I spoke last Friday to the Pacific Coast Builders Conference—those left standing remain at the heart of a Perfect Storm. One solution to passing my 90 minutes would have been a prayer meeting. Passing on that due to lack of leadership qualifications, I decided, at the urging of the conference chairman, to talk about "excellence in tough times." I began with a list of assertions, which I reproduce here. The ones which were totally limited in scope (remarks about Barry Bonds, Sandy Koufax, Port Hueneme CA, et al.) have been excised. Though some of what follows is still narrow in focus, most of the "assertions" have reasonably widespread applicability. I have only lightly annotated my simple statements:
**That which goes up also comes down.
**That which goes waaaaaay up also comes waaaaaay down. ("It was in the Beginning and now and ever shall be. Amen."—maybe I could have led a prayer meeting after all.)
**IQs rise as markets go up. (Isn't it amazing how smart we all were 18 months ago?)
**Why have we done this s%^# over & over & over?
**Why will we do this s%^# again & again & again?
**The "madness of crowds" is the most profound statement of truth ever.
[Sooooooo many "smart" people get conned over and over and over. This is the second time in a single decade—dotcom crunch time was 2000 more or less. Near the end of the dotcom era, I admit that I tossed a few bucks at the market. I'm not all that interested in stocks—real estate is my indulgence. But my irrational side said, "Sure, it's overpriced, but you can't sit the whole damn thing out." So I invested, and a year later got about 2 cents back on the dollar. Timing is, of course, everything—but that's not enough to explain our chasing markets whose valuation is nutty-squared to the naked eye. The dotcom cycle was even more absurd, if lower in impact—companies valued at fives of billions of dollars, without a penny of revenue in sight. It is plain madness, the provenance of shrinks, not economists.] [And, alas, forewarned is definitely not forearmed.]
**Bigger is almost never better.
**Big mergers are stupid.
**Big mergers spring naturally from big egos.
[At times of market uncertainty, the biggies, even the so-called "good" biggies, bulk up to defend themselves. We've seen it in financial services, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, steel—you name it. The strategies invariably lead to the loss—rapid loss—of even hundreds of billions of dollars in market cap. And yet we do "it" again and again, and the perps are often our most "heroic" execs.] [And, alas, forewarned is definitely not forearmed.]
**It doesn't get any better than this—the likes of U.S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, and John C. Fremont were born for moments such as this. There is no such thing as a good-great leader who has not confronted, been battered by, and stumbled through-overcome a catastrophe. The Upside for the resilient and gutsy and creative is as high as the downside is low for those who attempt to hide in the closet until the fur stops flying.
[Find me a single example of someone who made the history books who hadn't had the crap kicked out of him-her—typically time and time again. Adversity is the soil of great accomplishment—period. Which doesn't make getting kicked around any more fun at the time. I'm at a bit of a loss here for pragmatic ideas—assuming you are not the boss of bosses, perhaps a good bet is to form some sort of offensive support group—The Resilience Rambos? The idea is to dwell on the opportunities that doubtless lie amidst the wreckage.]
**Take advantage of others' timidity; tighten the belt with a mighty tug, but in a key area or two, double the strategic project budget rather than halve it.
[When the dotcom implosion occurred, most IT budgets were slashed and slashed again—but Sysco's CEO saw a once in a lifetime opportunity in others' timidity, and pulled in the reins very hard in general to free up money to act hyper-aggressively on IT. Some others in this wee wise wedge have taken advantage of slower times to juice up the training budget, hence increasing the quality of the workforce.]
**Women rule. And make (almost) all the residential real estate decisions.
[Tom on his high horse again—women make the purchase decisions, yet my audience was mostly male. Stupid. In talking with folks afterwards two themes emerged: First, women are less ensnared by competition for competition's sake; their drive for excellence is as high as any man's or higher, they are just less inclined to try and prove themselves by outbidding "the other guy" for an already overvalued asset. And second, women simply are better listeners—which makes them particularly more effective in the homebuilding world, where the customer's decision is one of the most important in her life. Listening is also a miracle strategy when times are tough—e.g., the Great Listener is far more likely to get the loan extension!!]
**Decency must not be sacrificed in tough times.
**Decency is more important than ever in tough times.
[Insanely, great numbers of businesspersons, panicked by rotten market conditions I suppose, resort to shortcuts and churlish behavior to last out the day. In fact, bad times are the best times to behave well—for pragmatic as well as philosophical reasons. At the very least, if you go under, your personal reputation will be in tact—which is the ultimate cornerstone for a comeback.]
**Painful decisions must be made—make them as gracefully as possible; doing so is the best investment in the long term possible. Your reputation will be shaped by the long memory of how you behaved when the fan was covered with yogurt.
**Tough decisions mostly affect other people's families. You must still make the tough decisions, but the minute they cease to be agonizing, resign—you're not worth saving.
**Character rules in adverse times.
**Now is when investment in relationships pays off—and now is when you pay the full price of not having invested in relationships when times were good and you didn't "need to be nice" to others.
**Keep good people—if it kills you.
[Don't mess with your franchise players. Nurture them as never before.]
**Practice transparency to a fault.
[People in the know—from receptionist to EVP—are far more likely to be positively engaged and supportive during a nasty downturn. "In the know" means "the works," not just a few breadcrumbs of sanitized info.]
**If your world is in relatively good order do not be tempted to use this "opportunity" to "consolidate" by acquiring questionable assets at firesale prices—you are not good enough to turn cow pies into gold; only your ego thinks you are, and your ego is, as usual, wrong.
[For example: We'll see, but the Bank of America seems to believe that it can sprinkle some sort of pixie dust on the remaining Countrywide staff, and create a real estate powerhouse down the road. I, instead, see a washout and 6,000-foot drop at road's end.]
**Smaller but really good is a better place to be.
[As always, in my remarks I referred to Germany's "Mittelstand," its middle-sized, focused stars that propel Germany to the top spot in global exports. I am the unabashed fan of the smaller or middle-sized focused enterprise. The Mittelstand Spirit and commitment to Excellence are also the best defense against hard times!]
**Work out more and harder in bad times—get high or less low on chemical cocktails generated by killer workouts.
[Bad times are killers, literally, especially if you respond with strings of 20-hour days. Among other things, your judgment goes to hell in a handbasket—and your inevitably irritable disposition is an inspiration to no one, starting with your 9-year-old.]
**You will be remembered in the long haul for the quality of your work, not the quantity of your work—the quantity part is just your defective ego talking—no one evaluates Picasso based on the number of paintings he churned out.
**Take advantage of tough times to realize that in the long haul you will be remembered for your humanity not your net worth—think Tim Russert.
**You, too, God willing, will be 65 some day—and when you look back it's never the easy times that pop up in the viewfinders; it's the valiant struggles and adversities suffered and occasionally overcome that fill the highlights tape.
**If not Excellence, what? If not Excellence now, when?
[Pursuing Excellence in all we do is the ultimate turn-on, and the ultimate source of resilience in difficult times, in particular. And, as I see it, there is literally no way to lose. All that "stuff" about "the journey is the reward" turns out to be 100.00% right.]
Tom spoke to the Healthcare Finance Managers Association on June 26. In his speech he touted their magazine Leadership, and he insisted that we point you to its website. It provides stories about "compelling and inexpensive efforts" from all over the U.S. to address such pressing issues as patient safety. Tom added that "it proves this stuff can be done—and a million bucks of funding, or a twentieth of that, is not required to get on with it."
As a result of this engagement, Tom also got a chance to meet Michael Millenson in person for the first time. For years Tom has been quoting Millenson's book, Demanding Medical Excellence, and he credits it with fueling his interest in healthcare. I found this quote from the book in a Master presentation dated 20 June 2001: "A healthcare delivery system characterized by idiosyncratic and often ill-informed judgments must be restructured according to evidence-based medical practice." You can read more of Millenson 's commentary at his website, HealthQualityAdvisors.com.
I spoke yesterday to PCBC2008, the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (residential contractors), on the meaning of excellence in tough times. My title: EXCELLENCE. THE BASICS. NOW MORE THAN EVER. I shared the platform with, among others, Carly Fiorina, Malcolm Gladwell, and Gary Hamel. While I deny owning rose-colored glasses, I do believe that nasty times provide exceptional opportunities for those who grasp the nettle vigorously. Thus, among other things, I said, and meant:
"It doesn't get any better than this—U.S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, and John C. Fremont were born for moments like this. There is no such thing as a good-great leader who has not confronted, been battered by, and stumbled through-overcome a catastrophe. The Upside for the gutsy and creative is as high as the downside is low for those who attempt to hide in the closet until the fur stops flying."
In Las Vegas today, Tom is speaking to the Healthcare Financial Management Association. I'm sure Tom has a great deal to say to them. We'd love to hear about the event in the comments, or if you'd like to get the slides, you can use this link: HFMA, Las Vegas, NV
The U.S. economy is in bad shape. If, by chance, you haven't heard about this yet, just turn on cable TV news for 30 seconds.
What does this mean to your business? It could be terrible, but it doesn't have to be.
How can I say that?
For the last few months, I have been asking workshop audiences the following questions:
1. What percent of your customers are giving you all the business they reasonably could?
2. What percent of your referral sources are giving you all the referrals they reasonably could?
The answers to these questions have stunned me, because they have been so low. I knew they would be quite a bit lower than 100%, but I've found that most executives estimate that only somewhere between 0 and 25% of customers are giving them all the business they could. The numbers are even lower for referral sources.
So, let's say that the economic downturn has softened the market for your products or services by 10—20%. Yes, that's a lot. But it pales in comparison to the 75% of the business you are missing if your current customers are only giving you 25% of their potential business.
Here's the cold, hard (but potential-laden) truth: For most companies, the untapped latent profit in their existing customer relationships is much greater than the magnitude of our current economic problems.
The downturn is real. But so is the amount of business you are missing from your current customer relationships. How do you develop this potential with your existing customers?
Customers who believe they are in "We" relationships with you will give you a larger share of their business. They are willing to pay more, and they are less likely to leave you for a competitor. On the other hand, customers who are in "Us & Them" relationships with you are more likely to spread the business around among your competitors, and will also be more likely to bolt to the competition for a lower price. If you create "We" relationships with your customers, one relationship-building encounter at a time, you will go a long way towards making up for—and maybe even surpassing—the effects of the soft economy.
I see there's a lotta talk about Posts with flowers pics! Fact is, The Great Peony Post was just an innocent (I thought) riff about missing home, pretty flowers, and Mid-summer's.
But if you wanna fight ...
I stand foursquare ("fivesquare," if there were such squares) on ... The Side of the Flower.
Remember my Post a while back about "mapping your competitive position," in which I said, in effect, forget the intellectual mapping exercise—go visit a customer instead? Well, I feel the same way about Peonies.
Forget the "clever" rants on "mergers, yes or no" or some such weighty strategic matter, and get on with the business—The Real Business—of, say, recognizing someone who went the extra quarter step for a colleague, vendor, customer. Recognize him-her-them, I suggest-demand-command, with Flowers! Do it ... NOW!!!!
Invest in a new, well reviewed management book (or an old one, by me)? Or invest in Power Peonies to enhance or cement a relationship? Game, set, match, Center Court Wimbledon to those Relationship-building Peonies!
(Above, from our garden—Susan's garden!—for Midsummer's.)
See How Simple What You Cannot Do Is: The 240% Factor!
Woody Allen's "Eighty percent of success is showing up" was the topic of a recent Post. One great comment (Rob) added a nice twist: "And I reckon a large part of the remaining 20% is Refusing to Go Away Again."
" ... Finishing is what you have to do. If you don't finish, nothing is worth a damn.
" ... Write the hardest story there is to write that you know. Start it tomorrow. The hell with tomorrow. Go and start it now.
"He sat down and wrote the first paragraph of the new story that he had always put off writing. ... The very beginning was written and all he had to do was go on. That's all, he said. See how simple what you cannot do is?"
Message-Lesson/s: The first 80% of success is showing up! The second 80% is sticking around and refusing to leave! The final 80% is finishing! See how simple what you cannot do is?
(NB: Sounds like a biography of U.S. Grant—and doubtless many-most others who succeeded against very long odds.)
"In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, 'The thing about Joe was he was rich.' We say, if we can, 'The thing about Joe was he took good care of people.'"—Peggy Noonan, "A Life's Lesson," on the astounding response to the passing of Tim Russert, the Wall Street Journal, June 21-22, 2008
(Truth is, and Noonan acknowledges this, I thought the Russert-mania was a little over the top. As in, "Stop the press, decent human discovered inside the Beltway." Nonetheless, Ms Noonan's assertions about what matters, and what doesn't, with which I agree 100.000%, are well worth repeating ... again & again & again.)
I wish you a long life, but if tragedy were to have struck you yesterday, what do you think "they" would say at your memorial service? This maudlin question is not to be dwelt on "24/7," but it is worth considering on an irregularly regular basis.
"Lose Your Nemesis": "Obsessing about your competitors, trying to match or best their offerings, spending time each day wanting to know what they are doing, and/or measuring your company against them—these activities have no great or winning outcome. Instead you are simply prohibiting your company from finding its own way to be truly meaningful to its clients, staff and prospects. You block your company from finding its own identity and engaging with the people who pay the bills. ... Your competitors have never paid your bills and they never will."—Howard Mann, Your Business Brickyard: Getting Back to the Basics to Make Your Business More Fun to Run*
*Mr Mann also quotes Mike McCue, former VP/Technology at Netscape: "At Netscape the competition with Microsoft was so severe, we'd wake up in the morning thinking about how we were going to deal with them instead of how we would build something great for our customers. What I realize now is that you can never, ever take your eye off the customer. Even in the face of massive competition, don't think about the competition. Literally don't think about them."
Don't let the "enemy" rule your life. Try your damnedest to follow the exact advice of Mr McCue above: "Literally don't think about them."
Easier said than done, no doubt, but awareness is a start. That is, direct conversations away from "What is Microsoft doing?" ("What is the accountancy across the road doing?") And focus instead on, What new and cool things are we doing for our customers? (And, perhaps, see above, send a few good customers flowers today to thank 'em for their biz.)
We lost a giant in the entertainment industry this week with the passing of George Carlin, the brilliant countercultural comedian and social critic. His iconoclastic genius was well known, if not always appreciated. (His "seven dirty words" comedy routine became the focus of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on obscenity 30 years ago.) But not as well known was his generosity to friends in need, as I witnessed 34 years ago.
In 1974 I was performing with a Los Angeles honky-tonk & boogie band, Uncle Crusty and the Venice Canaligators, which featured Hook McGuire—a grizzly one-armed singer/harmonica player (who lost his hook in prison)—and a colorful cadre of musically talented misfits. One night after opening for Freddie King at the Starwood Club in Hollywood, someone in the band packed the guitar amplifiers too close to the rear door of our Econoline van, which jiggled the rear door handle open as our driver/guitarist Butch Mudbone sped home to Venice, oblivious to the trail of musical equipment spilling onto the streets of West L.A. behind him. Once Butch reached home and saw the open door and the missing Fender amplifiers he hastily retraced his route, but it was too late. The band's capital goods were apparently redistributed to aspiring musicians along Venice Boulevard.
So what can a poor band do? Well, as every innovative business team knows, it pays to have a sponsor. And we had a generous one in George Carlin, who years earlier had become a Canaligator booster after seeing the band perform for tips on the Venice boardwalk. So the next day the band members were at George's Pacific Palisades doorstep, tin cup in hand. Because I was meeting George for the first time (I had only recently joined the band), I was a tad intimidated. It didn't help that the mat outside his front door read "Go Away" instead of "Welcome." But it turned out that George and his wife Brenda were completely delighted to see us. For the next several hours we were treated to an impromptu show, with George at his wackiest and most improvisational as he impersonated some of his favorite musicians at double-time speed. Afterwards he magnanimously wrote us a check for what we needed to restock our equipment truck, and sent us merrily on our way. It seemed as if he had paid us to watch him perform.
Thanks for your wit, wisdom, AND generosity, George.
We neglected to mention this last Friday, but in honor of summer's arrival, we did post a new banner at tompeters.com. In case you hadn't noticed, somewhere along the line we decided to usher in each new season with a new image/images at the top of our homepage. We've been working with Joy Stauber, who we met through our friends at 800-CEO-READ. She's responsible for the home page banner and all the sub page banners as well. Joy is smart, fun to work with, and she really gets Tom.
We put a lot of thought and time into selecting what we post at the top of this page. Our goal is to create a sense of the season and even a sense of moving through that season. In the current incarnation of the banner, we've got a morning image of a dock jutting out into the water (Tom says it reminds him of him of growing up in Severna Park, Maryland, on the Severn River). The lobster buoys are the requisite technicolor component and the lobster is there because we eat lobster in summer here in New England but also because it is red, Tom Peters red. Initially we had a cherry pie, but for some reason our team wasn't all that keen on cherry pie. We've even worked in a small image of Tom hiking in New Zealand. The lilacs replaced the multi-colored tulips, which were too spring-like. (I'm telling you, these are pretty complicated decisions we make about these images, after much discussion.) Now the lilacs are somewhat reminiscent of spring as well, but we liked their color and I guess we all smell them when we see the image, so they powered their way into the banner that way. And at the end, at sunset, a young woman splashes into a lake. End of the day, end of the season. Yes, we look ahead to the end of summer, but we savor every moment in between.
We wish you all a happy and sun-filled season. For those of you in the other hemisphere, we hope your winter is just as fabulous. (The ski season in Portillo, Chile opened this past Saturday.)
To wrap up our series of eight videos, we've chosen, of course, the topic of excellence. In this video (3 minutes, 44 seconds) filmed by Skillsoft, Tom asks, "If not excellence, what?" What else should you be doing with your time, your life? He agrees with Thomas Watson, Sr., the talented early leader of IBM, that you should make a personal commitment never again to do anything that is not excellent.
The "model" for my MASTER presentation has historically been Linear—consistent with my engineering background and perhaps my 50% or so of German genetic material. (Peters, for heaven's sake—Granddad Peters, a contractor-engineer, came to the U.S./Baltimore in the 1870s.) But in my oral presentations I find-found that I often never got around to the punchline. So in November 2007, preparing for a speech in Madrid, I decided, "The hell with it, I'm going to organize by importance of the topic by my reckoning, and put first things first"—and the linearity be damned. That, in turn, coincided with my decision to re-emphasize "the basics" that often go missing, but which are the bedrock for getting things done in the real world. The result, for now, seven months later, is this New Master (and annotation is underway—stay tuned to this channel).
I'm an avowed incrementalist—even if the aim is stratospherically high. That is, get going ASAP—and quickly experiment your way toward/to success.
But this spring-summer has been different at our house. We had a Grand Idea for a landscaping project that would change the look and feel of the Farm here in Tinmouth VT.
And we decided, more or less, to do it all at once.
There has been pain—from biting off more than one can readily chew—but the story to this point has the mark of a real success far beyond our initial imaginings.
The power of "getting going on everything at once" with but a sliver of a master plan (a couple of sketches) was that we could see (see, the real deal) from the outset what was sort of going to end up more or less happening—and then we could adjust like crazy, improvise constantly, destroy and create using the entire palette, and dramatically reshape the overall work, and even the overall concept, as we went along. Which, of course, means we didn't really reject my beloved Rapid Experimentation Method—we just did it on and amidst a grand platform called "everything is in motion and up for grabs."
To be more specific, we essentially started by blowing everything up—sticking in a roughed out new road that changed the entire dynamics (look, feel, flow) of the Farm. From there a dozen supporting projects began, or were also roughed out, at once. (In the space of a couple of weeks.) While we didn't look as devastated as our poor neighbors in Iowa do this morning, the place was a disheveled inchoate mess ("that only a mother could love") from stem to stern, north to south, and east to west.
And then the real "serious play" (book with this title by Michael Schrage is an inspiration) began. To stick to the Basic Texts of Life, we were following the master economic growth process labeled "spontaneous discovery" by Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek.
I'm not sure I'd do things, big things, this way in every instance, but I do think there are times when such an "all at once" approach is merited—when you have a Big Idea but need to be living "in the middle of it," with all ends loose ends, to figure out what it means. You might say that this is the approach, in his case on a monster scale, that HRH Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has taken in Dubai over the last two decades.
The point in the context of this Post is that then 20-ish Ms Kopp rejected from the start the advice from the Captains of Industry and other Great Ones who intended to support her—namely, she decided that even though she really didn't know what she was up to tactically, she would mount an enormous program launch to demonstrate to the world the power of her idea. Test it with a handful of young untutored teachers in an out of the way place—off off off off Broadway, if you will—was the advice she got again and again and again and without exception. But she was adamant that if she was going to attract great recent graduates to give up two years of their lives teaching in depressed areas she had to create a Wave of World-rattling Momentum on Day One.
Of course we now know she pulled it off ... Big Time. But the close calls and pratfalls occupy most of the 193-page book. Everything that could go wrong—and then some—did go wrong. Not just tiny miscues, but enormous boo-boos—again and again and again. Her tiny staff fumbled and bumbled their way to survival, then eventually success, holding on only to the Dream and Ms Kopp's staggering intensity and energy.
As I read the book I came to the conclusion that she had been right—that the only way to go in her case had been the Big Way from Day One. One needed the energy of youth and the spirit of youthful naiveté to bite off such an enormous, often contentious ("20 year old 'girl' tackles teachers unions in Manhattan, etc., etc.") notion.
(I also had the chance to think about "all this" on my recent trip to Korea. The Korean approach to many humongous opportunities is to eschew the master plan, or much of any plan—and just get the hell going, firing full bore on a thousand thousand cylinders at once. I witnessed one Act of their show a couple of decades ago, when they leapt, from ground zero, into electronics. From that cold start they built, à la Dubai, enormous production facilities—and learned on the fly how to make it all work and effectively compete with the best. Their individual and collective success, and the speed thereof, was mind-boggling in aim and accomplishment alike.)
Between my little project and Wendy Kopp's Richter 8.0 project, and Dubai and Korea, I am pondering the circumstances when "do it all at once and figure out what 'it' is and how to do it on the fly" is the right answer. There is no doubt that such conditions exist—though the key, beyond the compelling dream, is the raw talent and energy and enthusiasm and obsession and resilience of the participants. It is 99.99% (or more) a matter of raw emotion—not a matter of analytically identifying a big opportunity, assigning "good people," and then proceeding based on state-of-the-art project management software.
Of course I don't mean it (quite) the way it sounds—hey, I'm an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.
But consider, relative to a big/big-ish project, not investing your energy in finishing up your current sub-project, then moving rote-like to the next step. Instead, start, in a half-assed way, two or three or four other tasks/sub-projects just to see how the overall thing feels and where it might go that's unexpected based on three or four or five tasks in motion at the same time. In other words, just keep doin' stuff—and see what the stuff you've done "feels like" on the whole. (There will be time for polish later.)
(For me, in working on a book, it can mean plunging into the next chapter before I even have a decent rough draft of the current chapter—when I have 4 or 5 or 8 or 9 half-assed chapter drafts in process I can begin to figure out what the book as a whole is actually about—or what it might be about that I hadn't imagined.)
I am not a golfer. But I am unabashedly mesmerized by Tiger Woods. (How the hell could anyone not be?) I was reading a David Brooks column (New York Times) on Mr Woods yesterday, and was reminded of what, to me, is the most astonishing part of the Woods story. Namely, that on two occasions Woods no less than "risked his career," per Brooks, re-tooling his (already amazing!!) swing—and then survived months and months of inconsistent performance to get into his new groove.
The principal reason, invariably, most "successful" giant companies rather quickly become also-rans, or just amorphous blobs on the competitive landscape, is their failure to re-tool in anything like a fundamental way. In fact, the worse things get, typically, the more they dig in their heels and defend yesterday's turf. Not Tiger Woods—with all the world's eyes on him all the time, he twice retreated and blew up the centerpiece of his game.
How do you get the nerve to do such a thing—or even admit that it needs to be done when you are sitting atop the personal or professional or corporate skyscraper? If you can answer that one, let me know!
While editing and fact-checking my latest Master presentation, Cathy came across "90% of success is showing up"—and it didn't ring true. She checked and corrected it to 80%. Our exchange encouraged me to go Googling. I immediately confirmed that I was wrong and she was right—no surprise—but also came across a lovely little essay at PersistenceUnlimited.com:
"80 percent of success is just showing up" —Woody Allen
"I often think about that quotation. It may sound easy to shrug off, but not if you look a little deeper. It doesn't just mean show up for job interviews or to work for an 80% increase in success. Showing up also means ... starting.
"For instance, did you show up at the gym today? Just showing up means you're 80% of the way to a good workout. The hard part of fighting yourself to get dressed in workout gear, dealing with traffic and the worry about pain you might experience is over. Now all that is left is to just do the workout. Pretty simple, huh? Even a child could do it.
"Same thing with opportunity. It's easier to make significant progress on a project if you simply show up to do it. Candidly, one of my hardest tasks of the day is 'showing up' for development Visual Studio. It seems simple enough ... just double click on an icon. But if I think too much about the seemingly 10,000 things I have to do once I launch it, I am much more likely to 'accidentally' launch my web browser or fiddle with e-mail.
"But once I'm in there, the work is typically easy and fun. Some days I can knock out more tasks than I planned. And I feel like a success at the end of the day.
"You can be or do whatever you want just by showing up. If you want to be an author, show up to write your manuscript every day, show up to writing classes, show up to phone calls to editors. Doesn't it make sense that someone who arrives at the door of opportunity has more success than someone just sitting at home?
What could be a better welcome home (from Korea, Mexico, Croatia, Argentina) gift than Susan's Peonies in bloom.
But there's a catch—only in Vermont. (Or perhaps, also Nome, Alaska.) That is, I realized that this time next week the days will have begun to get shorter. Hence, I am suffering A.SAD. That is ... Anticipatory Seasonal Affective Disorder.
We're part of a very cool effort by Cool Friend Dave Balter—you might remember him as the founder of BzzAgent. Today, around this time, 20 select blogs around the Web are together announcing the appearance of his new book, The Word of Mouth Manual: Volume II. We'd like to point you to this link, where you can download it for free. The actual book is being offered for $45.00 and comes with a piece of original art by its illustrator, Seth B. Minkin. You can read more by Dave Balter about why he's distributing the book this way at HBSPress.com.
Good news for tompeters.com readers! We have a few copies to give away, and we're making it a contest. To win a book, go into the comments under this blog entry and post your best word-of-mouth story. The word limit is loose—100 words or thereabouts. We won't penalize you for going way over, but we'll be tempted to. Just between you and me, I got a strong sense of bias in favor of extreme brevity among the judges. (Full disclosure: I'm one of them.)
[To see the list of 19 others blogging this today, click on "read more" below.]
Stephanie Palmer wants to help you find clients, increase revenue, and get financing for your ideas. After ten years in the film industry, including six as Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures, Palmer founded a consultancy. Now she uses what she learned about being successful in meetings to coach business leaders, executives, and creative professionals on getting their ideas the attention they deserve and the financing they need. She presents this expertise in her book, Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience, which she discussed with Erik in her Cool Friends interview.
To hear the whole original conversation, you can download an MP3 by means of this link. For a few tips from Stephanie, we have available a shorter MP3 titled "Three Things."
We got RSS for the comments up and running, and, in the process, it seems we broke the RSS for our blog entries. We're working on fixing it, but it may be early next week before everything is working smoothly again. We apologize to everyone who has a problem with the RSS feed in the meantime, and we send thanks to two readers who sent emails alerting us.
There's a new way to experience Tom's Success Tips. We recently told you about the serialization services of DailyLit and that you can have a success tip delivered to your email inbox each day. Now they've expanded the format of their offerings to Twitter, the micro-blogging service. Tom's not planning to jump on the micro-blogging bandwagon anytime soon (limit Tom to 140 characters? I don't think so), so for now, this is the only way to get your Tom fix on Twitter. How does it work? Using your own Twitter account, you "follow" Tom's Success Tips. Each day, everyone in the world following Tom's Success Tips on Twitter will receive a "tweet" with a link to the same tip. Why sign up for this instead of the DailyLit email delivery? The email delivery is a personal subscription and will begin with the first tip the day you sign up. The Twitter offering is more like a global reading group with everyone receiving the same tip on the same day. Since Twitter can be used on a computer or a cell phone, it's fun to imagine the varied locations and circumstances of the folks who will be reading the tips at the same time. Get on board by June 16th to get the first tip along with the rest of the world's Twittering Tom fans.
Tom presented to the top management meeting of Bunge, the agribusiness giant. They describe themselves this way: "Bunge is decentralized, yet integrated; it is a strong team driven by entrepreneurs. These seemingly contradictory ideas come together to form The Bunge Style, our unique way of working." Sounds like a good fit for Tom.
Let us hear from you in the comments if you attended the event, and if you'd like to download the slides, you can use this link: Bunge, Buenos Aires, Argentina
In 1958, spooked by Russia's Sputnik, the Department of Defense created ARPA—the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPA, in turn, sired the Web, no ifs, ands, or buts. In this marvelous recounting, virtually all the key players have been tracked down—and contribute to what VF calls the first oral history of the Web.
(For those of us who are Avowed Capitalist Pigs, it's amusing to see that all the initial funding, decades' worth, for Web-related activities came from the Feds—so much for only-the-private-sector-matters!)
The impact of the 50-year-old Web is staggering. But is it "more staggering" than, say, the arrival of railroads? I've been doing a bit of railway reading, and I think it's either a dead heat, or the railways may win by a nose.
"[The railways] turned the known universe upside down. They made a greater and more immediate impact than any other innovation before or since. ... The shock was both sudden and universal ... With the railways came the development of modern capitalism, of modern nations, the creation of new regions from the American Midwest to Lake Victoria to the pampas in Argentina."—Nicholas Faith, The World the Railways Made
I like this one even better—written at the time of inception, 1844, and using extremist language of the sort that's also commonplace regarding the Web:
"... Time and space are annihilated by steam. ... Oh, this constant locomotion, my body & everything in motion. Steamboats, Cars, & hotels all crammed & crowded full the whole population seems in motion & in fact as I pass along with Lightening speed & cast my eye on the distant objects, they all seem in a whirl nothing appearing permanent even the trees are waltzing, the mind too goes with all this, it speculates, theorizes, & measures all things by locomotive speed, where will it end."—Asa Whitney, first to formally propose transcontinental railroad to Congress, diary entry, 1844, from David Haward Bain, Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad
"Time and space were annihilated"—that's the ticket.
No grand purpose here other than amusement—and a reminder that we've lived through and survived such "everything-has-changed" upheavals in the past. Just ask the spirit of your great great grandfather!
There's the "imminent" threat to American economic pre-eminence from China and India. There was a similar, "on our last legs" threat 25 years ago from Japan. And economist and former MIT biz-school dean Lester Thurow claimed a decade or so ago that Europe would eclipse us in the years (or was it weeks?) to come.
There were the all-important management pronouncements of Peter Drucker—peaking in the 60s or early 70s. There was Michael Porter, and perhaps yours truly, in the 80s and 90s. There was the Carter-Reagan recession. The Bush I recession. The Bush II recession. The Internet-new economy moment—and subsequent implosion. The savings and loan crisis, the sub-prime crisis. The Latin, and Asian, debt crises.
In the meantime, and despite the startling rise of others (Japan and Southeast Asia and Europe, now China and India and Eastern Europe), the Good Ole American Economy just seems to mimic the Energizer Bunny. In "The Future of American Power" (Foreign Affairs, vol. 87, no. 3, May/June 2008), Fareed Zakaria delivers these fascinating statistics on the United States' share of global output:
Recession. Bubble. Drucker. Porter-Peters. Doesn't seem to matter much—the train just keeps on rolling. As I said or implied, pretty damned amazing that, as huge parts of the world have gotten wealthy, our overall share has not declined ...
Save that for another day.
The goal here: The world as "we" (Americans) know it ain't exactly coming to an end in the next few weeks—so, with good conscience, fill up the tank (ha!) and head to the beach, or at least the couch, for some old-fashioned summer relaxation and, uh, Kindle reading.
William Easterly wrote in the Financial Times on 29 May: "The report of the World Bank Growth Commission, led by Nobel laureate Michael Spence [former dean of the Stanford biz school—tp, you know my biases], was published last week. After two years of work by the commission of 21 world leaders, an 11-member working group, 300 academic experts, 12 workshops, 13 consultations, and a budget of $4 million, the experts' answer to the question of how to attain high growth was roughly: we do not know, but trust experts to figure it out."
At Southwest Airlines' annual meeting in its hometown of Dallas a couple of weeks ago, founder Herb Kelleher retired after 37 years. The day of the meeting, a full-page ad appeared in USA Today thanking Herb for his devotion—paid for by the pilots union.
Across town, the same day, another Dallas-based airline, American, had its annual meeting. It was picketed by a clutch of its pilots union members.
Asked repeatedly about his success secrets at SWA, Kelleher has always had the same and sole reply: "You have to treat your employees like customers."
As many point out, it's a little more complicated than that. I'd hardly disagree. On the other hand, I know Mr K reasonably well, and I am convinced that he is dead serious, and that the spirit encompassed by his one-line answer is, indeed, the airline's most prominent point of differentiation. I remain to this day repeatedly surprised by the regularity with which my typically businessclass-flying friends praise Southwest, starting always with employee attitude.
Three, or 37, hearty cheers for Herb Kelleher—and for the pilots union as well.
(I am directing you to another Special Presentation previously posted: "Putting The Customer Second." You may recall that we had a hot and heavy discussion when I took this topic on.)
There's a book I love—which Susan wishes had never been written, Roger Rosenblatt's delightful (I think) Rules for Aging. S's irritation stems from my penchant for referring to it again and again and then again—she's got a point, actually.
A couple of weeks ago, she and a few friends were uncharacteristically heading to a garden party—spring hats were more or less required. As she worried and worried about how her hat would be received, I "helped" by re-re-re-reading to her Rosenblatt's Rule #2, perhaps my favorite:
"Yes, I know that you are certain that your friends are becoming your enemies; that your grocer, garbageman, clergyman, sister-in-law, and your dog are all of the opinion that you have put on weight, that you have lost your touch, that you have lost your mind; furthermore you are convinced that everyone spends two-thirds of every day commenting on your disintegration, denigrating your work, plotting your assignation. I promise you: Nobody is thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves—just like you."
But, indeed, when the women gathered after the party they were abuzz about who had worn what—caustic opinions flew hot and heavy. Pointedly reminding me that Roger & I are men.
That is, the worried woman is right—others are indeed thinking about her and passing judgment thereupon.
Not so for us boys, mostly at least. (As Roger said. And I quote ...)
The above reminded me of something of paramount practical importance that's been on my mind for a while. I will make some profound pronouncement or other, during a speech, on, say, the all-important topic of "relationship management." It is, if I must say so myself, a real eye-opener.
To me and the boys in the room.
The women yawn, or buzz "At 65 he's discovered the power of relationships—bloody men."
My message here, boys, is one I'm working on assiduously, though the anecdote above would suggest, without much success. Namely, it is important that I pass many a remark through a "gender filter." Not for reasons of political correctness, God help me, but because my "brilliant (breakthrough?) generalization" may well be old-old-old-obvious-obvious-obvious news to the other gender—and implementation, the end point, will be profoundly affected by my faulty assertion—"they are thinking about themselves."
I'm not asking, guys, for revised behavior necessarily (ever so difficult to pull off), but I am urging vigilant thoughtfulness-awareness. The business-process project you are working on will be implemented in your 63-person unit by the staff of 30 boys and 33 girls (about right, statistically). It's possible that any number of your key assumptions will not hold water for the 33 women.
The obvious answer, for starters, is thoroughly mixed-gender teams with mixed-gender leadership—and explicit awareness of and discussion about the degree to which the disposition of the internal "customers" will be significantly affected by gender. (And design reflecting the above!)
Is "all this" totally obvious to everyone but me—and Roger Rosenblatt? Perhaps, but based on my dozen years of wrestling with the implication of gender differences, I doubt it.
Meanwhile, my "gender filter" remains firmly in place—and Roger Rosenblatt's book is well out of sight.
Our friends over at PSFK always have their fingers on the pulse of trends. So they know who to feature at an event focused on trends, insight, creative ideas. They just threw one in New York, and now they're flipping coasts and hosting one in San Francisco on July 17th. To us, it sounds like a cool way to spend a day. If it does to you too, find out more here. And if you go, say hi to Piers for us.
Shelley Dolley posted this on 06/06/2008. | Permalink
Get To (Serious!!) Work ... On Your Presentation Skills!
CNN wire, afternoon, June 4: "He was an obscure state lawmaker. But after a 17-minute star-making turn as a keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and a scant two years in the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama is on the verge of becoming his party's presidential nominee."
You can love or loathe Senator Obama, but you presumably will acknowledge the accuracy of the remark above!
Well, probably not, but you get my point—I've made it before, albeit without evidence that's this drop-dead compelling.
Fact, in "our" more modest worlds: Poor or average or even "okay" presentation skills trip up or hold back an incredible number of very talented people at all levels, including the highest in big orgs—and yet it is rare to see someone launch a martial-arts-training-like, no-bull, I'm-gonna-master-this-or-die-trying offensive on presentation skill improvement.
Tom read the news about Obama on his way to Croatia, the site of his presentation of the day. He has a great many fans in Croatia; a translation of In Search of Excellence is about to be published there. I'd recommend a re-read in English, or any language.
No matter your job title, no matter your function within an organization, no matter your skills, you must also be a salesperson. Tom gives as an example a successful Hollywood producer who taught himself sales to pave his own path to big success. He continues on to say that if you want to get anything done [and implementaion is paramount to Tom], then you are in sales. Watch the video (3 minutes, 17 seconds) to hear the whole story from Tom himself.
I am badly remiss for not heartily, vigorously, unabashedly endorsing for your immediate and intense attention the relatively new Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. I must admit I've been enamored of late with the following from former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico, "Beware of the tyranny of making Small Changes to Small Things. Rather, make Big Changes to Big Things." Which is odd, given that it goes against the grain of "look for the little levers," which was my signature approach to implementation for years and years—and the centerpiece of my 1977 dissertation.
Well, I've come full circle. The hell with the big stuff (most of which most of us can't do anyway), let's seek out the little levers—with very high impact. Now along comes Nudge (fabulous title), which chronicles such an approach, digesting in a readable (entertaining, actually) fashion three decades of research in what's called "behavioral economics." Don't be put off by the term that sounds like typical economists' gibberish. (To me, anyway.)
The point is that if you put the good stuff (fruit, say) before the bad stuff (high-carb goop) in a cafeteria display line, you'd be amazed at the impact—e.g., a hundred diet books' worth.
As Mssrs Thaler and Sunstein say, "everything matters"—and nothing is neutral. They even give a lovely, not-like-an-economist title for conscious practitioners of this art:
The book is loaded with practical examples of enormous behavioral changes that stem from subtle manipulation of wee levers. (I've long argued that the manipulation of physical configuration is the most powerful more or less invisible tool in a manager's arsenal—put the chief designer's office next to the CEO's office—and watch a thousand people become obsessed with design more or less overnight.)
It is indeed "manipulation" (the authors discuss this at length), but then everything a manager does is manipulative!
At any rate, the book is well worth a careful read. At one level its principal thesis is obvious (except, as the authors point out, for economists who are obsessed with the mythical "rational man," of which there is none on earth), but the power of the ceaseless examples is likely, I think and hope, to grab your attention.
(One powerful attraction, hinted at above, is that it empowers "lower level" managers—who in fact actually have a boatload/supertanker-full of "little levers" at their command—talk about empowering! It simultaneously deprives them of their standard "powerless" excuse.)
The article builds on the masterful work of Fred Reichheld, and features his invention, the "Net Promoter Score." There are numerous ways to measure it, but somehow one has to end up with a single number: NPS. In (very) short, the NPS is the percentage of customers who are wild about you (pretty damn happy or better) and would recommend you to others minus the percentage who are neutral or worse about you—and, hence, would not go out of their way to sing your praises to their pals.
There are a million twists—e.g., Brain Training—LearningRx, with 66 franchises, has developed an NPS for every employee—with high impact on their performance and pay.
There have been lots of thoughtful Comments to my last post [I'll Miss You! (I Already Do.)]. One, from Todd Reed, speaking of Zingerman's (see Bo Burlingham's Small Giants), parallels my point: "They don't say the interviewee/employee has to be a ball of fire, just pleasant, caring, and engaged in the moment."
Fact is, the work place to a great extent is "where we live." We need star accountants. Boffo saleswomen. Over-the-top creatives in marketing and new product development. And so on. But, since we're effectively talking about "where we live," good sense and good business and "good" engagement throughout the "supply chain," from vendor's vendor to customer's customer, we would benefit mightily—including on the P & L—if we insisted (!) on: "Pleasant." "Caring." "Engaged."
So, let's put it in the hiring practices manual (would-be peer assessment will be front and center). Let's put it in every evaluation. Let's feature it in promotion decisions.
(*If we look for "it" in accounting as much as, say, sales, we'll have gone a long way toward making all-important cross-functional coordination more or less automatic.)
General Dwight David Eisenhower did the impossible. No, not the successful D-Day landing. Or the subsequent march to Germany. His "impossible dream"—come true—was to keep the Allies(?) from killing each other long enough to kill the bad guys!
And General Eisenhower had a secret: "Allied commands depend on mutual confidence; [this confidence] is gained, above all, through the development of friendships."
Armchair General (May 2008) traces the origins of this mystical Eisenhower trait: "Perhaps his most outstanding ability [at West Point] was the ease with which he made friends and earned the trust of fellow cadets who came from widely varied backgrounds; it was a quality that would pay great dividends during his future coalition command."
Manage To Moments Of Truth/Managing To Moments Of Truth. Start by finding "them." Defining them. Mapping them. Testing them. Measuring them. Incenting them. Etc.
Most important, I'd urge you to "use it"—that is, the term Moments Of Truth. (Okay, Carlzon invented M.O.T. 20-odd years ago—fact is, the issue-idea never ages.)
Most important (II), pass every (E-V-E-R-Y) decision through the "M.O.T. Filter"—how does this system, this hiring practice, whatever, affect the M.O.T.s? If an issue on, say, a weekly operations meeting agenda is not related to improving M.O.T., ask why the issue is on the agenda or how it can be made relevant to M.O.T.s. If an issue under discussion does or may negatively affect M.O.T.s, reconsider it or reconfigure it. (Relative to the latter—negative impact—one CEO (name-company slips my mind) is adamant that positive M.O.T.s are far more important, not less important, in a downturn, when every customer counts double. Hence, for example, beware mindless cost-cutting that pisses off remaining customers!)