Leadership Study 7

Yo-Yo Empowerment at Direct Mail, Inc.

Business has been great for Direct Mail, Inc., a company that designs a variety of direct marketing campaigns for its customers. Despite the increase in online advertising, direct mail has been a growth industry I recent years. Among the services of Direct Mail are personalized advertising flyers gearing products to the interests of the recipients, with flyers being mailed to both homes and offices. For example, a person who had ordered fine wines online or by telephone might receive a brochure about wine racks or wine storage cabinets. Another service Direct Mail offers is transactional promotions, or bills that arrive with advertising on the same page.

Dennis Parker, the founder and CEO of Direct Mail, says that he is astonished by growth of his industry. When he started his company, Parker was warned that going into the junk mail business was a high-risk venture. Yet recently, advertisers have come to realize that people act on flyers directed to their interest at a higher rate that they respond to Internet advertising or general advertisement in newspapers and magazines.

Parker say that he is passionate about his business for many reasons. He enjoys keeping up with the technology of digital presses, and seeing so much new business coming to Direct Mail based on its reputation. Parker say also that he enjoys the leadership and management challenge of running a growing business. “I’m especially good at motivating my workers through empowerment,” he says.

Audrey Valentine, the director of marketing, was having a dinner meeting with Parker at her initiative to talk about empowering style of leadership. With a gentle laugh, Valentine said to Parker, “I’m not telling you anything this evening I haven’t hinted at least six times before. The management team knows you are a sharp businessperson, and a kind manager, but you are also a yo-yo delegators.”

What do you mean, I’m a yo-yo delegator?” asked Parker. I’ll explain what I mean, Dennis. You do the same thing to me, the head of finance, and our operations guy. Remember when you told me something like, ‘We haven’t done much business yet in the home furnishing field?’ I put my best effort into drumming up a lead with a home furnishing executive. When I told you of my progress, you asked me to turn over the lead to you so you could wrap up the deal. The yo-yo here is that you give me something to do, and then you take it back when it looks good. What you send out comes back quickly to you.”

After listening to Valentine’s feedback about the yo-yo delegation, Parker calmly explained: “In this business high-level contacts and relationships are important. Empowerment can only go so far. A big customer would prefer to deal directly with the CEO, so that’s why I step in to help you.”



1. What advice can you offer Parker about his approach to empowerment?

2. To what extent is Valentine committing a political blunder in telling her boss that he is a yo-yo delegator?

3. What is your evaluation of the corporate social responsibility of a direct mail business, considering that probably over 90 percent of recipients of the mailings throw them away immediately?

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