Our April issue brought a shower of complaints about "How to Get Rich in America" and "When Good Managers Manage Too Much," while a David-versus-Wal-Mart story, "Payback," engendered a chorus of kudos.
Truth in advertising?
" How to Get Rich in America," Edward O. Welles's cover story on Lunar Design's success in accepting equity in other businesses as payment for its services, had this reader wondering what the fuss was all about.
I hardly consider the return of 18,859 shares of stock valued at $10 a share over a six-year period sufficient earnings to support the headline "How to Get Rich in America." I believe the concept of equity as payment makes sense, but it seems, based on your article, that the jury is still out on whether the return is sufficient to support the risk.
Sylvester Consulting Group
Jim Collins's The Long View column about how to hire and manage the right people sparked harsh words from critics.
Jim Collins is indeed a manager. He manages to float a provocative thesis ("The moment you feel the need to start managing somebody, you know you've made a hiring mistake") and then to back it up with the blandest of conclusions (you can't compensate for "a particular kind of [employee] inadequacy: the kind you can't correct").
His entire column is a fine blend of tough talk and cowardly retreats. "The key" to management, he writes with an air of importance, "is knowing the difference between what is reasonably learnable and what is not." What a magnificent grasp of the obvious! As for solutions to the problem of the ill-suited employee, Collins offers only one, which he dresses in euphemism: "The only smart thing a manager can do, ultimately, is to unplug the employee from the organization."
Then, just before readers become so insulted by these simplicities that they turn the page, Collins teases us with a personal example. He says he once "got unplugged" by Hewlett-Packard for not being a team player and not caring enough about small technical achievements. "When I saw how HP had to manage me, I knew it was time to leave," he writes. Well, was he fired, or did he resign? He doesn't say, once again managing to walk a line between the provocative and the courageous.
Yes, he's a manager, all right. And if I'd been his manager at Hewlett-Packard, I would have neither fired him nor let him resign. I would have found him another assignment that would have suited his skill set perfectly: public relations.
David R. Murray
Journal of Employee Communications Management
Lawrence Ragan Communications Inc.
If you base a company on personal "core values" (as Collins labels them), then the people you hire can choose whether or not to follow those values (or "to play the game," in corporatespeak). Many--perhaps most--people hold at bay their own opinions, ideas, and values in order to follow those of their employer--that's what self-management is. If you wait to hire people who already share your core values, you'll be short-handed for a long time. Just because Collins didn't choose to follow the objective values of Hewlett-Packard doesn't mean that others wouldn't. His opinion that he could not fit in at HP "without basically corrupting the essence of who I am" is a weak excuse for someone who doesn't have the ability and persistence to align himself with corporate principles in order to be a "team player," let alone to manage other people.
Timothy W. Smith
New York City
However, others continued to vigorously wave the Collins flag.
Collins's latest was dead-on, as usual. The toughest thing I've had to do professionally is to fire an employee because our differences in values were simply too great to bridge. I know all too well the negative energy (and sleepless nights) such a situation creates. Of course, Collins's article begs the sister question: how do you effectively hire for a match in values? Here's hoping that he shares his insight into that subject in the near future.
The Ninja Brandbuilding Co.
New York City
Of all the valuable information I have gained reading Inc. over the past five years, at the top is that contained in Jim Collins's most recent article. All too often I've failed to cut an employee for fear of immediate financial loss or difficulty in replacing him or her, rather than focused on the long-term benefits of guiding motivated personnel to overperform. Thanks again for putting me on the right track.