Watch where you learn your leadership lessons.

What’s with the canonization of Steve Jobs?

Without a doubt, many have been lauding his abusive management style. Efforts are no doubt already underway to create a Steve Jobs School of Management. My understanding is that any day now, Pope Benedict XVI is set to announce that Jobs, may he rest in peace, has demonstrated the requisite three miracles to become a full-fledged saint.

But the Steve Jobs legacy raises a bigger question: Should someone be judged based on their actions, or their accomplishments? Because on the action front, Steve Jobs was by many estimations an unreconstructed jerk.

I’m not trying to tarnish the legacy of his accomplishments. The man headed a company that has built beautiful products. Having worked for a jerk in the past, however, I’m not participating in the Jobs adulation.

True Tales Of Bosses Gone Wrong

In my case, my former boss’s preferred method for expressing himself was screaming. Have you seen the movie Horrible Bosses, in which the new boss instructs an employee to fire all of the fat people? That really happened. My boss was a tyrant, ruling the workplace via a reign of terror.

In spite of his horrible management style, we employees devoted considerable time and energy to helping the company succeed, which it did. But when I left, one lesson I took with me was that working with jerks was never going to make for a pleasant work experience. And life’s too short to suffer an unpleasant work environment.

“No Jerks” Policy Rules

Hence the “no jerks” policy that I put in place when I founded Innoveer. The thinking here is simple: we want our clients to want to spend time with our team. Furthermore, consultants are guns for hire. We come in and solve a tricky problem. We don’t get hired to sort out the easy stuff. But being an on-call expert can go to people’s heads, and after a little while, a lot of consultants who work in this area can get rather arrogant.

Hence this question: Besides hiring nice people, how can businesses avoid jerks in the workplace? In the consulting realm, one excellent strategy has been to always avoid “big bang” projects. Instead, we pursue phased projects, and tie each short project phase to delivering a specific new business capability.

To be honest, we’re not so arrogant as to think that we can solve all of an organization’s CRM-related people, process and technology issues right off the bat. Instead, we’d rather our customers pursue incremental wins, building up to creating a big overall success. As a side benefit, this also keeps we consultants accountable, which is another great arrogance countermeasure.

Throughout projects, clients are always asking us what we think. We freely dispense our point of view, and to help provide even better answers, have cataloged hundreds of companies’ CRM practices to create our CRM Excellence Framework. You certainly don’t need to be a tyrant to get your perspective across. In fact, we want to share our perspective with a client about why territory management is so important, or the business upsides of integrating sales, service and marketing programs, and the best way to do that is by not being jerks.

How Minimalism Plays Well With Others

If Jobs got it wrong on the management-style front, where did he get it right? Without a doubt, his uncompromising pursuit of excellence–and attention to every last detail included in a product or marketing campaign–produced some great results. In a world filled with “bloatware,” Apple’s wares so often seem to capture just the capabilities you need, presented elegantly.

That minimalism-first ethos is ideally suited to CRM projects. Launch a complex new CRM application, and you’ll see salespeople running in fear, and contact center call-resolution rates plummet.

Instead, less is more. Identify the core set of CRM capabilities that you need, then put them in place quickly, while selling the project to salespeople. Use short project phases to add new capabilities, with each phase tied to delivering a specific business result. Ensure each “one more thing” shows users how the CRM software will help them do their job better. Make them want to own it.

Forget “thou shalt use CRM” top-down mandates, or unending verbal tirades. When it comes to CRM, a little consensus-building goes a long way toward creating successful projects. Which is yet one more reason why you don’t want to work with jerks.

Learn More

One of the most persuasive arguments against being a workplace jerk is that it ruins project cohesion and alienates the very users and champions that your project needs to not just succeed, but excel. In other words, if you want users to adopt your new CRM system, treat them nicely.

Similarly, avoiding jerks makes for much happier work environments. That’s just one of the reasons why Innoveer is a great place to work. For more information, see the careers section of our website, where we make our case.