"Leaders have to be ready to adapt, to move, to forget yesterday." Tom Peters
Just finished a (very) rough patch on the road. Back in Palo Alto. Susan coming out with Ben for spring break. I have two-and-a-half days off!
Had a ball!
Our Palo Alto apt. is typically uninhabited. A lotta crap collects. BUT I HAD 2+ FULL DAYS!!!!!!!
Coulda written half a book. No! Better! THERAPY TIME! Spring cleaning!
I had a ball! Contractor bag after contractor bag to the garbage! (True Value contractor bags rank with Ziplocs on "Greatest Inventions List.") TEN VASES OF FRESH, GORGEOUS FLOWERS! (A BIG BIG deal to us eternal-winter Vermonters.)
Truth: I feel fresher than if I had written a coupla book chapters.
I LOVE SPRING CLEANING! WHAT A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT! WHAT A SENSE OF REBIRTH!
It may indeed be Web Age, but there are some things we humans need, I think. And filling contractor bags with life's detritus … and moving on to the next chapter is one of them.
WHY? BLOODY WHY?
Airline rants get such a strong reaction! (I haven't done one 'til now at our web site, because it's such a cheap way to stir folks up.)
I AM NOT GOING TO CHILL OUT.
MESSAGE: I AM NOT GOING TO CHILL OUT.
Fifteen years ago my schedule was more insane than today. I was always pissed at some logistics screw up. Fact: "It" … my nutty schedule … MADE ME MILLIONS. I was always on the ragged edge. And I sounded off. IN A YEAR, I'D BECOME THE "KING OF CUSTOMER SERVICE." Spots on Dan Rather. Best selling corporate training film ever. Etc. I am not bragging. I'm stating a fact.
I am not totally cool with it. I WAS MAD. PERPETUALLY. AND I WAS UPON OCCASION UNCONSCIONABLY RUDE. (My Mom woulda weeped.)
Then I chilled a bit. (Aged?) Schedule wasn't so bad. Etc.
About a month ago I started on a Schedule From Hell. Sixteen seminars in 20 calendar days. And … back and forth and forth and back … across the Good Ole U.S. of A.
And as my exhaustion creeped up the scale, accompanied by a busted foot (I landed wrong during a diatribe against Robert S. McNamara), my temper … re airlines and hotels … got shorter … and shorter.
Sure. I AM TO BLAME. Scheduling "stuff" too close together. Yet it's the hype-happy airlines who've made "us" believe it is possible.
My clients by and large like me. I get to fly in the front of the, germ-filled, flu-inducing cigar tube. (Best suggestion to flyers I've come across: For God's sake, never use the disease-laden airline pillows near your head in the Winter.) I pay TOTALLY UN-DISCOUNTED first class. I am ... truly ... relatively spoiled silly.
And it still sucks. Often. (Some abhor my "Navy" language. My problem: "It" really does "suck." What should I say: "Untoward experience"? A "concatenation of unpleasant low- to medium-probability events with negative consequences"? Truth: IT SUCKS.
And when "it sucks" … I PLAN TO PICK ON THE WEAK AS WELL AS THE STRONG … and tell it like I see it.
The Delta "captain" who brought down my ire did indeed say, "Don't tell me. Tell top management." WELL, I WORK FOR A LIVING, TOO, CAPTAIN, DUDE, FELLA. I HAVE NO BLOODY INTENTION OF SPENDING DAYS TRACKING DOWN DELTA'S TOP MANAGEMENT. IT'S YOUR COMPANY, AIN'T IT, SPORT? (Hey, I remember when Deltoids gave the airline a plane, during a period of rough sledding.)
I AM THE CUSTOMER. I PAY THE FREIGHT. (Fact: We do not bill clients for air travel. We charge a lotta money for my services … and then I take care of getting there and back.)
I AM A PROFESSIONAL. I MUST "BE THERE." PERIOD. AS IN: PERIOD. I DEPEND - TOTALLY - ON THE AIRLINES. "THEY" HAVE PROMISED - via tens and tens of million bucks in advertising - INCREDIBLY RELIABLE SERVICE. The system does - as I readily admit - WORK AMAZINGLY WELL. SO WHY SCREW IT UP BY TELLING [FAR, FAR, FAR,] LESS THAN THE TRUTH?
Bottom Line: Airlines Lie. CONSTANTLY. Sins of Omission. I HATE IT. AND … I WILL NOT CHILL. (Until I'm in the grave.) I HATE THE AIRLINES!
Hey … it's not personal!
Hey II … I LUV Herbby Kelleher … at Southwest. BIG BOSS HERBBY IS A TRUTH-TELLER. ALWAYS HAS BEEN. (And I bet he'd secretly agree with what I've said.)
Sincerely, Tom, On a (Very) Tight (Unrelenting) String, in Palo Alto CA … Earth's Epicenter of "No-Slack Decision Making."
I WILL NOT "CHILL"!
I am continually asked to provide "speech tips." I usually demur. I REALLY DON'T HAVE ANY/MANY. But this time I think I do. Not that it's clear how you'd take advantage of it.
I had a lovely time last week speaking to thousands upon thousands of ACE Hardware folks in Atlanta. The "stuff" was apparently well received … and a bit controversial … which I like. (I dared to suggest that women might be the majority of "hardware"/D.I.Y. customers.)
The "breakthrough": (1) I realized that - for my hour or so on stage - I HAD BEEN RUNNING AN ACE HARDWARE STORE. EVERY WORD - literally - THAT I UTTERED HAD GONE THROUGH A SIEVE CALLED "THE ACE HARDWARE STORE WORLD." I was - no baloney - on main street in Cameron Missouri or Palo Alto. (2) The breakthrough that led to the breakthrough: I REALIZED THAT A FEW DAYS EARLIER I HAD BEEN A DOCTOR AS I ADDRESSED LEADERS OF THE AMA. And a few days after that, I'd been a corporate benefits guru as I spoke to Merrill Lynch's benefits management Clients in Scottsdale.
I was never in school plays. Have never studied drama. But I do know that "putting yourself in the skin of" is what makes an Anthony Hopkins an Anthony Hopkins, a Meryl Streep a Meryl Streep. (Just to mention two of Earth's Great Character Actors.)
If there's an action step here for those of you who make presentations (about 100% of you, I'd judge), it might be to suggest that you take an acting course … rather than going to a "give good presentations" course.
Yes, you have a point of view. God knows, I do … and it's a pretty prickly one at that. But … MY PASSIONATE VIEW(S) ARE UTTERLY WASTED … UNLESS … I CAN GET WHOLLY INTO THE SKIN AND THENCE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THOSE WHOM I'D HOPE TO MOVE.
You may think the entire Management Team or Board are idiots. (And they may be.) BUT … for the few moments you've got 'em … even though you are purposefully challenging some stuff they hold dear … YOU MUST COMPLETELY IDENTIFY WITH THEM AS HUMAN BEINGS IN THEIR CONTEXT.
And, hey, maybe I'll open an ACE Hardware store! I quite enjoyed my hour as a Hardware Guy!
From: Geralyn - New Haven, CT
Q: It all sounds really good (& we've heard a lot of it before)….but how does one implement changes in the workplace where even the women are playing by the men's rules?
I HAVE NO "EASY" ANSWER. WHY? THERE ISN'T ONE. I QUOTED IN MY REMARKS TWO WOMEN I GREATLY ADMIRE. ANITA BORG OF THE INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN AND TECHNOLOGY SAYS, "WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN RARELY MAKE HISTORY." GOV. ANN RICHARDS ADVISES [DEMANDS!] "PUT YOURSELF AT RISK EVERY DAY." GOD KNOWS, HILLARY C. DOES THAT!
I GOT A FAB RESPONSE TO MY LITTLE TALK FROM AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PAL OF MINE. [SHE WAS AT A DOWNLINK SITE. NO BALONEY: ISN'T THE NEW TECHNOLOGY MARVELOUS?] SHE IS A BRAVE WOMAN OF 57. SHE SAID, "TOMMY [YES, WE'VE KNOWN EACH OTHER THAT LONG], WOMEN NEED PERMISSION TO 'GO FOR IT.' AND YOU GAVE US THAT." I'D QUICKLY ADD THAT MOST MEN [A/K/A CUBICLE SLAVES] ALSO NEED SUCH PERMISSION.
OUR FLAWED [BUT FABULOUS NATION] WAS CREATED BY PIONEER MEN - AND WOMEN! - WHO "WENT FOR IT." [WHO WERE NOT WELL BEHAVED. WHO PUT THEMSELVES AT RISK EVERY DAY.] ON SHIPS AT SEA. ON CONESTOGA WAGONS CROSSING THE DESOLATE PLAINS. AND THE MIGHTY SIERRAS.
IN THIS TIME OF DRAMATIC CHANGE, WE ALL - M AND F - NEED TO RECAPTURE THE SPIRIT OF OUR FOREMOTHERS AND FOREFATHERS.
From: Rebecca - Hanover, NJ
Q: If women's leadership styles are an advantage, why aren't more women in leadership roles, primarily within organizations?
SCREW BIG BUREAURACIES. NINE MILLION OF MY FELLOW AMERIWOMEN, INCLUDING MY WIFE SUSAN SARGENT, OWN THEIR OWN BUSINESSES. 'NUF SAID. [AT LEAST, BY ME.]
From: S. Harris - East Hanover, NJ
You see the future for women so clearly with the deck being stacked in our favor. In the day-to-day world of corporate life outside of Silicon Valley, women are not seeing the opportunities you describe.
How do you explain the great divide?
FIRST, TRUST ME, SILICON VALLEY IS NOT "WOMEN'S HAVEN." [OR HEAVEN.] IT IS ALMOST RETRO. SWASHBUCKLING - MALE STYLE - RULES. YET TODAY'S YOUNG WOMEN [AND, TO AN EXTENT, YOUNG MEN, ARE NOT DILBERT'S "CUBICLE SLAVES" OF YESTERDAY. THEY ARE DETERMINEDLY MAKING THEIR OWN WAY. WE - ESPECIALLY OUR TEPID SCHOOL SYSTEM - NEED TO GIVE FAR MORE ENCOURAGEMENT TO OUR "DEVIANTS" … THE YOUNG WOMEN [AND MEN] WHO HAVE THE SPIRIT TO BREAK THE MOLD AND CREATE A BETTER/MORE LIBERATED TOMORROW FOR US ALL.
TRUST YOUTH! I DO! I LOVE THEIR OBSTREPEROUSNESS! THAT'S OUR "SIXTIES TYPES" GREATEST LEGACY.
Fact. I consulted to Apple in the early 80s. My first computer was an Apple II in 1981. WHATEVER STEVE J. TOUCHES TURNS TO GOLD. MAYBE NOT … ALWAYS … MONEY. BUT … GREATNESS.
Coupla years ago I was, in effect, forced to switch to a PC. File transfer [etc.] from a Mac to PC world was just too irregular.
Bought a DELL Latitude LM … and have been a happy camper.
Capacity on the "old machine" was at an end. Much as I love iMacs [bought my kid one in December 1998], I still felt I had to "do" PC.
Bought a Dell INSPIRON 5000.
Love it. Fast. Etc.
But I really don't get it.
I'm a design nut.
It's been 3 years since I bought my first Dell.
New mode: Fast? YES. But … ugly as sin. Screen quality has actually gotten worse since '97. Sound is worse too. Key placement is … simply … dumb. DUMB. (E.g.: Page Up, Page Down, Delete are in absurdly stupid places.)
Does Michael Dell … NOT GIVE A SHIT … about design? Is he rich but stupid?
I'm really contemplating going BTM … Back To Mac.
Again, my INSPIRON 5000 is a slick machine. WITH THE PERSONALITY OF A GARDEN SLUG.
Michael: WAKE UP!
#1. Mark McCormack, sports agent supreme, wrote, years ago, What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School. I liked the book. But I glowingly endorsed it because of one "little" tip. FLY 5,000 MILES, Mr. McC advised, TO CONDUCT A 5[!!]- MINUTE FACE-TO-FACE MEETING WHEN A NEGOTIATION IS AT A CRITICAL STAGE. My reaction: Amen! I'd done such weird things at McKinsey & Co. … and I was relieved/delighted to have Mark McC's blessing for such apparently aberrant behavior.
#2. MY MOM TAUGHT ME TO BE RELIGIOUS ABOUT "THANK YOU" NOTES. Bless her. "The deepest human need," wrote pioneering American psychologist William James [bro of Henry], "is the need to be appreciated." I wrote a syndicated weekly column for 10 years. Out of ideas, I once whipped off a piece on thank you notes as my deadline hovered near. Got more reaction than from any other of my 525 columns. Hmmmmm. (An old pal and 3M exec, Tait Elder, reinforced my view. At his retirement party, he told me, people came up to him, tears literally in their eyes, to thank him for a "thank you" note he'd sent them … 10 years previously.)
#3. Harvard Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot wrote a magnificent book with a one-word title. RESPECT. She offers this vignette about her father:
"It was much later that I realized Dad's secret. He gained respect by giving it. He talked and listened to the fourth-grade kids in Spring Valley who shined shoes the same way he talked and listened to a bishop or a college president. He was seriously interested in who you were and what you had to say." I love that.
OH YEAH, TOM REECE.
I GAVE A SPEECH LAST WEEK IN ORLANDO. Got pretty wound up. Was leaping around, truth be told. Came down wrong on my left heel. HEARD A POP. (Severed an Achilles tendon in '81. Don't like bodily "pops.") Was in excruciating pain. Instantly hobbled.
Finished the speech. Went to the airport. Ended up sitting next to an attendee at the conference. Tom Reece. CEO, Dover Corporation. Told him my tale of (physical) woe. He'd had various skeletal miseries, too. Had a Magic Doc in New York. And was kind enough to give me the fella's name. (I had a speech in NYC the next day at noon, and couldn't imagine how I'd perform. You see, dirty little secret, I actually get paid for leaping around … that is, being totally into what I do.) Furthermore, Tom R. said I could use his name to get - potentially - into this absurdly overbooked Doc's office.
Figured I'd call The Doc at about 8am, and leave a message. Actually, I hurt so damn badly that I called at 7am. SOMEONE WAS THERE! "Hi, my name is Tom Peters," I began. And was immediately interrupted. "OH, TOM, DELIGHTED YOU CALLED. TOM REECE CALLED THE DOCTOR AT HOME LAST NIGHT, AND BEGGED HIM TO SEE YOU THIS MORNING. CAN YOU BE HERE AT 7:45?"
HOLY SHIT! COULD I EVER!
The doctor's story is incredible. Attending physician to the Joffrey Ballet for years. Etc. Etc. And he and his lovely staff performed a miracle on me.
But I don't want "the substance" to distract you. Sure, I'm not quite "the guy next door." But … still … the meeting with Tom R. was pure happenstance. His giving me the Doc's phone number was a great gift. HIS CALLING … AND BEGGING ON MY BEHALF … IS ONE OF THOSE [RARE] THINGS THAT I'LL REMEMBER … LITERALLY … FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
IT'S Web Age. ABSOLUTELY. But it's always "The Age of Humanness." That's why I'll write in, on my ballot, Tom Reece for President in November.
IT WAS SLO MO. I WATCHED "IT." I SAW "IT." I SENSED "IT." "IT" WAS NOT PRETTY.
"It"? MY SELF CONTROL. GONE. AGE 57. NO … NOT PRETTY.
I nearly paid for "it." THE "CAPTAIN" - A/K/A "God" - NEARLY KICKED ME OFF THE PLANE. [I GUESS HE HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DO SO.] [And it wouldn'ta been the first time.]
"It" was just another flight … on Delta Air Lines.
Truth: NO BIG DEAL.
Just: a little late.
They did "it" …
"They" … JUST CAN'T TELL THE TRUTH.
I LIVE ON A KNIFE'S EDGE. I GET PAID A LOT OF SCRATCH TO SPEAK TO GROUPS. I … SIMPLY … CANNOT BE LATE. Hence, I take botched connections … VERY SERIOUSLY … because I know that overly tight connections are the product of profit-maximizing "strategies" by the airlines.
SO … I … WENT … YES … BATSHIT. (Though I didn't swear at anyone.) The "board" declared that we were leaving … ON TIME. Since it was 5(!) minutes before scheduled departure and there was no sign of life, that was obviously … BULLSHIT. Upon inquiry, I was told that "all was well." FINE. THAT LINE … PROBABLY … WORKS ON A 27-YEAR-OLD. I wasn't buying it. So I asked. And … SURPRISE … I got stonewalled.
Look … airplanes are complicated devices. And … weather rules. I don't wanna fly in the face of bad wind shear. (Lost a good friend that way, on Delta in Dallas.)
BUT I WANT THE BLOODY DAMNED TRUTH. UNVARNISHED. AND TIMELY. VERY TIMELY.
You see … I AM IN CHARGE OF MY BIZARRE LIFE. If the shit hits the fan for the airline - no matter how understandably - I am the one who must deal … DECISIVELY … NOW … with the consequences. Waiting for the airline to rebook me on THEIR "next available flight" just doesn't cut it. AT ALL. EVER.
So … YES … I hate ALL airlines. They ALL … as I see it … have … AN AVERSION TO THE TRUTH.
Do (any of you) "get it": I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LIFE. Thence: I can only make informed decisions if I am … INSTANTLY … informed of … THE WHOLE, UNVARNISHED, UP-TO-THE-MOMENT TRUTH. Period. Now.
I really do HATE the airlines. They are miracle workers (it's an insanely complex system) … BUT THEY WON'T TELL THE TRUTH.
WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM?
Incidentally, the Delta captain who nearly threw me off the plane was out of bounds, as
I see it. Criticizing his DEAR airline … even loudly … is not cause for Bringing Down The Wrath Of God on a passenger. (I think his real problem was that Henry Kissinger was on the flight, and he wanted no probs.)
While I dislike all airlines, I HATE DELTA. HATE = Big word. I am sorry. Very sorry. In fact, very, very, very sorry.
I do … DEARLY … wish "flying could be fun." FAT CHANCE. (Except … of course … with Southwest.)
* * * *
MESSAGE: JUST DON'T LIE TO ME.
"OMISSION" (HALF TRUTHS) IS WORSE THAN COMMISSION.
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.