Erika Hayes James
  • Search results for Erika Hayes James
  • Mary Barra and the GM Recall Crisis, Part II

    In Part I of this blog series, we talked about the importance of early verbal responses to a crisis as an acknowledgement. When the leader recognizes the situation and even apologizes for the negative impact on stakeholders, stakeholders perceive it as a firm’s willingness to take corrective action and is correlated with a leader and his or her organization taking on a learning orientation.

    Framing the issue as a threat vs. opportunity
    How a crisis is framed by leaders also matters to the subsequent handling of the crisis.  Crises are negative events that evoke an emotional response.  According to psychological research, events that are perceived negatively are interpreted as threats, and in turn spark negative emotions (e.g., anger, anxiety, and despair) and negative behavior (defensiveness, deception, paralysis).  Under these circumstances it is difficult for leaders to recognize the potential opportunities for positive change that can manifest from crisis.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that in response to situations interpreted as threats, leaders become more restricted in how they process information and less generative and creative in identifying solutions.

    Read More

  • Mary Barra and the GM Crisis, Part I

    A few years ago a colleague and I conducted research that disturbingly revealed that the announcement of the appointment of a female CEO provokes significantly more negative investor reaction relative to the announcement of the appointment of a male CEO.  At the time, we argued that the status differences accorded to men and women, and the infrequency with which women are named to executive positions, made the appointments feel more risky to investors.  Risk translates into reduced confidence, and reduced confidence yields reduced investment, thereby negatively affecting the stock price upon news of the new executive appointment.

    Although in recent years, we have seen ostensible growth in women holding top leadership jobs (think Ursula Burns at Zerox, Ginny Rometty at IBM, and Indra Nooyi at Pepsi), the scrutiny of women in these positions tends to outpace that directed to their male counterparts.  Imagine, therefore, the pressure for recently appointed General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra.  The first female CEO to lead one of the big three U.S. auto manufacturers is now also facing a highly publicized crisis – something else that tends to draw scrutiny and invite reduced confidence in leadership and firm performance.

    GM is embattled in a significant recall for millions of cars with ignition and other defects dating back more than a decade.  The recall is both financially costly and damaging to the beleaguered automaker’s reputation.  For Barra, investors and other stakeholders are voyeurs peering into her crisis handling, prepared to comment (and criticize) at every turn.  Below the surface her gender may make this an even more intriguing case than your average corporate crisis.

    There are some things Barra can do to mitigate the threat associated with the recall, and potentially stave off some of the risk associated with the crisis.  Read More

  • Defining the “All” in Can Women Have it All?

    There have been some interesting perspectives in my Community of WE (Women Executives) discussion groups on both Facebook and Linkedin on the topic of Can Women Have it All? The comments have spanned everything from “Yes, look at Marissa Meyer, the new Yahoo! CEO who just had a baby” to “Are they expected to want to?” to “No, they really can’t.”

    This past year I have embarked on two new career moves that individually would have been a huge endeavor, and simultaneously have been quite the undertaking—I feel like I’ve given “all” in this case a whole new meaning! At the beginning of 2012 I became the new owner and president of the Institute for Crisis Management, a crisis consulting firm. ICM has been successful for over 20 years, but needed to expand its offerings to include products and services related to risk assessment, crisis preparation and prevention, and change management and resilience.  Taking over ICM was a fantastic opportunity to take my years of work in this field and have a more hands-on impact on real-world companies, both domestic and global.

    Then, later in the year, I was presented with an unexpected, but most welcome chance to become the new senior associate dean responsible for the Executive Education business unit of the Darden School, where I was currently serving as a professor in the MBA and Executive Education programs.  Read More

  • Is This the End of the Line for BlackBerry?

    BlackBerry may be in serious trouble.  The most recent crisis started with an outage in Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry) messaging service to customers in the Middle East.  Over a span of three days the outage traversed the globe with the most recent disruption to service in North and South America on Wednesday.  Customers are understandably angry, and although they probably won’t abandon their beloved phones immediately chances are this is one more reason to look elsewhere for their mobile messaging needs.  Unfortunately for Research in Motion, their competitor, Apple, released its new iPhone at the same time it is dealing with its most recent major outage, thus making a transition to an alternate smartphone increasingly more attractive to customers.  Moreover, a mix of emotion (sadness over losing Jobs and anger at BlackBerry) may be just enough to cause Blackberry customers to think twice during their next phone purchase. 

     To Research in Motion’s credit the company said the right things, apologized to customers, and seemed to throw resources at the problem quickly; but the problem was bigger and spread faster than it could manage.  Read More