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    Published on: May 14, 2013

    by Michael Sansolo

    Among all the issues MNB readers care about and follow, there’s probably few less pressing that the National Hockey League playoffs. Sure, there are some rabid fans (me included) and I’m sure I’ll hear from all of them now.

    But the sad truth is that despite the excitement of the game, it goes largely unnoticed. That means that only a small minority of you have heard of Adam Oates and a coaching style with lessons for managers everywhere.

    First the details: Oates, a former hall-of-fame player, became coach of the Washington Capitals this season. His debut season got off to a late start thanks to a players’ strike and the new coach had to deal with a truncated training schedule. In sports, that’s a huge handicap for a new coach. Not surprisingly, the team got off to a terrible start only to rally toward the end of the season, making the playoffs before their elimination last night.

    The real story is the attitude Oates takes toward coaching and how that explains his ability to win and keep the confidence of his players.

    It comes down to something that every manager should remember: we’ve all had bosses whose styles we loved and also those whose styles we hated. The question is which style do we employ when we are put in charge. Sadly, I know too many managers who ended up using exactly the tactics they chaffed at when they were underlings.

    Since we all know that managers determine employee loyalty, tenure and success, Oates’ approach is so interesting.

    Frequently in sports we see endless stories of the truly horrible style of coaching. Beyond the extreme examples - think of the Rutgers basketball coach fired recently for physically and verbally berating his players - we hear of the screamers and yellers. That’s a position Oates could have easily taken when his team won only two of its first 11 games.

    Instead, Oates reflected on the styles he preferred as a player or underling. For him, yelling never worked - calm coaching did.

    "It really is what I wanted and what I responded to as a player," Oates said in one interview in Washington. "I showed up for work so I didn't need to be yelled at. Whether a coach liked me or not is irrelevant. You didn't have to yell at me to get your point across."

    One Caps player said the coach’s balanced style was exactly what he and other players wanted. "Back in the day, yelling was the thing," said the player. "You yell and guys will step up with what they're doing. Nowadays, it's changed. It's just generations. There's more communication and respect from the coaches to players."

    That an instructive comment, especially today when managers are struggling to motivate and cope with the different styles of a multi-generational workforce. I’d argue that yelling, micro-managing or overbearing behavior is never the way to go and it certainly doesn’t click with the younger generation.

    Oates takes it even further. His comments show an understanding of management that would work anywhere.

    "I could easily just point to a guy and go, 'Be there.' But I'd rather show it to him," Oates said. "Maybe he learns and it makes sense to him why he should be there. And that way the learning curve grows, and you don't have to keep going over the same thing. I also don't want to wear them out. I don't want them to get sick of me too soon."

    Sounds like reasonable advice for any manager.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    You can stop doing your Fathers Day shopping right now. The Yankee Candle Co. has the answer.

    The Boston Globe reports that Yankee Candle "is unveiling some new offerings for its Man Candles collection, including one that is redolent of bacon and another that emits the fragrance of movie-house popcorn."

    Man Candles were first introduced last year, with scents that included "'Riding Mower, which features the intensely summery scent of freshly cut grass,' and 'Man Town,' which is supposed to buck up a man cave with 'a masculine blend of spices, woods, and musk'."

    Is this a great country or what?
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    The New York Times reports that several global apparel companies have come to an agreement with authorities in Bangladesh "to a landmark plan to help pay for fire safety and building improvements after the collapse last month of the Rana Plaza factory complex, which killed more than 1,100 people.

    "The agreement, hailed by labor and consumer groups as a major breakthrough, came as the Bangladeshi government also took steps to respond to the April 24 disaster at Rana Plaza outside Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. In the last two days, the government has pledged to raise wages for garment workers and change labor laws to make it easier to form trade unions."

    These moves are seen as breaking a vicious cycle that has contributed to a toxic environment for many workers in Bangladesh, where employees can make as little as $37 a month for working in unsafe conditions, and yet global brands "have often sought to deflect any direct responsibility for the problems, while the government has often been tepid in protecting worker rights."

    Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Walmart has "called on the Bangladesh government on Monday to stop production at one apparel factory and investigate the condition at another until workers' safety could be assured ... Walmart said that it had stopped production at Stitch Tone Apparels factory because it had discovered that a neighboring factory had structural problems.

    "It also said inspectors who had been contracted by Walmart had reported a potentially dangerous condition at another one of the factories Walmart uses, Liz Apparels factory. The inspectors notified the government, the factory owner and other companies that contract with the facility.

    "Walmart called on other companies to halt their production in these facilities."
    KC's View:
    I think it is fine for companies to help pay for safety improvements and call for the Bangladesh government to do a better job of inspecting buildings and assuring that they are up to safety codes.

    In the end, however, retailers have the ultimate hammer - they can refuse to do business with suppliers that are manufacturing product under questionable conditions and exploiting workers. And they can come down with that hammer with speed and force, making all the difference in the world if they stand for something other than cheap goods.

    In our environment of transparency, it is critical for these companies to know exactly what is going on in all these factories, and to make sure that they live up to standards that they - and their customers - find to be acceptable. They are responsible, in the end, and can be held culpable. Ignorance is not a defense. Inexpensive goods are not an excuse.

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    Advertising Age reports that less than two weeks after JC Penney began running commercials apologizing for making changes that many of its customers did not like, and promising to do a better job listening to shoppers, it now is running a commercial that thanks customers for coming back to the retailer.

    That's right. The turnaround only took two weeks.

    The commercials are a response to the misguided - or, at the very least, badly implemented - strategy developed by former Apple Stores chief Ron Johnson, who was hired by JC Penney to rejuvenate the company. Johnson's approach was to eliminate the specials and coupons driven marketing plan and go to EDLP; that resulted in plummeting sales, profits and customer traffic, which then resulted in Johnson being fired and replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman III.
    KC's View:
    It seems to me that while JC Penney is trying to make a big deal out of the fact that it is listening to customers, the fact that it has followed up its "please forgive us" ad so quickly with a "thanks for coming back" ad suggests that this is all part of an advertising strategy that has nothing to do with listening, and everything to do with trying to control the message.

    It is a crock.

    And if JCP's board thinks that this is the way to be nimble, relevant and vibrant in the 21st century, it is delusional.

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on a new study by Gartner Inc. saying that the global sales of smartphones was up by 43 percent during the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same period a year earlier, with 210 million of the devices sold by companies like Samsung and Apple.

    According to the story, "The rapid growth in the smartphone market during the initial months of 2013 - fueled by demand in Asia - indicates sales of more sophisticated devices built around open operating systems such as Google Inc.'s Android platform will soon represent the bulk of industry sales. During the first quarter, 49.3% of device sales were smartphones, up from 34.8% a year ago and 44% in the fourth quarter."
    KC's View:
    The more that smartphone usage grows, the more that people are going to be accessing information about the products they buy. And that puts enormous pressure on retailers and manufacturers, as well as creating enormous opportunities.

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    • The Huffington Post reports that Walmart has filed a lawsuit against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, charging the two organizations of "disorderly conduct" during a demonstration at a Los Angeles store.

    According to the story, "The retailer accused the labor organizers of trespassing, confronting store managers, setting balloons free inside the store and blocking customer traffic, among other claims. Walmart claims that store personnel had to call police on multiple occasions to remove protesters from the stores, but that police often arrive after the alleged disruptions have already taken place. The retail giant hence filed the lawsuit in hopes the court will take legal action to stop the protests."

    The suit is similar to one filed by Walmart in Florida.

    The unions say that the lawsuit is yet another attempt by Walmart to silence its critics and suppress legitimate protest.
    KC's View:
    Hell, even if this is an attempt to silence critics and suppress legitimate protest, it is minor league stuff. In the big leagues, they use the Internal Revenue Service to audit groups that don't agree with them, and subpoena journalists' phone records to track down anonymous sources.

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    Advertising Age reports that McDonald's is considering making its breakfast menu available all day long, a move being contemplated because "breakfast accounts for 25% of McDonald's business and has been one of the biggest opportunities for the restaurant industry - the only area of growth in the past decade, according to NPD."

    The decision is being made in the wake of Wendy's move to stop selling breakfast because of low sales, attributed to the fact that the fast feeder came late to the daypart.

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Danone has agreed to acquire a 92 percent stake in organic baby-and-toddler food company Happy Family. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though it is reported to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    • Ahold said this morning that Ben Wishart, the former CIO at both Morrison's andWhitbread, has joined the company in the new role of group chief information officer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    • Dr. Joyce Brothers, the psychologist, syndicated advice columnist, author, and television and movie personality, has passed away of respiratory failure. She was 85.

    Brothers began her public career when she competed - and won big - on both "The $64,000 Question" and "The $64,000 Challenge." Her television appearances included more than 100 visits to "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and "The Simpsons," and she played herself in more than a dozen movies and countless TV shows.
    KC's View:

    Published on: May 14, 2013

    We keep getting email about the internet firestorm taking place over comments made by Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, in which he essentially said that he really only wants slim, good looking people to come into his stores and buy his clothes, and that he's really only interested in marketing to cool people - to the point that the company does not even make large sizes. "Are we exclusionary? Absolutely," he said ... in an interview that took place in 2006.

    I thought that while niche marketing can be an excellent strategy, using such inelegant language rarely is, especially since often it is sometimes not-so-attractive people who actually buy stuff for attractive people, and A&F has just become a less appealing option than, say, J. Crew. I also argued that this is a great example of how information live son the internet in perpetuity.

    One MNB user responded:

    Many in Abercrombie & Fitch’s target audience might be just fine with the attitude and comments expressed by CEO Mike Jeffries—it sounds something a character from “Mean Girls” might have said.  But that target consumer isn’t known for having its own independent source of income. Am I fat and ugly?  Maybe it depends who you ask.  Will my stepson be getting an outfit from A&F next Christmas?  No way.  I can only hope that other parents pay attention to this and use it as a teachable moment.

    And MNB user David Livingston wrote:

    Interesting comment by your reader "A&F clearly hasn't paid a price for those 2006 comments -- and likely never will."

    One thing I've learned is pretty women solve a lot of problems.  A bad restaurant is a good one if they have pretty waitresses.  A bad hotel is a good one if they have pretty girls in the bar.  A bad flight is a good one with pretty flight attendants.  Even going to work at a boring cube job is more interesting when there are a lot of pretty women working there.   Hooters would not even exist if not for hiring pretty girls.  Your local TV new channels know this, unless you live in Canada.

    I wonder how many people you managed to offend with your comments.

    I do know this. When I go to a restaurant, I pay attention to the food and the service. When I stay in a hotel, I'm more interested in the speed of the internet, the comfort of the bed, the force of the shower and the thickness of the towels. On a flight, I want an aisle seat and a safe landing. And I don't go to Hooters, because a) the food sucks and b) I wouldn't want my daughter working there. And so on.

    It is attitudes like these, and people like you, who create an often unfriendly and often even hostile work environment for a lot of women. I know, based on previous exchanges, that you say you hire a lot of women for different functions and that they are thrilled to often take less money because you are "tolerant" of the fact that they have different work-life balance needs than men.

    But I cannot imagine why any woman with a shred of dignity would want to work for you. Nor why any woman with a shred of common sense would ever want to hire you.

    On the subject of Steve Burd's tenure as Safeway CEO, one MNB user wrote:

    In 2001 Safeway's stock was $65 a share. Under his leadership, Safeway mismanaged several acquisitions (Dominicks, Randalls and Genuardi's) and  in the last decade wrote off hundreds of millions of investor's $$ and drove the Safeway stock price to the low $20's and below. Just one question: How in the world did he keep his job? This fact seems to be completely lost on the media.  Strange?

    From another reader:

    I agree with you about your comments about Steve Burd’s successor and  what he has to do to replace Steve Burd. Just watch what happened to Albertsons when they took their eye off the ball and made some wrong decisions.

    Lesson learned from Albertsons a few years ago. Warren McCain made the decision to replace with Gary Michael. Joe Albertson and Warren McCain were merchants of the first order. Mr. McCain’s biggest mistake was not putting Bob Miller in to replace him. Bob is an operations guy and a great merchant. Gary was a great financial guy, as his tenure as the Albertsons CFO, has Albertsons as one of the premier grocery chains in America. Most people do not know that Albertson was once the 4th largest grocery chain, in terms of sales in the country and one of the most profitable as well.

    And another:

    I had to write back to you on this one, I have been a long time employee at Safeway and agree the company is in much better shape now than it has been in years.  I also agree with you (and Burd to some extent) that you have to have some skin in the game, but it has gotten to the point where they want some tissue and bone now too.  There is a culture of health here and they will try to encourage you, in mostly positive ways to get healthy and live longer.  They make no illusion that their goal is a happier, healthier employee will live longer with their family and make the company stronger in attitude, effort, and productivity.

    However, God forbid you actually have to use the insurance, the out of pockets and hoops you have to go through now are ridiculous.  They have program after program to help you “shop” for the cheapest “best” care – since it is first coming out of YOUR pocket.  Most of my fellow employees are now afraid to go to the doctor because the copays and deductibles are so much.  My friends outside of this company all cannot believe what we have to pay for our healthcare.  They have a spousal surcharge (if your spouse works and has insurance available) that forced me to drop my spouse and get coverage from her company.  Then ours got so expensive and didn’t cover so much, I had to drop my insurance here and join hers.  So yes the company has saved money (through attrition).  I want to clarify, I am a very healthy person that does not need to use my insurance much, but my spouse has some health issues that are not going to go away by doing all the things they encourage us to do.

    I do like my job, and believe the company marketing strategy is on the right track.  I am amazed at the Just 4U program and when you work that program, I find prices are cheaper than Target or Walmart on most things I buy.  So in that area I think we have really improved our company in the last year or so.

    We had a story yesterday about how the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is looking for the Obama administration to intervene with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it implements new rules that are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - better known as "Obamacare" - that would mandate providing calorie information for every product sold in the store.

    I commented:

    The government should not be engaged in throwing up obstacles and cost designed to make it harder for the food industry to be more creative, nutritious and healthy when it comes to fresh foods - especially when making healthier food more available and cost-effective is another priority of the administration.

    One MNB user responded:

    What ever happened to your views on the importance of transparency? In the bakery department where I work we have one person items with 800 and 900 calories. We have other items whose calorie count I do not know but, after looking at the ingredient list, I would guess they have over a 1000 calories. People who buy items from a bakery counter know the item is not going to be low calorie. I am not so sure they realize just how many calories they are getting. The reason I believe this is that one time in the break room I told the general manager of the store how many calories these items had and he was aghast and said I had ruined the item for him.

    Please explain why you think it is OK to hide this information from being readily available to customers.

    Good point.

    Let me be clear. If an item is a "regular item," then it should have nutritional information. This means basic stuff on labels, and more extensive info available via QR codes and the internet. I do think that there needs to be some allowances in some fresh food areas, where ranges can be established without absolute precision.

    That work for you?

    Yesterday's MNB did not have a sports report, which led one MNB user to write:

    I was surprised you did not mention Tiger Woods in your sports updates. What he is accomplishing is nothing short of incredible. If he stays healthy, we are witnessing the most incredible achievements in golfing history. This is based on winning percentage, total wins and total majors won.

    He was written off and continue to defy the "experts". He is a true golfing genius.

    Whether up like him or not you have to respect his accomplishments and work ethic.

    To be honest, I paid no attention to the fact that there was a golf tournament last week, so I didn't even know that Woods had won anything.

    I've been way too busy watching - and moaning about - the Mets.

    Regarding Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, who is retiring from the e-commerce company because he feels like he is too old to run such a company, one MNB user wrote:

    The story about Jack Ma made me think about Steve Jobs.  Could someone like Steve Jobs ever be viewed as ‘too old’?  I think his age would be irrelevant.   I wish that there was an older business ‘icon’ who continues to be curious and enterprising.  It would be wonderful to think that you can escape Geezer-hood despite chronological age.

    Are you kidding? I'm counting on the fact that I'll be able to escape Geezer-hood in part by doing this every morning, in part by teaching at places like Portland State University, and in part by being willing to take on new challenges.

    To me, retirement is the enemy, because it suggests that I'm done.. I'm with Winston Churchill:

    Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

    And reacting to what was perceived as the general tenor of some of the emails yesterday on MNB, one reader wrote:

    Jeez!  Is the 13th of May now bitter, condescending, conservative viewpoint day on MNB?  I feel the need to go off and find the biggest, most majestic oak tree I can find...and hug it!

    I never worry about this stuff.

    While people may try to characterize my politics, I always try to listen politely, respond reasonably, and then do my best to think through every issue and consider where the people with opposing opinions are coming from. It often is not hard to disagree with an opinion and still respect the rationale behind it.

    But when pressed about my politics, I always want to respond the same way that Humphrey Bogart did in Casablanca when asked by Major Strasser about his nationality: click here
    KC's View: