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TCMPi“Clapping Out” Steve Jobs


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JobsCharismatic genius, tyrannical boss, and a paradox of values, Steve Jobs is still confounding us as he continues to inspire us.

It’s been a year since Steve Jobs was “clapped out” at the end of his shift as Apple’s founder, visionary, and leader. Long a tradition at Apple Stores, being “clapped out” at the end of one’s shift is one of those seemingly small but powerful indicators of a company that not only values people as employees but honors them as human beings. Yet Jobs himself was as well known for insensitive tirades at Apple employees as for his pursuit of perfection. So how do we explain the dichotomy of Jobs and Apple: the man many were terrified to work for and the company that still causes current and past employees alike to “bleed in six colors” (a reference to the original rainbow of the Apple logo)?

The dichotomy: leader vs. leadership

On the day of his death, October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs was described virtually universally as a genius, a bright light, and a shaper of the world. Personally, I found him, a man I never met, to be one of the world’s worst managers – and yet one of the most successful.

Jobs was well known for his pursuit of perfection. The good thing about that is that he did, in fact, transform the way we think about computers (Mac, MacAir, iPad), telecommunications (iPhone), music (iPod, iTunes), and even animated movies (Pixar). The fact that he did not engineer any of them but, to use a Disney term, “imagineered” them is both indicative his lack of education and his abundance of creativity.

The bad thing about it is that along the way he rode roughshod over the terrified, struggling employees who were after all the ones who actually did the work. Yes, he did make the way our world works more human but he did not make our world more humane.

Can one man be all things to all employees?

While we can all admire Jobs’ imagination, passion, and focus, it is perfectly alright to condemn his micromanaging and bullying management style. Genius is often difficult to tolerate. What makes it tolerable in a leader are two things: the presence of inspirational qualities and the presence of perhaps less ingenious but more compassionate directors, managers and corporate policies.

A less explored but also important aspect of Jobs’ personality was his ability to attract intelligent followers who not only believed in his vision but also in the people who could make his dream reality. By implementing a uniquely-Apple kind of philosophy of compensation, inclusion and recognition throughout the Apple organization, these less well known yet instrumental men and women were able to make Apple “the” place to be throughout its long and sometimes tumultuous journey to greatness.

The Apple Way

The key to Apple’s success lies in its ability to connect passionate employees with customer delight. And while Steve Jobs certainly had little to do with employee satisfaction, he was a master at delighting the customer. Fortunately the many unsung heroes at Apple took care of their employees. How?

  1. Compensation at Apple is competitive but not extraordinary. Apple depends greatly on attracting people who are self-motivated and who look at compensation as job satisfaction as much as monetary reward. Nonetheless, financial compensation is an important consideration for any employee. So, in addition to salary, Apple employees receive a healthy and flexible benefits package plus a generous discount on new products. The opportunity to acquire computers being recycled in the office, and outright gifts all help put Apple employees and their families and friends among its strongest advocates.
  2. Apple employees remain Apple employees because they believe in the company – and they believe that the company believes in them. While the company has long been accused of being “secretive” and lacking in employee inclusion, many employees report that they feel included in important discussions and that the so-called “silo effect” is illusionary at Apple. Inclusion-based programs like the Can We Talk section of the internal web site help foster a sense of “we’re all in this together” camaraderie. Other, less formalized communications bolster morale and keep employees feeling as if they are part of a very big deal indeed.
  3. Recently I read that Apple’s board decided to award dividend equivalent payments to employees holding restricted stock units (RSUs). The company also announced a dividend of $2.65 per share to commence this past July. While RSUs are typically issued to employees to encourage them to stay with the company, my belief is that this kind of action is not only a way of ensuring employee loyalty but also of recognizing past success. After all, why would any company want to entice an employee to stay if his or her past performance was sub-par?

Of course not all companies are Apple and not all leaders are Steve Jobs. In fact, both are in an extremely rarefied atmosphere to which we are unlikely to see others ascend. Nonetheless, though we may never duplicate Jobs’ vision, we can certainly emulate Apple’s approach the treatment of its workforce. Using our own combination of compensation, inclusion, and recognition we can inspire our employees to greater success no matter what our vision of that may be.

About Our Guest Contributor

Tom Stearns

Tom Stearns is TCMPi’s Marketing leader. He’s responsible for building TCMPI’s customer base and brand awareness.

Tom joined TCMPi in 2011. He has extensive experience developing and implementing innovative marketing strategies at companies including CardScan, Newell Rubbermaid, and Carbonite.

┬╗ View Tom’s Linkedin Page

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