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Archive for September, 2010

Leadership’s Future: Hubris

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

hubrisAn article Monday asked, “Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?

(Scary reading for managers for years to come if the parental attitudes that produced the examples continue.)

It was a comment at the end by Mark Bauerlein, author of the best-selling book The Dumbest Generation and a professor at Emory University, that prompted this post.

“A healthy society is healthy only if it has some degree of tension between older and younger generations. It’s up to us old folks to remind teenagers: ‘The world didn’t begin on your 13th birthday!’ And it’s good for kids to resent that and to argue back. We want to criticize and provoke them. It’s not healthy for the older generation to say, ‘Kids are kids, they’ll grow up.’

“They won’t grow up unless you do your job by knocking down their hubris.”

‘Hubris’ is defined as “excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.”

Reading the article made me think about the level of hubris in today’s world, which seems far more widespread than at other times in history—from the financial executives who toppled the global economy to workers who insist on doing it their way to all those who believe ‘my way or the highway’ is a good life/world-view.

What is missing are the healthy counter voices that knock down the hubris.

That knock down isn’t accomplished through

  • rhetoric;
  • replacing one version of hubris with another;
  • agreeing because it’s less effort or to avoid making waves; or
  • turning a blind eye when the pig says, “All animals are created equal only some are more equal than others.”

Hubris is knocked down with active voices, common sense and personal consequences for violating an ideology-free common good.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/relevanceinadnauseum/4385225951/

Wordless Wednesday: No Productivity

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14752079@N00/1718468702/

Ducks in a Row: First Look in the Mirror

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowI frequently get calls similar to the following. (If I’ve told this story in the past forgive me, but it illustrates my point with great clarity.)

A CEO I know called to rant about having to terminate her marketing VP.

When I asked why she said that in addition to being dissatisfied with his work she’d found out that his degree was in history, not marketing, as he claimed. She said that if she’d known about the degree she would never have hired him.

This was strange, since I know the VP, his resume simply says “BA University of X” and he has over ten years of experience.

When I asked why she did hire him she said that he’d been in marketing his whole career, had a reputation for doing very creative work, knew her industry and market and his references were fantastic. She ended the description by saying that if she’d know his BA was in history, not marketing, she never would have hired him.

When I suggested that maybe something else was going on, she vehemently told me that if he had a marketing degree he would know what he was doing.

Think about it, here’s a guy known for his creativity, with a great reputation in marketing, excellent references, knows the industry and market, but can’t perform because his ten-year-old degree wasn’t in marketing—I don’t think so.

The key change here is one of culture and management—the culture the CEO created and her management of him—not a decade-old college major fudged by omission. And note that she didn’t think it important enough to explore in the interviews.

Managers at all levels often call dismayed that a supposedly top performer isn’t living up to advanced billing and wondering what they should do.

My response is almost always the same, what differs is how I say it based on what I think that person can hear.

Bluntly or subtly I suggest they learn what they can about the environments where the person performed so well and how he was managed, then consult the mirror to find the differences.

Sometimes they even listen.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/


Monday, September 27th, 2010

Sculpture: Deadly Sins #1, Pure Products USA, by Nova Ligovano a

Reading a review of David Sarna’s History of Greed got me to thinking, especially the end when you learn that Sarna himself was greedy.

History of Greed‘s book jacket neglects to mention that he pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to commit securities fraud and served nine months in jail. Had the author interviewed himself, he might have gained valuable insight into what sparks already wealthy people to take risks—even illegal ones—to enhance their coffers. When I asked Sarna why he omitted such a significant biographical detail, he confessed that his wife asked him to.

There’s been a lot written, especially over the last two decades, about greed, mostly centered on money and wealth, but that only tells a small part of the greed story.

Greed is defined as “excessive or rapacious desire, esp. for wealth or possessions,” but another source mentions food.

Greed can apply to anything—take it far enough and it becomes addiction.

Greed applies not just to tangibles, but to intangibles—think power.

But there are more subtle and surprising things than money and power that can lead people down the path to bad behavior.

Promotion; religion; empathy; leading; hobbies; sports (real and fantasy); working out; TV; books; friends, fans and followers; music; love; respect; the list is endless.

First we want, then desire, then crave; craving grows and we become greedy for more—always more. No matter how much we have it’s never enough.

Greed will eat us alive and if we do nothing it can destroy what we care about.

What do you crave that could lead to greed? What do you do about it?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeminglee/4053200705/

mY generation: 8 of 100 to Get Fired

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.


Quotable Quotes: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Ralph-Waldo-EmersonIt was very difficult to limit the number of Emerson quotes; he was not only prolific, but also a master of what today is known as a sound bite. The difference between Emerson’s bites and the typical bite you hear is the difference between real wisdom and an amazing grasp of English and hot air and

Wow! Can you imagine him on Twitter?

You and Life

“Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live”

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

You and Your MAP

“We are wiser than we know.”

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

“No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.”

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”

You and Success

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

You and Obstacles

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.

There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”

Your Greatest Desire

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

Ethics: Past, Present and Future

“A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.”

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3429413898/

Expand Your Mind: Learning and Corporate Culture

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

expand-your-mindToday’s Expand Your Mind offers links to articles that not only inform, but may shake up your views and launch you in new directions.

Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school; it is a life-long process that often requires you to study. Study habits are usually formed early and carried throughout life, but what if the way you were taught to study and that you teach your kids isn’t the best way to learn? That is the intriguing idea coming from new research.

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. … The harder it is to remember something, the harder it is to later forget.

Discussions about corporate culture are everywhere these days. In this short interview Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at MIT offers a new wrinkle on what corporate culture means theses days; he says to think in terms of cultural islands and the need for disparate groups to be synergistic, rather than homogenous. To all his examples of various cultural sources I would add the culture of individual managers, from CEO to team leader.

You are never going to integrate all of these cultures but you have got to get them aligned and get them working toward the same purpose.

Important as aligning sub cultures is, it can’t happen when the culture is as badly damaged as Home Depot’s after Bob Nardelli ran amok. Surprisingly, it is Frank Blake, another GE alum, recruited by Nardelli, who is successfully changing that.

Frank Blake’s mellow, it’s-not-about-me style helped him move Home Depot past the emotionally charged reign of predecessor Bob Nardelli and recapture some of the culture fostered by its founders. It also syncs with his push to get the company back to its service-oriented roots.

Finally, an exclusive, in-depth look at Foxconn, the ultra low-profile Chinese company that manufactures iPhones, PlayStations, and Dell computers, whose profile was raised in headlines of worker suicides.

Rather, [the celebration] was a joint production of employee unions and management at Hon Hai Precision Industry, the flagship of Foxconn Technology Group, as part of an effort to mend the collective psyche of a Chinese workforce that numbers more than 920,000 across more than 20 mainland factories. The need to do so became apparent after 11 Foxconn employees committed suicide earlier this year, most of them by leaping from company-owned high-rise dormitories. The publicity-averse Taipei-based company and its 59-year-old founder and chairman, Terry Gou, were thrown into the spotlight, subjected to unfamiliar scrutiny by customers, labor activists, reporters, academics, and the Chinese government.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroelcarvalho/2812091311/

It’s All in Your Mind

Friday, September 24th, 2010

all-in--your-mindA new study at Harvard talks about “power posing.”

New research shows that it’s possible to control those feelings a bit more, to be able to summon an extra surge of power and sense of well-being when it’s needed: for example, during a job interview or for a key presentation to a group of skeptical customers.

It ties in with a post I did a few years ago that’s worth sharing again.

Defined by action—or thought?

As studies on corporate culture and the psychology of managers and workers proliferate, people spend more time and energy tracking themselves in an effort to “know their place” than ever before.

You are what you eat; you are what you wear, and now, you are where you sit. Far be it for me to pooh-pooh any of these findings, I’ve been around long enough to see them in action.

However, I have a passionate belief that you are what you think and an equally passionate belief that you can change what you think if you so choose.

My attitude towards, and development of, MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy)™ throughout my working years has it’s underpinnings in the writings (sans the religious parts) of Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, to which I was introduced in my late teens.

His writings predate, and are supported by, much of the current research, so if you want a synopsis of great thoughts on which to build your MAP and guide your organization, here are ten of Hill’s greatest (and best known) quotes.

  • “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
  • “What you think, so you will become.”
  • “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”
  • “Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”
  • “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”
  • “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
  • “Thoughts mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire are powerful things.”
  • “Perseverance: The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those that fail.”
  • “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”
  • “Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk in life.”

Print them out; share them with your people; discuss them; embrace them; practice them; and watch the benefits roll in for your company your people and you.

Hill and Harvard agree—it really is all in your mind.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/3674050796/

Leadership’s Future: Business Book Cheat Sheets

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010


I saw an ad in Business Week for getAbstract, which seems to be Cliff Notes for business.

Each five-page summary is presented in a crisp magazine-page format. You can read it in less than 10 minutes – the perfect length to deliver the book’s key ideas. The no-fluff summaries are logically structured to get the maximum out of your reading time.

I agree that there’s too much fluff in many business books, but that fluff serves a purpose.

It’s often the fluff that helps people learn, because the differences are in the fluff and it’s the differences to which they relate. In other words, while someone may be deaf to one presentation another might resonate deeply leading to substantial change.

Think about it; how many times have the lessons you took away from a certain book been so different from a colleague as to make you wonder if you both read the same book.

So how valuable are the summaries? Probably about as valuable as online cheat sheets if that’s all that is read.

Professors warn that these guides are no substitutes for reading great works of literature, but concede, grudgingly, that as an adjunct, they can stimulate thought and deepen insight.

Granted, I haven’t read any of the abstracts, but my experience says that you will lose much of a books’ real value—especially the subtle ideas that play directly to your own MAP—by relying on just a five page summary.

But perhaps this is the future; a world where all ideas and learning come predigested, so they can be sucked up through a straw and thoroughly homogenize the workforce.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/197325980/

Wordless Wednesday: Personal Communications

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010


Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brookeatwell/4820431754/

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