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Golden Oldies: If the Shoe Fits: Influencers

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

It used to be said that a person was “influential” — these days they are “influencers.” Are the terms synonymous? Can they really be used interchangeably? I don’t think so, and plan to enlarge on the differences over the next two days.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mInfluence isn’t about your online ranking or the strength of your brand, although they contribute.

Influence is about effect.

The effect your words or actions have on those exposed to them.

Yesterday I linked to an article in which Penelope Trunk said that it’s a bad idea for founders to be of different genders and because of her influence dozens of founders are probably rethinking their startup plans.

There is a common arrogance among influencers to generalize their opinion and present it as fact applicable to all. Typically, the more successful the influencer the greater the arrogance.

But from day one every founder has influence, before success and beyond the expected, so even a casual word can cause trouble.

A founder CEO I know, whose original education years before was engineering, had a habit of occasionally strolling through engineering to see what was going on.

One day he commented that he wouldn’t do a design the way the team was doing it. It was a casual, throw-away comment, one he had forgotten five minutes later, but it devastated the design team.

The CEO had no clue to the havoc he wrought and it took the vp of engineering, who was co-founder, hours to settle them down. He then told the CEO not to talk to the team and banned him from the department.

What those on the receiving end of influencers need to realize is that no matter how brilliant or experienced someone is they are still voicing an opinion.

And as valuable as the opinion may be, it should never be swallowed whole, because opinions are subjective.

They are the product of that individual’s MAP, which itself is a product of upbringing and experience. Even someone else having exactly the same background and experience would not have identical MAP because each person processes differently and has different inherent characteristics.

Influence comes with responsibilities—how well do you handle yours?

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Leaders, Leaders Everywhere, But Which Ones Should You Follow?

Monday, July 17th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Considering the accusations/confessions, resignations, terminations, mea culpas, etc., I thought this post from 2009 and its supporting links should be front and center once again, since nothing has changed in the intervening eight years.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Oh goody. Another CEO study. I haven’t seen the study, but David Brooks (NY Times) gives an overview (whatever you do, don’t miss the comments), while Dan McCarthy (Great Leadership laments the fascination with such studies.

I pretty much ignore them, except for their amusement value—sort of like all the food studies that tell us which food that was recommended last year will kill us this year.

Speaking of which, I wish someone would do a study like that on CEOs.

A ranking of CEOs who were lauded for x amount of time before they crashed and burned for the same traits that were their supposed strengths.

And a corollary ranking of all the pundits, gurus and executive coaches who did the lauding and how many have come forward to apologize for mistaking hubris for competence.

Of course, that would be a very long list.

Image credit: Beeeeezzz on flickr

Entrepreneurs: Do You Really Want to be a CEO?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014


Founders love styling themselves as CEOs.

(I did it too, back when I started RampUp Solutions.)

It says you are in charge; the boss.

Plus, it sounds cool.

As CEO, you are responsible for formulating and articulating the company’s vision to employees, investors and the media.

Heady stuff.

You are also directly responsible for creating a winning culture, developing viable financial plans, instituting a solid hiring process and a wide range of other administrative actions.

No matter what happens—good, bad, or indifferent—you are the person held responsible for everything by the board, investors, employees and media.

As the company grows there are more business and human headaches meaning less time for hands-on creativity.

CEO isn’t a 70, 80 or even 100 hour a week job; it’s a 168 hour, 24/7 job.

It’s not the right job or even a good job for many founders.

Founders need to understand that giving up the CEO role can be the smartest, wisest, and most perceptive decision they will ever make (just ask Brad Feld).

Flickr image credit: TechCocktail

Ducks in a Row: Adam Bryant on Culture of Innovation

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


Twice a week Adam Bryant interviews CEOs from a myriad of companies, large and small, across the industry spectrum, for his Corner Office feature in The New York Times.

As with anyone who spends time talking with CEOs about staying competitive the constant theme he’s found boils down to one word—culture.

Now Bryant has distilled the knowledge and insights gathered from hundreds of interviews into a new book, “Quick and Nimble: Lessons From Leading C.E.O.’s on How to Create a Culture of Innovation”

The six key tenets identified should come as no surprise,

  • A Simple Plan
  • Rules of the Road (corporate values)
  • A Little Respect (embedded in the culture)
  • It’s About the Team (performance and accountability, trustworthiness and dependability)
  • Adult Conversations (frank discussions to work through disagreements and misunderstandings)
  • The Hazards of Email (ease of misunderstanding)

Not new and certainly not rocket science, but worth reading (at the very least read the article).

Good information to help you improve nimbleness and innovation in your own organization.

And a great gift if you happen to work for bosses who don’t see the point.

Flickr image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

CEOs are Just Like Us Finally!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012


The news that we’ve all been waiting for—unless you’re a CEO who is paid relative to your counterparts.

According to new research by Charles M. Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, and Craig K. Ferrere, one of its Edgar S. Woolard fellows, the whole idea that a CEO will quit if he isn’t paid more than his peers is, to use a technical term, hogwash.

…contrary to the prevailing line, that chief executives can’t readily transfer their skills from one company to another. In other words, the argument that C.E.O.’s will leave if they aren’t compensated well, perhaps even lavishly, is bogus. (…) “It’s a false paradox,” Mr. Elson said in an interview last week. “The peer group is based on the theory of transferability of talent. But we found that C.E.O. skills are very firm-specific. C.E.O.’s don’t move very often, but when they do, they’re flops.”

Surprise, surprise.

For ‘firm-specific’ read culture and colleagues—the same two things that impact any worker’s success.

Flickr image credit: GDS Infographics (click the graphic to see a large version)

What’s Sauce for the Goose

Monday, July 9th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/5574083459/Do you ever see titles like 5 Ways To Commit CEO Career Suicide, but skip the article because you aren’t a CEO and have no intention of ever being one?

You may want to rethink that.

Frequently the advice is just as applicable to other levels including non-management.

The five behaviors mentioned are

  1. naiveté,
  2. unbridled optimism,
  3. arrogance,
  4. fear, and
  5. disconnect.

As the old saying goes, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, too.

Model any of them, let alone more than one, and you are just as likely to lose your job whether you’re at the top of the org chart or the very bottom.

Flickr image credit:  Rennett Stowe

Expand Your Mind: Executives

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Today offers up four looks at executives and bosses, the folks we love to hate.

A lot of people claim that the whole idea of income inequality has been blown out of proportion, but, looking at your own paycheck, you have to wonder how/why CEO pay increased 30-40%.

“Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary.”

One would think that all that money would add up to job insecurity, but apparently not.

“It turns out that many CEOs are feeling insecure about their jobs, too.”

Workers, even those with raises, are insecure, too, and new research out of Harvard says bosses are making it worse.

“…managers at all levels routinely—and unwittingly—undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct subordinates through everyday words and actions.”

As function-rich mobile phones proliferate the need to understand them increases and the results of ignorance become more pronounced—not to mention embarrassing. File this one under “lessons learned.”

“He said he made sure to turn it off before the concert, not realizing that the alarm clock had accidentally been set and would sound even if the phone was in silent mode.

“I didn’t even know phones came with alarms,” the man said. “

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: CEOs

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

CEOs are an interesting species of executives.

CEOs are often lauded one quarter for their vision and leadership and derided the next quarter for the same thing.

Some suffer from severe arrogance syndrome, while others have either temporary or chronic foot-in-mouth disease.

But whether world-class geniuses or world-class asses CEOs  are rarely boring.

For those who set their career sights on the corner office, success used to be measured by the size of the company and bigger always equaled better—but in technology that’s changing.

CEOs, especially those of large, public corporations, have one especially cat-like trait—they always land on their feet even when they are fired—as happens more and more frequently these days.

As with everything there is a right way and a wrong way to fire a CEO, with Carol Bartz and Mark Hurd the poster children of the wrong way. So, here’s some good advice on how to do it the right way.

Finally, with the use of social media accelerating, the pros and cons of  CEO blogging have changed markedly from the original debates.

Have a terrific weekend!

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: CEO Potpourri

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

I hope you have some time today, because I have some great interviews with, and commentary on, some great CEOs.

However, I’m going to start at the opposite end of the spectrum. As you well know, there are plenty of CEOs that aren’t great or even mediocre, but are just plain lousy. Here is Forbes list of the 10 Biggest CEO Screw-ups Of 2010.

Enough of that, now on to the positive

First up is one of my favorite CEOs, GE’s Jeff Immelt, who took the hard road in taking the company back to its roots building real products based on creativity and innovation—as opposed to the financial engineering that drove the company under his predecessor, Jack Welch—and building people for the long term.

It’s a bottom-up approach that shuns hierarchy, and places most of the responsibility for continuous improvement on the teams. … Mr. Immelt also sees himself as the champion of what he calls “large-scale entrepreneurship” at G.E. By that, he means identifying long-term market shifts — “what’s next,” he says — and then marshaling the company’s research, manufacturing and marketing resources to capitalize on the opportunity.

Next is Kathy Savitt, C.E.O. of Lockerz, a social network and e-commerce site, who sees cynicism as the start of corporate cancer.

“Another cell of cynicism is when you feel a company is not actually living out its core values.”

Sometimes CEOs step out of the top role with the explanation that they want to focus on a more strategic role, but how many of them say publicly that they aren’t very good? Barry Diller did just that when he stepped down at IAC.

“I told them the company wasn’t being managed correctly,” Diller, 68, said. “I never thought I was a very good manager. I mean I am decent, but I want to go back to what I am good at, which is looking for opportunities to grow the business.”

Finally, a leadership lecture at Wharton by Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas and president of UBS Investment Bank, who talks about his career, risk and the future. Watch the lecture or read the synopsis.

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

Expand Your Mind: Fascinating People

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

expand-your-mindPeople make the world go round. Love ’em or hate ’em they are the only thing that truly keeps boredom at bay. However, we’re not all fascinated by the same ones. Personally, I require more substance to fuel my interest than is usually offered by most of the glitterati and sports figures that many people follow; here are a few that I’ve enjoyed recently.

I always find salaries and those who receive them interesting and this synopsis of a Wall Street Journal article and the article itself (links in the synopsis) fill the bill. I especially chuckled when I saw that Steve Jobs would have made more holding his underwater options than he did with the restricted stock that replaced them; he also wouldn’t have gotten into a backdating bind.

Of all the articles written about Tony Hayward, my favorite was Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s guide to Hayward’s leadership skills. To wit: deny and minimize problems; emphasize your own power and importance; make the story all about you; never apologize, and don’t even pretend to learn from your mistakes; and hang onto your job even when it’s clear you should go.” Although many executives practice one or more of these traits, the list seems a better fit for 99.9% of politicians past, present and, probably, future.

Next is an absorbing article about Alex Bogusky, the whiz of Madison Avenue—or he was. The guy responsible for Burger King’s success and Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” campaign quit. Not uncommon, but Bogusky not only left the industry and turned his considerable talents to making a kind of peaceful war on it.

Finally, the story of socialite Judith Peabody—a truly remarkable woman. Remarkable not just for the money she raised, but for her courage in the face of a disease that terrified a nation—AIDS. 30 years ago when even much of the medical profession refused to touch an AIDS patient, Judith Peabody spent hours visiting patients offering hugs and encouragement.

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

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