First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

She’s Doing Her Job – A Very Personal Tribute on Mother’s day

There’s a scene near the beginning of Tomorrow Never Dies where James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is taking on way too many bad guys, and he is about to do the impossible.  M (Judi Dench) and others are watching on a video screen, and an Admiral says, in a moment of panic, What the hell is he doing?” and M says “His job!”

I think of that line often.  The world is filled with people who do their jobs every day, pretty well.  And others,…  not so well.

And today, I want to tell you about the person who does the best job of doing her job that I have ever seen.

Her name is Jeannie Mayeux.  We’ve been married since 1971, and though there have been some stretches of time when I did not do my job very well in this family, she has been faithful to her task for a lifetime.

For the last year and a half, she has been a wonder to behold.  We read these “phrases,” like “the sandwich generation.”  Well, she is living it.  Her dad moved in with us about a year and a half ago, and every day, without exception, she takes his blood sugar and his blood pressure, multiple times every day, injecting him with insulin multiple times a day, watching his blood sugar carefully, preparing every meal to the calorie and ingredient, so that he can be ok.  And every meal is ready, and wonderful, like clockwork.

And, the last two weeks, she drove to San Antonio to help our son and daughter-in-law adjust to the new routine of a new baby along with her two-year-old sister.  Our oldest son is in Medical School; it was finals week.  He needed his mom., and two precious little girls needed their grandmother.  And Jeannie showed up, as she always does.

She gets no “breaks.”  She just keeps doing her job.

She has worked outside the home at times through the years, and done those jobs with her same sense of dedication and thoroughness.  (She is thorough!)  But her real job has always been that of the mother, in the very best sense of that word.

When Evan, our youngest son, got serious about baseball, Jeannie went out and bought a tackle box and created her own thoroughly planned, always well-stocked first aid kit.  By the second week (and up through Evan’s high school years), other moms just knew when their own sons needed attention, “oh, go see Evan’s mom with her first aid kit.”

By his third year of baseball, she bought a new, larger first aid kit – about the size of an aircraft carrier.  The boys were getting bigger, and the cuts and scrapes just a little more intimidating.  Jeannie was always ready.

When I sent her to Israel for six weeks on an archeological dig, she was a touch older than the college students making up the majority of workers.  As she told me the stories, it was pretty clear that she soon was recognized as the group mom.

Understand, she never “volunteers” for these assignments.  She just does them.  She just “is” that person.  And people recognize it pretty quickly.

When she was gone these last two weeks, her sister and I did get her Dad’s vitals taken, and the food on the table.  But, especially when it was my turn, there was a noticeable lack of elegance.  There is never such a lack when Jeannie is around.

A lot is happening in our family.  It takes a full-time+ mom to keep it going well.  And she is always there…

What is she doing?  Her job.  And she is simply the best at her job that I have ever seen anywhere.

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | | 1 Comment

Dare, Dream, Do: A book review by Bob Morris

Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Whappen When  You Dare to Dream
Whitney Johnson
Bibliomotion (2012)

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.” Søren Kierkegaard

In The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company, Revised Edition, William Capodagli and Lynn Jackson explain that their book “tells the inside story of just how Disney’s success was achieved — not by epiphanic flashes of creative insight that produced a Pinocchio or a Dumbo, but by the force of a much-considered, carefully wrought process of managing innovation and creativity and by an adherence to a firmly established system of beliefs.” The foundation of that system, the Disney Way, consists of four “pillars”: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

Although Whitney Johnson follows a somewhat different sequence of thought in her book, she agrees with Disney and other great visionaries throughout history that it takes courage to dream and to dream boldly, and then even greater courage to pursue that dream with relentless faith and tenacity to make it come true. Hence the wisdom of Kierkegaard’s insight, quoted in the title of this review. However, many (most?) people are unwilling and/or unable to summon the courage to “dare to dream.” With vigor and eloquence, Johnson provides a wealth of material to help them to follow the example of Tennyson’s daring and dauntless hero, Ulysses: “To strive, to seek, to find…and not to yield.”

What I especially appreciate about this book is that much (most?) of the most valuable material is provided by several dozen quite different men and women with whom most readers can readily identify. They are real people, in real situations, struggling to answer real questions and to solve real problems. Their personal stories, in their own words, are carefully organized and presented within 15 chapters, divided among three Parts (DARE: Why Dreaming Is Essential, DREAM: Boldly Finding Your Dreams,, and DO: Making Your Dreams Happen). In Parts One and Two, they help readers to understand how to

o Make meaning of their life
o Find their voice and authentic self
o Truly “grow up”
o Demonstrate to children by example how to dream

Note: This material (in Chapter 4, Pages 53-70) will be of great value to parents, of course, but also to teachers, coaches, school officials, physicians, and anyone else with whom children frequently interact.

o Be the hero or heroine of their story
o Make “space” for their dreams
o Invest in their strengths and competencies (i.e. increase them)
o Know (really know) their deeply-held beliefs
o Build on their strengths
o Rightsize their dreams

In Part Three (Chapters 11-15), Johnson shifts her attention to “Making Your Dreams Happen.” Twenty contributors share their own experiences when seeking to achieve that goal. They also share the lessons they learned – and what others can perhaps learn – from those experiences.

However, only a reader can achieve Johnson’s ultimate objective: To make their life and their achievements “remarkable” by daring to dream. In fact, as Johnson and countless contributors to this book affirm and then reaffirm without hesitation, a “chain of dreams” must be initiated and then sustained. These dreams need not be epic in scope or universal in impact. In essence, each dream (whatever its nature and extent) offers a “snapshot” of what can be better, more fulfilling, of greater value to one’s self and to others. As for the “chain,” it will be created during a personal journey of discovery. Whitney Johnson prepares her reader well for that journey. Let it begin now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kevin Murray: An interview by Bob Morris

Kevin Murray is Chairman of the Public Relations Division of Chime Communications, a London-based international marketing services company. Chime’s PR Division is ranked number one in both the PR Week and Marketing magazine public relations league tables for the UK. He started his career as a Crime Reporter on The Star Newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa. He later moved in to public relations in the UK and was Director of Corporate Affairs for the UK Atomic Energy Authority before becoming Director of Communications at British Airways.

He moved to Bell Pottinger in 1998 and has considerable experience in managing complex and global communications projects and departments. He has led significant issues and crisis communications campaigns amidst the heat of international controversies in the chemicals, nuclear, aviation, and banking sectors, to name but a few. He also has years of experience coaching chairmen and chief executives on communication, and has drawn on that experience to add to the content derived from his interviews with the leaders in this book, The Language of Leaders: How Top CEO’s Communicate to Inspire, Influence and Achieve Results, published by Kogan Page (2012).

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

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Before discussing The Language of Leaders, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

There is no doubt my wife of 35 years has been the most influential on my development.  She has always shown me where I need to be a better man, a better friend, a better father or a better husband.  She’s also been a great counsellor to me in my career and a huge support.

The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

I have been hugely privileged to advise leaders in all sorts of companies for the past three decades and to work closely with them in periods of incredible change and stress.  Watching them perform, observing how they behave and how they lead, all of this has been very impactful on my development.

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

A big turning point in my career was when I was fired from my job as Director of Communications for British Airways.  I had spent two years there being required to be a messenger of often bad news, with no ability to influence change in the organisation.  Prior to that, at the Atomic Energy Authority, I had been in charge of all change programmes and had become very used to being a change agent.  The huge contrast between the two jobs was very influential in the way I have thought for the past 15 years.

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

When I was at school I intended to go to university and study to become a veterinary surgeon.  All my subjects were science-based.  However, while serving in the army during my national service, I engineered a weekend aptitude test at a university in Johannesburg.  The results were very clear.  A career in journalism or public relations was required.  This changed the way I saw the world, and I went into journalism at the age of 19.  Ever since that day I have been having so much fun that I keep thinking somebody is going to find me out because it never feels like working.

Here’s a hypothetical question about interviewing. For present purposes, let’s say you are writing a book about history’s greatest leaders. If it were possible, which five (5) do you wish you could meet with and interview? Why? What specifically would you be most interested in learning from each?

If I were able to I would love to interview Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Genghis Khan and Ronald Reagan.  Each would have the most amazing stories to tell and I would want to explore with them issues like the power of a grand vision, the art of delegating in huge organisations, the ways they thought about communicating in order to win support, and how much they thought charm and humour was necessary in leadership.

Long ago, one of the founders of Hill & Knowlton, John Hill, observed that public relations is (or should be)  “truth well-told.”  Do you agree?

I couldn’t agree more.  I hate that public relations is often dismissed as “spin”.  Public relations activities are about persuasion, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In today’s transparent world not telling the truth is far too dangerous.  You will, ultimately, be found out and the damage will be great.  Public relations management is really what it says on the tin.  It is about trying to manage your relationships with your various publics.  Unless you have good relationships

All organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of operation. In your opinion, how best to develop them?

One of the things I kept hearing from all of the leaders I interviewed is that the only way you can build agile organisations today is to create more leaders everywhere.  The difference between leadership and management is that leadership is about engaging with people’s emotions to inspire them to the cause.  Management is about controlling behaviours to achieve results.  Great leadership appeals to both the heart and the mind.  In my opinion, the more leaders are taught these softer skills of relating to people, motivating them, recognising and uplifting them, the more successful they will be as leaders.

I am among those who think that crisis does not develop character in a leader, it reveals it. What do you think?

Having worked in the chemical industry, the nuclear industry, the airline industry, and many others I have had more than my fair share of crises, sometimes global in nature.  I have seen leaders implode during a crisis and I have seen leaders respond amazingly in these situations.  I do think those who are poor leaders are the ones who are most likely to fail in a crisis, because often the crisis has been caused by behaviours and decisions and poor leadership that preceded it.  But it also true you can see the real strength of a leader when he or she has to stand up and be counted.

Most of the companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also ranked among those most profitable and having the greatest cap value. In my opinion, that is not a coincidence. What do you think?

I agree.  All of my research has shown that happy and engaged employees usually deliver great results.  I sometimes believe that the customer should come second, because you can never put them first if you haven’t encouraged and inspired your employees.  Time and time again, I have seen examples of highly motivated employees giving effort that went beyond any contractual obligation, to achieve outstanding results for their companies.  I firmly believe that this issue of engagement and inspiration makes the difference between ordinary results and great results.

I think that films very effectively dramatize important business lessons. That is why, when conducting workshops and seminars on leadership, I use brief clips from films such as Paths of Glory, Twelve o’clock High, Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Tunes of Glory. Which films would you consider if teaching a workshop or seminar on teamwork?

What a good idea.  I think I would be looking at films like The Godfather, Groundhog Day, Seven Samurai (one of Ikira Kurasawa’s several masterpieces, on which The Magnificent Seven is based) and, yes, To Kill a Mockingbird.  Each of these will have powerful lessons about leadership and teamwork.  To be current I would throw in Avengers Assemble – a great story of a dysfunctional group learning to play to their strengths while working together.

In your opinion, what will be the single greatest challenge that business leaders will face during the next 3-5 years? Any advice?

I think one of the biggest challenges facing leaders in general today is that of sustainability.  Time after time I heard the leaders I was speaking to talk about the idea that you cannot have a thriving business in bankrupt society.  You have to have a healthy environment, a healthy society and only then can you have a healthy and thriving business.  I believe that businessmen are going to have to get a lot more long term in their thinking about business and try to find ways to get away from the tyranny of quarterly reporting.  This will take courage, it will take purposeful education of shareholders, but in truth there is no alternative.  Already consumers are demanding more of the brands they buy from, and more ethical, responsible behaviours.  This will be a movement that will gather pace and become unstoppable.  Leaders must get ahead of that curve or else risk being turned into dinosaurs.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Kevin cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:,1929.aspx

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deborah Farrington (StarVest Partners) in “The Corner Office”

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Deborah Farrington, a founder and general partner at StarVest Partners, a venture capital firm in New York. She says she watches for their ability to understand what they are and aren’t doing well. To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

*     *     *
What were some important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

I found early on as a manager that it was hard to learn how to delegate. I think that most people in their early leadership positions either tend to delegate too little or too much. And I delegated too little at first. I felt I needed to know everything that was going on, so I ended up doing a lot of the work myself that the people who reported to me should have been doing. I found myself working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I stepped back and said, “This is not going to work.”

So I sat down and talked to the people who worked for me, and we agreed on various goals. But then I delegated too much. When they came back at the end of the quarter and I saw what they did, I realized that approach didn’t work well, either. So I learned the importance of weekly check-ins, and then I think I got the balance right.

What else?

I had a terrific boss at Merrill Lynch who taught me that the most important conversation you can have with anybody who works for you is the performance review. Because people, especially those who are goal-oriented and very high-achieving, want feedback. They need that. And my boss made me feel that nothing was more important than this conversation. When you’re young, you know you can improve; you want to improve. You need feedback, and you need constructive feedback.

So when I coach and rate C.E.O.’s today — if I’m on a board, if I’m hiring them or giving them feedback — I’m always looking to see if they understood what they’ve done well. Do they understand what they didn’t do well? Are they listening to my feedback? Can they accept it? How do they then modify their behavior?

*     *     *

Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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