In business, one has to build relationships and constantly grow his network with a wide range of people including: peers, external stakeholders, upper management, and valuable customers. Success of which, depends on the level of comfort we have in an organization. John Clendenin was successful at identifying his preference – Line Management at Xerox, and did not hesitate to turn down more lucrative offers. At Xerox, he was very comfortable as he could relate well to Xerox’s corporate culture.
He proved his knowledge and value to the company right from the beginning, when he did his summer internship as a consultant. He scrutinized Xerox’s unnecessary distribution over-packing and also suggested eliminating the central corporate warehouses. These recommendations not only saved Xerox millions of dollars per year, but also gave Clendenin a chance to start building good relationships with Xerox. He leveraged this to negotiate a permanent career opportunity with Xerox.
Developing the right kind of network is extremely crucial to help grow in an organization. Clendenin knew which doors to knock on when needed and used Reciprocity in building some strong relationships with the right people.
Clendenin developed personal and professional friendship with Tom Gunning, a long-term employee at Xerox, with good knowledge and contacts in the part’s and supply’s system group – Clendenin found out Gunning’s favorite restaurant and took him out to lunch. In return, he knew he could benefit from Gunning’s knowledge and contacts.
To achieve the Corporate’s goal of increasing return on assets, Clendenin proposed to redefine MSDC’s (Multinational Systems Development Center) task to coordinate the development and implementation of changes in systems, procedures, and management practices. Contacting the right person who could deliver his proposal to Xerox senior managers (who formed the Corporate Information Systems Board) was crucial, and hence he built trust-worthy relationship with Les Elstein, a senior corporate manager. Through this, he successfully worked on his plan with Sy Zivan, the head of the USMG logistics and distribution organization, and eventually became the Director of MDC (Multinational Development Center) and reported directly to Vice President of Xerox.
As the director of MDC, Clendenin aimed to increase the team size and that involved getting funds from multinational logistic steering committee and working group. Rather than waiting for the scheduled meeting, Clendenin decided to get to know the secretaries of group members to establish familiarity. He valued the interactions with them so much so that even went the extra mile of travelling all the way to Europe and Japan, to meet the key members. By doing so, he started with small commitment requests of meeting in person, which eventually paved way for compliance and larger subsequent requests. On the day of the meeting, he did not let the lack of budget be a concern and made sure he wined and dined the associates. He made every effort to make them feel they were all a part of a single team with a common goal to achieve, as part of the Multinational Steering Committee. They all left the meeting feeling good and Clendenin had gained opportunities for productivity improvement.
Clendenin’s Approach as a Manager
The very first challenge Clendenin faced when he was promoted as an administrative manager, was to manage experienced employees reporting to him, while he was a fairly new college graduate with relatively less experience with Xerox. Though they always disagreed with Clendenin’s new ideas, Clendenin would strive hard, take risks, and make his plans work. Nevertheless, he valued their experience and wanted their guidance so made every effort to work together. Clendenin delicately managed everybody’s ego and personalities. He would never say any of the great ideas were just his, he would always say it was the group’s work and promoted healthy atmosphere for the group. He wanted everybody’s cooperation to achieve his aim and made every effort to pull the right strings in the background.
As the director of MDC, the next challenge in front of Clendenin was to increase the group size. Clendenin intelligently gained the required budget to grow his team. He knew the importance of having the right team members who could help achieve his goals. When he had to select the staff for his team, he received only undervalued members from other teams. Clendenin did not let this demotivate him, he spent a lot time in arranging multiple rounds of interview to hunt for the right members. He took inputs from all interviewers and made an informed decision about hiring candidates, making sure the ultimate authority was in his hand. He looked for intelligent candidates who could be motivated. He made sure they were caring and were team players, to ensure that the team would be close-knit and would care for each other, much like his own personality. As a manager, he knew the importance of having diverse skills in a team and hence had recruited employees from diverse background. To build the team, he assigned tasks to his team with overlapped job responsibilities, which forced them to work with each other to complete the work. This encouraged team work and the team grew stronger bonds.
Clendenin cared deeply about his team and about the things that mattered the most to them. He was sensitive about their requirements and if there were any personal emergencies, they were free to leave office early. This flexibility gained employee trust for Clendenin. They were feeling secured as they knew Clendenin would always support them, this ensured they would support him and his business ideas.
Clendenin would not only take care of his employee’s professional growth but their personal growth too. His staff was encouraged to set personal goals for themselves and achieve them with the same dedication and passion with which they chase after the professional goals. This ensured the employees had some leisure activity of their interest outside work, which would refresh them and enhance their personal lives. Clendenin was not only a good manager, but he was a kind human being too. He was actively involved in various community activities and would encourage his staff to participate too.
Clendenin’s team management skills were exceptional. Though his team sometimes did not agree with his decisions, his track record as a successful manager gave them enough evidence to trust him. In case of conflicts within the team, Clendenin would always try to think for the perspective of the involved individuals. He would logically solve the problems which would be acceptable by the team members.
His success as a manager was proved by the fact that his employees had the confidence to believe in him. He was always approachable that made his team feel they could depend on him. While being supportive, he was also making sure no one person suffered in the team due to lack of performance from somebody else. If the employee performance was not as per the expectation, Clendenin would try to personally take measures to rectify it by reinforcing positive behavior. He would never give negative feedback, as he knew from his psychology training that it would not help in any way. If the employee was stressed, he would take him/her out for a long lunch and help resolve the issues. He would give out multiple warnings and chances to improve before firing anyone. He would first verbally remind them about their responsibilities, followed by a written note.
Clendenin ensured his customers were satisfied with the services provided by his team. As pointed out by one of the MDC customers, they had seen drastic improvements after Clendenin became the manager – the team was far more responsible for their actions and honored customer requirements. The whole-team being well-informed served as a big plus as the customers now felt their requirements were honored.
Clendenin’s Overall Effectiveness
There are two main factors which ensured Clendenin’s success as a manager: The clear goal he set out for himself and the technique of finding solutions to problems which would ensure a win-win result.
This case is a good example to prove that when the career is aligned with personal values and vision, it accelerates the career success. Clendenin had a clear goal set out, which enabled him to execute a series of successful projects for which he was rewarded with four promotions in Xerox. Clendenin did not shy away from taking additional responsibilities, he was happy to step in as an acting manager of MSDC when the current manager resigned. Even though he was given a team with a very small budget and just 4 employees, he was focused on the bigger picture – the goal he set out for himself and was happy to see he was on the right patch in achieving them.
Clendenin was not a selfish manager who would only look for his benefits. There are no instances in the case where Clendenin manipulates anyone in Xerox to achieve his goal. He is always seen as a problem solver. He has strived to solve the problems in a way which would benefit both the parties.
As the head of MDC, he leveraged the greater productivity that MDC could achieve with APL than COBOL in developing new applications more quickly. This resulted in completing project more economically than the other units in Xerox. Clendenin’s customers were happy with the pricing he gave, while he made enough money for his team to grow.
With limited options of employees to hire for his team, he still diligently conducted interviews and selected the right kind of people he wanted for his team. As a result, the staff were happy as they were working for a manager who cared deeply about them, and Clendenin benefited as he had not only increased the team size but now had access to diverse skill sets.
The Xerox MDC figures summarizes his overall success in growing and managing the team – Millions of dollars a year saved for Xerox and both the annual budget and staff increased by over 1,000%.
Case Dilemma and Actionable Recommendations
John Clendenin was offered a lateral move from head of MDC to staff support position. An alternative to this offer was to remain as the head of MDC by committing 2 years to Xerox. While navigating such twists and turns of career, the personal values and vision can be helpful to stay on track. Clendenin’s goal was “to be successful enough to be a corporate officer in a Fortune 50 corporation and on the boards of several others, and eventually to be appointed to a cabinet-level position in our government.” (Herminia Ibarra, Managing Xerox’s MultiNational Development Center (Abridged) – from Harvard Business School) He was well ahead of his plan with the promotion as Director of MDC. Now, however, he has a decision to make between two career choices both of which affect his relationship with various people at Xerox.
I would recommend John Clendenin to accept the staff support position as its responsibilities are more challenging. It involves him managing relationships globally – China, Pacific Basin Countries, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East, and North Africa. As Clendenin is good at networking and building relationships, there are good chances he will be successful at this new role. The other responsibilities which include linking various corporate functions, ensuring multinational logistic organization inventory levels were same as other financial systems, and overseeing the quality and HR management issue resolution, would bring new challenges and opportunities for him. More importantly, with this new role he need not make any long-term commitment to Xerox, which gives him the flexibility to move to other team or another company, if needed.
The only downside to this would be that his peers would consider this move as a move away the fast track, but this is the same conclusion they would come to irrespective of what he decides. Hence, it is irrelevant to consider it in this decision-making process. As far as MDC is concerned, Clendenin does have responsibilities towards the people who reported to him. He cannot abandon the team especially when Hewitt had decided to reduce its budget and team size. Clendenin should discuss his new budget and organization chart with Hewitt and explain his ideas to get Hewitt’s approval on his plans. Clendenin should make sure the new plan is in place before he moves to his new position.
As Clendenin always takes risks and is believed to live on the edge, this move would benefit him.
Key takeaways from the Case
There are no second thoughts about the fact that John Clendenin was a great manager. The factors which made him a good manager should be incorporated by everyone who aims to reach similar heights in their management career.
• Clendenin’s problem-solving skills, his confidence about his decisions, and willingness to take risks to achieve success created a wonderful track record for Clendenin.
• He was extremely good at networking. He was excellent at not just building new relationships at Xerox, but also at maintaining those relationships.
• Meticulous planning behind choosing the right members for the team ensured he had intelligent people with diverse skill set in his team. This was a big reason behind his success as the MDC head.
• Genuine care for the well-being of his team and their family members, for employees’ professional and personal development, and helping them manage their stress, proved he was caring about his employees and their priorities.
• Humble and positive attitude towards his staff made him approachable. He never criticized them for their work, but always believed in reinforcing positive behavior. This gained him the respect from the employees.
• His clearly defined professional goals kept him on track and will be helpful in making any future decisions about his career.
- Herminia Ibarra, Managing Xerox’s MultiNational Development Center (Abridged) – from Harvard Business School
- Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap, Managing Yourself – How to Build Your Network, from Harvard Business School
- Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. New York: Collins.