Case of Mixed Up Leadership

Case of Mixed Up Leadership

I recently ran across this video about Tony Piloseno who lost his job as a paint mixer while working at Sherwin-Williams.  This story caught my attention because it is very reminiscent to a couple of high profiled case studies I’ve seen in years past.  When leaderships is stuck in their ways and doesn’t recognize the change in times, they miss out on opportunities to advance their business.  This case of mixed up leadership happens too often.  When leaders can recognize potential and innovation in the works, they should embrace it rather than squashing it.

You can view the story of how Tony Piloseno lost his job at Sherwin-Williams in the short YouTube video, linked above.  Now I’m fully aware that every story has two sides.  You can read more on Tony’s story and Sherwin-Williams perspective on the situation here.  There’s also a follow up to Tony’s story and where his career landed, which you can read more on here

A quick summary of Tony’s case is as follow.  Tony was a paint mixer for Sherwin-Williams, a very prominent paint brand in the US.  Tony has a passion of mixing base paint colors with interesting recipes such as coffee, beer, medicine, and so on.  You get the idea.  Each unique recipe he uses produces a very unique color.  Tony records his mixing experience and posts them on the social media platform, TikTok.  His posts went viral and Tony gained thousands of followers.  Tony saw an opportunity and proposed the idea to the Marketing Department at Sherwin-Williams.  Instead of seeing the potential in what Tony was doing on TikTok, Tony was instead fired for “gross misconduct”. 

Sherwin-William side of the story according to the article on Buzzfeednews.com is that Tony was using company’s paint to make his videos.  In addition, Tony was creating videos during company’s time.  Time where he should be working.  Finally, company equipment was used without consent.  There were other reasons listed by Sherwin-Williams’ response team to the incident.  But I think it’s irrelevant and distracts from the true issue.

Let’s put aside Tony’s actions and the possible misconduct that may have occurred.  The case of mixed up leadership I want to point out here is the missed opportunity for marketing in a new platform.  Going viral on social media isn’t easy.  But going viral for the right reason is.  If you are willing to do something extremely controversial or stupid and you’re able to capture that on video, you can post that online and quickly go viral.  But that’s not how most would want to be viral.  Particularly a well-established company such as Sherwin-Williams.  What Tony was able to achieve and offer to Sherwin-Williams is a unique opportunity to be viral on a social media platform for the right reason.  Many organizations want this.  They attempt to create this but fail miserably.  This was handed to Sherwin-Williams on a silver platter and they simply rejected it.

I don’t fully know the exact marketing plans Sherwin-Williams has in place.  I can’t pretend to know how successful they will be with what they have put together.  But according to an article posted by mbaskool.com in April of 2020, where Sherwin-Williams’ marketing plans were outlined, social media marketing was included.  You can read about the plans here.  The problem is that it was briefly mentioned and quickly glossed over.  Sherwin-Williams may full well have a great social media plan in place.  However, the success of their plans are uncertain.  What they have been presented by Tony is something that’s been proven.  Yet this case of mixed up leadership left them missing out on a great opportunity to be viral on social media.

Leadership is about taking chances.  It is the ability to motivate and encourage your team to innovate.  This case with Tony Piloseno and Sherwin-Williams is the opposite of that.  Leadership at Sherwin-Williams instead stifled this opportunity for one of their own to innovate.  The innovation I’m referring to here isn’t the paint mixing but rather the social media attention Tony was able to capture.  This was done very eloquently and brought great positive attention to the brand.  Many organizations would jump at the chance to have this.  Many company did, such as Benjamin Moore and Behr, who are just as established as Sherwin-Williams and offered Tony a role in their organization.

What would you have done if you were in the leadership position as Sherwin-Williams were?  It isn’t a simple decision, and I’m sure there are missing details we’re not privy to.  But as leaders, put yourself aside and think about the long haul.  Think about the future of the organization and embrace innovation. 

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