Social Media Mistakes Companies Make, and How They Reflect Corporate Values: Part 3 in our Social Media & Values Series

This is the third in a four part series. For the previous entries (which featured the American Red Cross, Nestle, Vodafone, Motrin, and Chevrolet) please click here or here

In previous entries, we've explored how consumer use of Facebook and Twitter - often the ally of big corporate brands - can also be a source of headaches when the wrong message reaches the wrong audience. Often, what catches the consumer's attention is a circumstance that is contrary to the image or values the product is usually expected to display.

That's exactly what happened in the two examples below, from the fast food and travel industries. When consumer expectations aren't met, and local staff aren't responsive, isolated circumstances become public nightmares for strong brands. Here are two examples:

5. Fast Food Restaurants | Lesson 5: Don’t Make Mom Mad

Businesses of all sizes need to learn the lesson children master by age four: don’t make mom mad. The Mommy Blogger industry is one of the most vocal on the web, powered by a force of educated, passionate women who text, tweet, update, and blog with ferocity.

As in the Motrin case previously discussed, making mothers mad can have detrimental side effects. This became evident earlier this year when Erin Carr-Jordan, a New York resident and mother, crawled through a McDonald’s PlayPlace and found it to be filthy – not an intended outcome for an organization that places the customer experience at the top of their values. After several calls to the manager yielded no results, Carr-Jordan filmed the filth and posted it to YouTube.

Carr-Jordan, who is a mother of four and a developmental psychologist, has since engaged in a crusade to improve playground sanitation at McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants, citing Burger King and Chik Fil A specifically. Spokespeople from these fast food giants have shared their companies’ cleaning polices, and explain Carr-Jordan’s discoveries as anomalies.

But comments from the PR department can’t prevent parents from forming an opinion on a restaurant’s sanitation. And parents vote with their dollars. In the age of social media, local restaurant staff need extra training on how to prevent a negative social media campaign by being responsive to customer concerns: especially when the topic is the safety of children.

Even so, you can’t always prevent videos and other messages about your company from going viral: you can choose how you respond. Fast food restaurants would do well to launch aggressive sanitation campaigns and engage mothers in evaluating the results.Where the safety of children is concerned, mobilize quickly to make real improvements, and get mother’s back on your side.

6. United Airlines | Lesson 6: Use Your Mistakes to Train Your Team

Here's another example of how local staff can prevent a social media nightmare: When Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s $3500 Taylor guitar was broken during a United Airlines flight, he tried all the normal customer service channels in an attempt to receive compensation. When those failed, he wrote a song, United Breaks Guitars, and posted it to YouTube.

The song had over 150,000 views in one day, and went on to become one of the most viral videos of 2009. As of early this month, the country song with its catchy tune had been viewed over 11 million times.

United Airlines was understandably repentant, and made a formal apology and a $3000 donation to a music non-profit in Carroll’s name. Even better, they asked Carroll an important question: can we use your video to train our customer service employees? For his part, Carroll has turned his catchy tune into a career in customer service coaching. Learn more at this link.

Thanks to their thoughtful response, United flipped an unfortunate social media incident into a learning opportunity around a core value: hospitality.

Want to learn more about social media mistakes and their connection to corporate values? Return here on Dec. 6th for the next in our series.

The Evolution of Leadership - A look at where leadership is heading


Keith Cox, Ph.D., is the Systemic Sustainability Lead for idGroup Consulting & Creative, where he focuses on positive business and social change. He is also an advisor to the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. This article is republished from the archives. 

Leadership has been a significant presence in the recorded history of humans and it is one of the world’s oldest obsessions, rivaling in age the very emergence of civilization. The topic of leadership is familiar to all peoples and it knows no cultural boundaries.

Writings on leadership date back over 5000 years to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and have continued to be a recurrent theme amongst: philosophers, poets, playwrights, prophets, priests, royalty, scholars, and entire societies. A broad, diverse range of notable, historical figures have expounded on leadership including: Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Confucius, Plutarch, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, Lao-tzu, Machiavelli, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ghandi, and many others right up to present day “gurus” such as Jay Conger and Warren Bennis.

This perpetual passion for leadership is obvious as one begins to explore the numerous “modern day” writings on the topic. The word “leader” entered the English language around the year 1300 and the methodical study of leadership began over 600 years later in the 1930's. Over the last 75 years leadership has literally been defined hundreds of different ways by both academics and practitioners. Clearly, it is not an easy concept to define and there are probably as many definitions of leadership as there are authors. The bottom line is that there is no single, acceptable leadership definition, theory, model, or standard.

So the question still remains, what is the true meaning of leadership? Is leadership a: position, person, behavioral act, style, relationship, combination of things, or all of the above. The scholarly answer to this quandary is “yes,” or perhaps “it depends,” while many practitioners adopt a results-oriented definition specific to a particular situation.

However, even with these multiple theories and models to choose from, the popular conception of leadership today seems to be that of the single individual, the heroic leader, sitting at the top of the organizational hierarchy. Nevertheless, while the individual, heroic, charismatic, and/or transformational leader may be the dominant model, we are continuing to see a “progression of thinking” about leadership that is providing new and exciting alternate leadership images for our consideration.

For example, the emergence of values-driven leadership seems to be a growing theoretical stream of thought and research well suited for the complexity of business in the 21st century. According to the Center for Values-Driven Leadership the concept can be defined as “a conscious commitment by leaders at all levels to lead with their values and create a corporate culture that optimizes financial performance, ethical practice, social contribution and environmental impact.” This emphasis on multiple stakeholders, values such as honesty, integrity, excellence, courage, humility, and trust, combined with the creation of a high performance culture is a powerful combination that many of the world’s most admired and successful companies are adopting. As Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, likes to say, “it’s the way to a bigger, more legitimate profit.”

So perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a revolution in the leadership field and it’s time you explore how values-driven leadership can work for your organization!

How Do You Make People Feel? (And, Why Does That Matter?)

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Leaders draw their effectiveness less from what they know or what power they wield, and more from how they make the people around them feel.  ~Betsy MyersTake the Lead

I recently had the opportunity to interact with a leader in an organization who prided herself on not always being liked because she was willing to make tough decisions.  Unfortunately, that’s not quite how the rest of the staff viewed the situation. The staff felt as though she wasn’t listening, and when they did express concern or disagreement, they felt invalidated; their experience and knowledge was dismissed.

Not long ago while channel surfing one evening, I came across the show Shark Tank. Individuals bring their ideas or inventions to a panel of about five potential investors, each of whom are highly successful entrepreneurs and have made millions. On this particular episode, I missed the portion where the individual described his idea, but that really didn’t seem to matter. I caught it just in time to hear every single one of the five potential investors tell the guy how much they didn’t like him, personally. They liked his idea and even offered to invest, as long as he had nothing to do with the business. They would only buy him out; they would not invest in his business if working with him was part of the deal. In a matter of less than 10 minutes, this guy/contestant had managed to make every one of the investors feel frustrated and downright angry. Unfortunately, the contestant was completely taken by surprise and utterly baffled by the response he received from the potential investors. He had no idea how his behavior was making them feel.

Years ago I worked for a college president who is a gifted leader on many levels. He was, and still is, one of the best listeners I know. His ability to listen had incredible repercussions on how he made people feel.  When you feel listened to, really heard, youfeel validated. I remember someone saying that if they ever had to be fired, they would like to be fired by this president. Why? He would be honest and candid, but it would be overlaid with compassion and care. In other words, you’d be fired, but could somehow still walk out with your dignity and your head held high because he would make you feel cared for, even in the midst of being fired.

Leadership guru and author, Warren Bennis, says that “good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.

How do you think the people around you feel?

Launching a Healthy Business Relationship: How to Form Business Partnerships that Work

Tom Walter is a "serial entrepreneur" who has launched nearly 30 companies. He is the CEO of Tasty Catering, named one of Winning Workplaces best small companies in 2010. This post is republished with permission from Serial Entrepreneur.

The majority of small business launches are done by partners.  Launching a business usually requires emotional support as well as financial support.  It always helps when each partner is knowledgeable in different aspects of business.  For example one partner knows the product, another that knows the market and a third that understands generally accepted business practices. Legally the structure may be called a partnership, C Corp, Sub S Corp or LLC, but in essence, they are partners.
The launch of the business is the exciting stage of the business life cycle.  Hope, anxiety, concerns and goals are prevalent in every conversation.
The emotional roller coaster is like falling in love and as we’ve all experienced, some love affairs blossom and die. The cause for the ones that wither stems from the realization that there is a discrepancy between the core values and vision for the future in a business relationship.
To combat demise, it’s important to set up a mutual understanding of the key elements that your business is built on.

Social Media Mistakes Companies Make, and How They Reflect Corporate Values: Part 2 in our Social Media & Values Series

This is the second in a four part series. For the previous entry, which featured the American Red Cross and Nestle, please click here.

Social media mistakes happen fast: often in 140 characters or less, as we saw in last week's post on Twitter mishaps at the American Red Cross and Nestle. In a media environment where public opinion can change at the speed of light, a company's best approach to their social media plan is to take a good luck at their corporate values. Using these as a guideline can prevent some mistakes and offer a road map for recovery when the inevitable mishaps do occur. 

In Lessons 3 and 4, we look at how social media wildfires at three companies related to the organizational values the company holds.

Vodafone | Lesson 3: Admit Your Mistakes and Take Care of Them Quickly

Social Media Mistakes Companies Make, and How They Reflect Corporate Values: Part 1 in our Social Media & Values Series

Social media’s biggest asset is also its biggest problem: it’s public. Very public. Mistakes made there can echo around the world – literally – changing a good business day into a bad one in 140 characters or less.

Companies that attempt to firmly control their social media interactions won’t meet their goals. You cannot win with tight-fisted control. Facebook statuses or Tweets that don’t feel genuine don’t get liked or re-tweeted: they are dead on arrival.

Balancing a human voice with your corporate protocol is made easier by making sure your social media always reflects your organizations publically adopted values. Checking the posts against these values – even using a formal check list process – can save some headaches, and mitigate others.  

Overlook this, and you might find yourself with a headache you could have avoided. 

We'll explore the lessons several large companies have learned from their social media snafus in this series on Social Media and Values. These nightmares befall good companies, and so our objective is not to vilify an organization but rather to keep others from repeating the same mistake. As you'll see throughout this series, the smartest companies learn their lessons and are nimble enough to recover with grace: 

           Nestle | Lesson 1: Don’t Get Snarky

Bacardi, BMW, Ford and Others Mix Sustainability with Tourism

Distiller Bacardi manufactures 85 percent of their rum in Puerto Rico, at Casa Bacardi on a landscaped campus that also stands in as one of the island's major tourist attractions. More than 250,000 visitors take advantage of the free tour and beverages annually - a tour where sustainability receives almost as much emphasis as the Bacardi family history and patented brewing process.

Energy producing windmills stand at the edge of the Bacardi campus, declaring the company's increased emphasis on sustainability. The message is reinforced during the tour where docents highlight the how rum barrels are recycled into mulch for the campus landscaping; how old vinyl banners are turned into reusable grocery bags; how energy use has decreased by nearly 20 percent in the last four years, and water use is down 41 percent in the same period. (More details are available in the Bacardi sustainability report, available here.) 

Sustainability Tours: A Growing Trend

Pulling the Lever: Using Values to Drive Business Results

“In over 20 years of research, I’ve never seen correlations like this.”

Dr. Paul H. Eccher, president of Vaya Group, a talent optimization and organizational assessment firm, points at the spreadsheet in his hands. “The results are so strong, it’s undeniable.”

Eccher is talking about the Organizational Values Inventory (OVI), a tool developed by CVDL to help companies measure how well an organization puts its values into practice. According to Eccher, whose company conducted the statistical analysis, the results show a remarkably strong correlation between specific values-related actions and the business outcomes executives want most: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and a culture of high performance.

Workplace Road Rage: How Mislabeling Colleagues Decreases Productivity and Encourages Animosity

Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist. 

A few years ago I was part of a sales team that did a lot of work at large conferences. And while I was a senior team member, I felt it didn't excused me from the physical labor of hauling our organization's trade show booth and collateral materials into convention centers: a task made all the more difficult because I was several months pregnant. But I'm a team player who didn't want to let my colleagues down, so I schlepped and carried and scooted our boxes into position, then unpacked and arranged them myself.

On one particularly long day, my boss at the time, whom I'll call him Dan, was present. He sat at the side of the room, chatting casually and showing off his new Kindle to another colleague while a team of his direct reports worked for a few hours. 

I'll give you three guesses on how I felt about this, but it will only take you one: of course I was angry. Very angry. And in my frustration, as I pushed my way through yet another box full of packing peanuts, I labeled Dan with all sorts of character flaws: lazy, chauvinist, uncaring, irresponsible, thoughtless. 

Those labels stuck,