With 5 short words, McDonald’s CEO just posted a complete lack of emotional intelligence


It’s a story about McDonald’s, emotional intelligence – and what happens when someone shows almost no emotional intelligence at all.

If you find it interesting or useful, I recommend you download and read my free ebook, Improve emotional intelligence 2021, that you can find here.

Here is the background. It begins with two tragedies in Chicago earlier this year:

  • First, a 13-year-old named Adam Toledo was shot dead by Chicago police.
  • Next, a 7-year-old girl named Jaslyn Adams was killed while sitting in a drive-thru at a Chicago McDonald’s.

The day after the shooting that claimed Adams’ life, Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago. She spoke with CEO Chris Kempczinski, then Kempczinski texted Mayor Lightfoot.

The activists ultimately used a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what he had told her. In what turned out to be the most important part, Kempczinski’s texts read as follows:

“ps the tragic shootings last week, both in our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toldeo. With the two, parents failed these children what i know is something you can’t say. Even harder to fix. “

I have highlighted the five key words: “parents failed these children. ”

Protests followed, detonating Kempczinski for blaming the parents. In an open letter, some McDonald’s employees and community groups called Kempczinski’s message “ignorant, racist and unacceptable.”

The mayor’s spokesperson commented: “The shame of the victim has no place in this conversation.”

The grassroots workers were also unhappy. As a McDonald’s employee told the Chicago WBEZ:

“He does not know the situation of these parents. [He’s] blame parents for violence on the streets. He can’t understand because he’s rich, and we aren’t, and he doesn’t understand our struggle. “

After the backlash, Kempczinski wrote to all McDonald’s employees in the United States this week to explain the genesis of his text to Lightfood, and possibly to apologize – although he never used the word.

I have been fortunate enough to review what he wrote, and if I can sum it up, it really comes down to one simple proposition: a violation of all the most basic rules of how emotionally intelligent people think when talking. important conversations.

Let’s break it down while using Kempczinski’s “quasi-mea-culpa” as a guide:

Rule # 1: Imagine yourself in the shoes of your audience.

Emotionally intelligent people find that hardly anyone else sees the world exactly from their point of view.

Sometimes that’s good, but other times – say, for example, when you’re the $ 10 million a year CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies – it’s up to you to make the effort. additional.

Kempczinski immediately admits that he didn’t do it here:

“I thought through my lens as a parent and reacted viscerally. But I didn’t put myself in the shoes of Adam’s or Jaslyn’s family and so many others facing a very real reality. different.”

I would go further: it was not only not thinking about parents – obviously that was crucial – but he also wasn’t thinking about how his words would be perceived by the mayor, McDonald’s employees and the city at large.

A little empathy goes a long way, but apparently a lack of empathy can go even further.

Rule # 2: Stop and think before you act.

There may be times when acting quickly, without thinking, is better than deliberative action.

But these moments are the exception to the rule. And texting the mayor of America’s third largest city (knowing, as the CEO of McDonald’s certainly should, that there is no expectation of confidentiality in this type of communication), certainly isn’t. no exception to this rule.

Kempczinski knows it was a mistake not to take the time to think about what he was saying.

“Not taking the time to think about it from their perspective was a mistake,” he wrote, “and it lacked the empathy and compassion I feel for these families.”

Lesson learned – although I bet he wishes he had learned sooner.

Rule # 3: Be Strategic Kindness.

Kindness and empathy are byproducts of emotional intelligence, not goals. Instead, emotional intelligence is all about being aware of emotions and harnessing them to increase your chances of achieving your goals.

That said, kindness can be a goal in itself – and showing kindness can make people more receptive to what you have to say.

In this context, he was very mean, just days after the horrific gunshot deaths of a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old, to suggest that the parents were to blame.

This would be true even if Kempczinski somehow thought he could back up his claim. (I’m not saying I think he could; I’m just guessing he probably thought he could, if he thought he could say it.)

Either way, human decency practically begs you to hold your fire in this situation. Far better to remain silent than to play wheelchair sleuth in a way that says those who are probably suffering the most should shoulder the burden.

Live and learn

There is an irony to writing about this situation in that I feel compelled to try to write emotionally: pause, put myself in other people’s shoes, write kindly where I can.

And there is a temptation to express sympathy for Kempczinski: who among us has not said something that he later regretted, and even wanted to read?

The difference is that Kempczinski doesn’t write just for himself; he writes as the CEO of one of the world’s most iconic companies, which received over $ 10 million last year (a weak year, in fact, because of Covid), and which has a lot more of responsibilities that most of us do.

I’m not sure if he’s sincere in describing the lessons he’s learned, or if he really wants to create better posts, or if he cares a bit about leading with emotional intelligence.

But you and I can. Hence, the free ebook I mentioned: Improve emotional intelligence 2021, that you can Download here.

Even though Kempczinski apparently hasn’t read it, I think you’ll find it useful. And maybe reading it will make it a little less likely that you will have to write a “quasi-mea-cupla” someday like it did too.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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