Charles S. Jacobs is founder and managing partner of 180 Partners, and the author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science. For over two decades, he has helped the leadership of corporations around the world improve the performance of their businesses. He numbers among his clients fifty of the Fortune 100, and has worked in Europe, Asia, South America, and the U.S.
His unique approach enables managers to use our new understanding of the brain to comprehensively rethink their businesses, creating more robust competitive strategies and the performance-oriented organizations needed to implement them. His work provides the key to overcome the number one obstacle to meaningful improvement in business performance—the rapid and effective management of change.
His writing has appeared in numerous business publications and he is sought after for print and broadcast interviews. His seminars and speeches offer an overview of the stunning discoveries of brain science and the direct, practical application of those discoveries to management. He completed his B.A., M.A., and PhD work at the University of Michigan.
Here is an excerpt from my second interview of Charles. To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read the first interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Much has (and hasn’t) happened in the business world since our last conversation. In your opinion, which change has been most significant? Why?
Jacobs: The key development for me has been the rise of self-managed, leaderless groups, fueled by technology and social media. We saw it with the Arab spring, and with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Regardless of how you might feel about the aims and tactics of such movements, they have been wildly successful in attracting both membership and attention, and they’ve done it with a speed that is dizzying.
I recently asked a client of mine that runs a highly successful business how she managed the fifteen thousand millennial software engineers. She told me she didn’t. She went on to describe a self-managed team with an internal social networking site as its hub.
Increasingly over the last year, I’ve noticed my work has been focused on building self-managing organizations. They’re much more productive, people prefer them, and managers are freed up to focus outward on customers and market trends. I think we are seeing a redefinition of leadership for the wired age.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read Management Rewired, what prompted you to write it?
Jacobs: I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works. When I started working in the business world, I was struck by how most of our management practices, based on behavioral science, weren’t terribly effective. I found that better results came from focusing on the thinking that drives the behavior.
When I sold my first business, I had an opportunity to study the latest research in brain science and I found it really exciting. The invention of the fMRI allowed us to see the brain at work for the first time, and what we learning had more in common with Eastern philosophy and quantum mechanics than behavioral science.
Not only were the discoveries fascinating in their own right, they explained much of what I had observed in my work. They also suggested a better way to improve business performance, even though it might seem counterintuitive. My book is my attempt to communicate the excitement of these discoveries and their practical application.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it?
Jacobs: There were really two for me that were game-changing. The first is that the brain doesn’t faithfully record our experience of the world, as much as it creates it. Our sense data are processed in the brain with input from the areas associated with our goals, emotions, and beliefs.
Rather than being objective, the world we experience is a unique product of our aspirations, feelings and expectations. To be effective in our interactions with others, we need to appreciate the story they tell themselves, and most likely it is very different than the one we tell ourselves.
The second is that our decision-making is driven more by emotions than logic and we make better decisions as a result. If we get too caught up in the objective data, we lose access to our gut feelings, which in reality are the product of the accumulated experience of our lifetime. We then make worse decisions, even in supposedly objective areas like finance. The data is important, but the feelings put it into context.
Both of these revelations challenge our conventional wisdom about management and give rise to new, more effective approaches.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ from what you originally envisioned?
Jacobs: The original draft was about twice as long and far more academic. I had a wonderful editor at Portfolio who taught me that an author, just like a business organization, needs to be focused on the customer.
Managers are busy, so a business book needs to be engaging, concise, and immediately applicable. The best ideas in the world will die an obscure death if they’re not presented in a way that compels people to attend to them. I think the same constraint applies to a manager’s communication.
Morris: If you were updating the book (and you may yet), what would be the most significant revisions (if any) in the new edition?
Jacobs: Even in the short time since the book was written, there have been even more substantial advances in cognitive neuroscience, so of course I would want to include those. The same is true of technology.
For example, smartphones are keeping us more connected and speeding up the pace of business. At the same time, there’s less face-to-face human contact, which has been the basis of our relationships for hundreds of thousand of years. Managing in an environment with different rates of evolution for technology and the human brain is a huge challenge.
I would also add more of the view from the trenches. I am fascinated by ideas–they change the brain, the mind, and our behavior. But managers don’t have the time or the bandwidth to answer the “so what?” More war stories illustrating direct applications would help them utilize the power of the latest brain research.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read the first interview, please click here.
Charles Jacobs cordially invites you to check out these websites:
Mark Miller is a business leader, best-selling author and communicator. He began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, Mark joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, he has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, and Quality and Customer Satisfaction, and today he serves as the Vice President, Training and Development. During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to almost $4 billion. The company now has more than 1,500 restaurants in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
Mark began writing about a decade ago. He teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. Today, almost 400,000 copies of The Secret are in print, and it has been translated into more than 20 languages. Recently, he released The Secret of Teams that outlines some of the key lessons learned from a 20-year study on what makes some teams outperform the rest. His next book, Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, is set for release in February 2012.
In addition to his writing, Mark loves speaking to leaders. Over the years, he’s traveled extensively around the world teaching for numerous international organizations. His theme is always the same: encouraging and equipping leaders. His topics include leadership, creativity, team building, and more. Mark has an active lifestyle. As a photographer, he enjoys shooting in some of the world’s hardest-to-reach places, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and the jungles of Rwanda.
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Mark Miller. To read the complete interview, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing The Secret and The Secret of Teams, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth?
Miller: My mom. She instilled in me early the idea of working hard to be my best.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development?
Miller: Dan Cathy, the current president of Chick-fil-A was one of my first supervisors. He’s modeled life-long learning for me for over three decades.
Morris: Was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) years ago that set you on the career course that you continue to follow? Please explain.
Miller: Dan has taught me many things over the years, but none had more lasting impact than the idea that your capacity to learn determines your capacity to lead.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven invaluable to what you have accomplished thus far?
Miller: My formal education took a non-traditional path. I attended college at night while working on the Chick-fil-A staff. Since that time I’ve had some phenomenal educational experiences – one of the highlights for me was attending the 8-week Advanced Management Program at Harvard,
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you to work for Chil-fil-A in 1977?
Miller: Everything rises and falls on leadership. Had I known this in 35 years ago, I would have become a student of leadership as a kid.
Morris: In you opinion, what differentiates Chil-fil-A from all other employers for which so many young people now work?
Miller: The success of our brand hinges on the business leader who operates each individual location. We are tireless in our efforts to get the right leader in each location. As a result, the more than 70,000 employees in the restaurants have the chance to work for some amazing leaders.
Morris: Based on your own experience as well as what you have learned from others, how to recognize high-potentials among all the young people whom Chick-fil-A hires?
Miller: It all starts with the point leader in the restaurant, we call them the Operator. We’ve noticed over the years that the best Operators attract the best people. As I said earlier, our success is determined by the local Operator.
Morris: On May 23, 1946, 25-year-old Truett Cathy and his younger brother Ben opened a restaurant called the Dwarf House at 461 South Central Avenue in Hapeville, Georgia, a small town south of Atlanta. With all due respect to what Ray Kroc and Dave Thomas achieved, how do you explain the fact that they have received far more attention as entrepreneurs than Truett Cathy has?
Miller: Truett chose a different path. Because he was not trying to build a big company, he could do things differently: Close on Sundays, all company-owned restaurants, be a privately owned company, etc. The result of these decisions, and others like them, was slower growth. I guess there are fewer news stories on slow and steady growth. A footnote on this point: In 2011 we surpassed $4 billion in sales for the first time and we’re debt-free. Not bad for slow and steady.
Morris: Of all the business books that you have read, from which have you learned the most valuable lessons? Please explain.
Miller: I’ve read more business books than I can count. My goal is to learn something from every one of them. I think I have. With that said, The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker continues to challenge me. It is one of the few business books that I read again and again.
Morris: When did you first meet Ken Blanchard and how did your relationship with him then develop?
Miller: Ken and I met when Chick-fil-A was considering him to speak at one of our events almost 15 years ago. He and I hit it off and the day of my first meeting with him I found myself at his home for lunch meeting his wife, Margie. We’ve worked on several projects over the years – Chick-fil-A projects, numerous book projects and we’ve worked together in the non-profit sector. He’s been a great friend and mentor for me.
Morris: How specifically have you applied his “One Minute” concept in your work at Chick-fil-A??
Miller: We created curriculum for our restaurants around Ken’s book, Leadership and the One Minute Manger. Some of our Operators say it is the best thing we’ve ever done for them. We’ve also had Ken conduct his Situational Leadership II workshop for our Operators and corporate staff.
Morris: Has it also proven helpful in personal situations? Please explain.
Miller: Ken’s ideas are powerful! He has an uncanny gift for making the complicated easy to understand and apply. So, once you get Situational Leadership, or any of his other ideas, you can apply them at home, or school, or church, or work. The ideas he tends to write about have a broad, if not universal application. That’s one reason he’s been so successful.
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Mark cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites.
In general, people become engaged in the doing of whatever must be done, enduring whatever personal sacrifices may be required, if they believe in the given objectives and, a key point, are able to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate effectively with others involved. They agree with David Packard that “people get together [in order] to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately.” Here are some films that demonstrate what teamwork can accomplish.
Directed by Ron Howard, this film examines an unexpected development during a space flight that created a life-or-death situation (literally), requiring seamless teamwork to return the module safely. Note how calmly Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) responds as does Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) while coordinating the improvisation of a solution under increasingly greater pressure. Without leadership and teamwork both in space and on the ground, Apollo is doomed.
Here is an excellent example of effective teamwork under less than favorable conditions: a dozen soldiers (convicted of various crimes) are scheduled to be executed or to serve long-term sentences unless they agree to participate in a suicide mission. If it is successful, those who survive may be granted a more lenient sentence. The mission is led by Maj. Reisman (Lee Marvin), widely viewed as an insubordinate officer. F special interest to me is the fact that if any one of the “dirty dozen” escapes or fails to make a full commitment to the success of the mission, all of their original sentences will be carried out.
This film is also based on an historical situation (during World War Two) as Allied officers who are inmates in a German prison plan and execute an escape. Preparations are lengthy and complicated, constantly vulnerable to detection. The division of labor is necessarily at a very high level because only exceptional expertise will produce the German uniforms, documentation, and escape routes that needed. Note that only of a few officers will have the opportunity to escape but all inmates are actively engaged in achieving that.
To some extent based on events that enabled a basketball team from a small high school in Indiana to win the state championship (Milam in 1954 rather than the fictional Hickory), “teamwork” in this film includes but is by no means limited to the players on the team. Indeed, much of the plot focuses on the coach (Gene Hackman) as he struggles to convince not only the players but also their family members and friends, school officials, and other residents of the town that he is capable, and, that the team can be a winner if he remains as coach.
Based to some extent on Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, this film examines how residents of a village that has been repeatedly terrorized by more than 100 bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach) retain for a nominal fee seven gunfighters led by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner). Of special interest to me is the fact that, after the villagers observe the teamwork of the seven during a series of violent encounters, they realize that they must assume responsibility for defending themselves. For too long, they have allowed others to dominate and intimidate them. Most recently, they have hired others to protect them. Only by becoming actively engaged can the villagers determine their own destiny.
Teamwork is often required if there is a common enemy to be vanquished. In this instance, that would be Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitten) a former chorus girl who married the owner of the Cleveland Indians. After his death, she is determined that the team lose as many games as possible so that declining attendance will enable her to break a lease and move the team to Florida. (She hates Cleveland). The manager, coaches, and players overcome their personal animosities and character flaws and come together to win the Indians’ first division title in more than three decades. Although this is a loopy comedy in most respects, I think there are a few valuable lessons to be learned from it about engagement and shared commitment, about subordinating personal agendas for a common goal against a common enemy.
As with Hoosiers, this also a dramatized portrayal of events that occurred (n the 1970s) when two high schools in Alexandra (VA) were merged. Unlike Hoosiers, however, questions about the competence of the coach and the effectiveness of his leadership style are anchored in a racial context. Getting everyone on the team and in the community to “come together” and become engaged in helping the football team to succeed is far more difficult. Again there is a common opponent and in this instance, Pogo’s observation is relevant: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
This film is also based on actual events, as presented in Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book of the same name. The voice-over narration is provided by an eminent historian, David McCullough. Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a successful automobile dealer who purchases a horse that seems to have little (if any) chance of winning any races. As for trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), their prospects are no better. Over time, a horse and three humans learn how to work together effectively prior to the narrative’s climax that occurs when Seabiscuit competes against War Admiral on November 1, 1938, in the “Match of the Century.” Of special interest to me is how popular Seabiscuit became among those who had not as yet recovered from the Great Depression. Presumably many of them had also cheered for James Braddock when he faced heavyweight champion Max Baer in 1935.
Although quite complicated, the plot is seamless and sustains a viewer’s interest as Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and his associates plan and then perform an elaborate deception. Their target is a Chicago mob boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), and objective is not only to cheat him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars (several million by today’s standards) but to do it so that he does not realize how and by whom he has been deceived. (That is the essence of a “sting.”) It is worth noting that although all but one of collaborators accept their share of Linnean’s money, their primary motive for engagement is to succeed despite all manner of barriers and perils. Similarly, in the business world, members of peak performance teams accept appropriate compensation because it has been earned and is deserved; however, they tend to be most excited by what they have accomplished together rather than by the recognition and rewards received.
In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
Here are three of my personal favorites:
The Dirty Dozen (1967): Directed by Robert Aldrich, this film demonstrates how twelve soldiers, after being released from a military prison and entrusted to Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) under armed guard, can be trained to succeed as a cohesive team after being given a “hopeless” assignment during World War Two. Their enemies include the Germans, of course, but also Colonel Breed (Robert Ryan) who is determined to prove that they cannot succeed.
The Great Escape (1963): Director by John Sturges, this is another World War Two film that is also loosely based on historical material, in this instance a “great escape” from Stalag Luft III near Munich in 1944 that involved more than 600 prisoners after more than a year of preparation. This film offers an excellent example of effective division-of-labor. Those with special talents are assigned to the most difficult tasks such as forging documents, creating German uniforms, and excavating a tunnel. All of the lead characters are based on real inmates, notably Squadron Commander Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) who is modeled after Roger Bushell.
The Sting (1973): Directed by George Roy Hill, this had to be one of the best organized films as it portrays an immensely complicated deception planned and executed by Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and his associates of mob boss Doyle Lonegan (Robert Shaw). A sting is not just any deception: it succeeds only if the “victim” never realizes that it has occurred. As in The Great Escape, there is a division-of-labor determined by the special talents of those involved. Talents are in perfect alignment with tasks. Also, there is a high level of camaraderie among the stingers based on mutual respect, if not affection.
There are other films that could also be included, notably The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) in which there is outstanding teamwork led by Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) who becomes so obsessed with achieving the project’s success that he overlooks the fact that the bridge is crucial to the enemy’s military initiatives. Also, Remember the Titans (2000) in which coaches and players from previously segregated high school teams are combined, with Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) rather than Bill Yoast (Will Patton) designated as head coach. Everyone (including initially hostile parents and fans) eventually rally around the T.C. Williams High School team.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob