Stuck in the Middle: Got MBIFM?

Over the course of the stuck in the middle series which have examined several leadership personas (the geologist, collaborator, Visualist, Vassalizer, amoeba and the fence mender) – to date these were leadership styles which represented themes in execution – today’s Leader is different. Today’s leadership persona is really about a type of leader who sources their content from a fairly interesting media type, not quite pulp fiction, not quite the economist.

So where does this leader source their idea’s? The dreaded In flight magazine – yes that rag which is saturated in hokey travel, the latest gadgets to get and trends in business. The leader who manages by in flight magazine or a MBIFM is typically fairly conservative and not overly creative. I would like to think a CMO, CEO or other C with the tendacies of finding “good ideas” in magazines would find them in Ad Age, or another credible source, but the Get Me One Of These (GMOOT) orders from this leader are typically sourced in [tag]Sky Magazine[/tag], [tag]WorldTraveler[/tag] or the American Way magazine. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got cool logo gear and have had great meals thanks to in flight magazines, but I’ve never had a great idea because of one. So why is it that this leader uses in flight magazines rather than real magazines? I really don’t know, I think it might be that he or she just spends too much time on a plane and is possibly too cheap to buy a magazine at Hudson News. In years gone by when airline’s supplied other magazines, it was a lot harder to figure out this leader, but in days of cut backs and snack packs it’s considerably easier. Not only is this leader conservative, they might just be a little naive as well in thinking others haven’t read the article as they usurp and pervert the concepts gleaned from Salt Lake to Denver. In general – don’t all of us spend the 7 minutes required on a flight to read the important headlines and articles? For this leader ideas from Sky Magazine become an imperative – if his or her organization isn’t doing it yet – they should be and NOW. The reality is that if it’s already in an in flight magazine you might be a little late, but I do believe in the adage that it is better late than never, but does it really need a SWAT team? Take this month’s management duh on customers and the product from Continental Magazine:

“I think companies have spent too much time thinking about their products and their brands, and not enough time thinking about their customers,” explains Rust, who serves as chair of the Department of Marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Really, they ought to be organized around customers, rather than around products and brands.”…“It’s a matter of communicating with customers interactively. We do something. They react in a certain way. They communicate with us. We have various touch points with the customer. And you can take a look at that relationship in terms of how it unfolds over time.”

The problem with MBIFM’s isn’t the idea, but how they misinterpret the idea. The quote above is as much about target market and “the Product”, as it is about transforming how a company interacts with their customer in new channels and in a transparent way. If you are effectively managing a product customer communication, understanding and interaction should always be part of the plan – I digress. As a use case, this type of an article for a MBIFM will start with challenging the team to not talk about the products and deemphasize the brand rather than encouraging an open culture which embraces communication with the customer via social media.

NOTE: The article never used the term social media, so this use case also proves out that you only get cursory information in such magazines.

The poorly pitched project kick off and the general misunderstanding caused by sleepy reading will take the SWAT team at least 3 meetings to correct course on. I’ve actually brought a suspected article to a meeting once to clarify things on the 4th meeting, I was getting annoyed that folks were taking the leader a little too seriously/literal on the project charter and initial interpretation. This group mentality is the difference between the sprit and the letter of a leaders charter, the same type of over simplification a MBFM makes when acting on in flight content.

The impact of MBIFM’s reading habits are peppered in most of their interactions and sometimes used as proof points that they are well read, cool and worldly. They talk about travel to Iceland, new gadgets and great places for dinner in other cities they’d like to eat at. Don’t get me wrong, I use Sports Illustrated to have sporty things to chat about – so you can’t fault them, but please don’t tell me how cool the hot springs are in Iceland.

At the end of the day, these platinum medallion travelers have 3 to 5 paragraphs of all things new and they will wield this knowledge as a sword. To account for this type of leader, I recommend you make sure to spend some time every month to read the airline Hub’s magazine for your airport thoroughly and browse other airline mags online where available. Few things are more fun than quoting back factoids from an article, building out a conversation by speaking to a featured Spa in North Carolina or the scallops at LaCôte in New Orleans with this leader. Bottom line: While most of these ideas are typically a late and not fully understood – they are well intentioned and can be used for good within the organization.

A MBIFM’s group is very easy to execute in, since every new leader idea is all about NOW and allows for idea extension in the execution phase. Meaning it offers the the thoughtful middle manager the opportunity to streamline the concept and steer the SWAT team towards new versions of the idea. Usually if an idea is in American Eagle Latitudes, there’s already a new permutation in practice and you can actually use a late idea as an opportunity to innovate.

So how do you find one of these in your office if you don’t travel or prefer not touching a magazine touched by hundreds of other people? Look for the leader with really cool things to play with in their offices which they probably ordered from [tag]Skymall[/tag] and who has inspirational posters from successories. You could also just make it part of your online reading, so stay armed and ready with your own MBIFM Content at iTravelNet’s Directory of In-Flight Magazines.

CONFESSION: I once used an [tag]in flight magazine[/tag] source to prove an idea wasn’t whacky and out there. I did of course use it as a trojan horse to move the project to a new incarnation of the concept.

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  • Reply DevelopmentCorporate » Blog Archive » Technology Marketing for $100 a Month Part II December 16, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    […] The post reminds me of another article I read that I still chuckle over — Management by Inflight Magazine.  […]

  • Reply jon gatrell July 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    @crankypm yeah management by in flight magazine is no fun… "So what is it we are doing with this SaaS thing?"

  • Reply Cranky Product Mgr July 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    @spatially – awesome blog post. thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Cranky Product Mgr July 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    RT @spatially: yeah management by in flight magazine is no fun… "So what is it we are doing with this SaaS thing?"

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