’t function well…that leaders can’t effectively lead…unless there is trust inside the organization is an important one.   Today, we are talking about it as an issue of effectiveness.  But for those thinking beyond the immediate 10 percent unemployment reality, it is also the key to retaining talent.  Great employees have job opportunities in any economy.  And when the power shifts in the talent equation back to the employees, trust will be a key driver of whether your team sticks, or moves on.

How can a leader foster trust internally?

  • Tell your own stories….share news (good or bad) before they hear it somewhere else.
  • Share the credit…no one wants to worry that their boss (or their boss’ boss) is taking credit for their ideas, their work or their success.
  • Review your actions….does what you DO match what you say?  Do you claim to hate internal politics, yet reward the political operatives with plum assignments?  Do employees who challenge conventional wisdom get rewarded?  Or sent to career Siberia?
  • Review your policies – do you restrict your team from use of social media, because you are afraid of what they will say?  Do you have overly restrictive policies governing employee’s time?

Trust is a two way street.  You have to give it, to get it.

 

October 25, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Media Free Agency

It’s no secret seismic shifts are happening in media. Recently, the New York Times’ David Carr discussed his own transition to an online media outlet back in 2000 in light of two notable moves from top-tier print titles to online properties: Howard Kurtz (the “epicenter of mainstream media” according to Carr) from the Washington Post to The Daily Beast, and Howard Fineman from Newsweek to The Huffington Post.

While the move of prominent journalists from top-tier print to online-only outlets is a trend that is certainly newsworthy, I’m not convinced it tells the full story of what’s happening. What’s going on is far more than just Kurtz and Fineman, and not simply a shift from print to online.

When you think about the most influential names in certain corners of the media landscape – Politico’s Mike Allen, Fox’s Glenn Beck, Time/CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, among others – each of these individuals have become a transferable brand in their own right. There have always been famous journalists, but their outlet largely tied their recognition as a brand to a geography, specific medium, or outlet. Presently, there is a rapidly expanding group of brand names who are able to jump across mediums and outlets seamlessly, enabled and encouraged by the integration and digitization of media.

Examining the careers of two of the best known journalists in the nation – Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and Bob Schieffer of CBS News – both have been with their respective outlets for roughly 40 years. Can we imagine a relatively young but similarly eponymous reporter like Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times or Anderson Cooper of CNN to stay with their outlets for even the next 20 years? Already Cooper has branched out to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and Sorkin’s book on the financial collapse, “Too Big to Fail”, resulted in more than modest grumbling in the newsroom about clashes with the traditional Times culture.

In short, we’re entering a period of media free agency. With little effort, audiences are now able to follow their favorite and most trusted reporters to new outlets and mediums, providing negotiating leverage beyond skill and experience for reporters who build a loyal audience. As an ancillary motivator, with ongoing layoffs at many top-tier media brands and online/integrated outlets having built scale to pay a premium, journalists are incentivized to build their own brand and look for greener pastures. It’ll be interesting to watch how this trend evolves, affects the cache of certain outlets relative to others, and changes how and what content outlets present.

June 4, 2010 | msacks | Tagged ,

NYT v. WSJ: Headed to the Mattresses

Mark Twain said, “Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel.” But what happens when both sides have ink (print, digital and otherwise) to spare?

You get this: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have been mixing it up ever since Rupert Murdoch bought The Journal.

Now, we’re reaching a bit of a crescendo in this scrap. The Times is taking exception to the tongue-in-cheek, finger-in-the-eye ad campaign that The Journal has been running since introducing its Greater New York section, widely considered to be another strategic move to supplant The Times.

Perhaps not as down and dirty as the Hearst v. Pulitzer fight for audience supremacy of the New York newspaper business in the 1890s, but still fun to watch.

Relative to reputation, something like this – to a degree – gives both media brands a bit of a shot in the arm because it forces both to improve. Every now and again, we like to see two big boys going after each other. Pepsi v. Coke. Bud Light v. Miller Light. Apple v. Mac. And if the end result is excellent journalism, we all benefit.

To paraphrase another great thinker and social observer, Clemenza from The Godfather, let’s go to the mattresses.

This is what I’m talking about. A battle in and for the streets of New York.