Part 1: Behaviors Can Be Seen – Beliefs Can’t


Part 1: Behaviors Can Be Seen – Beliefs Can’t

Prior to initiating change it Chicago Tribuneis essential to consider the beliefs and behaviors that are ingrained in the company. Behaviors can be seen – beliefs can’t. This is most apparent in the behaviors of a company’s leadership, which everyone inside and outside the organization sees and monitors. If new leadership is put into place, he/she must behave as the company believes, not as they believe.

Here’s an example: Sam Zell took control of the distressed Chicago-based Tribune Co. in 2007 with hopes to make it profitable. Zell and newly appointed CEO, Randy Michaels, shocked and alienated their employees by implementing a new culture in accordance with their personal values rather than those of the company. Let’s compare the values of the 166-year-old company vs. those of the new duo:

Tribune Co.’s Values

  • Citizenship
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Diversity
  • Employee Involvement
  • Financial Strength
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork

Zell & Michaels’ Values

  • Creative Spirit
  • Fast Paced
  • Freewheeling
  • Loose Culture
  • Fun Atmosphere

Employees felt discouraged by the behaviors from leadership including cronyism in hiring practices, sexual harassment and off-color jokes. Needless to say, Zell failed to revive the company. A year after he took control he was forced to file for bankruptcy protection which lasted until 2012.  Zell sold the company at a loss of $3.7 billion, and Tribune Co. continues to fight to get back on its feet.

Will we ever know what would have happened if Tribune Co was placed under different leadership back in 2007? Check back next week for a part 2 post on behaviors and beliefs.

To avoid a similar mistake and get a better understanding of what the people of your company are experiencing internally, we can help. Here’s a free trial of the Companies Are People, Too organizational assessment to find out your company’s personality.


Sandy Fekete • March 8, 2013

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