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Market Basket Employees Willing to Fight for Leader

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There are so many business lessons embedded in the current Market Basket upheaval, it’s hard to know where to begin.  First, you have a 60 year old family run company with a decades long family feud.  You have a remarkable employee engagement and customer loyalty story.  And you see the power of social media in action, and the public relations nightmare created by the company’s lack of digital presence.  Not only are they not active in social media, until today they didn’t have a corporate website.

For those of you not from northern New England, Market Basket is a privately held grocery chain with 71 stores in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Founded by George Demoulas in 1954, the chain is wildly popular with its customers for its low prices.  It’s likewise wildly popular with its 25,000 employees – or it was until their beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas (ArtT) was ousted on June 23rd as a result of a power struggle with his cousin.  He was replaced by supermarket veteran co-CEO’s Felicia Thornton and James Gooch,

In recent weeks, Market Basket employees have rallied behind their former leader, demanding his return and in some cases losing their jobs in return for their activism.  Where is this loyalty coming from?  For employees, it’s the better-than-industry wages and benefits they believe ArtT fought for on their behalf.  For customers, it’s the low prices and good service.  And customers are backing the well organized employee outreach driven largely through social media.  On Facebook and twitter, employees and customers are sharing the reasons they love ArtT and rousing their coworkers and customers to support the cause of putting him back at the helm.

I pass several of these stores on my way to work, and this morning there were picketers in front of every one of them encouraging customers to support the workers by not shopping at Market Basket.  Market Basket is managing through a crisis under the close scrutiny of employees, customers, politicians and pundits who worry that this change in leadership will result in higher prices for customers and lower wages and benefits for employees.  I hope that Market Basket management can find their way to a solution that works for employees, customers and shareholders and lets them retain their reputation as an employer who does well by taking care of their employees.






Developing Leaders is Job #1 for Yum Brands CEO Novak

yumToday’s guest post is courtesy of our board member,  John Hollon.  John is VP for Editorial of and had a front row seat at the recent SHRM annual conference.  Here John reflects on a keynote delivered by David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands.

I’ll say this about the annual SHRM conference that’s held each June: There’s usually at least one keynote speaker that gives you something to think about that’s important to your workforce.

This year’s event – the 66th annual Society for Human Resources Conference & Exhibition in  Orlando – was no exception, thanks to David Novak, the Chairman and CEO of Yum Brands , the fast food giant that runs KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

In fact, Yum Brands is the world’s largest restaurant company, with 37,000 units and 1.4 million associates in 125 countries. It’s also a Fortune 250 company, with $13 billion in revenues last year.

Clearly, the CEO of a company with this size and scope has a lot on his plate, and that’s why what David Novak had to say to 13,000 HR professionals at the SHRM annual conference surprised me, because it isn’t something you would expect him to be thinking about.

Novak describes himself as an “evangelist on the power of motivation and management,” and what this means is that he is relentless when it comes to motivating and encouraging his Yum Brands workforce, from top to bottom, from salaried executives to hourly part-timers.

His philosophy that he shared at SHRM Orlando, and wrote about in his book Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen , is pretty basic but also extremely focused. He puts it like this:

“We all need people to help us along the way. You can go only so far by going it alone. If you want to start a business, if you want a big promotion, if you are developing or launching a new product, if you want your company to move in a new direction, if you want to expand your sales territory, if you want to raise money for a good cause, even if you become the coach of your child’s soccer team, which has lost every game so far, and you want to show those kids what it feels like to win, you’re going to need people to help you get there. You’ll never accomplish anything big if you try to do it alone.”

Although Novak focuses on recognizing his managers throughout the company, he knows that he can’t touch everyone and that in his time as CEO of Yum, he’s only been able to get to around 1100 people. That sounds like a lot, bit it’s not in a company with 1.4 million people.

So, Novak does what any good manager should do – he requires all his managers to develop their own recognition program, and for those managers to require that their sub managers develop their own program, and so on all the way down though the organization.

As I noted in my earlier coverage his SHRM speech:

“(Novak said that) if you can get your people capability right, you make customers happy, and if you make customers happy, you make more money. So, if you get your people capability right, your results will follow. “That why developing leaders is my No. 1 priority,” Novak said, “because you can’t succeed without great leaders.” If you can take people with you to get things done, it has the biggest payoff of anything you can possibly do.”

That line from David Novak stuck with me – “If you can take people with you to get things done, it has the biggest payoff of anything you can possibly do” – stuck with me because it is extremely simple, basic, and something that so many managers simply talk about but never really do.

Yes, developing and recognizing all the people in the workforce, from the hourly shift workers to the senior executives who lead giant divisions, is the best thing that ANY manager can do to improve their organization.

If the thousands of HR professionals who attended the annual SHRM conference got nothing else out of the conference last month in Orlando, I hope they got this message from David Novak, because his words alone were well worth the price of admission.

Related Content on Engaging and Developing Employees:

Engaging and Empowering Early Career HR Professionals

Treating People Well is Very Good Business



Engaging & Empowering Early Career HR Professionals

cupa hr team 7.7.14Don’t just engage, empower!  That’s the rallying cry from our board member, Andy Brantley, CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  Andy (far right) is pictured here with coworkers Wes Harmon, Julie Boggs, and Jessica Waddell.  In 2012, Andy tasked this cross-functional team of early career HR professionals with an important member outreach project – and left it to them to figure out how to get it done.  Andy’s post below describes the project and why he felt it was important to not only engage, but empower this team.  Listen to the podcast here with the team about their experience and results.  (Spoiler alert: these young professionals are enthusiastic about the trust and respect their leadership expressed in them and are engaged proponents of CUPA-HR.)  


During calendar year 2012, the leadership team at the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) determined that we needed to strengthen our outreach to and engagement of early career higher education human resources professionals. Our membership had been growing (and continues to grow) exponentially with more and more early career professionals using our services and participating in our programs. We were very excited about this, but wanted to make sure that early career professionals see CUPA-HR as their association and higher education human resources as their career path.

Instead of viewing this through the traditional lens of “which department should take the lead,” we chose to engage three of our own early career professionals to draft and implement the early career outreach and engagement program. By using this approach, we blurred department lines (Jessica was from member service, Julie from marketing and communications and Wes from learning and professional development) and created an opportunity for someone other than a “director” to lead the project.

Jessica, Julie and Wes did their research, created a focus group and developed actions to address the commons themes identified from the research and focus group. It quickly became apparent that they were doing exactly as we had hoped….working as a project team without the barriers of their “day job” in their respective parts of the organization. They then presented their project plan to the leadership team. I was so impressed with the quality of the work and the recommended actions that I asked them to share their plans with the entire CUPA-HR staff as a model for not only early career outreach, but a model for the development and implementation of any project!

Almost two years later, we have had great success in engaging more early career professionals in conference presentations, volunteer opportunities, board and other leadership roles. The key elements of the outreach and engagement plans developed by this group are now embedded in our learning and resource development, our publications, our connection opportunities and the assistance resources we now provide (such as scholarships to our annual and regional conferences). A similar template will be used to developed outreach efforts to other under served membership groups.

The outcomes for our members are cause for celebration, but the real cause for celebration is what happened for Jessica, Julie and Wes as a result of this effort. These outcomes are relevant for our organization, but similar outcomes are relevant for EVERY organization.

  • These early career professionals at CUPA-HR had the opportunity to lead a project that was clearly tied to four of our six strategic priorities. How often do we give early career professionals the opportunity to lead work that is related to our most important priorities?
  • They were able to spend time focused on a project for which they were passionate. By giving them to opportunity to lead, they were clearly able to incorporate their personal passions into the project.
  • The project emphasized the need for us to know our colleagues’ strengths, passions (at and away from the job) and areas for growth. There is never a one size fits all approach to leadership and collaboration. Taking the time to know our colleagues as individuals and making the effort to connect their interests and passions to their work is always going to be a win, win, win!
  • The project gave them more autonomy than would have normally been possible in their regular roles. Giving a group like this the autonomy to define the issues and the scope of the project was definitely a very positive and meaningful experience.
  • The work provided the opportunity for the three of them to more directly interact with the VP and Chief Operating Officer, the VP and Chief Learning Officer and with me. It’s sometimes tricky to “blow up the chain of command,” but it’s also quite liberating to emphasize that the “chain of command” can create hurdles and barriers to collaborative, creative outcomes.
  • Every “initiative” must be sustained and we will take the best elements of this initiative and apply them to other projects. The ultimate success is that the elements of this outreach and engagement effort are no longer owned just by these three individuals. The elements are now incorporated into every element of our work to emphasize our commitment to early career professionals.
  • Some work assignments fit neatly into one department or area, but most assignments do not and should not! Amen!

Did we hit some bumps along the away? You bet. We will continue to assess how Jessica, Julie and Wes continue to have some role in our early career outreach and engagement while ensuring that the key elements of their great work are incorporated into everything we do. We will also continue to minimize and eliminate departmental barriers that limit opportunities for collaboration and that also limit opportunities for each of us to utilize our strengths and our passions.


Andy Brantley

President and CEO

College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)