Notre Dame


CEO pay is a very complex issue that involves a lot of tradeoffs. Ford‘s Alan Mulally represents a particularly interesting situation – he is among the absolute best executives in the world right now. In the last few years his work at Ford has been truly remarkable by nearly any metric. Further, he took an incredibly difficult job (Ford was behind when he took over and was falling fast), and he was soon faced with the most turbulent competitive landscape the automotive industry has seen in the last 50 years. Both of his primary American competitors went bankrupt. Yet through this fire, he skillfully led Ford through tremendous changes and has the company incredibly well positioned to be exceptional for the next few years – even ranked as a more attractive stock than Apple by CNNMoney readers.

This is what makes the issue so difficult. Does this tremendously successful CEO deserve a big paycheck? Absolutely. Does he deserve a $55 million dollar paycheck? That is the real question. The head of the UAW, Bob King, made this distinction very clear, which highlights the moral center of this debate. He specifically said that he does not think “any human being in the world” deserves that much money. This raises questions that business schools, boards of directors, and society at large need to contend with – do we believe that epically-large pay packages are morally responsible? Everyone agrees that long-term oriented pay packages are ideal for CEOs, as they help to solve the agency problem inherent in large public organizations by effectively aligning the CEOs interests with the interests of shareholders. However, the academic literature has shown that long-term contingent pay can be effective even if it does not involve incredibly large absolute dollar amounts. With this in mind, Bob King may be right – enormous pay packages might not be morally right. But I can assure you that until CEO labor markets adjust to bring down these huge pay packages, the best people (Alan Mulally included) will be tempted to go to organizations where they can get the best rewards for their talent.

I think this is where Notre Dame has the opportunity, and maybe the responsibility, to be a voice at the center of the debate. Given our vision to help corporate America have the courage to Ask More of Business, we need to help influence leaders and especially boards of directors to make more responsible decisions that embrace long-term contingent pay without falling victim to the easy way out of rewarding great leaders with exorbitant packages just because they feel like everyone else is doing so. Further, market leaders like Ford could use this as a ‘teachable moment’ to show their peers that truly amazing talent can be fairly compensated with large but not excessive pay packages even in the face of epic leadership we might be able to get closer to making this a reality.

For more, also see the press release Notre Dame put together about my comments:  ND Expert.  I also had the opportunity to speak with Jack Nerad on his nationally syndicated radio show about these issues more broadly. The interview should be airing in the next few weeks:  America on the Road.

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As it is presentation season at Notre Dame, I’ve had a few recent requests from students for my “tips on making your presentation awesome” guide.  So, I thought I’d post this here and share it with everyone.  None of this is rocket science, but I’ve found that just thinking through some or all of these points in the build up of preparing for a presentation can be a helpful refresher and get a group talking about things that they can do to be more persuasive in their presentation.  The key, for me, is to think of a presentation as a conversation in which you are trying to persuade someone to believe in your ideas.  The list below is an aggregation of ideas I’ve shared with groups through the years after watching and grading hundreds of group presentations on a wide variety of different topics in business classes at Notre Dame and Michigan State over the last 7 years.  I hope this helps!

The List

  1. Use embedded pictures and stories to stoke interest in your ideas, making your ideas come to life with tangible or funny examples that illustrate your points.
  2. Pay attention to eye contact (this doesn’t mean perfect eye contact, just a consistent engagement with the audience, very limited reading from notes / slides).
  3. Pay attention to transitions between speakers (smooth, graceful handoffs between collaborators working together who know each other and are working toward a common goal, not abrupt starts and stops of modularity). 
  4. Pay attention to cadence (both within and between speakers!).
  5. Pay attention to volume (we need to be able to hear you, but don’t yell at us).
  6. Pay attention to your introduction (short, sweet, professional).
  7. Pay attention to your conclusion (sum up your best stuff simply and persuasively).
  8. Pay attention to perceptions of modularity (although the work may have been done in parts, make the presentation seamless, appearing to be one coherent whole of collaborative creativity)
  9. Think about your presentation as a multi-media experience (it is always nice to engage the audience through multiple media devices, such as lecture, slides, handouts, video, audio, etc. This doesn’t mean that you should try to do everything, just a keep these things in mind to make your presentation as engaging as is appropriate).
  10. Pay attention to PowerPoint design (simple, elegant designs that have colors that make it easy to read text, a limit to the amount of text per slide, interesting use of graphics and pics)
  11. Pay attention to professional appearance as part of the charm and polish of your presentation.
  12. Try to be engaging, as audience engagement always matters.
  13. Avoid fidgeting too much, but moving around a bit can be good.
  14. Avoid talking to other group members behind the speaker as much as possible.
  15. Smile.  Be funny if you can, but don’t be obscene.  Be persuasive!

 Final thoughts: 

  •  In the reality of the professional world, the simple truth is that presentation effectiveness is always a function of both style and substance.  I want you to be great professionals, so I’ll be grading you on both.
  •  Teams are often great at critiquing each other’s written work but don’t even think about each other’s presentation prowess.  Break the ice.  Take this list and talk it over as a group.

ndEach year the Alliance for Children and Families sponsors a trend report that summarizes important trends facing the non-profit community.  In the past this report focused on combining the work of the Alliance’s Severson Information Center staff with the insights of non-profit CEOs and program leaders.  This year, the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Non-Profit Administration group is co-sponsoring the report, and they are adding the insights of some Notre Dame faculty to the mix.  I was asked to give a management professor’s perspective on the impact of these trends.  Below is a summary list of my thoughts.  A more detailed description of each of these points is available by clicking here.  The full 2009 Non-Profit Trend Report should come out this fall and will be available at the Severson website.  For now, you can see the 2008 Non-Profit Trend Report.

1.  A Focus on Evidence-Based Performance

2.  Re-Orienting to the New Customer

3.  Keeping Talent in Tough Times

4.  Strategic Approaches to HR in the New Knowledge Economy

                  – Open-Source Models of Project Management

                  – Tapping the Millennials

                  – Older Adults as Expert Professionals on the Cheap  

5.  Disseminating Best Practice Benchmarks

6.  The Mixed Impact of Non-Profit Consolidation

7.  Funding Model Evolution

8.  Madoff-Era Insecurity, Trust, and Ethics Issues