Commentary

Tim Cook Urges Empathy

It was foolish for anyone to have imagined that the venomous partisanship of this election would dry up as soon as the votes were counted, and of course it hasn’t. Thousands of people protesting the result marched in cities across America yesterday, burning Trump effigies and surrounding Trump-branded buildings. The formerly angry faction, Trump supporters, are now optimistic, and the former sunny optimists, Clinton supporters, are now angry, but net contentiousness seems about the same. That’s a problem for business leaders because for employees the stress of this environment is exhausting, and deep political tension at work can warp the culture, freeze collaboration, and wreck productivity.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has again proved himself a leader with the message he emailed to all U.S. employees Wednesday. A note urging employees to put partisan feeling aside and “move forward together” could have been standard corporate blather, but Cook astutely made it do double or triple duty, and it’s an instructive example for all leaders. Specifically:

-He framed employees’ differing views of the candidates as an example of Apple’s diversity and inclusiveness: “We have a very diverse team of employees, including supporters of each of the candidates.” That framing was effective because it was authentic. Cook has built a record of defending inclusiveness, for example publicly criticizing proposed laws in Arkansas and Indiana last year that some believe would have legalized discrimination against LGBT citizens. “Apple is open for everyone,” he has said. “We welcome everyone.”

-He reminded employees that they all work together for a noble purpose: “Our products connect people everywhere, and they provide the tools for our customers to do great things to improve their lives and the world at large.” Too many business leaders miss this opportunity – explaining how the company makes the world a better place. The best leaders do it relentlessly. Cook tied this point to the issue of political divisiveness by observing how Apple achieves its noble purpose: “Regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together.” That is, by putting their differences aside, Apple employees can accomplish something valuable that they could never do alone.

-In the trauma and stress of the election, he identified an opportunity for employees to help one another. This was brilliant, a single sentence near the end of the note: “I’ve always looked at Apple as one big family and I encourage you to reach out to your co-workers if they are feeling anxious.” He’s turning powerfully felt political opinions from fuel for anger into an opportunity for empathy and human connection. He’s suggesting that employees focus on each other’s emotional state rather than on each other’s partisan stance; to the extent they actually do that, the atmosphere is transformed from blistering heat to comforting warmth.

Sending an email won’t make tense disagreements evaporate. But done right, it can make everyone in the organization more self-aware and can start the job of detoxing the workplace.

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What We're Reading Today

Mark Zuckerberg says fake news spread via Facebook...
...didn't sway the election. Facebook has come under fire for its role in distributing made-up reports within groups whose members communicate largely with one another. "There have been hoaxes on the Internet, there were hoaxes before. We do our best to make it so that people can report that," Zuckerberg said. Fortune
Singles Day sets high marks for Alibaba
Today's one-day shopping event in China, the world's biggest shopping day, brought record revenue to Jack Ma's Alibaba. By afternoon, sales had surpassed the $14.3 billion of goods sold last year and dwarfed last year's total Black Friday sales in the U.S. WSJ
ESPN drags down Disney
Bob Iger's company reported disappointing fourth-quarter results as subscribers continued to decline at ESPN, the company's main profit source. The overall cable network business, which includes ESPN, dropped 7%. But Iger is optimistic about ESPN's opportunity on new digital services. Reuters
Bill Ackman: Valeant may change its name
Facing continued backlash over its drug pricing policies under previous leadership, Joseph Papa's company may consider a name change. It could take the name of its largest business, Bausch & Lomb, though no decision has been made. Fierce Pharma

Building Better Leaders

The tech skills that are the hardest to find...
...include cloud security, metadata design, and information architecture. Demand is mushrooming as companies of all kinds focus on organizing and analyzing data. CIO
Consumer choice overload?
Actually, consumers like a lot of choices, but mostly at the beginning of the buying process, when they're deciding if they want to buy at all. Stanford Insights

Moving Forward

Trump's transition team includes lobbyists
President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on fighting the corruption of special interests, but his transition team includes a number of lobbyists and corporate consultants. Jeffrey Eisenach, who has spent years working for telecommunication companies, will help select staff at the FCC. Michael Catanzaro, who lobbies for Devon Energy and Encana Oil and Gas, will help develop the energy team. NYT
Customers react to New Balance pro-Trump comments
After a New Balance spokesperson said on trade, "The Obama admin turned a deaf ear to us & frankly w/ Pres-Elect Trump we feel things are going to move in the right direction," customers have filmed themselves burning New Balance shoes on social media. Rob DeMartini's company has responded with a statement saying "we welcome all walks of life." Fortune
Trump seeks delay in federal fraud trial
Citing the time demands of choosing a transition team and preparing for the inauguration, Donald Trump's lawyers sought to delay the class-action fraud suit over Trump University until after he's sworn in. The judge urged the two sides to settle. USA Today

Up or Out

CME Group CEO Phupinder Gill will step down at year-end. WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi's response to the election
"I had to answer a lot of questions, from my daughters, from my employees, they were all in mourning...Our employees are all crying and the question that they are asking, especially those that are not white: ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I’d have had to answer those questions...The first thing we all have to do is assure everyone living in the United Sates that you are safe," says Nooyi. Fortune
Obamacare signups surge
Over 100,000 people signed up on Healthcare.gov on Wednesday, possibly in response to President-elect Donald Trump's promise to repeal the program. Fortune
Nordstrom's takes a nearly $200-million writedown...
...on Trunk Club, an online men's fashion business that it bought for $350 million in 2014. Fortune
IMAX creates a $50-million fund...
... to grow the popularity of virtual reality by underwriting films and video games. Other companies investing in the fund include Acer, Creative Artists Agency, and media investment fund China Media Capital. Fortune

Happy Birthday

Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, turns 64 on Sunday. Biography
Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy turns 62 on Sunday. Biography

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