A chorus of eloquent voices that suggest “a sense of what life is, can be, or should be”
Prior to reading this book, I had already read two biographies of Warren Buffett, Roger Lowenstein’s Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist and then Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life as well as The Essays of Warren Buffet, brilliantly edited by Lawrence A. Cunningham. In the Introduction to that anthology, Cunningham observes: Lawrence A. Cunningham observes, “The CEOs of Berkshire’s various operating companies enjoy a unique position in corporate America. They are given a simple set of commands: to run their business as if (1) they are its sole owner, (2) it is the only asset they hold, and (3) they can never sell or merge it for a hundred years.” With regard to investment thinking, “one must guard against what Buffett calls the `institutional imperative.’ It is a pervasive force in which institutional dynamics produce resistance to change, absorption of available corporate funds, and reflexive approval of suboptimal CEO strategies by subordinates. Contrary to what is often taught in business and law schools, this powerful force often interferes with rational business decision-making. The ultimate result of the institutional imperative is a follow-the-pack mentality producing industry imitators, rather than industry leaders – what Buffett calls a lemming-like approach to business.”
In this volume, Ronald W. Chan shares what he learned during interviews of nine executives who head companies owned by Berkshire Hathaway: Business Wire, Justin Brands, Buffalo News, Jordan’s Furniture, Acme Brick Company, See’s Candies, The Pampered Chef, and Mid American Energy Holdings Company. He devotes a separate chapter to nine executives and focuses on a valuable lesson he learned from each that provides “a sense of what life is, can be, or should be.” For example, in Chapters 1, 3, and 7:
“Teaming Up with Randy Watson”
Watson Quotation: “My job is to make sure that I have the right people in the right place, and then stay out of their way.”
Chan Selection: “There is no limit go what a man can do or how far he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” Ronald Reagan”
“Taking Action with Stanford Lipsey”
Lipsey Quotation: “I thrive on the satisfaction of accomplishment…the feeling of getting things done gives me passion in life and in business.”
Chan Selection: “Never mistake motion for action.” Ernest Hemingway
“Look Forward with Marla Gottschalk”
The Pampered Chef
Gottsckalk Quotation: I am willing to take on less glamorous assignments if I thought I could learn from them and be recognized for my contributions.”
Chan Selection: “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.” Abraham Lincoln
Unlike the situation in L. Frank Baum’s classic, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her valiant companions are shocked to discover that “The Great Oz” behind the curtain is a fraud, those who read this book will soon realize that behind the BH curtain, there are no frauds. On the contrary, they are wholly authentic, immensely talented and decent men and women who head its companies. The confidence that Warren Buffett’s has in them and his deference to them (as indicated in Cunningham’s comments) are wholly understandable.
Buffett is of course a financial genius but it must also be said that he is a world-class judge of character as well as talent. He once observed, “In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Posted by Bob Morris | Bob's blog entries | A chorus of eloquent voices that suggest “a sense of what life is [comma] can be [comma] or should be”, Acme Brick Company, Alice Schroeder, Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain: Lessons from Warren Buffett’s Top Business Leaders, Berkshire Hathaway: Business Wire, Buffalo News, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, John Wiley & Sons, Jordan’s Furniture, Justin Brands, L. Frank Baum’s classic, Lawrence A. Cunningham, Mid American Energy Holdings Company, Roger Lowenstein, Ronald W. Chan, See’s Candies, the CEOs of Berkshire's various operating companies enjoy a unique position in corporate America”institutional imperative”: a follow-the-pack mentality producing industry imitators [and] a lemming, The Essays of Warren Buffet, The Pampered Chef, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, The Wizard of Oz | Leave a Comment
Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.
Everyone reacts differently to failure: some immediately accuse others while some take the heat themselves, even if undeserved.
Next time you and your team fail, resist the temptation to place blame. Take these three steps instead:
1. Think before you act. Don’t respond immediately or impulsively. Doing so can make matters worse. Take the time to consider several possible interpretations of the event and how you might react.
2. Listen and communicate. Never assume you know what others think. Gather feedback and then explain your own actions and intentions.
3. Search for a lesson. Mistakes happen. It may be that you’re to blame, someone else is, or no one is. Create and test hypotheses about how and why the failure happened to prevent it from happening again.
Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “Managing Yourself: Can You Handle Failure?” by Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan.
To read that article and join the discussion, please click here.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Posted by Bob Morris | Bob's blog entries | "Managing Yourself: Can You Handle Failure?", 3 Tips for Responding to Failure, Ben Dattner, Harvard Business Review. HBR newsletters, Management Tip of the Day, Robert Hogan | Leave a Comment
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