A family friend called me last week and said, “You should write a letter to Brian Cornell and tell him you want to be a part of his turnaround team.” The advice wasn’t completely out of the blue as I had in fact been picking her brain for career guidance. It was quite a bold idea.
What would I say? And why would Mr. Cornell listen to me? I don’t claim to know more than those who already surround him. What could I possibly have to offer that would warrant a letter directly to the CEO?
I decided there would be no letter. But I did do some digging into the latest Target Corp. news. The headline of this CNNMoney opinion piece bluntly summed up the situation: Target had a terrible holiday, warns of awful 2017. I read some more about the company’s plans to compete on price, remodel older stores and open new ones. I’m curious about the new financial model. And I wonder if there is a way Target could harness mobile to make offline and online shopping work together better.
But something caught my attention in this excerpt from the Star Tribune:
Many analysts were miffed that Cornell and his team did not bring up groceries, one of the biggest factors in Target's slide in sales last year.
What tickled my brain was the emotion behind Yarbrough’s quote. It’s clear the analyst wants more from Cornell. And short of actually delivering a concrete grocery plan, what could Cornell do to instill confidence, share insight and build trust?
Just like Cornell is hungry for anecdotal guest stories during his impromptu store visits, people are eager to hear Cornell think out loud. But an earnings call isn’t the place for it. And, he can’t spend all his time in one-on-ones with the press. Furthermore, any PR efforts to raise his public profile should steer clear of looking like empty shaking of hands and kissing of babies.
Target’s A Bullseye View “Perspectives” does a nice job publishing POV commentary from executives, but it’s formal and infrequent. And unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Cornell is active on LinkedIn or Twitter. I wonder why?
A social media presence is the equivalent of a casual conversation. It’s as simple as sharing an article on LinkedIn with a brief comment about why you think it’s interesting. Even liking an article on LinkedIn is shared with your followers. These actions are incredibly humanizing and go a long way toward building relationships.
So back to that letter I wasn’t going to write and what I would say. Brian Cornell should take a hard look at his executive communication efforts. Not the formal corporate initiatives, but his individual efforts to bring the public along for the ride in this turnaround. And if he hired me to lead this charge, it would be because of my insatiable curiosity to understand people, their motives and, in turn, communicate that understanding to others. Sure my formal public relations background is important but it’s my passion for basic sociology and psychology that makes me uniquely suited for the task.
So, who could introduce me to Brian Cornell?
Embracing change is notoriously difficult. A simple Google search yields dozens of helpful articles, self-help books and strategies that relate to embracing change. When people say they easily embrace change, I dare to bet one of two things is true: the change they are reflecting upon was their idea or they have had a lot of practice reacting to change directives.
We’ve all experienced forced change. From everyday hiccups like road construction that dictates we find an alternate driving route to more complex changes like workplace reorganization, change is something we can count on. As much as we claim to have no interest in reinventing the wheel, look how far the wheel has come! And that quest to build a better mousetrap is real. The drive to do things bigger, better, faster, cheaper is human nature.
So what’s my point and why am I writing yet another how-to-embrace-change article? Because it doesn’t have to be so hard. And the upside to readily embracing change is significant.
The “why” behind our negative emotional reaction to forced change is another topic entirely. (Hint: Nobody likes being told what to do.) But let’s save that for another day and get back to that not-being-so-hard part.
Consider the following thought tree about a hypothetical work-related process change. Imagine that this change directive is going to complicate your life. You’re going to have to do things differently, find alternatives and explain to people the pros/cons of each. For the sake of this argument, assume it’s not a change that will cost lives or trouble your moral conscience but it will probably feel like reinventing the wheel. A wheel you were perfectly happy with just the way it was.
You have a critical first choice to make. A choice in how you react and expend your mental energy. Take a look.
While this is admittedly oversimplified, it does make my point about the upside to truly embracing change. It makes you an asset to your organization instead of another task on the leadership change management plan. So the choice is yours, which do you want: negativity and nothing to show for it or a positive attitude, action plan and a seat at the table?
Easier said than done is what you’re thinking right now. But is it really that hard? It certainly takes practice (again, topic of future posts) but it’s as simple as not expending mental energy on things that are out of your control or in the past. Make a decision not to waste brain power thinking about what-ifs. Focus your energy on things you can control, make lists, make lists of lists and then take action.
Way back before the days of social media these things called blogs appeared. It was during my extended hiatus (AKA stay-at-home-parent gig) and I was curious and a bit mystified. I came from the world of public relations where the word of the media was golden. And the media was respected because it wasn't something just anybody could do.
I wondered things like "so people just write stuff, put it out there and people actually read it?" and "what kind of authority do these people have in order to attract readers?" and "if I had a blog, why would people want to read something that I wrote?" And here's the kicker, people were making cash money doing this. That boggled my mind. So one day, I decided I'd need to start a blog in order to find out what this whole thing was about. I'm a learn-by-doing kind of gal.
I named my new experiment Conversational Vomit because I had no idea what to write about. In the working world I was used to having an assignment or client or topic of some sort. Sure I had hobbies but my main hobby is figuring shit out and quelling my random curiosities. So I think I wrote a total of two blog posts.
The first was about finding the most economic natural household cleaners. I even calculated and compared products based on price per ounce because I was obsessed with getting products that I wanted without having to pay premium prices. (This is where I pause and say, pardon the OCD.) The second blog post was about my experience having carpal tunnel surgery. And yes, I had pictures.
So my number one question was answered pretty easily - people start blogs to share their expertise in something they are passionate about. But I thought worthwhile blogs had to be about grown-up hobbies like photography, rock climbing or world travels. I was still caught up on that authority bit so it never occurred to me that I could frame up a blog based on figuring things out.
My number two question was about how people made money through blogging. Luckily the google had my back there and I quickly learned about affiliate links, sponsorships and other monetization strategies pretty easily.
In the end, I discontinued writing blog posts for a number of reasons. I had babies to raise, new curiosities to research and I still hadn't figured out how to get enough sleep while tackling that first one. I considered my experiment a success and called it quits. I had satisfied my objective.
So uh, why now? Good question. Got a little time on my hands.