Archive for the ‘Employees’ Category

Service of Admiration for a Modest & Successful Fashion Icon: Eileen Fisher

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Eileen Fisher. Photo: famousfashiondesigners.org

I have always admired fashion designer Eileen Fisher for her simple silhouettes and comfortable clothes and over many years have mentioned to countless other designers the genius of her marketing strategy: In her ads she was the first that I can recall to feature models of all ages, often in one photo.

I didn’t know anything about Ms. Fisher until I read David Gelles’ article in The New York Times, “It Would Be Better Not to Call Eileen Fisher a Boss.” Her business approach is as smart and unusual as her using young, middle aged and old mannequins to show off her clothes and accessories. She sports the same hair color—white—as some of the women dressed in her fashions.

Photo: inhabitat.com

There’s no CEO at her company because of “Ms. Fisher’s belief that consensus is more important than urgency and that collaboration is more effective than hierarchy,” Gelles wrote. And her 30-something year old business is successful. Owned by Ms. Fisher and her employees, annual sales are around $500 million. “And at a moment when many consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality, sustainability and durability, the company’s longstanding values are deeply relevant.”

She lived in a chaotic household as a child with nobody telling the kids what to do so having a boss in her first job at Burger King at 15 was “kind of strange for me” she told Gelles. She said she had an authority problem.

Photo: fashionoverfifty.com

“I wanted to create a place where people weren’t powering over people. Where people were kind and people were together and shared.”

In New York she started in interior design and when she went to Japan with her then Japanese partner and first saw the kimono she was “very intrigued by the way it moved…..I was fascinated by the idea that one design, one shape, could transcend time, and be made new just by different patterns and colors.” Her fashions revolve around eight basic pieces to which she adds or subtracts a few pieces every season. Her customers read The New York Times and The New Yorker, not Vogue.

She started her fashion company with $350 in the bank, going by subway, carrying the pieces she cut on the floor of her loft in garbage bags to a factory in Queens. She sold those clothes–$40,000 worth– at a boutique show.

Photo: wallawallaclothing.com

“I think of myself as leading through the idea, trying to help people understand what I’m trying to do, or what the project is about, and engaging them. I always think about leading through listening. I was a designer, so I didn’t have preconceived ideas of how this business works.”

The company has a leadership group, a board and she’s founder and chairwoman of the board, “but that’s not really what I do.” She thinks “co-creation and collaboration absolutely can work in a big company.”

The company offers generous benefits, Gelles reported, and employees own much of it. Ms. Fisher says she knows that the sense of ownership works when she hears in a meeting, “don’t spend my money on that.” Ms Fisher thinks “corporations should have to share a minimum 10 percent of their profits with the people working. It’s not socialism, it’s good for business.”

Have you worked for an employer like this? Would you have fit in? Are you surprised at how successful this business is especially in the fashion world with a reputation for rough gruff souls and primadonnas galore?

 

Eileen Fisher Photo: shopdropapp.com

 

Service of What Were They Hoping For: Legitimizing Tattletales?

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Tattletale

Meg Halverson, a management consultant, wrote an article, “Cruel, Not Constructive, Criticism,” about 360 review feedback in the workplace for the Sunday New York Times Business Section. The reviews “which consist of anonymous feedback from subordinates, peers and supervisors,” she explained, usually happen when an employee is being considered for promotion or firing.

Esso logoWikipedia has other names for this type of review which it also calls 360-degree feedback, multi-rater feedback, multisource feedback or multi source assessment. The site attributes the German military in World War II as first to use the technique and next Esso Research and Engineering Company in the 1950s. The system, which has been used by companies all along, increased in popularity with the advent of online surveys that saved a lot of time and paper.

What Halverson described was no surprise: If you are given highlights of largely negative reviews after a mostly negative discussion about your performance, best type up your resume. On the other hand, watch out if you are in line for a promotion as “peers may be envious and wish to cause damage. Mangers may want to demonstrate their own superiority. And people who report to the person being reviewed may have an ax to grind.” She gave as an example that it could be payback time if the target of the review had refused the respondent’s request for vacation.

Pink slipHalverson reported that much time is lost as the review recipient tries to spec out who wrote the negative comment. And this type of review also “damages team dynamic.”

Yet the impact isn’t uniformly negative, posited Halverson. In a collaborative corporate environment, “a 360 offers the opportunity to indicate support for a fellow employee’s approach to a difficult problem, or even an alternative accounting of what happened in a crisis. And in the case of an employee with a weak or misinformed manager, a review can sometimes provide protection.”

Nevertheless Halverson observed that in most cases bad behavior is the result. A review of high level executives “may be more of a commentary on executives’ popularity than on their effectiveness.” She concluded that this type of review is “seldom worth the investment” of time–three weeks to solicit and collate the reviews and for human resources staff to prep the person who delivers review results. In addition the anonymity and generic nature of the reviews don’t “make people better at their jobs,” she wrote.

Do you know people who have participated in or been the target of a 360 review? Does this method of assessing employee performance seem like a good idea to you?

Employee performance

Service of Holacracy

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

 

Confusion

“Holacracy is a radically different management system that changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed. 300+ organizations are already running with holacracy”– http://holacracy.org/

 

 

zappos 1The policy at Zappos, according to Rachel Emma Silverman, has been to pay a month’s salary to any new hire who wants to quit because Tony Hsieh, whom Silverman called “the leader,” only wants employees who are “truly excited” to work there. From one to three percent accept the offer. Now, for the same reason, he’ll pay at least three months severance to any employee who isn’t comfortable with a change in management structure and 14 percent—210 people–accepted the severance. Zappos is an online retailer, originally headquartered in San Francisco and now in Nevada, that sells shoes and clothing.

In her Wall Street Journal article “At Zappos, Some Employees Find Offer to Leave Too Good to Refuse,” I first heard about Holacracy. Silverman wrote: “The exodus comes amid the company’s transition to an unusual management structure called Holacracy, in which employees essentially manage themselves, without traditional bosses or job titles.”

Leaving the companySilverman continued: “The company has acknowledged that the transition to this new form of self-management has been a difficult one. In March, Mr. Hsieh sent a 4,700-word memo to staff stating that Zappos, an independent subsidiary of Amazon.com, was taking too much time switching to this new management structure.” That’s when he offered the severance.

On May 20th, Silverman wrote a front page Wall Street Journal article, “At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion,” which goes into the concept more fully. In the second article Silverman quotes 26 year old Brironni Alex: “I am managing the work, but before I was managing the worker.” Silverman continued: “Ms. Alex says the changes give her more time for a workplace diversity committee and to perform on the Zappos dance team.” Alex is also on the team to convert the company to the new management system.

The article was illustrated by a wall of cut-off neckties because of the retailer’s “no neckties allowed” policy. I saw this at a steakhouse in Dallas, Texas some 20 years ago so I was surprised a company that tries to distinguish itself by being hip fell for such a tired idea.

It’s unusual enough to motivate employees to stay by paying them to leave. It will be interesting to follow the success of the self-management style which is great for self-starter types that most people claim they are during job interviews. Entrepreneurial types would also excel.

Have you heard of Holacracy before? Do you know anyone who has worked in such a management system? Have you instituted a new system or worked at a company that did? What was it like? Do you think people make such changes to keep employees alert and on their toes?

confusing management chart

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