Xerox’s main organizational issue is a lack of structure amongst executives and managers across multiple levels of the company. This is illustrated by the teams putting their own interests first, and their inability to work together to achieve David Kearn’s goal for increasing their Return on Assets (ROA). It is this reality that John Clendenin proficiently navigates through utilizing several leadership tools and tactics to grow MDC’s functional importance within Xerox’s structure, and ultimately help increase the company’s ROA. Personally, his ability to lead and pursue the organization’s objectives positions himself for broader responsibilities through a lateral opportunity.
The leadership problems within Xerox stems from a lack of buy-in due to unclear core values, leading to diminished collaboration and conflicting personal objectives. Despite this reality, John Clendenin’s leadership abilities, including his high emotional intelligence and persuasion techniques, allows him to diligently create alignment amongst subordinates, peers, and superiors. Cleverly, Clendenin makes use of his background in psychology and business in a way that directly address Xerox’s main leadership challenges.
Clendedin’s leadership at Xerox employs multiple formal power forms, which he demonstrates in his interactions at multiple levels of the company. His hierarchical position, as director of the MDC, bestows a level of legitimate power. Clendenin is able to use this power as a foundation for personal appeals to his employees. For example, his relationship with Tom Gunning is strengthened through reciprocity persuasion techniques, using phrases like “If we work together, I will take care of you.” Clendenin has the power to assist Tom’s advancement personally and professionally and furthermore possess the “ability to influence the behavior of others and resist unwanted influence in return”. (Prof. Kelly Wilson, Purdue University 2018).
Clendenin exemplifies several types of power, with reward and expert being two of the most compelling. He gains popularity and trust through reward power by not giving negative feedback, reinforcing positive behavior, and backing his employees as they take on different risks. Clendenin’s ability to create challenging and unpleasant experiences resulting in growth exemplifies his ability to coach his employees in the right direction. He also rewards his team with dinners, lunches, coffee and golf outings. Clendenin demonstrates expert power by listening to his team, acting decisively and in control, and is knowledgeable about his business.
In addition to power techniques, John Clendenin is as extremely skilled in several persuasion tactics that he leverages to knock down the gaps that exist within Xerox.
Similar to expert power, he uses personal appeal, with a combination of exchange influence, in addressing Tom Gunning, and inserts an exchange promise to produce a win-win situation. He often appeals to the regional managers’ value of fairness and reciprocity regarding “helping” other managers with inventory just as others have assisted them, displaying rationality and inspiration in execution. Through his coalition influence, when John is confronted with resistance, he persuades others to follow his approaches, as he did when he leveraged Les Elstein to get a mandate for MSDC’s new mission. He would even use their names in vain to bring unity in actively meeting goals. Additionally, Clendenin uses the collaboration technique to develop teams by overlapping job responsibilities, creating a bonding experience for his staff.
While not necessarily a persuasion technique, Clendenin uses goal setting to motivate his team to accomplish organizational objectives and personal goals. With that, John exemplifies the “ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Because of his strong leadership skills (shown through his power and influence techniques), along with his high emotional intelligence and understanding of necessary tools like goal setting, John is able to foster trust throughout his team and bring cohesion to dissimilar personal agendas of peers. Despite what some perceived as manipulation, colleagues trust him due to his genuineness. As a result, Clendenin’s unit grows from 4 individuals to 42 and budget skyrockets compared to a backdrop of departmental job and budget cuts.
Given the shortage of firm-wide unity surrounding the vision, mission and values of Xerox, Clendenin must overcome these obstacles, structural gaps in the company, and pervasive resistance to change, in order to add value for Xerox, as well as advance himself as a manager. Collins and Porras (1996) state “companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world” (pg 2). It is crucial that Xerox determine and live out their vision, mission, and value. The decisions made and the culture that the workers of Xerox create should ladder up to the company’s overarching vision. Without clear alignment, we see obstacles arise within the company as teams start to pursue their own agendas, creating gaps and resistance to change as time goes on. John navigates these obstacles with leadership tools he had acquired over time through military experience and his education which allows him to overcome structural gaps in Xerox’s separated independent divisions. The underlying trust that his employees and peers have in him aids his ability to use personal appeal to lead discussions toward agreement that serves the mission within MDC and simultaneously his personal agenda.
In order to address the organizational insufficiencies, Xerox’s senior executives must consider the firm’s lack of cohesion surrounding the vision statement, mission statement and core values whereby unity may forge a collaborative culture to support the ability of increasing ROA via efficiencies and synergy among business units. Reorganizing the structure of Xerox would facilitate the latent potential synergy, legitimizing and grounding the organizational changes, while simultaneously allowing the vision to be restated alongside structural changes. The following are specific actions that Xerox should take now:
1) Create a vision statement to guide long term actions; as well as a mission statement with focus on ROA initiative and use this to justify structural changes.
2) If Core Values have not been defined, or do not align with the vision, define Core Values that can be easily recognized and cited (i.e. through an acronym) and interjected into conversation, emails and presentations.
3) Communicate and reinforce the vision, mission statement, and values through an initial “saturation level” messaging to instill it into Xerox culture. Methods would include executive level dissemination via road trips, videos, emails as well as localized meetings.
4) Create reward/ recognition system for employees to give and receive recognition.
5) Compensation incentives: create a system that rewards mission execution.
6) Align divisions to a global structure, with smaller regional managers for customization of marketing and other functions. Include an EVP for Development & Manufacturing subordinated to the same Sr EVP so as to empower the later to drive cohesion and control conflict in a manner that embodies the company’s mission and vision.
7) Integrate the global company into regions by “localizing” regional field offices in strategically placed hub-like cities, headed by staffed with employees from local community to legitimize leadership and foster connection with clientele.
Through these action steps, Xerox can create better synergies, maximize expertise and productivities, and therefore produce better results. However, even though these steps were not formalized during Clendenin’s tenure, we see him transform the MDC under a similar action plan (on a smaller scale). He achieves this by clarifying the department’s mandate, and setting clear goals which gives direction needed to achieve success. Evidence of Clendenin’s success include the money saved by MDC’s various projects, collaboration cultivated among departments where he overcomes objections to bring cooperation regarding inventory management. Stylistically, his management approach elicited strong reactions from those who worked within MDC. He built relationships based on a reputation of trustworthiness, then utilized it combined with emotional intelligence and influence tactics (psychological skills) to steer action toward his personal and professional goals as a default perception of others that he would “do the right thing” for Xerox.
Clendenin has been successful in influencing executive stakeholders by persuading and appealing to their personal values, when concerned with their ego and position. He always emphasizes on the “we” and rarely takes credit for his own ideas. He has positioned his strategy as the collective decision maker of the group and ingratiates them by ‘taking their name in vain” by giving sole credit to someone else. By managing through the self-interest of others, he nurtures a lively, competitive work environment, adds value to internal clients with program cost reduction programs.
All in all, Clendenin is able to leverage his strong leadership skills, through power and persuasion, and charismatic and trustworthy personality to influence his team and Xerox, during a time where there are structural gaps and an unclear vision. Xerox can take action, starting with a clear and defined vision, in order to bridge the division amongst teams. The company is fortunate to have a visionary leader within their organization that can rally his team and cross-functional partners in order to achieve company-wide success. Due to unclear motives from upper management regarding a potential position change, the possibility of a new director destroying the progress made, and the need to continue having a dramatic impact on the company, Clendenin should continue his role in MDC.
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