Posts Tagged ‘John Stumpf’

The Buck Stops Here….Or Does It?

A few years ago, I interviewed two of Lee Iacocca’s speechwriters for an article on how the former Chrysler CEO used speeches as a powerful management tool. One of the factors they stressed was that Iacocca always made it a point to get out front on issues. In particular, he took responsibility for problems and moved quickly to fix them.

A recent article in Chief Executive points out that too many of today’s executives take a much different approach. The author, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management , starts out by noting the tendency of current political leaders (citing both President Trump and Hilary Clinton) to blame others for their setbacks.

Turning to the corporate world, he indicts high-profile CEOS, such as BP’s Tony Hayward and Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf, for also trying to wriggle out of responsibility for mistakes. This tendency is so widespread, psychologists have even given it a fancy label: “self-serving bias in attribution.”

I guess that sounds better than “being gutless.”

The good news is that there are still a lot of gutsy executives on the job. Sonnefeld reports that many corporate leaders “have shown us how to beat this bias through confession, courage, contrition and correction.” He cites James Burke of Johnson & Johnson confronting the Tylenol-tampering crisis, GM’s Mary Barra’s handling of the ignition-switch safety crisis, and Anne Mulcahy’s pulling Xerox back from the brink, among others.

I’ve been lucky to work for clients who are more like Iacocca than Trump. Here’s hoping the recent rise in self-serving bias in attribution is a blip, not a trend.

Wells Fargo CEO Delivers

stumpfHow would you like to be the CEO of a major bank tasked with giving a speech to an audience of small and large business owners, many of whom are being strangled by the credit crunch? That’s exactly what John Stumpf, the chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co., (left) found himself faced with last week when spoke at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s annual member luncheon.

While a transcript is not available, the video is well worth a look and listen. I think he did a terrific job, delivering a performance other top executives can learn from.

He started by deftly using gentle humor to take on the demonization of the banks. He said, “I’m not from Wall St, or even from Main Street.” Instead, he said, he grew up in a town so small, “there are more people in this room than in my home town.” And he provided some comic details on being a kid in a very crowded house.

He also did a great job of taking head on the charge that the TARP has been a taxpayer handout to rich banks.

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