By Kevin Meyer
What a couple weeks here at Evolving Excellence. Discovering that Amazon's worker abuse is on par with Apple's, and even Bill's recent post on how we (mis)treated workers from the Barbados when they did the hard work of building the Panama Canal – but really paid them more than Apple pays the Chinese. I'm somewhat surprised that the AFL-CIO hasn't contacted us about being an official spokesman for labor. Perhaps they should. Companies that treat people that poorly deserve unions – and all the other consequences of unions that destroy productivity and agility.
So here I am trying to work today when someone (cough, Bill George, cough) tweets an article from Forbes titled "Jeff Bezos' Top 10 Leadership Lessons." Really – Jeff Bezos of Amazon? Normally I like Bill George, and his concept of "true north" is very much aligned with lean. This time he's off base. Leadership lessons? So like a kid going to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time, I had to look. And it was filled with the usual stuff… obsess over customers, embrace change, be willing to fail… yadda yadda yadda. Anything about employees? Not really, unless you somehow read that into #6, "Our culture is intense."
Yep, no kidding. "Intense" is one word for the worker abuse going on at Amazon's Campbellsville distribution center. I tweeted back to Mr. George that Bezos must have forgotten to include lesson #11: always keep ambulances outside of overheated distribution centers in case employees collapse. Otherwise you might need hearses.
But it gets worse. As I'm reading that, I discover that Forbes had another recent article on Bezos, once again by George Anders. And this one had a premise that nearly made me toss my cookies.
He’s [Bezos] the number one CEO in America. The passing of Steve Jobs has left him, without question, as the corporate chief that others most want to meet, emulate and deify.
Geesh. So first we have Steve Jobs who presided over blantant worker abuse at Chinese factories that made his products. Yes I grant he was a genius in many ways. But also a guy lauded, indirectly via channeling Tim Cook perhaps, as having created the best supply chain in the world. Really? No – just a brilliantly executed traditional supply chain. The "best" would have figured out how to make products closer to customers without abusing people. A few bucks from the $100 billion Apple has stashed away could have done that.
And now Jobs is supposedly replaced with Bezos? A guy who has employees, in the U.S. no less, that are saying "this is a brutal place to work."
I'm guessing Jack Welch (the turkey) was also in this chain of "great CEOs." Someone who advocated whacking the bottom 5+% of the staff each year, among other brutality.
So they are the corporate chiefs that "others most want to meet, emulate and deify." How pathetic. No wonder corporate America has been getting a black eye lately. With those kinds of "leaders" and people that worship them, a black eye should be the least of our worries.
Where are the folks that truly understand what that oft-forgotten pillar of lean, respect for people, is all about? Where the leaders that truly believe that people are the greatest asset, and even though they may be represented as a "cost" on a P&L, there really is a huge offsetting value from their brains, ideas, creativity, and experience?
They are out there, and I can name a few of them. But they are humble and focus on putting their people first to create great companies that deliver real value to customers. Which is perhaps why they won't get into Forbes. But unlike Welch and Jobs and Bezos they will get my respect.