First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Robert Sher: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

SherRob Sher is founding principal of CEO to CEO, a consulting firm of former chief executives that improves the leadership infrastructure of midsized companies seeking to accelerate their performance. He has published extensively on the successful leadership traits of CEOs of mid-market companies. His first book, published in 2007, is The Feel of the Deal: How I Built a Business Through Acquisitions. His latest book, Mighty Midsized Companies: How Leaders Overcome 7 Silent Growth Killers, was recently published by Bibliomotion in 2014. Rob is also a regular columnist for the online version of Forbes and CFO Magazine and recently published a seven part series on HBR online.

He and his partners act as consulting CEOs who help client companies’ CEOs and their top teams to navigate difficult passages. Running a company is a series of judgment calls, each of which can have major consequences. They often help make those judgment calls, drawing on deep experience as CEOs and by helping their clients think through situations. Some people call him a CEO coach. Others call him a CEO mentor. And some think of him as their own “Chairman of the Board.”

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rob. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Mighty Midsized Companies, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Sher: Warren Bennis, the author of On Becoming a Leader and so many other groundbreaking books on leadership, really made me a better leader. It was an incredible awakening. I started reading his books as they came out in the mid 1980’s, and at that time I was on a personal development binge, reading (and listening to) Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and Earl Nightingale. I was so honored when Warren Bennis agreed to endorse my newest book, as it turned out just a few weeks before his passing.

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

Sher: In 1996 I joined a peer group of CEOs called The Alliance of Chief Executives, in northern California. Sitting with peer CEOs every month and learning from their wisdom (and their mistakes) was a quantum jump in my learning. I still actively participate in Alliance groups. You see, when you run just one business, there is a limit on how many things—good or bad—can happen to you that turn into lessons. In a group of 12, the process is accelerated. Similar groups exist everywhere in the country. Vistage and YPO are two of the largest.

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.

Sher: In 2004 I was sitting in my CEO group and shared some frustrations (for the umpteenth time) about some seemingly intractable frustrations that were holding me back from leading my company to the next level. The group (which had known me for years) hammered mercilessly on me for over an hour (we CEOs are hard headed and often need a drubbing to take notice). Their point was that I needed to affirmatively find a solid long-term solution or to move on with my career. That day I went back to my office and triggered a series of events that led to my exit, and to the founding of my consulting firm in 2007. I’ve never looked back. Interestingly, we often play this role for clients, who need a push, plus a little confidence and guidance to make courageous changes that help them break free from their past and pursue a brighter future.

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

Sher: It has been very important. It gave me a solid understanding of the basics of business, like accounting and marketing. It seemed slow and laborious at the time, but from every class, I drew nuggets. Realize that I worked while going to school, leading what was then a small business. So I had every chance to practice what I learned. I got my graduate degree when I was 27 in an executive program, and I realized, to my surprise, that I was truly an executive. Too often, small and middle market business leaders exist in an isolated world. They really don’t know what they’re made of, how they really stack up. That certainly was true of me, and my confidence took a big step up from the experience.

That, and Michael Porter’s teachings! I also learned how to learn, and today, many years later, what I learned in a class has given way to what I now learn on my own. I can become an expert in many things if I devote some time and focus to it. My formal education also includes teaching at the MBA level, and assembling my curriculum. I learned a lot by having to organize my thoughts and deliver them effectively in a classroom.

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?

Sher: Building a strong, deep, wide network. I grew up being taught about hard work, but teamwork and friends were not emphasized at all. I got a long way with hard work and good insights. It wasn’t until way later that I learned that who you know (and who you’ve helped along the way) is a powerful factor for success. And helping people is gratifying as well!

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.”

Sher: The more leaders you can harness in pursuit of your vision, the more quickly it will become a reality. Even employees at the bottom of the org chart can feel a bit like leaders if they have some latitude, and are allowed to participate in decision-making. Understand where your people are, and work to help them get better, if only in small increments. An incremental approach to greatness is what works best, and the people will indeed feel like they have ownership of the success. As the top leader, sometimes it can feel a little unfair that little credit is given—yet offsetting that is an amazing team that will continue to perform at high levels.

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.”

Sher: From the CEO’s seat, I advocate planting the seeds of my ideas within my team and letting them grow there. Then, hopefully (!) my team will take ownership of an idea, and it will blossom. But that’s not stealing my ideas, that’s nurturing them. I believe that in midsized companies, there must be a process for evaluating ideas, so that the best ones will eventually become “obvious” and eagerly adopted, not “forced down people’s throats.”

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

Sher: I’m probably not deep enough to really appreciate this, but from my perspective, in business, it’s a reminder that the best and most profitable growth comes when you are innovating to find scalable opportunities and then growing them before everyone else jumps in.

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….’”

Sher: Our ears are more powerful than our mouths. Too many of us fail to listen, to observe with care and to think and deliberate. While we may love our ideas the moment they pop into our heads, most of them require research and observation before they are worthy of acclaim.

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

Sher: Being clear about why we are doing something, why it is essential, and how it ties into our most important strategies is a great place to start before diving into any business project.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Sher: There is never, ever a substitute for a great leader. The best leaders create and maintain the conditions for great teams to make great decisions. In most cases, the leader won’t have to make the decision, because they have a great team doing so. Is a great leader a great man? I think so, but not because of their individual contribution or personal judgment. Likewise, I would point out the vast difference between a tyrant with “direct control” and a “single leader” of a great team. Approach is everything.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Sher: Of course we must test things, and many ideals will fail. My big point is that failing on a small scale makes sense, but there’s no excuse for failing big without de-risking first on a small scale. Too many midsized firms make reckless attempts at growth, blowing big money. That’s foolish, a stupid mistake. Nothing brilliant about that whatsoever.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

All about Mighty Midsized Companies link

Free assessments and other tools link

Rob’s consulting firm, CEO to CEO, website link

Sunday, October 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karl M. Kapp: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Kapp

Karl M. Kapp, Ed.D., CFPIM, CIRM, is a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations. He is a graduate professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. where he teaches courses in instructional game design and gamification and is the Director of the acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies. He is author of six books on the convergence of learning and technology and has authored courses for Lynda.com.

Karl works internationally to help government, corporate and non-profit organizations leverage learning technologies to positively impact productivity and profitability. He provides advice on e-learning design, games and gamification and learning technology to companies and organizations in diverse industries ranging from pharmaceutical, to manufacturing to high-tech. Karl He is a Participant in the National Security Agency Advisory Board (NSAAB) (Emerging Technologies Panel) and sits on several National Science Foundation (NSF) visiting committees. He works frequently with startup companies. He has been called a “Rock Star” of eLearning and is listed among the top gamification experts in the world as it relates to learning and instruction. In 2007, Karl was named one of the Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals as voted by TrainingIndustry, Inc.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Kapp: My family had a huge influence on my personal growth. Growing up everyone in my family was involved in teaching. My mother was a teacher, my father taught classes at the local community college and my grandmother had been a teacher. It was instilled in me early that education is a ticket to great things. I learned to value learning and gained an appetite for continual learning. My grandmother was so into learning that during her lifetime, she earned two different master’s degrees in biology. She had gotten her masters in biology early in her career and after about 10 years, she decided that the field had changed so much that she had to go back and refresh her knowledge with another master’s degree. So my family set the expectation that learning was something that was of value, important and should be pursued. I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. In fact, one of most frequent gifts I got as a youngster was books. I can tell you a 13-year-old boy doesn’t really appreciate the gift of books on his birthday when he really wanted a soccer ball. You can’t appreciate that until you are older but over the long run, it makes a difference. I can still remember when my grandmother gave me “Gone with the Wind” to read. At the time, it was the longest book I ever saw and never thought I could finish it. My grandmother paid me to read the book—she bribed me. It turns out I really enjoyed the book and then discovered I could read that many pages.

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

Kapp: In high school I had a teacher for composition named Mr. Mortimer. He did two things that had a profound impact on my later success as a writer of non-fiction. First, we had class every day and every day he made us write for the first ten minutes. We would come into class, sit down and he would set the timer for ten minutes and we would write. At the time I thought this was the dumbest, stupidest and most frustrating thing to do. We could write about anything so most of the time I wrote about how dumb it was to write for ten minutes straight. Looking back years later, it was the best gift anyone could give me. He taught me in those ten minutes a day that writing is not an instant inspiration or a shazam of insight but rather a deliberate process that can be mastered through practice. He taught me to write even when I have nothing to write about and something will come. He taught me to overcome writer’s block. He taught me about writing and re-writing. Those ten minutes every day were the best ten minutes I spent in my high school career.

The second thing Mr. Mortimer taught me was that getting published was not just something that “other people” did but that people I knew actually got published. I always thought just famous or special people got published. One day Mr. Mortimer came to class all excited because he had just gotten an article published in “Field and Stream” magazine. I was so impressed and I remember thinking if my English teacher here in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania can get published then maybe I have a shot. It took me almost a decade later for my first published article but I did it and I owe that inspiration to Mr. Mortimer.

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.

Kapp: The turning point for me was landing an internship at an instructional design company after college. There was this company near my hometown called Applied Science Associates (ASA) and no one really knew what they did—something with computers or learning or something. So having an English degree as an undergraduate with lots of courses in Psychology and a teaching certificate, it seemed like interning at a company that had something to do with learning would be a good fit. Plus when I was younger, I was involved in a local theatre group and we were recruited by ASA to play kids in a safety video. So my pitch to work at the company was that I had actually worked for them before as an actor and so now I wanted to work for them as an intern. They gave me a little quiz, I think it was creating a small instructional lesson based on some content and the next thing I knew I was interning for them. As I learned more about what they did and how they created corporate training with technology (at the time green screen computers with text-only interactions), I decided this was the career for me and changed my graduate school enrollment from educational counseling to instructional technology. I loved what they were doing and how the field used all my skills of teaching, Psychology and writing. It was an eye opener because before that I never even knew the field of instructional design existed.

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

Kapp: My formal education influenced me in terms of writing, from the experience with Mr. Mortimer and then my English degree and teaching certificate influenced my ability to get the job at Applied Science Associates and my Doctoral degree influenced my ability to get my job at Bloomsburg University. At every step of the way, my education has propelled me to the next level. I think what formal education does is to make you study, in-depth topics and that it sometimes makes you learn and do things you don’t think you want to do but in the end are really good for you. Good formal education stretches your mind, it needs to hurt a little, it needs to be a little frustrating and then you can truly grow and learn from the experience. I think informal educational experiences don’t always have the same pain point and, at times, that pain point is good for personal growth even if you may not like it at the time.

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

Kapp: I think The Matrix. So why this movie? First, it is one of my all-time favorite movies. But second, it is really about thinking beyond perceived limits. It is about breaking boundaries and refusing to be stuck in the status quo. Innovation in business is about taking a look at what everyone else sees and then finding the areas that can be pushed or destroyed or reconfigured to create new value and to introduce new ideas. So the concept that “there is no spoon” really resonates with me. I like to think about what boundaries can be pushed or removed to create a new way of presenting content or interacting with learners. The concept of gamification is about pushing the boundaries of traditional learning and shaping a new reality…it’s what The Matrix is all about.

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

Kapp: George Orwell’s Animal Farm had an impact because it led me to realize that power and control can be a cyclical occurrence. One can be in power and then easily drop out of power and the people who gain the new power will eventually be out of the position of power as well. This served a cautionary tale to me so that I always try to keep in mind that power or control is fleeting and that you always need to be careful of what you do and say to people because no matter what your relationship is with someone, it can change for better or worse so apply the golden rule or you could be in a terrible position. The book also highlighted to me that a person can be influential without having to be in power or control. As a young kid in high school, those were some pretty impactful lessons.

Another book I read in high school but didn’t really understand until my job at the university was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Heller so elegantly and hilariously captured the workings, or should I say mis-workings of a bureaucratic organization. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that I don’t think I am in some kind of sequel to the book. It taught me to laugh at the absurdities that surround every working adult.

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

Kapp: The following business books have always had an impact on me. Early in my career I read everything I could by Tom Peters. I loved the way he gathered and interpreted research from multiple sources, loved the way he wrote and expressed his ideas. He openly contradicted himself, he interviewed smart people. My favorite book of his is Re-Imagine and I hope one day to use that format of tons of graphics, call outs and general chaotic pages for a book. It was brilliant and stands the test of time.

In fact one quote that Peters had in one of his books was by Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” Whether or purpose or by accident, I seem to live that quote frequently. Control is an illusion that we need to get rid of to excel. But that’s hard to do but the results can be fascinating.

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.”

Kapp: Leadership is about consensus. I think too often young leaders envision everyone automatically falling in line with whatever they want to do. In reality, to lead is to serve to work with others to accomplish goals. I always try to involve others in my writing and projects. Early in my career I wrote an article titled “Lone Ranger Need Not Apply” the article was about how it takes a team to implement new software. And I think it takes a team to accomplish any goal worth accomplishing and good leaders first create good teams.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Karl’s Website link

Karl’s TEDx Talk link

YouTube Gamification link

Facebook link

Pinterest link

Articles:

“Gamification Myths Debunked: How To Sidestep Failure And Boost Employee Learning” link

“Improve Training: Thinking Like a Game Developer”link

“Gamification of Retail Safety and Loss Prevention Training” link

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter F. DiGiammarino: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

D13_041_019Peter DiGiammarino is a senior executive with 35 years of success leading businesses that target tight public and private markets around the world. In addition to running companies, he serves public, private, private-equity-owned, and venture-capital-backed software and services firms as an adviser and/or board member and has consistently helped them to achieve their full potential to perform and grow. As a leader who has served successful companies in the role of CEO, Peter knows how to develop and lead teams of high-powered, driven professionals. His emphasis is to create and implement plans that are true to the organization’s market, offerings, competence, and purpose.

Peter currently serves as Chairman of Compusearch and advises a dozen other organizations as CEO of IntelliVen. He is based in San Francisco, California. He is also adjunct professor in the Organization Development program at the University of San Francisco where the workbook he authored, Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World, is used to teach a course he developed on Organization Analysis and Strategy. That book was published by IntelliVen (July 2013).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Peter. To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Manage to Lead (in Part 2), a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

DiGiammarino: My father. He and my mother raised six of us; I am the oldest of a generation on my father’s side. He was a high school teacher, football coach, and camp director who in mid-career got his PhD from Syracuse University in Education, became an assistant superintendent of a public school system, and taught at a teacher’s college. He guided us to be interested in new technology and tried constantly himself to use the latest and greatest to improve the work of teachers. His master’s thesis in 1954 was on the potential for the felt board to improve teaching. In the ‘60s he was the AV (Audio Visual) guy who brought home a projector and movies on reels for us to watch well before the days of VHS and DVRs, and in the ‘70s he led a team to design and implement a mini-computer based system to keep track of student data that is still ahead of its time.

He taught that a smart and motivated person could figure out how to do anything (work on a car, repair a washing machine, fix a computer) … and, further, that there is no point in figuring something out if you don’t also share it with others; starting with your siblings!

He had reservations about the big, bad business world so stayed in academia his entire career. We never seemed to have much money and I thought it must not be too hard to do well and vowed to one day have more than enough financially.

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

DiGiammarino: Charles Rossotti has been my career-long mentor. He was one of a team of five that left the group known as McNamara’s Whiz Kids in the ‘60s to start American Management Systems (AMS) in 1970. I joined 7-years later in an annual wave of aggressive MBA recruiting. We grew AMS to a $1B and 10,000 people over 20 years. As our CEO, Charles modeled constant experimentation, learning, growth, and performance with intelligence, teamwork, and drive.

In the mid-80s the $30M/year unit I had grown from start-up was underperforming relative to plan. Charles called on me more frequently to review status and plans but didn’t take over; instead he showed interest, confidence, and patience and offered help and support. He knew we could get back on track…and we went on to generate nearly $200M/year within a next decade.

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.

DiGiammarino: After 20 years at AMS felt I knew too much; every day people came to me with problems that I knew how to solve. I wasn’t learning any more. I wanted something new and figured it was time to run an entire company, not just a large business unit. In 1996 I let myself be recruited to be president and COO of a $200M public software company.

I quickly found that I had a lot more to learn. While I had been successful at AMS, it was almost too easy in an environment that was familiar and insular. I knew I had figured out some useful and important things about growing past the start-up phase and crossing over to being a credible business but needed to test, hone, and further develop my ideas before I could credibly share them with others. It was at this point that I began a systematic process to immerse myself in different companies, in different markets, at different stages of evolution, scale, and business model in order to enrich and apply anew what I had learned first at AMS.

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

DiGiammarino: I attended the University of Massachusetts for as an undergraduate because I was accepted only to UMass. I vowed that I would never let important things in life “happen to me” again. Instead, I would figure out what I wanted and then make it happen. On the last day of high school I decided to graduate in the top few percent at UMass and go to MIT for graduate school. Which is what I did.

At UMass I was accepted into a new interdisciplinary major for upper-class students who wanted to pursue an unconventional course of study. Even though the program was open only to juniors and seniors, I entered as a freshman because I only wanted to study computers and there was no other option for undergrads to take computer courses. I recruited as my advisor Dr. Wogrin, a 20-year veteran of teaching at Yale and Chair of the UMass Computer Science Department. He became interested in me and assisted me in developing a four-year plan to study math and economics (which is really applied math!) in order to prepare to someday study business (which is, after all, really applied economics!) rounded out with all the courses from the Masters Program in Computer Science.

For my senior project, which enabled me to graduate with honors, I designed, and led a team to implement, a system students could use online to find and register for courses that fulfilled specific requirements, such as being well-liked by other students, meeting a core requirement, and not held before 10:00 AM. In doing this I experienced first-hand the potential different disciplines have to create enormous value that did not previously exist when brought to together to bear on real-world problems.

From the interdisciplinary program I also learned to:

o Plan
o Be accountable to a plan
o Implement a governance structure; by having to review my progress against plan with my advisor twice a semester
o Master bureaucracy
Note: For example, I got the Computer Science Department and the interdisciplinary program to each pay half of the increase in costs relative to state school tuition to finance a semester of study at MIT in my junior year.
o Set high goals and then drive to achieve them no matter how lofty
o Follow through on commitments
o Work hard; because it generates worthy results and it is a waste of time and money not to
o Be comfortable being different
o Appreciate the value of outstanding counsel and advice
o Take full advantage of available resources

Conventional education tracks the best students to learn more and more about less and less as they go from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s and then on to a PhD in a subject area. The limit to this approach is that a student learns everything about nothing. Those that follow this path tend to be extraordinarily deep in their chosen specialty and remarkably inept on topics outside of it as they are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge relative to what they know in their field.

An interdisciplinary program prepares the best students:

o To learn a great deal in any field they want and so are not inclined to get good at only one subject but easily develop depths of competence in whatever they want or need to know.

o To be enriched by the insights, ideas and opportunities that unfold from the blending of competency depths, empowering them to synergize and innovate to create value far beyond what could previously have been imagined.

Upon graduation from UMass I went on to the MIT Sloan School of Management where I studied Information Systems, Strategy, and Organization Development (OD). I took all the OD classes I could because when I arrived I came across a study of alums 20-years out that said the number one course of study they wished they had had more of by far was OD! I had the opportunity to study with some of the second generation founders of the field including a course from Richard Beckhard and a class from Ed Schein.

* * *

To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

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

www.intelliven.com(my web site that features a blog of tips and tools for getting organizations on track to fulfill their potential to perform and grow; subscribe to receive 2-3 short posts per month at no cost)

www.skills2lead.com/Leadership-Skills-blog.html (sample vision, mission, values)

www.harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu (HBR: strategy & change)

www.leadership.wharton.upenn.edu (strategy & leading change)

www.theheartofchange.com(leading change)

www.wiley.com/nonprofit(management books for non-profits)

www.itulip.com(current assessment of national financial activity)

www.businessbecause.com (international site connecting MBAs and aspiring MBAs with key topics and each other)

www.boardsource.com (for nonprofits)

www.grove.com (graphic tools for strategy, change, et al)

www.ai.cwru.edu(appreciative inquiry)

www.balancedscorecard.org (evaluation and measurement)

www.eq.org (emotional intelligence)

www.thevaluescenter.com (cultural transformation/values)

www.mindtools.com(wheel of life, development tools for people and organizations)

www.ceoexchange.com(books and other resources for CEOs)

TWITTER accounts to consider following:

@IntelliVen
@BusinessBecause
@fastcompany
@harvardbiz
@brazencareerist

Formatted Version: Complete

Sunday, October 12, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Van Rooy: An interview by Bob Morris

Van RooyDavid Van Rooy is Senior Director, Talent Management for Walmart. He previously held roles in International Human Resources, and was responsible for the world’s largest performance management and employee engagement programs at Walmart, covering nearly 2.2 million employees globally. Before Walmart his most recent role was at Marriott International, where he led global HR operations and systems for several Centers of Expertise (COE) including compensation, benefits, workforce planning, performance management, associate engagement, and learning. He also held several Talent Management and Marketing roles of increasing responsibility at Burger King Corporation.

David received his doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Florida International University (FIU). He has published over 20 peer reviewed scientific business articles and book chapters. Most of these have been highly recognized and his work has been covered by many national and international outlets including USA Today, CNN, Forbes, Inc., and Fox News, and HR Asia. This has been complemented by over 30 presentations at international conferences. In addition to performance management and employee engagement, he is a recognized expert in the fields of emotional intelligence and employee assessment and selection.

His book, Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, was published by AMACOM (May 2014).

Author Note: In gratitude for the brave and unselfish service of our military men and women, David will be donating all of the author royalties he receives from the sale of Trajectory to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) in support of our military veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce. IVMF’s mission is to enhance American competitiveness and advance the employment situation of veterans and their families by collecting, synthesizing and sharing veteran-employment policy & practices, providing employment related expertise, capacity, training and education and delivering technical assistance to stakeholders in the veterans’ community. You can learn more about this great organization here.

Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of him. To read the complete interview, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Trajectory, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Van Rooy: My parents. They provided me with a supportive, values-based childhood and demonstrated the value of hard work and integrity.

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

Van Rooy: I would have trouble pointing to a single person. I have been extremely fortunate to have amazing professors, bosses, and mentors throughout my career.

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.

Van Rooy: At the first company I worked for out of graduate school I was presented with a neat opportunity to move from HR into Marketing. My time in marketing gave me direct exposure to a different part of the business, which I believe helps me to this day. Less than a year later, though, I had a chance to move to a new organization, but the role was back in HR. At that point I realized I had to decide which career path to take, and I decided that HR was where I wanted to be down the road. It’s sometimes hard to make these decisions at the time, but looking back on my career I have no doubt it was the right career choice for me.

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

Van Rooy: My Ph.D. is in a field called Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which includes heavy research and analytical components. This has helped me in understanding data that is so important with decision making, particularly as the amounts of it continue to increase.

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

Van Rooy: In college I took an organizational psychology class, and Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels was required reading. As an aspiring psychologist I was drawn to the message about motivating people through positive reinforcement. The alternative – negative reinforcement – can lead to behavioral change, but it is either short-lived or not as powerful as positive reinforcement.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

Van Rooy: Absolutely! Many ideas that originally “failed” were simply ideas ahead of their time. Something that did not work in the past should not be forever discarded; instead, reevaluate when conditions change, and you may find that what was once dangerous or crazy is now brilliant.

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

Van Rooy: It’s easy to fall into a trap and continue doing what worked in the past, even if it is no longer worthwhile. Over time we tend to get better and more efficient at what we do, but it’s important to make sure that it is still important. For example, you may be able to create a monthly scorecard much quicker than when you started it, but unless it is still being used it does not really matter.

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Van Rooy: It’s important that people have passion for what they do, and feel connected to the greater purpose. Stories have a powerful effect on us because we can relate to them, and as a result we remember them. It is this emotional connection that results in storytelling becoming such a powerful way to inspire others.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

His website link

Inc. link

David’s Amazon page link

Sunday, September 21, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John F. Dini: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

DiniJohn 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 www.awakeat2oclock.com. 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 is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of John. To read all of it, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Hunting in a Farmer’s World?

Dini: I started out writing a book about the culture in a small company. The original analogy was going to be a Tribe. As I thought through the stories I wanted to tell, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about culture. I was really thinking about the character of the people who create cultures; the founders and owners of small businesses. It really doesn’t matter how many employees they have, their thinking is always dominated by a sense of personal responsibility for all stakeholders, and the knowledge that, regardless of the resources that are (or more often aren’t) available, failure is not an option. They work without a net. If they screw up, it isn’t merely a missed budget or a couple of points off the stock price. Their failure means that their families and their customers as well as employees and their families are all going to suffer.

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

Dini: Dini: I had read Thom Hartmann’s book on ADD in the 90s, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, and thought then that his description of hunters applied very well to the entrepreneurs I work with. I came across it again when cleaning up my bookshelves at home, and realized that what I was discussing in the book was really the thinking process of entrepreneurs. To go back to Simon Sinek’s work again, I suddenly understood that I wasn’t writing about how entrepreneurs behave, I was writing about why they behave that way. Once I locked in on the hunting analogy, the rest came pretty quickly.

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

Dini: I could have prattled on and on with great stories about terrific people. I realized that I would wind up with a book that would leave many entrepreneurs saying “Great. So now I understand why I hate farming, but why didn’t he tell me what to do about it?” I went back and rewrote the middle section about the things I’ve seen owners do that allowed them to run good businesses without getting bogged down in farming tasks.

Morris: What are the most significant differences between hunters and farmers?

Dini: Hunters hunt. They can’t help it, and it isn’t always the best thing for them or their companies. I talk a bit in the book about how dangerous they can be to an organization when bored or underutilized. They tend to approach the world from a perspective of what they want it to be, while farmers deal with what is. Make no mistake, hunters kept humanity alive for thousands of years, but farmers allowed us to settle in one place and build civilizations. One of the things I hope comes out of the book is that they are complementary talents. If people accept each other’s tendencies, they can form tremendously effective teams.

Morris: To what extent do the Welch comments (quoted in Part 1) express what you call “the hunter’s mindset”? Please explain.

Dini: I think that corporate executives have the Hunter’s Mindset as much as any entrepreneur. If you read them again, Welch’s comments aren’t about differences in perspective as much as they are about size and scale. He is right, smaller businesses have short lines of communication, direct influence by the CEO, and the resulting ability to be nimble. That’s because they are small. I think his is as much a logistical observation as a cultural one.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read 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

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BITNET). 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

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 www.awakeat2oclock.com. 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

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.

* * *

Morris:
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.

Morris:
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?

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

Morris:
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.

Morris:
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

Linda Henman: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

HenmanLinda D. 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 Part 1 of my interview of her. To read the complete Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Challenge the Ordinary, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Henman: My father was the most influential person in my life. A rare person who flew in three wars, Dad was medically retired from the Air Force in 1965 because doctors had determined he had only six months to live. He didn’t like that conclusion, so he returned to school, studied finance, and bought a company. He died in 2001, only thirty-six years after his fatal diagnosis. Friday Henman taught me how to challenge the ordinary from the cradle to adulthood.

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

Henman: My mentor, Alan Weiss, the largest selling author of books on consulting.

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.

Henman: I started working with Alan Weiss in 2005. I immediately quadrupled my income, reduced my labor intensity, and created the kind of work / life balance I had always wanted.

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

Henman: I couldn’t do the kind of consulting I do without a Ph.D. and all the requisite education leading up to it. Most successful consultants don’t need a great deal of formal education, but my succession planning work requires an in-depth understanding of psychology and psychometrics.

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?

Henman: I wish I had realized what I knew. In my areas of expertise, I was always the most qualified person in the room to make an assessment but didn’t position myself as an expert. This served neither the client nor me. I should have been more confident about my knowledge and forceful in expressing opinions.

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

Henman: Actually, I like Office Space because it satirizes nearly all the possible bad management practices possible. I used to refer to it and show clips of it when I taught graduate business classes.

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

Henman:
I still think Peter Drucker is the quintessential business writer but also consider Gardner on Leadership a classic. More recently, Jim Collins has made a name for himself with the continued success of Good to Great. He laid the foundation of my thinking for Challenge the Ordinary.

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.”

Henman: I have used the last lines of this quote often to express the desirability of shared leadership. However, I caution people about the first part. The formulation of a company’s strategy, especially one that involves significant change, can stall if senior leaders rely too much on what current people know and their willingness to accept change.

* * *

To read the complete 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 10, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

James M. Kerr: An interview by Bob Morris

KerrJames M. Kerr is a management consultant and organizational behaviorist. He specializes in strategic planning, corporate transformation and project & program development. For over 20 years, Jim has forged a different type of consulting practice – one that does its engagements “with” its clients, instead of “to” them. Whether helping larger organizations, like The Home Depot re-imagine its store operations, or advising smaller firms, like specialty insurer Jewelers Mutual open up new markets, Jim has a reputation of making a difference.

A recognized thought leader, Jim continues to provide cutting edge solutions to his clients through a strong dedication to research and study. The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change is Jim’s fourth business strategy book and was published by Palgrave Macmillan (January 2014). It is a testament to his commitment to helping leaders improve the ways in which they guide and shape their organizations. A graduate of Bentley University located in Waltham, Massachusetts, Jim earned an M.S. degree in Management Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — where he continues to teach graduate-level Strategic Planning courses in its Lally School of Management.

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

* * *
Morris:
Before discussing The Executive Checklist, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Kerr:
I’ve had some great mentors that have guided me and influenced the path that I have followed professionally. There are two in particular that I should call out. The first person that I reported to after graduation from college was Doc Schilke. He inspired me to begin my business writing by suggesting that I write about my point of view regarding some work we were doing with a consultant. It was a turning point for me in that the article was published by a leading magazine at the time and it gave me some terrific exposure as a thought leader at a very early age – which brought me to know Jim Johnson, another key mentor who offered me an executive position at a major life insurance company. I was 24 years old!

Both of these men took a risk on me and, by so doing, helped me to develop into the professional I am today.

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

Kerr: Not to sound like an advertisement, Bentley University prides itself at turning out well-rounded, liberally educated business professionals. They do that by placing an emphasis on liberal arts as well as the business specialties that are its bread and butter courses. While there, I took many courses on philosophy and I think that those courses inform some of the business philosophies that I have helped to develop through my writing and have practiced through work with my clients.

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?

Kerr: You don’t have to have it all figured out by the time you start your career. You have time to get your legs under you and explore different opportunities as they arise. If you’re willing to work hard are open to new ideas and taking some risks, you’ll find and will receive what you need to get to where you want to go.

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

Kerr: Homer’s epic, The Odyssey – While Odysseus’ journeys were not mine, I did travel some distance along those lines!

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.”

Kerr: This is one that I’ve certainly learned to take to heart. In fact, it has been reinterpreted as one of the important tag lines of my management consulting practice. As we often say to our clients, “we do it with you, not to 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.”

Kerr: I’m not sure about this one. There’s a lot of ideas being stolen in the world of business authors. I’ve had some ideas for articles that I’ve submitted to leading magazines and rejected only to find them repurposed under a staff writer’s name. Sorry, but, it is a pet peeve!

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

Kerr: Indeed! Every paradigm shift in thinking began as being characterized as a heretic’s mad raving by those with the most to lose. Why? People who have been successful within whatever prevailing paradigm will naturally resist any idea that threatens their status quo. That said, great changes happen by outsiders with nothing to lose and much to gain by shifting the current paradigm in their favor.

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….’”

Kerr: Seeing or experiencing the unexpected is the beginning of the work required to figure out why that “odd” thing happens. It’s that type of discovery that sparks much of the work of the management consultant.

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

Kerr: True, true! Paving over the cow paths isn’t going to lead to the breakthrough thinking required to be successful in the early 21st Century business world. Indeed, we must start by re-imagining what is and how it can be done better in the future.

Morris: In one of Tom Davenport’s recent books, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”:organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?

Kerr: That’s one of the goals of a holacracy – which is the concept behind flatter, more team-based organization structures. I wrote a piece recently about Zappos commitment to institute this way of managing work and the flatter organization structure that comes with this way of managing a business. I think that it just makes sense. Eliminate bureaucracies by eliminating bureaucratic thinking – the very way of thin king that led to the “Great Man” theory to begin with!

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Kerr: I would view as an idea derived from the Learning Organization concept introduced in The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge many years ago. Clearly, the concept has merit and it is how organizations can learn from experience and mistakes. The key is to ensure that those empowered to try new things are equipped with the requisite skills and experience to carefully execute in an informed way so to minimize risk, recognize value and manage through difficulties encountered in a controlled fashion. Continue reading

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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