A New CEO May Improve Uber's Tarnished Brand, but It Should Never Have Needed Brand Rehab in the First Place
Ousted CEO Travis Kalanick provides lessons on avoiding brand self-destruction.
For most of the past year, we’ve watched Uber embark on a free fall of brand self-destruction. At times, this negative spiral was caused by its own internal culture, at other times it was perpetuated by its senior leadership and ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.
The corporate world is filled with entrepreneurial types who work to create shareholder value for their companies only to sabotage that growth with counterproductive leadership behavior. They're all smart, determined, self-reliant and possess a “by any means necessary” view of the world. But, sometimes those very same characteristics can be self-destructive as a company grows.
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When you move up the leadership ladder, your behavioral skills can make the difference between being an excellent leader or a complete train wreck. We can learn what not to do by studying the recent Uber management missteps and avoid the self-destructive behaviors that lead to brand self-destruction.
Here are 5 key takeaways we can all learn from the mismanagement of Uber's brand reputation.
1. Live your core values.
Core values are the deeply held principles that guide your decisions, things you’ll never compromise on, no matter the cost to your business. When it comes to claims of sexual harassment, sexism and corporate espionage fall squarely on the shoulders of the CEO. In the case of Uber, is it creating value for customers, employees and shareholders, or is it about winning by any means necessary?
The culture of a company is built on the foundation of your core values. The most common core value examples are honesty, integrity and equality. And when you are crystal clear about what they mean and the behaviors that are and are not acceptable, core values serve as a filter that every employee can use to make business decisions for the organization.
2. Let your leaders lead.
The CEO is responsible for leading the development and execution of the company's long-term strategy to create shareholder value. Part of that duty includes putting the right people in the right positions and creating an environment in which they can succeed. That is probably the single most important thing a CEO can do. With the right team, all things are possible. With the wrong team, nothing else matters.
Stonewalling the board's efforts to install new leadership, perpetuating high turnover or rejecting staff members’ ideas outright are all instances in which you can prevent your organization -- or, at the very least, critical components within it -- from being successful in their mission.
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3. Be honest.
As hundreds of psychological studies have shown, few qualities are more desirable at work than integrity, and this is particularly true in management and leadership jobs. But, many successful leaders get lulled into the belief that breaking the rules is necessary for fast growth. But, the ramifications of secretive and quasi-honest decision-making can wreak havoc on any organization.
Making a decision because you believe you know better or because you think it will help you get ahead -- even when you know that it may be perceived as dishonest by customers, employees and shareholders -- is one of the most dangerous acts a leader can make.
4. Take ownership of all problems.
“Like malignant tumors, negative attitudes spread throughout organizations until everyone is playing ‘the blame game’ and avoiding responsibility for the problems they create,” according to Harvard Business School Senior Fellow Bill George.
George is right on the money with his assertions about the ramifications of negativity permeating throughout an entire company. It’s a disease -- and often one that’s borne from those in leadership roles.
Regardless of your position at your company, it’s essential to have an attitude of “taking ownership.” This positive attitude will not only help you thrive on the job but also help others -- those you manage and those to whom you report -- to step up their games and do their work to their absolute utmost potential.
You don’t necessarily need to harness your inner Tony Robbins, but you also can’t fall into the trap of complacency, antagonism or even anger about the problems in your organization. Be a problem-solver, not a problem-creator, and your work and the work of those around you will flourish.
5. Be transparent with your team.
Transparency is obviously a buzzword. It sounds great when you drop it in a conversation during board meetings and the ubiquitous all-hands. But, it’s much harder to be transparent during the day-to-day bustle of work.
Nearly two-thirds of workers who responded to a 2016 BetterWorks employee sentiment survey indicated they think their organizational leadership isn't transparent when it pertains to sharing long-term business goals. What’s more, nearly two in five of these individuals said they wanted greater visibility into these long-term objectives to better their jobs and provide more value to their companies.
When there’s data like this to show what the modern workforce wants and expects from their businesses, it’s pretty clear that leaders at small businesses and Fortune 1000 companies need to be transparent to keep their employees happy and operating at full capacity.
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