Business Success from Empathy?


Empathetic CEO Leads McD’s to New Heights 2/5//09


There are a lot of reasons one could point to as “the reason” behind McDonald’s success in recent years. There are restaurant remodels, changes to the menu, a focus on value, etc.

While all of the above are certainly contributors, a piece on by Dev Patnaik and Peter Mortensen, co-authors of Wired to Care, posits that the real credit goes to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner for “building a widespread sense of empathy… for the company’s customers.”

According to Messrs. Patnaik and Mortensen, Mr. Skinner’s ability to get McDonald’s employees to see how the world and their company looks through the eyes of consumers has enabled them to provide something of true value to those who patronize the fast food chain.

Organizational empathy has also helped make McD’s more efficient. According to the authors, “Empathetic companies don’t get paralyzed by a sea of contradictory information. They have the acuity to cut through the noise and focus on what really matters. Most important, they find ways to lay the foundations for new growth regardless of what their competitors are up to.”

Discussion questions:  Do you agree with the premise that Jim Skinner’s greatest accomplishment has been in making McD’s a more empathetic company? How do you think that empathy is demonstrated in the day-to-day business of McDonald’s?

My post: 

This a very timely and important article to discuss.  I will not claim that empathy is the reason behind McD’s turnaround, but clearly the point of giving the customer what they want through a huge organization of individuals with varying priorities is almost a miracle.  As the authors state in the article, “Skinner’s success reminds us that in a crisis, the best way to get ahead is the best way businesses have done it for centuries: Have a gut sense for what people need and give it to them.”

The “miracle” is in Skinner finding the path to get the 30,000 McD’s employees to focus their talent and time on improving the customer’s experience.  Call it empathy, but Skinner has been able to be seen by franchisees and company staff as relevant, knowledgeable and inspirational.  Therefore, they have listened to his message and have focused as a cohesive organization on delivering for the customer.

Other than Sausage McMuffins with Egg (which are my guilty pleasure), I am not a McDonald’s customer – but I love the story.  Hopefully more CEO’s will read the author’s book, Wired to Care, and move their organizations in a similar direction.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

Go to the full discussion at


Thank you for visiting my blog!  Please subscribe using the RSS button and comment on my postings.  Comments are the life-blood of any blog and I appreciate yours!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: