"Who are you? Why are you here? How are you unique?" Tom Peters
I launched the day (Tuesday) with a few quick starter-to-dos for bosses. They were vigorously re-tweeted, so I decided to post them here. FYI:
MBWA. NOW. PLEASE.
Take someone in another function to lunch. TODAY. DAMN IT.
Thank someone for bringing a SMILE to work today. Do it in the next ... 30 MINUTES.
Boss: Observe yourself closely over the next 60 MINUTES. Did you LISTEN more than you talked?
At the beginning of your next meeting THANK two people for SOMETHING.
THANK YOU for reading these tweets. Have a great day.
Via Sally Helgesen writing at strategy+business.com, we get a book recommendation, that is, Laura Rittenhouse's Investing Between the Lines: How to Make Smarter Decisions by Decoding CEO Communications. Sally explains the background of the book and Laura's Rittenhouse Rankings, where companies' CEO letters and other forms of corporate communications are scored on transparency and language that indicates truth-telling, using techniques of forensic investigators and SEC analysts. Points are deducted for FOG, "fact-deficient, obfuscating generalities." I love that term. Who hasn't been frustrated by jargon-filled messages with no apparent meaning?
Tom started a Twitter thread on 18 August, and people jumped in enthusiastically with their faves (see the whole list, with credits, at "read more" below): mind-mapping, blue sky thinking, business transformation, discuss off-line, there's a disconnect, war room and all military metaphors, team player, bang for buck. And the winners are! ... "firm up over the grey areas" and "may or may not be related to." FOG? Absolutely.
In her book review, Sally goes on to say that Rittenhouse garnered criticism for trying to quantify something as soft as words. As Tom has said many times, "Hard is soft. Soft is hard," i.e., it's a cinch to make the numbers show whatever you want to prove, but the soft stuff like words is much harder. And, with forensic analysis, harder to hide behind. Trying to obscure the truth will reveal itself, and be publicized in the Rittenhouse Rankings.
Thanks to Sally Helgesen for sending this story our way.
Tom Peters @tom_peters 18 Aug
Some overused phrases I'd rather never hear again: Youneedacoach. Beauthentic. Empoweryourpeople. I'ma6sigmablackbelt.
Jeff Broman @GoTravelzing 18 Aug
I would add "We are in the ________ Space " & "Mind Mapping"
Heather Townsend @HeatherTowns 18 Aug
how about 'lets do some blue sky thinking'... should be banned as well
Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar 18 Aug
other over-used phrases: think outside the box, business transformation, leadership vs management differences.
Dennis Jolley @dsjutah 18 Aug
"Let's discuss this off-line."
Express Hamilton @HIEHamilton 18 Aug
Personal favourite at moment is "there is a disconnect" = people not communicating clearly I think
radbcc @radbcc 18 Aug
Scott Smith @smackaysmith 18 Aug
War room -- really, any military metaphors.
Andrey Khusid @Khusya 18 Aug
I want to see a big picture
Mike Whitehead @Mike_White_Head 18 Aug
If I never hear the words 'biggest bang for your buck' again it will be too soon.
Colin Quinn @realcolinquinn 18 Aug
the most ridiculous phrase? I was in a session where we were told to " firm up over the grey areas".
todd lowe @toddlowe 18 Aug
worst phrase ever? Just heard newscaster say "may or may not be related to ..." Duh. Really?
Cyndy de Nuno @cdenuno 18 Aug
How about "win/win"?
Bill Fonda @ucsu94 18 Aug
"Do more with less," especially from people who don't have to.
Nigel Pearson @SplottBoy 18 Aug
The 'pinch point' came when I was giving '110%' at 'pushing the envelope' when I should have been 'thinking outside of the box'.
Continuing his exploration of the subject he introduced here in a blog titled Quiet!, Tom wrote an article for the Financial Times about the value of introverts in a position of leadership. Tom begins with acknowledging that the idea may be opposite to theories he's espoused in the past. Bottom line: There's room at the top for quiet thinkers along with the take-action leaders he's cheered on for years. Registration at ft.com is required for viewing the article. We think you'll find it worth the effort:
"Leaders Must Watch and Wait More Often" (posted at ft.com on Monday, 26 August 2013).
A few weeks ago, Jean-Jacques Dubray, from a website called b-mc2.com, sent a direct tweet to Tom alerting him to a BOLT diagram he'd assembled from Tom's Leadership Reductionist Self-Assessment. Tom liked it and asked us to post a link. The graphical representation of Tom's desirable leadership traits brings into focus what he considers the most important skills in a leader, and also provides a pathway for studying these skills or putting them into practice. Enjoy!
As some of you know, I have been regularly shouting about Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I think it's a breakthrough book. Put simply, I judge that many of us have undervalued, and often underemployed and underutilized, roughly half the population—introverts. In any event, as usual, I turned my favorite bits into, what else, a PowerPoint "presentation." You'll find it here. I urge you to take it seriously—start by buying the book!
(I first used Cain's book at a talk to a tough-as-nails company in a wildly competitive market. They talk tough, and acknowledge having a strong hiring bias in the direction of "aggressive" people. Makes sense in their world—but what if they're missing out on a huge hunk of the population that brings different and desirable traits to the party? E.g., looking before leaping. Several folks came up afterwards and claimed that they'd give this a lot of thorough examination—that there might be another planet to explore.)
I repeat: This could be huge!
Tom launched August with a twitter frenzy. A few highlights:
Giving feedback is not for amateurs.
Is there any more difficult task than giving effective feedback? If there is, I can't imagine what it would be.
If you think giving feedback is easy or "straightforward," then you are hyper-shitty at giving feedback.
No one is open to poorly proffered feedback. No one = No one.
Giving feedback is a skill to be studied, practiced and mastered as much/as carefully as, say, playing the piano.
Begin with a planet-class training course [on giving feedback], require EVERYONE to take it, provide mandatory annual refresher.
You are a lively soul, and I salute you. But as a boss, be careful when you tease someone who works for you. BE VERY CAREFUL.
Always remember, boss/project leader, the hypersensitive ones may be your very best folk. Don't mistake your thick skin for the norm.
Teasing people is a dangerous profession. (Under any and all conditions.)
@Gil_Bashe 2h @tom_peters Think we need to see our actions in the lens of how we impact others - never to embarrass always to advance the human condition.
Teasing In Cyberspace
Teasing is about all the senses taken together. It can backfire X100 in cyber-conversations.
Use of body language in the theater and on the screen are two very different states of affairs.
Using body language in 2-dimensional space obviously doable. As movie directors know as a matter of course.
Reading body language effectively is 10X more difficult than reading Shakespeare.
As a public speaker, effectively reading body language is perhaps #1 skill/asset
On Bosses' Delusions
If you are a boss and are pleased that people came around to see things your way, worry. Worry a lot.
Boss: Never mistake the fact that people agree with you for their actual feelings
On Who You Hang Out With
@oribrafman When you interact with others who are different, amazing, and serendipitous, things tend to happen.
TP Responses to @oribrafman:
Making this happen regularly [interaction with those who are different] is of the utmost personal and organizational importance and demands systematic thought
And when you fail to do this you mentally and emotionally shrivel by the hour.
This is not a "good idea." It's a life or death, win or lose strategic outlook.
This is not a "generic" issue. This is a ... TODAY ISSUE
Straight talk: You must work your ass off on this. Without intervention, "same same" is the default option.
Top 2 innovation imperatives: Try a lot of stuff. Hang out with interesting people.
Tom is vacationing by the Atlantic Ocean. Yesterday morning [Monday 29 July] he took a beach walk at 6a.m. "Gorgeous," he says. But how would he know? He tweeted his way down the beach. Turned out to be a tweet sequence he'd like to reproduce here. "Sterling," he calls it.
Starting vacation today? Vacation goal: No vacation goal. REFRESH. [Pure hypocrisy on Tom's part—cm]
Vacation: Unless you are a truly shitty manager, your team can live w/o you for 48 hours. No emails. ZERO.
19 people require 19 different "management styles." (Just like great teacher who has distinctive way of dealing with each of 19 10-yr-olds.)
Yo, jovial boss: Some of your very best folks hypersensitive. Light wiseass remark can demoralize them for month. Uh, people are different.
"Jovial" types often dim when it comes to hypersensitive types ... who are often your most thoughtful people.
Don't waste a moment this week persuading naysayers. Spend your time deepening and widening network of allies.
Monday reminder: A "small" act of incivility may well be remembered for 10 years.
Make your 1st meeting today a demo of Leadership Excellence. Prep your ass off.
Make your 1st 10 emails of the day positive!! Every damn one of them!!
Thank 5 people for SOMETHING before day's end.
MBWA today ... or bust.
Thank a front-line employee this morning for bringing a great attitude to work this Monday morning.
Suck down for success! Add 2 people 2 levels "down" in another function to your network. The Real Work is done "down" there.
Are you 40? 45? 50? Sign up for a Web course this week on something new you need to understand. DO NOT DELAY.
Bain study concluded that 80% of companies think their service is good. 20% of their customers think so. Do you have similar disconnect?
When I ask you Friday afternoon, "Who was the most interesting person you added to your network this week," what will your answer be?
Devote the week to better cross-functional integration. Do SOMETHING in that regard before 11AM this morning.
Is there anyone on your agenda for the week who will give you a genuinely novel perspective on something of importance? If not, why not?
I'm mostly a function over form guy. My iPhone a sleek beauty; or, rather, it was until I put an ugly, garish, drop-proof cheap case on it.
Passed a Frank Gehry-ish house on beach walk. High on artsy-fartsy scale, likely a leaky nightmare to live in. (I'm a Donald Norman-ist.)
[We're glad he paused long enough to take a photo—below—cm]
Tom's caption: World War II pillbox, Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard, MA, as of 30 July 2013
In keeping with Tom's long-held conviction that every document can be improved—if only by one word if a closer-to-perfect word can be found—he has provided a revision to his "'Reductionist' Leadership Self-Assessment." Only one element has been changed (not in substance, in wording only), but the revision is, in fact, an improvement. For good measure, he made the piece into a PowerPoint presentation, too. We hope you'll download and use whichever you like.
"Reductionist" Leadership Self-Assessment PDF
"Reductionist" Leadership PPT
Back in May, Tom posted a self-assessment for leaders of orgs big and small. In keeping with his stance that a focus on people is more important than vision, energy, and integrity in a leader, he proposed statements on which to evaluate yourself addressing that aspect of leadership particularly. We put up a fast-draft PDF when Tom blogged this, but we've had time to polish it up a bit, and we're posting the new version now.
Sample assessment statements:
• Listening is Item #1 in our set of Core Cultural Values.
• I believe in the Iron Law of Communication: Regardless of circumstances, if there is a miscommunication ... it's my fault
• 100% of our employees have specific development plans/programs carefully designed and precisely tailored for them and on which they ... are rigorously evaluated.
If you'd like to test yourself on those standards and more like them, you can download the PDF (revised once more on 19 July) now.
Leaders should develop a vision for their enterprise, or the part thereof for which they are responsible.
Leaders should get people excited about their work.
Leaders should be masterful problem solvers.
Leaders should have the highest integrity.
Yes, all fine.
But, I contend, that's not close to being enough. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that those items, collectively miss the boat. In fact, they're not even at the right dock.
What do leaders ... DO?
First and foremost they assemble and then develop a topflight team of people.
Here's the way I like to put it, which I label "Seven Steps to Sustaining Success":
You take care of the people.
The people take care of the service.
The service takes care of the customer.
The customer takes care of the profit.
The profit takes care of the re-investment.
The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
The re-invention takes care of the future.
(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)
The obvious point: Developing people comes first. It is the "That without which there is nothing ..."
The leader's job?
Leaders "do" people.*
(*I have a slide that goes: Leaders do people. PERIOD.)
I'd been doing some serious thinking about leadership when I came across Practice Perfect: 43 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. It changed my life. I'm not actually sure about that, but I'm sure that it made me change my perspective. You damn well ought to read the book!
In short, in excruciating detail, the authors make the case for directing almost all training toward the bits—not the whole. Integration must take place—but integrative training is actually wasted or even counterproductive if the pieces have not been mastered. I was already starting to head down this path, but Practice Perfect iced the argument.
So the story here will be simple in outline—challenging as all get out in implementation. I'm arguing—not exactly original—that leading, like football or music or theater, can be largely broken down into activities. And until those activities are trained in and practiced and more or less mastered, it's premature to deal with the high falutin' stuff like vision and values and energy and enthusiasm. (Vitally important as these characteristics are!)
As you wade into what follows (if you choose to do so), I want to make one point clear. Every item below can be subject to study and training and practice and evaluation—e.g., re item #1, I don't want you to "get better" at listening. I want you to:
Study listening—book or video learning.
Subject yourself to intense training in listening.
Practice listening with effective feedback.
Then practice some more. Then take refresher training with some degree of regularity. (Slippage for bosses, assuming they get there in the first place, is the norm, not the exception.)
The goal: Become a full-fledged "professional listener."
Hey, God alone knows how many hours you spent learning accounting and finance, marketing, etc. I want you to direct the same abundant energy on becoming, yes, a notable professional listener.
To get at this topic in short form, I'd ask you to take a quiz and to score yourself on a scale of 10, where 1 is awful and 10 is masterful. What follows are the essence-of-leadership activities (or a rough stab at them) I'd like you to self-evaluate:
I am what some call an "aggressive listener," giving, without fail, intense, undivided attention to the speaker and very rarely interrupting; I am a visibly aggressive listener, attempting to be an implacable role model for aggressive listening. _____
Listening is Item #1 in our set of Core Cultural Values. _____
I believe in "aggressive listening" so much that it is part of everyone's evaluation; and every one must take annual refresher training in aggressive listening per se. ____
I am a full-fledged student of listening, aiming for the same level of "professional excellence" that I'd aim for in a specialty like marketing or finance. _____
I am exceedingly meticulous about the exact construction of the questions I ask, always mannerly, always probing, always giving the person questioned space/time to formulate a thoughtful answer; my follow-up is not "soft" but is "supportive" to a fault. The questioning process is near the heart of effective leadership practice and I approach it with the gravity it deserves. ____
I understand the complexity of and the power of excellent questioning skill. I am a formal student of the art and science of asking questions. ____
I view meetings, which absorb an extraordinary amount of my time (and which always will), to be my premier leadership opportunity; I do intense preparation for the most brief of meetings, and make it clear, beginning with body language, that I view the/any meeting as an opportunity, not an annoyance or distraction. I understand if I give off "another-damn-meeting" vibes, I will infect every participant in a flash. ____
In meetings and every other interaction, I make it clear that we are all part of a civil society; good manners, regardless of the passion for a particular position, matter a great deal. _____
"Helping" sounds innocent, but it's not; giving help must be tailored to each individual. I have studied in depth the complex process of helping and I am able to help in a way that is useful and psychologically sound. _____
Conversations—obviously—are the meat & potatoes, the hors d'oeuvres, main course & dessert of life. I have studied the science of conversations per se, learning the tools associated with making every communication count. _____
I believe in the Iron Law of Communication: Regardless of circumstances, if there is a miscommunication ... it's my fault. _____
I believe in effective & extensive training with passion to the point of fanaticism. The quality of each of our training courses is routinely "breathtaking." (And is evaluated remorselessly.) Our Chief Training Officer receives compensation and acknowledgement
on a par with, say, the CFO; line trainers are chosen with the same care and rigor one would apply to hiring a research scientist. ___
Appreciation/acknowledgement; acknowledging may be the most powerful force in the universe, and I go out of my way hour by hour to connect with everyone I so much as pass in a corridor, and make them feel, by, at the very least, eye contact, that I "get" their importance to our enterprise. I have studied acknowledgement per se and understand analytically its stunning power. ___
"Thank you"; I thank people for their contributions--small even more than large; though "thank you" fits under acknowledgement, the TY words per se are "power words," and I keep at least casual track of my daily "Thank you" score. ___
"I'm sorry": Effective apology, as research as well as common sense demonstrates, transforms ("transform," strong but appropriate word) customer relationships and relationships among peers; I go out of my way to take visible responsibility for and the initiative in addressing the slightest of real or perceived screw-ups. Moreover, I have instilled recognition of the power of this "tactic" throughout our group/workforce. ___
I am always on the prowl for people who, unbidden, are regularly helpful to others, who will drop their own precious task in a flash to give a hand to someone who needs a hand at a critical moment. I make it clear that mutual helpfulness is a core "cultural" trait, which will be routinely acknowledged and formally taken into account in all evaluations. _____
Presentation excellence. Those of us who do not do manual work "listen" and "talk" for a living; together, talking and listening constitute our profession as leaders. Training in both is imperative—there is nothing automatic about these skills. I visibly support presentation training and development; and practice ceaselessly to improve my own presentation skills. _____
Body language is said to account for as much as 90% of our communication effectiveness. I am a student of body language and assiduous in turning body language per se into a primary trait of effective leadership. _____
Many say that hiring is the most important task in the organization. Assuming that's more or less true, I can call myself and 100% of my leader peers true "hiring professionals," avid students and practitioners of hiring excellence. ____
Is there a more complex task than developing and executing an evaluation process that is a major/"Top 5" strength for our entire leadership population? I have schooled myself in the intricacies of the evaluation process, instituted formal training in evaluation, and designed the evaluation process with the same care I would assign to, say, the budgeting process. All leaders are strictly evaluated on the quality of their evaluation practice. _____
I acknowledge that time is my only resource—and manage accordingly. I evaluate in exacting detail my time allocation to insure that it visibly matches my espoused priorities. I evaluate daily, weekly, monthly with dispassionate rigor. _____
In managing my time, I keep a substantial amount of my calendar open (25%+) in order to deal with the vagaries of the leadership job. I guard with zeal against the sin of chronic over-scheduling. _____
I am expert at and an avid practitioner of MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around--the key to staying in touch and modeling core values and informally engaging employees? "Obsessive" MBWA effectively surpasses other priorities. I am thoughtful, not haphazard, in my approach to MBWA. _____
Am I an avid student of the process of influencing others per se—or do I trust my instincts since I've "been around"? There is a massive amount of research on this topic, and influencing per se should be considered a discreet skill to be studied and mastered. ______
I have painstakingly made myself expert in understanding the complexity of the decision-making process. I am vividly aware of the (enormous!) biases that seep into the decision-making process, and work formally to address or reduce those biases—and instill this understanding and "studenthood" into 100% of the management corps. _____
I am a brilliantly schooled and practiced student of negotiation. All jobs include at least informal daily negotiation, and negotiating skills are an implicit part of daily affairs. Training, of various degrees of intensity, is available (required?) to one and all. _____
Do I talk ceaselessly about the importance of execution, but assume that since it is an obvious priority it does not have to be a subject of directed study? This is especially the case for young/first-time managers. Hence, the conscious management of the execution process is a topic of study and practice. _____
100% of our employees have specific development plans/programs carefully designed and precisely tailored for them and on which they—and especially their managers!—are rigorously evaluated? Any employee one stops in the hall can talk cogently about her/his personal professional development plan and her/his progress thereon (and the degree to which she/he has been aided by her/his manager). Individual and collective and directly managed employee growth is a part of our core value set. _____
I am excruciatingly aware of the "d"iversity of my/our team? (I call it "lower case 'd'iversity"—not the gender/race variety, but diversity on every-damn-dimension-imaginable.) Do I actively ensure, for example, that every team features an exciting mix of backgrounds that enhances the likelihood of their following interesting/creative paths to developing and executing projects of every shape and size? _____
I am fully aware through study and analysis of the power/staggering value of gender-balance from top to bottom in our organization and relative to everything we do? I have a priority strategic program for addressing this issue/preeminent opportunity. _____
Every leader/manager is exceedingly well trained in teambuilding per se. Every manager is assessed on her/his teambuilding skills and results. Attention to teambuilding per se is on the daily agenda of every one of our leaders. ___
I fully understand that perhaps the most important asset--and determinant of our success on so many dimensions—is the full cadre of first-line leaders. We have the most extensive and effective first-line manager/leader selection and training and development programs in our industry, so good that they make one "gasp"! _____
Everyone in the organization (100%!) is trained in "business"—that is, the way a business works, including the financial aspects thereof, so that he or she can have at least a rudimentary grasp of our overall place in the world. ____
This assessment list could actually continue, but I'm certain you get the drift. As I said at the outset, we talk ceaselessly about the likes of "charisma"—and miss the real "stuff" that leaders do day-to-day, hour-to-hour. Can you master all these bits? Of course not, but you can be aware of them—or some set like them. And you can pick off three or four—or one or two—items to really delve into.
The elements in summary form:
Expert at questioning.
Meetings as leadership opportunity #1.
Creating a "civil society."
Expert at "helping."
Expert at holding productive conversations.
Fanatic about clear communications.
Fanatic about training.
Master of appreciation/acknowledgement.
Effective at apology.
Creating a culture of automatic helpfulness by all to all.
Conscious master of body language.
Master of hiring.
Master of evaluating people.
Time manager par excellence.
Avid practitioner of MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around.
Avid student of the process of influencing others per se.
Student of decision making and devastating impact of irrational aspects thereof.
Brilliantly schooled student of negotiation.
Creating a no-nonsense execution culture.
Meticulous about employee development/100% of staff.
Student of the power of "d"iversity (all flavors of difference).
Aggressive in pursuing gender balance.
Making team-building excellence everyone's daily priority.
Understanding value of matchless 1st-line management.
Instilling "business sense" in one and all.
Have at it!
[Offered also as a PDF (revised 19 July 2013).]
Adi Gaskell points out that social media can be used to expand your reach if you plan to incorporate Tom's MBWA, Managing by Wandering Around, practice into your management style. Social media are good for connection. Tom's agreement on that score is obvious by his immersion in Twitter, tirelessly offering strategy tips and conversing with followers the world over. Yes, a social media presence is important and useful for leaders and managers to maintain open communication with their employees. We heartily agree, especially if they're following Gaskell's important reminder: "Candor is a given."
Gaskell argues that MBWA, in its original state of actually walking around is limiting. We think his focus on the method's lack of efficiency is misplaced. MBWA has, at its heart, the element of being there in person. Talking ... face-to-face. One of Tom's often-used quotes is from Texas Bix Bender: "A body can pretend to care, but they can't pretend to be there." We think there is an enormous difference in the quality of an interaction in person versus via social media. Looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, laughing with them when in their physical presence creates a very different kind of bond than can be achieved over social media.
Consider Tom's message in this audio clip from The Little BIG Things: travel 5,000 miles for a five-minute meeting (with credit to sports agent Mark McCormack). Finally, see Tom tell the origin story of MBWA in this video, which concludes with him urging you to get out of your office and get "close to where the work is really done."
Keep up with your presence on Twitter, Facebook, and internal channels to maintain open communication. But leave your office, wander around, have an actual conversation in addition to the virtual one. If you want to practice MBWA, in its true spirit, you have to be there.
It's all about the quality of interpersonal relationships.
Leadership is a liberal art—Peter Drucker's assertion. ("Management science" is an oxymoron.)
Listening ("fierce listening," as one wag puts it) is arguably/inarguably leadership "Tool #1." (Training in listening should be intense/rigorous/universal.)
"Authenticity" only goes so far—e.g., leaders aren't allowed to have bad days, especially on bad days.
At the end of the day (one's professional life), one remembers the people one has helped—net worth never goes on the tombstone.
"Leadership" is an 18-year-old working at McDonald's who brings a great attitude to work on a gloomy day. (E.g., per Betsy Myers's Take the Lead, every hour offers up leadership opportunities to every one of us.
The tools (e.g., social media) may be new, but the basics of leading—"It's the people, stupid!"—are eternal.
Tom is featured at The Ford Hall Forum in Boston tonight. He is engaging in a dialogue titled "Business Ethics and Other Oxymorons." He will be having a dialogue with Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Harvard Business School; the discussion will be moderated by Donna Carpenter, founder of New Word City and, among other things, publisher of Tom's eBooks
Tom calls what follows, "My 'cheat sheet' for the discussion." Tom adds, "As most know, I am a fierce critic of B-schools. Yet Dean Nohria is making enormous changes, for the better as I see it, at HBS. I'd call the Boston discussion a 'debate,' except Nitin and I are in virtually complete agreement about the role of business in society—and the broad obligations of business leaders. Incidentally, Dean Nohria comes out of the business sub-discipline typically called 'organization behavior'—so do I. Praise the Lord, for once, unlike at my alma mater, Stanford, we have a B-school dean who's not one more bloody economist."
Tom's cheat sheet:
From Lynn Stout, professor of corporate and business law, Cornell Law school, in The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public
"On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. ... Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products."—Jack Welch, Financial Times/0313.09/page 1/former GE chairman Welch was arguably the most vociferous proponent of the shareholder value ideology (Quoted in The Shareholder Value Myth)
"The notion that corporate law requires directors, executives, and employees to maximize shareholder wealth simply isn't true. There is no solid legal support for the claim that directors and executives in U.S. public corporations have an enforceable legal duty to maximize shareholder wealth. The idea is fable."
"[A corporation] can be formed to conduct or promote any lawful business or purpose"—from Delaware corporate code, in which there is no mandate for shareholder primacy.
"[Courts] uniformly refuse to actually impose legal sanctions on directors or executives for failing to pursue one purpose over another. In particular, courts refuse to hold directors of public corporations legally accountable for failing to maximize shareholder wealth."
"What about shareholders' rights to sue corporate officers and directors for breach of fiduciary duty if they fail to maximize shareholder wealth? Such a right turns out to be illusory. Executives and directors' duty of loyalty to the corporation bars them from using their corporate positions to enrich themselves at the firm's expense, but unconflicted directors remain legally free to pursue almost any other goal."
"From a legal perspective, shareholders do not, and cannot, own corporations. Corporations are independent legal entities that own themselves, just as human beings own themselves. ... Shareholders own shares of stock. A share of stock is simply a contract between the shareholder and the corporation, a contract that gives the shareholder very limited rights under limited circumstances. In this sense, stockholders are no different from bondholders, suppliers, and employees. All have contractual relationships with the corporate entity. None 'owns' the company itself."
TP comment: I read Professor Stout's book like a thriller: It is breathtaking, for my money.
"Managers have lost dignity over the past decade in the face of widespread institutional breakdown of trust and self-policing in business. To regain society's trust, we believe that business leaders must embrace a way of looking at their role that goes beyond their responsibility to the shareholders to include a civic and personal commitment to their duty as institutional custodians. In other words, it is time that management became a profession."—Rakesh Khurana & Nitin Nohria, "It's Time To Make Management a True Profession," Harvard Business Review/10.08
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."—JFK
From John Bogle, Enough. The Measures of Money, Business, and Life (Bogle is founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group):
"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, 'Yes, but I have something he will never have ... enough.'" (extracted from the New Yorker)
"Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment"
"Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity"
"Too Much Counting, Not Enough Trust"
"Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct"
"Too Much Salesmanship, Not Enough Stewardship"
"Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment"
"Too Many Twenty-first Century Values, Not Enough Eighteenth-Century Values"
"Too Much 'Success,' Not Enough Character"
TP comment: I loved Jack's book and was honored to have been asked to write the foreword to the paperback edition.
"For too long, the economics profession has minimized the critical role of cooperation in economic activity. Emphasis on the individual has risen above all else, and overshadowed the profound ways we depend on each other. ... If we ignore the important ways people cooperate to create wealth, we miss the most valuable source of wealth creation imaginable. ... By appreciating integrity as an asset that is valuable, companies can learn how to invest in it and create wealth."—Anna Bernasek, The Economics of Integrity: From Dairy Farmers to Toyota, How Wealth Is Built on Trust & What That Means for Our Future
"In an era of structured finance, nano-technology, and complex business models, Anna Bernasek's timely book reminds us that the economy runs on something much more simple: trust."—Review of The Economics of Integrity by Dan Gross, author of Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation
"It is not enough for an agency to be respected for its professional competence. Indeed, there isn't much to choose between the competence of big agencies. What so often makes the difference is the character of the men and women who represent the agency at the top level, with clients and the business community. If they are respected as admirable people, the agency gets business—whether from present clients or prospective ones."—David Ogilvy
"I can't tell you how many times we passed up hotshots for guys we thought were better people ... and watched our guys do a lot better than the big names, not just in the classroom, but on the field—and, naturally, after they graduated, too. Again and again, the blue chips faded out, and our little up-and-comers clawed their way to all-conference and All-America teams."—Bo Schembechler (and John Bacon), "Recruit for Character," Bo's Lasting Lessons (Schlemberger was the legendary college football coach at the University of Michigan)
To develop and manage talent;
to apply that talent,
throughout the world,
for the benefit of clients;
to do so in partnership;
to do so with profit.
WPP (World's largest marketing services firm)
Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity
Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth
Jack Beatty, Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America
Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
David Hackett Fischer, Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies
Hanna Rosin, The End of Men: and the Rise of Women
Effective Leadership/100% Under Your Control/ "Rank" Irrelevant:
(Every day brings an infinite # of full-fledged leadership opportunities regardless of name, rank, or serial number.)
No.1 Life Decision: The attitude you take into your next conversation/interaction.
"We do no great things, only small things with great love."—Mother Teresa
"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."—Helen Keller
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."—Anne Frank
"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."—Churchill
"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."—Henry David Thoreau
"The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party but they say nothing. And if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them silently away."—Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I suppose I've known all along that there was a lot more to life than a professional career, but surgery has been a very demanding mistress, and it has given me a self identity that will be hard to shake."—Ned Cabot, upon retirement from his medical career, and who died in a boating accident in the North Sea in September 2012
"Living alone has also made me much, much more conscious of inconsequential things, the sweet banalities of a day in a life. I feel now as if I spent most of my previous time on earth in a state of perpetually frenzied obliviousness, intent on executing all the Important Tasks at Hand.. The test to take. The application to finish, the man to marry. The job to get, the brief to write, the motion to file, the verdict to appeal, the meeting to schedule, the PowerPoint to prepare. The apartment to buy, the meals to organize, the two miles to run, the sex to have, the kids to get to school and playdates and doctors and volleyball games and SAT tutors and college. The marriage to end. The books to write. I was always good at screening out the noise and focusing exclusively on the signal, which made me successful at school and at work and (more or less) as a parent. Until I lived alone, I was not so good at understanding—really understanding, beyond the obligatory modern lip service to smelling the roses and living in the moment—that the extraneous noise can be lovely. The Buddhists call it mindfulness, a word I sort of hate but an MO I've come to believe in.
"Such as right now, when I put the half-full quart of grapefruit juice back on the refrigerator shelf hastily, and watch the sloshing make the carton swivel and teeter before it rights itself, like a wobbly drunk almost falling and then too firmly planting his feet to stand perfectly still. We deprive ourselves if we ignore all the tiny inconsequential bits and pieces, the flotsam and jetsam of life. Quarks and neutrons and atoms and molecules, the earth, asteroids, stars, the shaft of light angling through the kitchen window right this second, illuminating the slow motion Dance of Ten Thousand Dust Motes; isn't it all flotsam and jetsam?"—from the protagonist in the novel True Believers, by Kurt Anderson
The Little BIG Things video series at YouTube, comes to an end with this, the 80th video. It features Tom's favorite lesson from In Search of Excellence: Managing by Wandering Around. On the blog on tompeters.com, on 5 October 2004, Tom tells the story of Bob Waterman and him preparing to go on the Today show, and flipping a coin to decide which of them would mention this one of their eight basics. From observations at ("a much smaller, more intimate") Hewlett-Packard, they discovered this important management tool: get out and see (and be seen by) the people doing the work. In this last TLBT video, Tom relates how Starbucks' Howard Schultz religiously sticks to the practice.
I argue here that acknowledgement is the most powerful word in the English language—and surely the boss's language. Peope crave being acknowledged as here on earth—and, alas, such acknowledgement is ever so rare in the workplace. At any rate, you'll find 4,234 words on the topic in the pdf below. (I know it's the height of arrogance, but I think it's as good as anything I've produced in a while.)
Acknowledgement! (Download the pdf)
The latest video in The Little BIG Things series is now available on YouTube. Tom suggests that you should love office politics, but don't lose sight of the big questions, like "Why am I here?"
You can find the video in the right-hand column of this page or watch it at YouTube (time: 2 minutes 4 seconds). Also, you can get a PDF transcript of the video's content here: Leadership: Love Politics.
Part 12 of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations," or MOAP, is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We'll be releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
The lessons in this, the 5th "H" in Tom's "15H Theory of Everything," include servant leadership (or, leader as developer of employee potential) and legacy (the three key people the leader develops during his tenure). People, people, people!
I mentioned last week that Tom was participating in the Center for Women in Business' Inaugural Forum, Moving from Conversation to Action. Tom has participated in far more than a few events about women in the workplace. This one blew him away. As I had the good fortune to attend as well, I can tell you that it moved far beyond the usual conversations about the disparity in gender percentages in executive suites.
If you are a woman, or at all interested in how to retain and advance women in the workplace, invest the time and watch these videos. The Center was kind enough to film and share the videos from the entire day.
Obviously, I'll point you to the video of the lunch discussion that Betsy Myers, founding director of the Center, had with Tom. You'll note that Tom is gobsmacked by the speech Bob Moritz, chairman and senior partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, gave. His insights on what women can do to move forward were simple and very practical. The executive panel discussion covered a wide range of issues, including work/life balance. Cool Friend Rosabeth Moss Kanter also gave a remarkable presentation at the event.
A few of the many useful takeaways from the day:
*Women should speak up about what they want. Unless you speak up, it's presumed that you don't want the opportunity.
*Sponsors are different than mentors. Sponsors actively put the name of the person they're sponsoring into consideration for open positions or opportunities. Look for a way to make this part of how your organization functions. On a more personal scale, take a moment to think about a woman you believe in and that you could help to move forward. Do something for her today.
*Deloitte has a flexible working track that they refer to as a lattice. Some women may not want to move straight up the corporate ladder; they may prefer more flexibility with their schedules and workloads at different times.
*Betsy Myers briefly mentioned It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor by Rebecca Shambaugh which focuses on "common traps that hold women back in their careers." So much time has been spent focusing on external obstacles. It's beneficial to take a look at the internal obstacles.
We congratulate the Center on a terrific launch and can't wait to see what they accomplish!
The next installment of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations," or MOAP, Part 9, is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We'll be releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
In Part 9, Tom presents lessons from two of his heroes, U.S. Grant and Horatio Nelson, to emphasize his message to leaders: keep moving, forward, relentlessly.
Tom spoke last week to the Food and Grocery Council in New Zealand. While in Auckland, he had a conversation with Bernard Hickey from Interest.co.nz. They cover current business issues as well as the central point of The Little BIG Things.
The next installment, Part 7, of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations," or MOAP, is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We'll be releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
In Part 7, Tom turns conventional wisdom about meetings on its head. They are not, he insists, the most boring, wasteful parts of your day, but valuable opportunities for the leader to communicate ... and listen. If you agree with Tom that these are core competencies, take a look at "Meetings Matter," Part 7 of his Mother of All Presentations.
Part 7 is the end of what Tom calls the "Really First Things Before First Things." The first few parts of MOAP are the essential little things that often get lost in the shuffle. Tom's way to ensure they don't is by placing them at the beginning. The rests of the parts of MOAP will consist of the 15 H's. So as we finish the beginning with Part 7 this week, Tom would like to offer up a bit of a summary in a PDF document he calls REALLY First Things.
The latest video in The Little BIG Things series is now available on YouTube. In this installment, Tom describes his "essence of leadership" formula in two compelling ideas.
You can find the video in the right-hand column of this page or watch it at YouTube (time: 2 minutes 28 seconds). Or, get a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: Listening and ... Four Words.
The most recent New York Times Sunday magazine included an article on the popular PBS drama, "Downton Abbey." Titled "The Upside-Down Appeal of 'Downton Abbey,'" the author was clearly attempting to suss out the attraction to the show. Along the way, she explains that she found the leadership style of lord of the manor an unexpected twist. Apparently he engaged in leadership techniques that would make Tom proud, including Managing by Wandering Around. She went so far as to call the lord a "devotee of Tom Peters." Although we joke with Tom about the length of his career, we're fairly certain In Search of Excellence cannot be found on a feudal lord's bookshelf. Regardless, it's fascinating to find leadership lessons so far from the typical corporate office, and we hope the article provides plenty of food for thought.
We continue on, to the next installment of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations," or MOAP, available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We'll be releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
Part 5 advocates practice in the art of listening. Tom states that mastery of this talent is difficult, but the effort pays big dividends. Try it today. Get Tom's three rules to follow and more in Part 5 of Tom's Mother of All Presentations.
We're happy to announce the start of our Off the Cuff video series. A few months ago we asked for you to send us questions you'd like us to ask Tom on camera. The first question was posed by longtime fan Dave Wheeler, about how it came to be that Tom realized the importance of front line supervisors. We find the timing of this particularly remarkable, since it dovetails so well with the latest part of the Mother of All Presentations released at ExcellenceNow.com, First-line Supervisors Rule.
The latest in the The Little BIG Things Video Series is posted at YouTube. Tom explains that, when hiring, you should look for a special class of people who can't rest until the job is finished—through that last one percent.
The Washington Post asked Tom his opinion about who the best manager in baseball is. As usual, Tom supplies an unexpected answer.
(Note: The Financial Times published a column of mine on 29 August. Editors must edit—and they did. All writers think editors are heartless; some writers, lucky enough to have blogs, can post the version they first submitted. Here it is, 1,200 words rather than the 700 that eventually appeared in print.)
There is no logic to this column.
Which is precisely the point.
I was initially trained as an engineer. (And have an MBA as well.) That essentially means that I am a slave to linear, logical analysis. Hence my presentations start at the start and I carefully build a logical structure for all that follows.
Fair enough. Except I frequently find that critical things I want to say get left out or buried. Hence, about a year ago I threw off my logical halter and decided to say what I thought was important, come what may, at the top of my remarks.
Consideration of business strategy, approaches to product development, and the like, are of the utmost importance to enterprise success. Yet there are other factors—perhaps mundane at first glance—that are the true differentiators between mediocrity and excellence. I'll touch upon four, which I call "First Things Before First Things." Most will agree that each one is important. But my goal is to induce you to convert them into strategic obsessions.
Front-line managers. If the regimental commander lost most of his 2nd lieutenants and 1st lieutenants and captains and majors, it would be a tragedy. If he lost his sergeants it would be a catastrophe. The Army is fully aware that success on the battlefield is dependent to an extraordinary degree on its sergeants. Does industry "get it"?
Research by the likes of Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, reported in First, Break All the Rules, demonstrates that the first-line manager is the single most important key to employee satisfaction, retention—and productivity. No matter how fine the organization, if the employee is sour on his immediate boss, her or his performance will significantly suffer. I am not suggesting that execs don't take the front-line boss seriously. I am suggesting that, unlike the Army, they are not obsessed with developing their full cadre of front-line managers as a primary strategic asset and engine of enterprise performance! For starters: Are your font-line boss selection and training and mentoring processes unmistakably "knock-your-socks-off"/"best-in-class"?
Cross-functional excellence. Look at any organizational failure, and poor cross-functional integration is more often than not the chief culprit. Within an engineering company, for example, research, marketing and finance are routinely at each other's throats. The result is a critical new product comes to market 18 months late. Or take the local police and federal police: Each have the fight against terrorism as their pre-eminent goal—but frequently refuse to share all their data with one another. I chose in introducing this topic the word "excellence," as in "cross-functional excellence." That is, the idea here is not merely about "removing barriers." It is about what I believe is no less than the #1 opportunity to achieve competitive dominance—e.g., cut new-product development by, say, 50 percent or even more.
I have the utmost respect for Oracle and SAP. But this is not primarily a software issue. Or, rather, it is—but a softer form of software. Secret #1 (yes, I'll go that far) is "Let's do lunch." In fact I insist that bosses literally measure their direct reports on the number of lunches per month they have with members of other functions!
It works like this: Joe in procurement invites Sam in finance to lunch. Odds are high that along the way they discover a host of connections—e.g., both have eighth-graders in the same school. Joe will still tenaciously represent his "function" and Sam his—but the tenor of interactions is likely to change significantly, if not dramatically, from "gotcha" to something approaching "How can we jointly add maximum value?"
I call thing like "doing lunch" the "social accelerants" of cross-functional excellence. I can muster a list of 25 in a flash—e.g., present small weekly awards to those in other functions who have helped your team-function move forward. One should not promise miracles lightly, but taken together these notions can lead to miracles of the first order.
"Strategic" listening. Harvard M.D. Jerome Groopman wrote a fascinating book titled How Doctors Think. Dr. Groopman claims, not terribly surprisingly, that the best source for a doctor concerning the patient's complaint is—the patient. Yet he goes on to cite research showing that on average the doctor interrupts the patient after ... 18 seconds. I'll bet you a bundle that the average manager does not surpass the 18-second mark!
Like developing first-line managers and trying to improve cross-functional coordination, most bosses would agree that listening is "important." But, again, do they make it a strategic obsession? Because beyond a shadow of doubt that is precisely what listening per se should be.
I made a list of the things that flow from effective listening ("strategic listening" or "aggressive listening" as I prefer to call it). Listening is ...
the heart and soul of engagement,
the heart and soul of recognition,
the heart and soul of strategic partnering,
the heart and soul of learning,
the heart and soul of customer connections.
As with all things important, the key is becoming a serious student and practitioner. In fact I'll go so far as to say that listening per se is/can be a "profession" ... as much as playing the cello or flying a commercial aircraft.
Meetings. Find me a boss (or non-boss) who doesn't constantly bitch about "too many meetings"—I've never found one. But here is the irreducible fact of "boss-world": Meetings are what bosses do. There is no escape. And if that is true, then, also by definition, meetings are therefore the principal platform, or theater, in which every boss projects her or his leadership skills.
Immutable "bottom line": Every meeting that does not stir the imagination and curiosity of attendees, and increase bonding and co-operation and engagement and sense of worth, and motivate rapid action and enhance enthusiasm is a permanently lost opportunity. Call that a stretch if you wish—but then please explain to me why it is not the self-evident truth!
Let me be clear: This is not a rant about "conducting better meetings." This is a rant about the heart and soul and hour-to-hour reality of leadership effectiveness. One obvious implication: Prepare for a meeting/every meeting as if your professional life and legacy depended on it. Because it does.
There they are: "First things before first things." None, I strongly suspect, would disagree with the fact that all four are "important," even "very important." But it is my claim here that the four are in fact the "guts" of effective organizations—and, in fact, sustainable competitive advantage. Make each of these an "obsession"—and watch the bottom line soar.
The Little BIG Things Video Series continues at YouTube. In the most recent video, Tom explains his theory that if you want to be more innovative, you must hang out with interesting people who pull you into the future.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute 56 seconds] And, of course, a transcript of the video's content is also available as a PDF: Brand You: You Are the Company You Keep. Enjoy!
I'm listening to an interview with the outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan, who was also the former Commanding General there. He says his breakthrough (he argues, realistically I think, that there's been progress) was when he started, and I paraphrase, "going out to the countryside." Likewise, in Iraq, when he was CG, General Petraeus apparently had a big poster on the wall with his guiding philosophy. The last item, in far bigger print than the others was "WALK."
So when the hell, in industry or the army, is "walkin' around," getting out and about, going to stop being a "breakthrough" leadership idea?
In 1979, on a visit to then-president John Young, Bob Waterman and I first heard about Hewlett-Packard's MBWA. Managing By Wandering Around. It was love at first sight. And it still is for me. (And, doubtless, Bob.)
Of course, HP was late to the party. By about 125 years.
In my opinion, General Ulysses S. Grant has been by far America's most effective general. (Unconditional Surrender Grant, as he was sometimes called.) Back in the 1860s, Grant was talking about, de facto, CWVA. That is, as he labeled it ... Commanding While Visiting About. On horseback, of course. In fact, better still, Grant was famous for CBWA-ing pretty much by himself. When other generals would "visit," it was invariably with a retinue in tow—loaded with colonels and other officers. Grant traveled with just one enlisted man accompanying him whose task was to ride off and deliver new orders from Grant to other commands.
Why is ... getting out and about ... MBWA-CWVA ... in 2011 ... still news?
It beats the hell out of me.
As one CEO put it, of my life's work, back in 1984 ... "a blinding flash of the obvious."
Success in 140 characters: Attack EVERY project you do with Reckless ENTHUSIASM and a Passionate Commitment to EXCELLENCE!
Leadership in 140 characters: Energy. Enthusiasm. Passion. "People first" in her bone marrow. Curiosity. Integrity. "Ready. Fire. Aim." Sense of humor. A good accountant.
Don't have a clue about what got me going on meetings. Maybe a book I saw on "Running Better Meetings"—or some such. Meetings, I argue in this Special Presentation, are not about efficiency/brevity-at-all-costs!
Meetings are "what bosses do."
Hence ... BY DEFINITION ... meetings are Leadership Opportunity #1. (No kidding. Think about it. If "how you spend your time" is the clearest statement of what you stand for and how you develop your people and your message—then meetings are the heart of the matter.)
FYI: All meetings are ... THEATER!
Hope this little presentation makes you ponder a bit ...
Here's the latest video at YouTube, #64 in The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom says "It's always show time" (quoting David D'Alessandro) if you're in a leadership position. You lead by example whether trying to or not.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes 30 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: Lead by Example.
Here's video number 57 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom says, "When you become a senior leader, you're not supposed to be the number one strategist, you're supposed to hire the number one strategist... Who have you developed and precisely how have you developed them?"
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 3 minutes, 37 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: Key Question.
[Our guest blogger is John Durfee. John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat. He offers a perspective not frequently articulated on leadership.]
I left the military as a noncommissioned officer and I hold that as a point of pride. That position meant that I was in charge of anywhere between 8-20 men during my deployments. Today, I find myself in quite a similar position working in an office as a department manager. Instead of patrols and firefights, I find myself working up reports and competing with other companies for customers—the mission still being to "win hearts and minds" and defeat the enemy. The leadership skills I learned in the military helped me become a driven and focused leader. Here are some pearls of wisdom I've acquired from drill sergeants, instructors, and commanding officers during my time in the service:
Being A Leader Is:
I've seen many both in the military and civilian life who do not apply this mindset. They are the ones who think promotion to a higher position means less work. In the military, being promoted means you have the same duties you had as before plus new responsibilities. It's a privilege given to you by showing your potential for greater responsibility. A real example would be on my second deployment. I had just been promoted to squad leader in a new group and we needed to do vehicle repairs and maintenance. Instead of just assigning tasks to everyone else, I was lying on my back in the dirt changing the oil, fixing radiator leaks, and getting about as tired and sweaty as the rest of my crew.
Sometimes there are leaders who can do it all, and who very much try to do it all. It's not the fact they lack the skills (most are usually amazing multi-taskers), it's just they can't trust the work to anyone else. Working over someone's shoulder is not really letting others do work. It's working by proxy through your employees.
Here's a prime example from my first deployment. When clearing out a suspicious building, it's usually the squad leaders' jobs (those who work directly under an officer) to set up a perimeter immediately after. Due to proper leadership and training, the squad leaders know to do it without being told. If an officer needs to tell where to place every individual man, that's an example of micromanagement and poor leadership. They're wasting time tasking work that should have been the squad leader's job in the first place. Time and attention is taken away from the bigger picture. A good leader should know who to trust with positions of responsibility so they can manage the bigger scope of the mission/assignment.
If you're a manager, there's a good chance you get to choose who to hire, or at least bear the responsibility of training them. If your employees make a mistake, the responsibility not only reflects on that worker, but also on yourself. For example, if I had one of my patrolmen caught asleep on guard duty, I would have to be out there with my patrolmen pulling a double shift the next night. Now in a workplace, such forms of reprimand rarely ever happen. But you will have to answer to your CEO or superiors when quarterly reviews or performance assessments come about.
This leads me to my next point: You set the standard of performance that comes out of your unit or office team. If you're unsure in your decisions, you'll have a team that will question your orders, or not execute them with speed and determination. If you're a lazy leader, your team will reflect that. I make sure to be clear, level-headed, and determined—even at points when internally, I wasn't. Imagine getting caught by surprise in an ambush. Which would you prefer, a squad leader that shows his fear and hesitates, or the one that forces it aside and starts giving clear commands. To be a leader is to become the best possible version of yourself as a soldier, as a worker, and whatever your job requires of you.
Here's video number 51 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. According to Tom, "If you understand the 3 H's, you you don't need to understand anything else about business success."
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 24 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: The 3 H's.
[Our guest blogger is Madeleine McGrath, Managing Director of the Tom Peters Company.]
During summer 2010, we (Tom Peters Company) were sensing that among our clients that had survived the worst of the recession, the mood was becoming more buoyant. Our customer base tends to be more forward-thinking and adventurous than the norm, and is often a bellwether of new trends. We therefore decided to find out what this group was seeing ahead, and if there were lessons for other leaders.
Our recent survey involved a select group of clients located in 29 countries and 6 continents. Overall, we found they, particularly those in the private sector, are indeed ready to put the past behind them. One respondent summed it up this way: "We've been in survival mode and it has hurt our growth. We need to focus on the future and stop the survival mentality. But how?"
We used our Excellence Audit™ survey to identify the development priorities that participants now see as important. A sign that recovery is on the way was that the prior focus on cost and systems has been overshadowed by a realization that Leadership is now the key element for attention.
Managers in our sample realize that it is time to pay attention to the people that have brought them through the recession. "Now that the economy is on the up, we need to step back the pressure, to work on the experiences of clients and workers, and to use technology to help us to do that."
According to our customers, leaders must devote attention to two action areas in our Excellence Audit, above all others.
1. Find, deploy, encourage, and protect intra-preneurs, groundbreakers, and champions of change.
2. Get actively involved in the talent management process - strategy, tactics, and implementation!
Our survey participants know the value of focusing on their people, but realize they have been distracted:
"This is an area that has taken a back-seat to execution as we weather the current economic storm."
"Too often people engage in conducting the tasks we are assigned and forget about developing their people."
If you are looking for more ideas about how to develop a leadership action plan in these areas, see Tom's Working Master Slideset Part 3: Talent. More information about the Excellence Audit and how it can help you create your own improvement agenda can be found here. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the Research Project Findings.
It's time for two new sections in The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series. The next two sections in The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence are titled "Leadership" and "Words." Both sections focus on respect, with Leadership encouraging you to serve those who you lead, and Words emphasizing the power of simple phrases that can completely change a relationship.
You can download free pdfs of those sections from The Little BIG Things Synopsis Series* by clicking below:
*The Synopsis Series is an adaptation that gives you a taste of the BIG idea in each of the 163 Little BIG Things. More information on the book can be found on this page. The Synopsis Series as released thus far can be found here.
I could teach an entire MBA course using as source material the 20 September 2010 New Yorker profile of J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler—titled "The Merchant: It's All About the Eye—And the Numbers."
In shorthand form, I have extracted a list of some of the items that are central to Drexler's approach. I present them here, and as a PowerPoint slide.
There is no doubt that these notions are especially fit for retailers. Yet I will unequivocally assert that this list with little modification applies to any flavor of business.
(For what it's worth, I'm also attaching this in PowerPoint.)
Our longtime friends at HSM put on their annual World Business Forum in New York last week. Tom has spoken at this event in the past and this year they invited us to attend via the Blogger's Hub, a special section monitoring the event.
The roster of speakers was impressive, to say the least. To name but a few: Al Gore, Jack Welch, A.G. Lafley, Joseph Stiglitz, Steve Levitt, Jim Collins, James Cameron, and Charlene Li. The presentations ran the gamut from economics to innovation, but there was no lack of commonality of message with what Tom has been espousing for decades. So what were the major themes and takeaways of the event?
The first day of the event seemed to have an underlying theme of talent. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, asked, "How many key seats are on your bus? How many have you filled with the right people?" Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, offered the equation, "Great people = Great companies." He advocated for creating a culture of owners, avoiding the "don't be gentle, it's a rental" mindset (you'd do things in a rental car you wouldn't dream of in one you own). Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, put it simply and definitively: "You get the best players, you win."
Welch went on to say that "you have to create entrepreneurial innovators within your business." Renee Mauborgne, coauthor of Blue Ocean Strategy, went a bit more deeply into this argument. She said, "The more we benchmark, the more we become like the competition." And that certainly isn't going to inspire game-changing innovation. She emphasized the importance of shifting your focus from day to day productivity into creativity and thinking about the future. As A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble said, "Great innovators constantly disrupt themselves."
Lafley encouraged the audience to cocreate products with their customers. Charlene Li, coauthor of Groundswell, gave a specific example of how Starbucks cocreated a new customer experience (self-serve drip coffee) using social media, and despite the failure of the feature, strengthened customer relationships by including them in the process, start to finish. Steve Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics, also highlighted the importance of experimenting. "'I don't know' is the least common phrase in business today. ...Try to utter that phrase at least once a day." But he cautioned to not forget to measure the results of your experiments, as this happens all too often.
Spending two days watching such an impressive lineup of speakers provides ample opportunity for comparison and critique. What makes for the most compelling speech? Whenever Tom is asked for advice regarding speeches, he never fails to mention the importance of storytelling. Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Influencer, spoke of this outright. Cool Friend Martin Lindstrom showed the power of brand storytelling. The slides that speech-veteran former Vice President Al Gore used were almost completely text-free and only served to enhance his case for action against the devastating effects of global warming. James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, described his journeys in storytelling and the techniques he used to make stories come to life. But it was a survivor of a plane crash in the Andes, Nando Parrado, that captured the audience's full attention and garnered the only standing ovation when he took us on his incredible journey, providing a compelling reminder of what really matters in life.
Tom frequently asks, "If not Excellence, what?" Several of the speakers shared this message of aspiration. Vijay Govindarajan of the Tuck School of Business and Renee Mauborgne presented clear arguments for lifting your focus from the daily churn so that you can take the essential step of plotting strategy for the future. Carlos Brito used the example of a high jump when discussing leadership. He said you must set the bar high, because like athletes training for the high jump who only just make it over the bar, people will only jump as high as is required to achieve the goal. And to leave you with the words of the last speaker of the World Business Forum 2010, James Cameron said, "The biggest risk is not to be bold."
In video number 43 from The Little BIG Things Video Series, Tom simplifies the Managing By Wandering Around strategy. If you're a leader, you need to do it now.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 40 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Brand You: GTHOOTO.
In video number 41 from The Little BIG Things Video Series, Tom encourages us to become students of apology. He says, "Learning how to apologize effectively is the real essence of strategic strength."
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 3 minutes, 2 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: The Power of Apology.
Who are you serving? How can you best serve? Are you making your unique contribution? Are you getting better every day? These are the four questions central to the book Serve to Lead, by James Strock. Jim is our new Cool Friend. In the interview, he and Erik Hansen discuss how your thinking shifts when you start asking these questions on a regular basis and how they apply to current events. Read the interview and find out more about Jim at ServetoLead.org.
In Intuition, a stunning novel about the politics of science by Allegra Goodman, "Marion," see below, is the head of a department where some powerful research is being conducted. Among many other things, near the end of the book, correctly or not, one of the post-docs becomes a whistle blower—and creates a godawful mess. As I said, the allegations may or may not have been warranted, but in a flash (below) the psychological problem which led to the post-doc's meltdown becomes clear, after years, to super-logical, demanding boss Marion. The play here is subtle. This may do nothing for you, but I carry the quote around with me. In my case, it is-was a bombshell upon 3rd or 4th reading, and its strength only grows—I've probably read it, no kidding, 50 times now.
Give it a shot:
Marion ... glanced at the raised hands [she was presenting a paper] and enjoyed the interest in her work. She ... gazed at her former post-doc, her rebellious child with her hand raised. 'What do you need now?' she asked herself. Strange, she'd never posed the question that way before. She'd always considered what her post-doc demanded, what she did or did not deserve. What did she need? That was the puzzle, but as was so often the case, framing the question properly went a long way. What did she need? In that calm, clear, nearly joyous moment after her talk, the answer began to come to Marion. Ah, yes, of course, she thought with some surprise. And she called on Robin.
Obviously (but not obviously to blunt Marion for years), the post-doc "simply" needed recognition. And I think there is an enormous message here. A lot of bosses are Marions. And a lot of employees are kin to our post-doc. Of course, you may just think I'm nuts about this one wee paragraph. Fair enough.
Tom says that if you're really interested in engaging your workforce, you'll use four simple words. Which four? To find out, watch the new video from The Little BIG Things Video Series.
You can find the video in the right column here at tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 51 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: The 4 Most Important Words.
Tom gives a powerful example of what happens when you treat your employees like customers in a new video from The Little BIG Things Video Series.
You can find the video in the right column here at tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes, 33 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Leadership: American vs Southwest.
"I had assigned to me a small pine table with a rusty tin pan upon it. When I sat down before my tin pan, Agassiz brought me a small fish, placing it before me with the rather stern requirement that I should study it., but on no account talk to anyone concerning it, nor read anything relating to fishes until I had his permission to do so. To my inquiry, 'What shall I do?' he said in effect: 'Find out what you can without damaging the specimen; when I think you have done the work I will question you.' In the course of an hour I thought I had compassed the fish. I was anxious to make a summary report and get on with the next state of business."
But Agassiz paid no attention to his student that day, the next, or during the following week. So the novice, after suppressing his impatience, took another look, and then another. To his surprise, he learned more: "I set my wits to work upon the thing, and in the course of 100 hours or so though I had done much—a hundred times as much as seemed possible at the start."
Agassiz eventually responded: "On the seventh day came the question, 'Well,' and my disgorge of learning to him as he sat on the edge of my table puffing his cigar. At the end of the hour's telling, he swung off and away, saying, 'That is not right.'"
Reluctantly, the student went back to his rusty tin pan. After another week of hard, silent labor, he had results that astonished him and passed muster with his taciturn teacher. Agassiz acknowledged the student's success by bring him a big pile of bones, with the order to sort them out.
Much more agonized examination was in store, with stupendous results: "Two months or more went into this second task with no other help than an occasional looking over my grouping with the stereotyped remark: 'That is not right.' Finally the task was done and I was set upon a remarkable lot of specimens representing 20 species of the side swimmers. I shall never forget the sense of power which I felt in beginning the more extended work on a group of animals. I had learned the art of comparing objects, which is the basis of the naturalist's work."
The manager is in fact a teacher, akin to Louis Agassiz. She or he has, in effect, only one objective: pursuing improved performance by fostering long-term personal (and team) engagement, learning and continuous development. There is in fact no other path than deep immersion and indeed frustration to master any topic, in 1917 or 2010, from the nature of a lab specimen or the intimate workings of some small part of the firm's purchasing activity. Hence the de facto goal of the superior manager is to more or less create a workplace that mimics the peerless Agassiz's lab.
I have become obsessed with the idea and professional practice of helping, partially as a result of ingesting Ed Schein's magisterial book Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help , mentioned here before. Helping is a profession, in fact the primary task of the manager. Helping, like listening, can be mastered—through hard and sustained work, not unlike that of our budding professional zoologist.
Help/10X harder-more subtle than you think.
This week's additions to the audio files on the book page are in the section titled "Leadership":
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.