First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Some Thoughts Prompted by the book NAFTA and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism by Tamara Kay

I’m just the book reader – the book guy.

NAFTA book coverYesterday, at the Urban Engagement Book Club for CitySquare, I presented a synopsis of this book: NAFTA and the Politics of Labor Transnationalism (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics), Cambridge University Press, 2011, by Tamara Kay

I present synopses of business books every month (at the First Friday Book Synopsis), and books on social justice and poverty issues for the Urban Engagement Book Club. I choose “by myself” (with input from many people, and places) the books to read for the First Friday Book Synopsis, but a group of three of us (Larry James and Gerald Britt, from CitySquare, and…me) make the selections for the Urban Engagement Book Club.

This is a great learning experience for me. I certainly read some books I would have never discovered on my own. But, sometimes, the books feel pretty “foreign” to me. Meaning, they represent an issue, and an academic discipline, that is truly new to me. Like I said, I’m just the book guy – the book reader.

This book was one of those books. Am I glad I read it? Yes. But, it is not a “for a popular audience” book. It’s an in-depth look at labor issues leading up to and after the passage of NAFTA:

The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

Here are a few excerpts from the book (I put one excerpt in bold; especially important):

NAFTA – the concrete embodiment of globalization in North America – had the unanticipated consequence of catalyzing labor transnationalism, defined as ongoing cooperative and collaborative relationships among Mexican, U.S., and Canadian unions and union federations.

…new ties of cooperation and networks of protest.

…and chip away at racist attitudes against Mexicans and immigrants that permeated their organizations.

To summarize my argument, transnational political opportunity structures emerge from transnational institutional fields that create spaces where activists come together, mobilize, and develop their interests and identities in relationship to each other.

One of NAFTA’s most enduring lessons is that, in an era of globalization, drawing sharp distinctions between the local and the global becomes increasingly anachronistic. 

The facts are these: immigrants are not the cause of America’s declining wages and the export of good jobs overseas. Immigrants are not responsible for the “downsizing” that is sweeping through many U.S. industries and throwing millions of Americans out of work. And immigrants cannot be blamed for the fraying of the country’s social fabric that so many Americans perceive with uneasiness and alarm.

Labor transnationalism in North America is in its initial stages. 

Here are some thoughts that I included in my handout:

1) Laborers are going to have to work together, for what matters to all laborers.
2) The “cross-border” differences will have to be overcome as fully as possible.
3) Over the long haul, building effective labor transnationalism will be a slow process. But, it will be better than continuing division based on racism, mistrust, and lack of cooperation. Surprisingly, Labor’s response to NAFTA has helped accomplish this, to a great extent.

And, the book includes this:

The NAALC {The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) established eleven “guiding principles” each signatory agreed to promote:

#1 – freedom of association and protection of the right to organize
#2 – the right to bargain collectively
#3 – the right to strike
#4 – prohibition of forced labor
#5 – labor protections for children and young persons
#6 – minimum employment standards
#7 – elimination of employment discrimination
#8 – equal pay for women and men
#9 – prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses
#10 – compensation in cases of occupational injuries and illnesses
#11 – protection of migrant workers.

The book provided a great catalyst for a discussion of: workers’ needs, workers’ safety, workers’ rights; the ripple effects on labor of globalization, especially as seen through NAFTA. And, I really do think the issue of how workers are treated, and how transnationalism impacts the environment, are important issues.

This was a helpful discussion. I’m glad the book was on the list for this year…

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

I Keep Putting it Off – I Really Need to Quit Putting it Off

I'm going to stop putting things off-starting tomorrow.Do you have this problem? You put things off.

I do…

Things that need to be done; skills that need to be developed; conversations that you need to have… You just keep putting things off…

Maybe you really do have too much on your plate. But, even so, you are putting some things off that you really need to get to, aren’t you?

Or, maybe you haven’t figured out just what to do. (Read Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Or, check out my synopsis of that very good book. See below). Compile a full inventory of everything you need to do. Go to work on getting better at knowing what all to do.

Or, maybe you are just a lazy person — and, to some extent, we all are (read this blog post, prompted by M. Scott Peck’s classic, The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult; don’t be lazy” – 2 great lessons from M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, maybe the best book I have ever read), If so, quit being so lazy. Just get to it!

Whatever the reason you have for putting things off, it’s really time to do something about it…Now, Not Later

May I make a suggestion?!

Schedule time to create a list of “stuff I keep putting off.”
Update the list regularly.
Tackle one at a time – clear out the list.
Repeat the process regularly

Stop putting things off!!!


A couple of specifics…

#1 – Skill Development to Stop Putting Off

I now have a Safari bookmark on my iPad. I call it my “skills I need to work on” bookmark. The links are to articles, and videos – lots of videos – to help me develop skills. I tackle one or more links each week (and, I add new ones each week).

I’m slowly learning how to do a few things I did not know how to do.

Let me recommend that you set a similar bookmark, and carve out some time each week to work on new skill development.

#2 – Book “Encounters” to Stop Putting Off

I have read all of these books, and many more -- but never enough!

I have read all of these books, and many more — but never enough!

Are any of these in your “I really should have read this by now” stack?

Steve Jobs
Lean In
The Second Machine Age
Think Like a Freak
Flash Boys
David and Goliath
(and, so many more…)

I do know how long it takes to read a book. Yes, I do… But, if you have a stack of books you’ve still never gotten around to finishing (some, even starting), may I recommend that you try out our book synopses at

15 Minute Business Books

With the audio recordings of our presentations from the First Friday Book Synopsis (we’ve been doing these, every month, since April, 1998), plus our multi-page comprehensive handouts, you really can learn enough from these books to find something useful. I’ve presented a synopsis of each of the books listed above, and many, many more.  And, my colleague, Karl Krayer, has presented synopses of many other titles.  These synopses are available at our web site.

(Of course, it would be better if you actually read the books. …But, you haven’t yet, have you?)

You can pop these recordings into your SmartPhone, and listen while you commute, or jog, or mow the lawn… Each one is about 15-17 minutes long.

Give it a try.


So – what is on your “stop putting this off” list? Time to get to it!

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

Michael Nanfito: An interview by Bob Morris

NanfitoMichael Nanfito is the executive director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Mr. Nanfito sets the vision and strategic direction for NITLE, working closely the member community. He has a background in networked information resources and technology-related entrepreneurial activity, ranging from the development of large data-driven web environments to consulting for small academic libraries.

Nanfito has worked in networked information resources since the late 1980s, at that time developing databases in the library database industry. In the 1990s, Nanfito served as a consultant to the Microsoft Corporate Library to identify information needs across the organization and to develop a strategy to implement web-based library portals. He subsequently worked as an entrepreneur and consultant in a variety of capacities in the Seattle area, including developing large data-driven web environments and consulting services to bring small libraries up to speed on emerging online library resources. Before joining NITLE in 2006, he served as director of instructional technology at the University of Puget Sound. One of his primary interests and efforts while at the University was the development of a digital asset management program to digitize, organize, and provide access to academic resources housed in departmental collections. A 2002 Frye Fellow, Nanfito holds the M.L.I.S. and a B.A. in history (San Jose State University).

His book, MOOCs: Opportunities,Impacts, and Challenges: Massive Open Online Courses in Colleges and Universities, was published by CreateSpace/An Amazon Company (December 2013).

Here id an excerpt from my review of Michael. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Nanfito: I “discovered” the Internet, quite by accident in 1991. At the time I had enrolled in the library and information science program at San Jose State University and was working with an advisor on a research project. Initially the project was to center on “information equity” issues but changed when she asked me why I had enrolled in the program. I responded that I was interested in the impact that information services have on the process of global democratization. The attempted coup in the (then) Soviet Union had just occurred. She decided my question was more interesting and re-wrote the grant to reflect the shift.

As I looked into the coup I discovered that a California State University professor of computer science, Dr. Larry Press, had just returned from Moscow immediately prior to the coup attempt. He had been working with some start up groups (this was the time of perestroika and glasnost) to get budding “commercial” software development services going.

(Not coincidentally, in 1989, the US Department of Commerce had allowed TCP/IP Internet services to be accessible in the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries so academic institutions in each of the soviets had internet access at the time of the coup.)

I learned that resistance to the coup was aided by communications from academic institutions in each of the soviets, made possible by the use of something called the “internet.” As I investigated farther I learned that in addition to the “internet” the resistance made use of another murky service called “BITNET.” BITNET (the Because It’s Time Network) was exclusive to academic institutions (read more at I realized that I was at an academic institution and that I could probably get on this thing, whatever it was. I asked at the campus computing center and they gave me an account, pointed me to some things called “listserves” to learn more about using the “BITNET” thing.

I was brand new to both computing and online services. In point of fact I knew nothing about either and was an admitted technophobe – if not an actual luddite. When I had initially expressed my interest in learning how information services were influencing democratization, I was clear that I meant print services. I had just recently purchased an IBM 286 (clone) computer with the help of a friend and he had had something called a “modem” installed when they built the machine. I had no use for the modem – until I got my BITNET account. All of a sudden I was tooling around computers out there somewhere in a green-screen mode using TELNET, Archie, and FTP. It was all sort of fun but the content on these computers I was visiting was mostly about, well, computers and computing. Nothing that really applied to my query. That is, until I found Project Hermes.

One Saturday morning I was stumbling around the BITNET/Internet thing using my new 286 PC and modem, looking at files via TELNET and FTP. Then I saw a TELNET reference to Project Hermes, an experimental online repository of Supreme Court decisions. I picked a case at random (involving then Governor Clinton of Arkansas). The record I had stumbled on was not merely a bibliographic citation of the case, it was the full text. I recognized that this BITNET/Internet thing had utility. Then it got better, I discovered I could “download” the record. To my home computer. And print it. So I did. I timed it. It took less than five minutes to search for the record, download it, and print it off. I got so excited I had to go outside and walk around for a while. I realized that this would change everything. Citizens would be able to gain access to information of value and make use of it. Libraries would never be the same. My own graduate program suddenly seemed ridiculously antique.

The light bulb had gone off for me and I have been working with online resources ever since. And for me it is still about how to help people make sense of and use this extensible resource in the service of making the best decisions for themselves and their organizations.

A long answer to your question but it truly was an epiphany.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Nanfito: Attending educational institutions provided context for my real learning to happen. In both my undergraduate and graduate programs I made extensive use of special studies, the maximum allowed in both cases. This freed me to do some real work. I enjoyed most of the lectures I attended but I felt pretty disengaged overall. I was energized by the narrative I was developing for myself.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Nanfito: (Formal) credentials are not the only measure of ability and don’t (necessarily) mean as much as we wish they did. I wasted a lot of time believing I had to wait until I had received external authorization to really contribute. I no longer believe that and I don’t really look at people’s credentials much when hiring. I want to know about the person, what they are excited about, and whether they want to change the world or not. Transcripts and degrees don’t tell me any of that.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Nanfito: Moneyball leaps to mind. In our consulting work we emphasize the need and the value of taking the time to really identify the real problem at hand. Too often we leap to (comfortable) solutions before we have accurately identified the problem to solve. For me, Moneyball was in part about rejecting an old business model and asking better questions in order to understand an actual problem facing the organization and work at a solution for that problem, not the one we are comfortable with.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Nanfito: East of Eden: “Thou mayest not sin.”

We have choices. The more common – and apparently inaccurate, at least according to Steinbeck’s character in the book – representation of that edict is “Thou shall not sin.” It is a command, a directive that is absent choice. The former version requires choice. In business, we have choices and we should cultivate curiosity and a culture of experimentation. Directives and excessive structure make it easy to abdicate our responsibility to make choices and decisions. Active involvement in the organization requires that we take chances, do our best, and take responsibility for our decisions.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Nanfito: In our collaboration consulting work for higher ed we emphasize the need for shared leadership. Hierarchy – which is firmly entrenched in education – is a tool. When it becomes the program, real sustained, programmatic collaboration is impossible and we are less than we can be.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Nanfito: Programs are best when they are about the substance and not the personality. Work to help others own your best ideas, make them their own, and thus help them build something useful.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Nanfito: Convention is comfortable and comfort is a trap. Real change requires real change (there’s a cliché for you). Foster choice, risk-taking, and participatory decision-making. Work to make your innovation tomorrow’s boring cliché. That may be a measure of success. If everything I do is always “innovative” where is it’s utility?

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s odd….’”

Nanfito: I learned a long time ago that once I believe I know something I stop asking questions about it. Curiosity about the given ubject or object is blunted. I stop learning. The real fun lies in the questions, not in the answers.

Morris: Finally, from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Nanfito: Someone advised me a long time ago not to “make problems that don’t exist.” Focus. Understand the real issues at hand and address them with discipline and humility. Avoid working on (or worse, inventing) questions to demonstrate your ability to answer them. Leave that to the trial lawyers.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Michael cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

The NITLE link

The Academic Commons link

Friday, August 22, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here are my Takeaways (newly revised) from Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Never Eat AloneI presented my synopsis of Never Eat Alone (And Other Secrets to Success One Relationship at a Time) by Keith Ferrazzi this morning at the Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce. (Good group!). They were “re-starting” for the fall, and the reminders of this book on how to become a much better networking professional seemed to fit the need…

So, let’s revisit this terrific book. For this presentation, I added “my takeaways.” (I first presented this book back in May, 2006. “My takeaways” are a relatively recent addition to my presentations).

Why is this book worth your time?

First, no matter what your job is (or your next job, or your next), interacting with people effectively will help, and not interacting with people will hurt.

And, since relationships are crucial for any and every endeavor, this book will help you think about how to do a better job at building professional relationships (and, really, all relationships).

In my handout, I wrote:

There are a few “subjects” in which there really is “the book” to read. This is “the book to read” for networking…

(I mentioned a couple of other “this is the book to read” suggestions. For effective teams, “the book” is Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. And, for getting your tasks done, “the book” is Getting Things Done by David Allen).

Here are a few key excerpts from Never Eat Alone (there are many!)

I learned that real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful.

Set a goal for yourself of initiating a meeting with one new person a week. It doesn’t matter where or with whom. 

The fact is that small talk – the kind that happens between two people who don’t know each other – is the most important talk we do…
The one trait that was common among the class’s most accomplished graduates was “verbal fluency” (from a study of successful Stanford MBA graduates). In front of an audience, at a dinner, or in a cab, these people know how to talk. The more successfully you use language, the faster you can get ahead in life.
So what should your objective be in making small talk? Good question. The goal is simple: Start a conversation, keep it going, create a bond, and leave with the other person thinking, “I dig that person,” or whatever other generational variation of that phrase you want to use.

And, here are my lessons and takeaways:

  1. Get out there and “network.”
  2. Work on developing your “interaction skills” – listening; conversational skills.
  3. Become intentional and systematic in “remembering” the people that you meet.
  4. Follow up, every time you promise to follow up. Not following up is the sure-fire way to waste your opportunities.
  5. Schedule a networking event regularly (weekly; every week!) – a new one, with new people to meet. The more people you know, the greater your network.
  6. And, though LinkedIn is great, it is not a substitute for face-to-face interactions. In-person conversations are truly valuable in your pursuit of effectiveness and success.
  7. Remember the old rule – you always need something to do and someone to know.
  8. And, when someone offers you their help, you can “disagree,” but treat them and their offer of help respectfully.

You’ve got the fall months ahead of you. Plan your networking activities carefully, and fully.   This book is a great way to jumpstart your thinking and your planning.


15minadYou can purchase my synopsis of this book, with my handout plus the audio of my presentation, from our companion web site,


Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

The Lines Keep Blurring in this Eclectic Time – (Insight from Thinkers 50: Future Thinkers)

expert skill or knowledge in a particular field

• selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or style
• composed of elements drawn from various sources

a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases




Think about these two words. One talks about deep dives, getting really good at one thing over the long haul. Deep expertise.

Seldom do you want to hire a person for an important job who is doing this job for the first time. You want someone to get the kinks out, learn from his or her mistakes, and then just keeps getting better, before they tackle your specific job.

Thinkers 50 Future ThinkersBut… it turns out that in some arenas, in some pursuits, an eclectic background can be really valuable; as valuable a s deep expertise. In Thinkers 50: Future Thinkers: New Thinking on Leadership, Strategy and Innovation for the 21st Century by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, we learn about the rise of the eclectic…

From the book:

Dorie Clark used to be the spokeswoman for a presidential candidate and a divinity student. She now focuses on personal branding. The France-based Italian Gianpiero Petriglieri is a business school professor but was trained in psychiatry. Adam Grant is a Wharton professor and sometime magician.

Fundamental divides now mean very little.

The thinkers of the future will be unashamedly eclectic, capable of looking through a wide variety of lenses.

Also, jobs, products, and entire industries are converging as never before. This is having a knock-on effect on business thinking. The lines between strategy and innovation and between leadership and marketing are blurring.

You are all that you are. Every piece of your background informs what you are working on now. And, it turns out, the wider that background, the more you might be able to bring to the table.

It is an eclectic world, and an eclectic time — “blurred lines” in a constantly blurring world.

Interesting insight from Thinkers 50: Future Thinkers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

(A Short Suggested Reading List) – Ferguson, Missouri – Race; Class; Poverty; Among other Issues to Think About

White privilege, and male at that, remains a powerful force in our culture. 
And personally, before I get too sold on my own accomplishments, it is always helpful to remind myself that I started, via a genetic lottery, with a huge advantage. 
If you look at life as if it were a football game, I was born on my opponents’ 5-yard line, while they weren’t even in the stadium. 
Larry James, The Truth of White Privilege, from his blog, Larry James’ Urban Daily

Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, “working poor,” should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.
David K. Shipler, The Working Poor (Invisible in America)


It is horrifying to watch the scenes from Ferguson, Missouri. As I write this, the National Guard has now been called in. The autopsy has been released (Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times). And, everyone seems to be weighing in…

I recently got one of those non-poll polls in the mail. You know, fill this out, check off what you think is most important, and please send in your poll, along with a contribution for the campaign.

What struck me was the absence of the issue of poverty as a box to check in the poll. And there are about 50 million Americans who live in poverty, according to the “official” guidelines. There are many, many more who live just barely over the line. And many who are underemployed. And many who fit the description of David Shipler – working, but poor – in The Working Poor.

We consistently miss our “learning moments/teachable moments” in this country. The tragic killing of Michael Brown will probably be another one of those missed moments. (I hope not).

One reason we miss these is that we really do not do enough consciousness raising on the issues faced by folks among us who are not fully part of the “in groups.”

So far, people are reflecting on the Ferguson story as an issue of race; class; the militarization of the police; poverty.

I think we all need to do some reading, to help us understand in each of these areas.

So, here’s a short suggested reading list on one of these areas — for a little consciousness raising of your own, on the “poverty” issue (with race very much a part of the conversation here).

Case for ReparationsFirst, read the Ta-Nehisi Coates article on The Case for Reparations. This is a lengthy article from The Atlantic. It is a tour de force on the way we “officially” practiced racism in this country over a very long period, producing some pretty imposing barriers on African Americans. No wonder so many African Americans have to struggle so hard against poverty!

Next, read The Working Poor (Invisible in America) by David K. Shipler. Shipler is a clear writer – a Pulitzer Prize winning author. This book will help you understand in a real way, at the heart and the intellectual levels, the plight of the poor – the “invisible” among us. (Read my blog post, “Nobody who works hard should be poor in America” writes David Shipler).the-working-poor

And, read The Wealth of the Poor:  How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in our Cities(Hunger * Health * Housing * Hope) by Larry James. (Read my review of this book, here).

The Wealth of the PoorThough this book is from a Christian perspective, with plenty of references to the Bible, it is of great value whether you are a follower of the Bible or not. (Larry James has spent more than four decades immersed in ministry to the poor).

An educated opinion, formed by reading material that has substance, helps us understand better.

But, sadly, after all of the books, and speeches, and calls for change… we haven’t solved the problems, have we?

Monday, August 18, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 6 Comments

We Haven’t Learned Until We Actually Change – Insight from Kareem Abdul Jabbar, as he Reflects on Ferguson, Missouri

kareem-abdul-jabbar-618x400Otherwise, all we’re going to get is what we got out of Ferguson: a bunch of politicians and celebrities expressing sympathy and outrage. If we don’t have a specific agenda—a list of exactly what we want to change and how—we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors.
Kareen Abdul Jabbar, The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

To grow is to change, and to have changed often is to have grown much.
John Henry Newman


Though the article by Kareem Abdul Jabbar is very much worth reading for its painful insight into the Ferguson, Missouri turmoil, it was the paragraph above that grabbed me. Especially this line:

If we don’t have a specific agenda—a list of exactly what we want to change and how…

Something to change; something to do. Something to do about the problems we face. Something to do, to put into practice what I have read, what I am trying to learn. (Because, in reality, learning is not fully complete until we do something with any new way of thinking).

I read business books. They are filled with insight. But, many, many people who “learn” ways to think from such insights do not necessarily put that thought into practice.

This is commonly called the “knowing-doing gap.” Maybe we should call it the “we talk about it, but never do anything about it” gap.

When a leader says “This is what we should do now,” and then the people actually do it, that is when the real changes get made.

Monday, August 18, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

John F. Dini: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Dini, John FJohn F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs through The Alternative Board®. Dini is the author of three books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has five additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching.

He writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog “Awake at 2 o’clock?” at John speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is an 11-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of small business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 2013).

Here I an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of John. To read all of Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Hunting in a Farmer’s World, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Dini: Clearly my Dad. He was in industrial packaging sales. Every night at the dinner table was a seminar in how to solve customer problems, and do it ethically in an environment where ethics were too easily forgotten. (Think Mad Men) He was a high performer, but his standards came before everything else. It’s how I learned that sales was all about helping people with their problems. If he didn’t have a solution, he would direct the customer to a competitor. In turn, the customer would look for future opportunities to do business with him.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Dini: This is better answered in the negative. I’ve never had a mentor. I often wonder how things could have turned out if I’d had the opportunity to work under someone who would have tutored me. Because of that, I try hard to focus on finding out what my employees want for their futures, and allowing them the flexibility to pursue their personal visions through or alongside their work.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Dini: In my early 30s, I quit my sales job in New Jersey to start a company, with financing promised by a customer. He didn’t come through, teaching me a valuable lesson about making sure of things before I act on them. I was at loose ends when my former employer called. They had been acquired, and the new owners offered me an equity position if I could turn around their California operation. I’ve signed my own paycheck since.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Dini: I dropped out of college about halfway to a degree in English. When I returned to night school, I majored in accounting. My English courses all became electives, so I had four years of night classes in required accounting courses. I never wanted to be an accountant, but understanding how a business works always starts with the numbers. Having that type of long-term immersion ingrained a knowledge base that pays off every day.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Dini: I think the whole concept of a career path escaped me. I took jobs because I had to eat, and advanced because I had talent; but the idea of setting a long term goal, or of thinking about the next step never occurred to me. Once I became a business owner, I struggled with strategy and planning to reach objectives. I do more of it now, but it still isn’t instinctive. A mentor would hopefully have taught me how better to step back and consider the bigger picture.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Dini: I recently came across a presentation from the Army War College using the film Twelve O’Clock High (1954) with Gregory Peck as an illustration of how a leader has to change roles as his team develops. It was excellent, and I’m using it in a management course that I teach.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Dini: I’ve read Any Rand’s Atlas Shrugged five times. I return to it periodically to remind myself that other people (outside my family) don’t have a right to appropriate my efforts. I still do far too much work for free, but I like to help people and that’s entirely my choice.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Chin:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Dini: Absolutely. One of the nice things about being an entrepreneur is that I don’t have to grab credit for what the team accomplishes. As a business coach, it’s always a thrill when an owner tells me “I wasn’t available, and my people took care of it without me!” It’s tough getting employees to believe that you are just as happy, or happier, to see them succeed without you.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Dini: There is truth in that, but I’ve practiced a habit of saying “I have an idea,” rather than “I have a great idea.” Once you’ve declared your own idea as terrific, you are immediately disposed to defend it. Most ideas could use a bit of improvement, and that comes easier when people don’t feel they are attacking something you’ve put a lot of emotional stock in.

Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Dini: Well, as Huey Lewis said, “Sometimes bad is bad.” Dangerous ideas can bring surprising results, but often we don’t like the surprise. Hindsight lets us view the dangerous ideas that worked as obvious, especially if they grow into orthodoxy and clichés, but we tend to forget the ones that were just bad ideas.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

John cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

Exit Map link

Hunting in a Farmer’s World link

John’s Amazon page link

Monday, August 18, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Everyone Is (or, can be) an A-Level Player

deepthroat“The truth is, these are not very bright guys.”
Deep Throat (from All The President’s Men)


Let’s think about “talent…”

Let’s fire all the poor teachers.
Let’s hire only the A players.
Let’s practice differentiation with a vengeance. Let’s get rid of all the less-than-sterling workers.

That seems to be the philosophy of many…

Consider these two excerpts from this article by Paul Campos (The Atlantic) The Law-School Scam. The article is about the problem of for-profit law schools and the debt incurred by the students who will most likely never be A-level lawyers. Notice especially the word “underqualified.”

This world is one in which schools accredited by the American Bar Association admit large numbers of severely underqualified students; these students in turn take out hundreds of millions of dollars in loans annually, much of which they will never be able to repay. Eventually, federal taxpayers will be stuck with the tab, even as the schools themselves continue to reap enormous profits.

The arrangement bears a notable resemblance to the subprime-mortgage-lending industry of a decade ago, with private equity playing the role of the investment banks, underqualified law students serving as the equivalent of overleveraged home buyers, and the American Bar Association standing in for the feckless ratings agencies.

Well, news flash – many jobs are filled by folks who are not the very best qualified to do the job. And, they never will be.

Finding: research indicates that some people are born to sell – or, at least raised that way. (from a Sales and Marketing article, from March/April, 2014).

Sales Training does not work – for everyone. Leadership development has not developed enough leaders. Not all students are A students. (That is really right – I teach at the Community College level. “Not all students are A students” is an absolutely correct observation).

One reason: the best trainer, mentor, teacher needs a student or learner who has been raised to learn, nurtured to learn, and has developed that inner motivation to learn. (In education, it really does not make sense to punish good teachers who work with students so un-ready to learn).

I love to read about talent acquisition and talent development. But, open your eyes, pay even the slightest amount of attention, and you realize – not every one is an A-level player.  That’s why making the perfect hire is such a “Rare Find.”

And so, we see companies which are not able to recruit and retain A players lose out to those which can.

Question: You are a great computer code writer. You are a great design system thinker. A true A-level player. Would you rather work for Apple, or a Silicon Valley start-up, and cash in on your millions/billions; or would you like to work for government pay designing the latest government web site? Who do you think has more of the A-level players in their interested talent pool? …And, then, we all complain that the web site doesn’t work well enough or fast enough….

Call this an “I’m just thinking out loud” blog post about talent.

It seems to me that our very best A-level players need to put their best efforts into designing systems that help the less-than-A-level players be competent enough to get the job done.

Not all teachers are A-level teachers.
Not all leaders are A-level leaders.
Not all football players are Super Bowl winning, A-level players.
Not all coaches are A-level coaches.

I help people know the best ideas from business books. Of course, I wish that everyone read every good business book. (By the way, not all business books are A-level books, written by A-level authors, with A-level ideas). And then I wish that all people learned all the important lessons, and put them into practice.

Guess what? They won’t. They don’t, and they won’t…

(And by the way, not all book readers are A-level book readers).

So let’s all aim to get better. Let’s all help everyone get better. Let’s help people up their game.

But don’t think there are truly enough A-level players to go around to every job that needs them. There aren’t… there never will be.

Sunday, August 17, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Linda Henman: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

HenmanLinda Henman is one of those rare experts who can say she’s a coach, consultant, speaker, and author. For more than 30 years, she has worked with Fortune 500 Companies and small businesses that want to think strategically, grow dramatically, promote intelligently, and compete successfully today and tomorrow. Her clients include Emerson Electric, Boeing, Avon and Tyson Foods. She was one of eight experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products, one of the most successful acquisitions of the twentieth century.

Linda holds a Ph.D. in organizational systems and two Master of Arts degrees in both interpersonal communication and organization development, and a Bachelor of Science degree in communication. Whether coaching executives or members of the board, Linda offers clients coaching and consulting solutions that are pragmatic in their approach and sound in their foundation—all designed to create exceptional organizations. She is the author of Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat, The Magnetic Boss: How to Become the Leader No One Wants to Leave, and contributing editor and author to Small Group Communication. Her latest book is Challenge the Ordinary: Why Revolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Question Long-Held Assumptions, and Kill Their Sacred Cows, published by Career Press (May 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Linda. To read the complete Part 2 interview, please click here.

* * *

When and why did you decide to write it Challenge the Ordinary?

Henman: I have been consulting for more than thirty years. Each year, I ask myself, “What has changed and what is likely to change?” When I saw the economy slipping in 2008 I realized the way we’ve always done things won’t take us into the future. Leaders have to do better, and companies can’t do what they’ve always done if they hope to remain competitive in the new global economy. So, as soon as I finished Landing in the Executive Chair, which is a “how to” book for those who want to run a company, I decided I’d better offer some guidance about what they needed to do with the reality that had surfaced since that book came out.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Henman: People have started batting around the word “culture” as though it were a conversational shuttlecock. When an individual, merger, or organization fails, culture takes the blame. We use the word fairly arbitrarily, citing it to explain why things don’t change, won’t change, or can’t change. It’s that subtle yet powerful driver that leaders strive—often futilely—to influence.

We have to recognize the fact that some abstract thing like “culture” doesn’t cause our problems: it’s bad decision-making and bad decision-makers. If we don’t get that, nothing will change.

To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Henman: Originally I focused only on talent but then realized I needed a broader approach to what needs to happen in an organization in order for the most talented people to do their best work.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye.

For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or  key take-away in each of these passages.

First, The Paradoxical Organization: Transient and Timeless (Pages 14-16): How best to resolve this paradox?

Leaders have to understand what must change and what must never change. Good judgment, for example, must never take a holiday.

Head in Exceptional Directions (38-42): What do you mean by “exceptional” and how best to identify such a direction?

Henman: “Exceptional,” by definition, means rare, and it means future-oriented. Only those leaders who have crystal ball thinking will see into the future to anticipate both challenges and opportunities to their strategic decisions.

Morris: The Feud Between Strategy and Decision-Making (50-55): How best to end it [begin italics] permanently [end italics]?

Henman: Tactical decisions are easy, so people prefer them. Deciding how to use your time today doesn’t seem very scary or threatening. However, when you string too many days together and don’t tie your activities to strategy and fail to innovate, the competition gains a foothold.

Indecision: The Culture Killer (71-73): How so?

Henman: We blame culture for problems, but once again, success and failure come back to decision-making or indecision. When senior leaders consistently make good decisions, little else matters; when they make bad decisions, nothing else matters. Any student of organizational development will tell you that a pivotal decision—or, more likely, a series of pivotal decisions—literally separated the businesses that flourished from those that floundered. Every success, mistake, opportunity seized, or threat mitigated started with a decision. When people realize the following, they can overcome indecision:

o All decisions are not created equal.
o Action trumps theory.
o Few decisions require 100% accuracy and precision, so move when you’re 80% ready.
o Consensus is overrated.
o Accountability saves the day.

Ultimately, one person has to own the decision. One and only one person needs to serve as the single point of accountability.

* * *

To read the complete Part 2 interview, please click here.

To read Part 1 of the interview, please click here.

To check out my review of Challenge the Ordinary, please click here.

Linda cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

The Henman Performance Group link

Her Amazon link

LinkedIn link

Articles link

Sunday, August 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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