The comments under the YouTube video of the response by employees to Mark Sebba’s decision to resign from his role as CEO of Net-a-Porter, tell their own story. For every trolled provocation, expressing cynicism about the fakery involved in producing a surprise party of this scale, there’s multiple adoring comments – mostly by people who wished they loved their boss that much.
No doubt, creating and posting this video was a canny move. At a stroke, Net-A-Porter has turned a vulnerability – their successful CEO retires – into an opportunity to celebrate leadership and their thriving culture and to show the world the kind of organization they are. The positive coverage actually seems to be a by-product.
The genius of the film is that as Mark progresses from the lobby past video screens showing offices in Shanghai, New York and even Charlton (!) all dancing and singing along, into the beating heart of his organization and accompanied by dancing, selfie-taking, monochrome-garbed employees, you’re taken along with him. He’s the human, the emotional hero at the centre of this storm, and his own unsure, and obviously unrehearsed response is what creates a believable narrative – and hints at the hundreds of other stories that have led to this particular six minute love song.
Yes, it’s slick, yes, it’s tightly choreographed and yes, it didn’t just find its way onto YouTube, but faked? I don’t think so. For me, this is an expression of joy; it’s the story of a business with a purpose, embodied by Mark Sebba, that has truly connected with employees. And, ultimately, it’s a story about love. And God knows, we could do with more of that in the world.
Laura House is senior consultant for change & internal comms at Hill & Knowlton Strategies.