Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lessons Learned from US’s Soccer Run in Copa America

The US Men’s Soccer Team had a great run to the semi-finals in the just-concluded Copa America Centenario. This was the 100th anniversary of this tourney usually reserved for South American teams only, and played in the US for the first time ever. While it was disappointing to get clobbered by Argentina, the overall team performance bodes well for the future.

Here are some things we learned about the US team in watching its six games:

  1. Kudos to Coach Juergen Klinsmann for setting an aggressive goal of reaching the semi-finals, and then making it. This was a bold objective in a very competitive tournament, featuring five of the world’s top nine teams: #1 Argentina, #3 Columbia, #5 Chile, #7 Brazil, and #9 Uruguay. The top three teams all advanced to the semis, as Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico fell by the wayside. In the quarters, the US bested #13 Ecuador, 2-1.
  2. For the first time as US coach, Klinsmann went with the same lineup, shaped in a more aggressive formation with emerging star Bobby Wood teamed up front with veteran Clint Dempsey. Dempsey led the way with three goals and two assists, disproving the doubters that said he is over the hill. The US played a more aggressive style of attacking its opponents all over the field, and it paid off. Klinsmann also found a solid back line led by young John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks, Wood and Yedlin are emerging young stars while Dempsey and Jermaine Jones proved they have enough life to anchor the team at the 2018 World Cup.
  3. However, the crushing defeat at the hands of Argentina and Lionel Messi showed just how far the US has to go to move into the top ranks. The Americans played that game without three starters, while revealed just how thin its bench strength is. Klinsmann needs to jettison journeymen like Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman and give his younger players like Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic – who has the potential to become the best player in US history – the opportunity to start rather than being subbed in with twenty minutes left.
  4. US Captain Michael Bradley was the major disappointment of the tourney. He was off pace with his passes the entire tournament, and a disaster against Argentina. As captain, it was Bradley’s job to lead the team and serve as quarterback in the back, yet he never showed any spark or leadership in the six games. Is Bradley over the hill at only 28, or does he need some serious coaching to get his game back on track? Instead of protecting his captain, Klinsmann needs to send him a message by benching him this fall in favor of a center midfield duo of Jones and Nagbe.
  5. In spite of losing 1-0 to Columbia in the third-place game, the Americans played this top-ranked team dead even. Only a brilliant save kept Dempsey’s curling direct kick out of the upper corner. Minutes later, Wood hit the post – a shot that could just as easily bounced in. The US was playing without two of its starting defenders due to injuries, as Columbia realized that subs Michael Orozco and Matt Besler couldn’t keep up the pace.

Looking ahead to World Cup 2018, Klinsmann should bring more of emerging young stars into the starting lineup and give them the experience of starting in qualifying games this fall, and drop the journeyman veterans who have proven that they can’t play at the top level. In spite of some disappointments, the US run in Copa was a big step forward and a sign of better days ahead.

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.

CNBC: Attracting Talent; Brexit & Banks

Bill George, Harvard Business School, discusses what it really takes to get and keep top talent in your organization. And what impact could Brexit have on banks.

This content was originally posted on on 6/20/16.

MARKETPLACE: Former CEO Weighs in on Shareholder Value

In our series “The Price of Profits,” we’re exploring corporations. What are they for? Whom are they for? And how that impacts the economy and you.

Bill George is the senior fellow at the Harvard Business School and the former CEO of Medtronic. During his time as CEO, George took a long-term approach to growing Medtronic into a booming business. He spoke with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about shareholder value and the problems with short-term thinking.

On the prevalence of shareholder-value thinking:

I think we’ve moved way too much towards what’s called shareholder value and away from taking into account creating value for all your stakeholders. You’ve got to think about how you’re creating values for your customers and in turn your employees. If you do that, well you’ll have great value for your shareholders.

On the reporting requirements for companies:

I think we should take the Warren Buffet approach at looking at the underlying financial metrics and not trying to meet the stock markets expectations. I always told the stock market ‘those are your expectations, my job is to build the company and achieve the goals we’ve announced to you.’ But I do think we should report quarterly. I think it’s a good discipline and because it gives investors a current look at what’s happening.

On companies engaging in buybacks:

There’s no evidence that in the long term buying back stock increases the stock price. If companies have excess cash, like say Apple does, I think it can be a very good thing to give some of that excess cash back to the shareholders. But if you’re depleting your ability to invest in research and development, in capital expenditures, in expansion or acquisitions, I think it’s a mistake.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview. 

Bill George was chairman of the board of Medtronic from 1996 until 2002. The current chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Omar Ishrak, is on the board of trustees of American Public Media, the parent company of Marketplace.


The original content for this piece was published on on 6/16/16. 

FORTUNE: One of the Best Ways To Become a Top Performing Company

Diverse, welcoming companies perform better than their more homogeneous competitors.

Want to become a top performing company? Create a diverse leadership team that reflects the diversity of the customers you serve, and ensure that everyone on your team feels fully included as a vital member.

Target, the nation’s No. 3 retailer, has long been a role model for diversity. Its board of directors includes only five white males among 14 members. They serve with six women, two African Americans, and three Hispanic people. It’s a group that reflects Target’s highly diverse customer base, where women make more than 70% of buying decisions. The company’s top management is equally diverse, with five women on its 11-person executive committee.

Target is also one of the most progressive companies when it comes to welcoming gays and lesbians. And CEO Brian Cornell actively responded to reactionary forces trying to limit transgender persons’ use of gender-appropriate restrooms. In a recent announcement, Cornell said transgender people can use the gender restroom they identify with at Target locations.

When the American Family Association organized a boycott of the retailer, claiming one million signatures, Cornell did not back down. “We’ve had a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion,” he said on CNBC, noting Target used African-American models in its ads as early as the 1960s.

Challenges to diversity are certainly not exclusive to business boycotts. They are playing out in state governments as well. When North Carolina’s state legislature created an uproar by passing a bill that would restrict transgender persons from using gender-appropriate public restrooms, former presidential advisor and North Carolina native David Gergen spoke out forcefully about the harm this law would create. In his commencement speech at North Carolina’s Elon University, Gergen told an audience of 12,000 that “forces of political extremism” were damaging the state’s reputation. “Enough is enough,” he declared. “It is time to raise our voices against this darkness. Indeed, it is time for fellow citizens of all stripes – white and black; young and old; native and newcomer – to join forces and preserve the best of who we are as a people.”

Other leaders are speaking out, too. In Georgia, vocal pressure from Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Delta’s Richard Anderson, and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson persuaded Governor Nathan Deal to veto similarly restrictive legislation.

Diversity Is a Competitive Advantage

In spite of some politicians’ attempts to stir up resistance to diversity, there is remarkably strong consensus from business leaders on the matter. They view diversity as a competitive advantage. To make sound decisions, these executives believe diverse points of view must be included.

Studies demonstrate that more diverse businesses perform better than their less diverse competitors. McKinsey research has shown that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than companies in the bottom quartile of diversity. For every 10% increase in racial diversity on the senior executive team, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 0.8%.

In a study of 2,360 companies, Credit Suisse found a positive relationship between the number of women on a board and return on equity. Similarly, when experimenters compared the composition of team members and the team’s success, they found that the number of women in the group was the strongest predictor of success. This far exceeded the predictive power of individual IQs, group cohesion, or even group motivation.

Attracting Better Talent

If companies want to have the most capable leaders, they will have to create workplaces that are both open and welcoming to everyone. If they don’t, they will find themselves losing talented leaders.

Companies, like Airbnb, Pinterest and Oracle have hired diversity consultants to overhaul their hiring process to eliminate implicit biases. Millennials in particular are insisting on working only in meritocracies, where people are judged on performance, not their racial, gender, or religious identity.

Diversity Alone Is Not Sufficient

How inclusive is your company of people from diverse backgrounds? Have you created a genuinely inclusive environment that allows everyone to perform to the best of their abilities?

To enable people from diverse backgrounds to flourish in your organization, you cannot have a few “token” people on your team. Instead, companies need a critical mass of diverse people who feel included in all decisions and respected for their contributions. No one wants to be singled out or given special treatment for their diversity status; they want to feel welcome, included, and valued for their talents.

Many companies work hard to hire diverse individuals, but they do little internally to prevent them from receiving unfavorable treatment. Researchers from the National Academy of Sciences recently completed a study that showed that minority employees feel they have to achieve ahigher standard of performance to receive the same credit as other individuals.

Leaders must ask questions about inclusion, such as “Have you noticed any other obstacles in the way to your success?” or “In terms of mentorship and promotion, do you sense that those happen without bias?” Nothing can change immediately, but small steps like these can add up.

Diversity and inclusion are no longer just social or moral questions. They are competitive requirements for every company.

Bill George is Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, former Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, and author of Discover Your True North.


The original content of this article was posted on on 6/13/16. 

CNBC: Big automakers vs. disruptors

Discussing management issues in the auto sector with Suzy Welch, “Winning” co-author; Paul Argenti, Dartmouth professor; Jeff Sonnenfeld, Yale School of Management; and Bill George, Harvard Business School.


This content was originally posted on on 6/2/2016.