Leadership Advice For Groupon’s Beer-Guzzling CEO
In an article published last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that at a recent all-hands meeting Andrew Mason, Groupon’s CEO, indicated that the company needs to grow up quickly and stop “taking stupid risks.”
“We’re still this toddler in a grown man’s body in many ways,” Mason reportedly told employees in the closed-door gathering Ironically, just as he was bemoaning the need to beef up financial controls and comply with Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, he was chugging a beer. At one point in his presentation his voice broke and he commented “sorry, too much beer.”
On the surface, this seems harmless enough. After all, it’s not unusual for start-ups these days to have employee “perks,” including beer taps in their kitchens and ping pong tables in conference rooms. Heck, Zynga offers yoga, tai chi and acupuncture to its employees. Even so, I suspect that many in Mason’s audience were quite upset, thinking that it’s the CEO who is approving the risky initiatives, and acting like the toddler here. So why is he complaining to us? He is not only complaining, he is insulting the employees. He is leading them one way, then slapping their wrists for going that direction!
But the employees aren’t alone. In reality, there are a whole bunch of folks who are massively upset at Groupon, they are called shareholders. While recent quarterly financial results slightly beat analysts’ estimates and raised the stock price from $10.25 per share to the $11.75 range, the company went public at $20 per share just six months ago.
I know this guy is trying to be a cool, casual, techie-type who should not be held to the dull practices of ordinary business leaders, but I think he is starting to realize it’s time to put the beer down, stop complaining and take charge.
Business leadership is not complicated. It is all about constantly repeating the following cycle, while regularly keeping employees and shareholders aware of the status:
- Review the Situation – What are the new strategies or significant changes that should be given consideration and what are the positives and risks? If you are in the middle of implementing a new strategy or major change effort, what is going well and what isn’t.
- Develop a Plan – Select the plan, or the modifications to your current efforts, that you believe will work best. Make sure one person is responsible for the leading the effort and making it a success.
- Get Feedback – Test the rationale and expected impact of your plan with your key people and listen carefully. Make any modifications you deem appropriate. Feedback is the least expensive, most powerful, yet, most under utilized management tool that we have at our disposal. Use it and use it wisely.
- Launch the Attack – You and the leader of the effort should explain to the troops the new game plan for success and how it will be implemented.
- Go to step #1 – Once the launch has taken place, you and the leader of the effort should decide when to go back to the beginning and review how things are going. If you have completed the effort, go to step #1 and figure out the next big thing to tackle.
These simple steps are the core recipe for leading any part of a business, be it a small 3-person unit at a lower level or in the case of Andrew Mason, the entire company.
Image: “TechCrunch via Flickr“