Columnist Lee Schafer provides short takes on economic incentives and choices, business strategy and performance, market moves, what business leaders are saying and doing and other topics that pique his interest.

Target's chief marketing officer: 'Speaking with honesty is a gift'

Posted by: Lee Schafer Updated: May 14, 2014 - 12:47 PM

The search for a CEO at Target has certainly led folks to assume that Target’s senior leaders are in maintenance mode until a new boss arrives.

Now, there’s more evidence to suggest that isn’t the case. It comes from a post by Target Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones put on LinkedIn last night. 

It was a remarkable thing for an executive vice president of Fortune 500 company to write and share publicly, but these are remarkable times for Target. And leaders need to step forward.

Jones was effective in part because he was a little unpolished -- and so he came accross as authentic in a way that a canned statement never does.  

Jones was responding to what’s reportedly an anonymous employee email posted on the website Gawker that said the company is in desperate need of help, direction and vision, starting from the top down,” in large part because of a culture of mediocrity and conformity around just being “Target nice.”

Jones replied that, yeah, it would have been better to have had this conversation face-to-face and not over the Internet. But he added, “The reality is that our team members speaking with honesty is a gift. Because much of what they are saying is true….and challenging norms is exactly what we need to be doing today and every day going forward.”

 “In the coming days and weeks we will embrace the critiques of Target -- whether it’s from outsiders or our own team -- like an athletics team puts the negative press on the wall in the locker room,” he continued.

He slipped a bit in to corporate-speak as he ticked off what is now happening inside Target.

“We are accelerating our innovation pipeline,” he said. “We are simplifying how decisions are made. We are exploding cultural symbols of bad behavior. We are searching for a new CEO…but in the meantime, we’re not standing still. Yes, the truth hurts. But it will also set you free. Our job now is to create a new truth and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of Jones response was what he said to his marketing leadership team earlier, as related in his LinkedIn post. The work that lies ahead of them will be difficult, but the meeting the challenge will be the most interesting and challenging work of their careers.

“If you don’t believe this, if you are not reinvigorated at this very important moment in time, if you are too tired or too cynical for this work, please leave.”

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