First Friday Book Synopsis

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Dorie Clark on How to Stand Out: An interview by Bob Morris

ClarkDorie Clark is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013) and Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It (Portfolio/Penguin, 2015). A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, she is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur as well as the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, and the World Bank.

She is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and a Visiting Professor for IE Business School in Madrid. She has guest lectured at Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School, the MIT Sloan School of Management, and more. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and appears in worldwide media including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Dorie.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing Stand Out, a few general questions. First of all, I think your previous book — Reinventing You — is a brilliant achievement. To what extent have you reinvented Dorie Clark over the years since you graduated from Smith College?

Clark: I’ve reinvented myself quite a few times. Right after college, I went to Harvard Divinity School and thought I’d become an academic, but (after getting my masters degree), I didn’t get into any of the doctoral programs I applied to. So I reinvented myself into a journalist, only to get laid off, and then a political campaign spokesperson, only to work on two consecutive losing campaigns. It took me until nearly a decade after college to land on my current profession as a marketing strategist/author/speaker. So my interest in reinvention comes quite naturally! I wanted to write Reinventing You to help other professionals go through the process more seamlessly, and faster and better.

Morris: My own opinion is that most people prune — if not reinvent — their lives every few years. Frankly, I have found this immensely difficult, sometimes painful. It’s such a struggle to resist what Jim O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” What are your own thoughts about all this?

Clark: Reinvention is definitely becoming a constant in most people’s lives. After all, how many people do you still know who spend a lifetime – or even a decade – at one company? But I like to differentiate between what I call “Capital R” Reinvention, which is a more dramatic job change or career change, and “lowercase r” reinvention, which is the practice of keeping ourselves flexible and adaptable with small choices we make, from taking a class on something new to being open to making a new friend in an unlikely place. The better we are at “reinvention” on a regular basis, the less likely “Reinvention” will feel traumatic when the time comes for a major change.

Morris: I congratulate you on what you have achieved in your career thus far. Presumably there have been a few setbacks along the way. Thus far, what has been the single greatest disappointment and what are the most valuable lessons that you have learned from it?

Clark: There continue to be setbacks and disappointments in my professional life, even though in general I feel happy with the success I’ve achieved. My first book, Reinventing You, was actually the fourth book proposal I created; the other three before it were all rejected. And there are at least four fellowships I’ve applied for in the last 2-3 years that I haven’t been chosen for. You have to keep pushing. But probably the hardest disappointment was the first, getting turned down for the doctoral programs. That’s because academia was my only plan; I really didn’t have a Plan B. But that taught me something important, which is that you should always have an alternate strategy, because you never know how things will play out, and you need to be prepared.

Morris: In your opinion, should people prepare for a career in a specific field or master skills that will be highly-valued in any field? Please explain.

Clark: My ideal advice would be to learn baseline skills – good writing and speaking, for instance – and then get professional experience in particular fields through internships or volunteering. Paying a university to educate you in a specific discipline, especially one that might change rapidly, could be quite expensive and leave you adrift if the field changes or if the need is no longer there because of demographic changes or technological advances. Far better to get specific work experience at work, rather than in a classroom.

Morris: Opinions are divided — sometimes sharply divided — about the how essential charisma is to effective leadership. What do you think?

Clark: I think people want to follow someone who seems “like a leader.” But charisma is often misunderstood. I like the research of the Center for Talent Innovation, which broke down the concept of “executive presence” – often related to charisma – into its constituent parts. They are communication skills, gravitas (i.e., can you handle pressure during difficult circumstances?) and, to a more limited extent, appearance (such as professional dress). All of these are things that individuals can master with practice.

Morris: Here are two of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. 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….’”

Clark: One of my favorite stories from Stand Out is about the psychologist, Robert Cialdini, who revolutionized the field by paying attention to his students when they questioned the typical way of doing business. In his field, experiments were done in a laboratory setting and then the findings were simply assumed to translate to real life. Students wondered how researchers knew the same principles would apply, and Cialdini told them they simply had to trust that human nature was the same everywhere. But he listened and wondered if there was a way to know for sure, so he started doing the first field experiments in psychology and became a legend in his field by advancing the discourse in a meaningful way.

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

Clark: In the business world, we often talk about the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Principle – i.e., that 20% of your effort yields 80% of your results. That’s particularly true when it comes to the research I did around breakthrough ideas. Most of these recognized experts are known for one or, at most, two “big ideas” and concepts that are associated with them. It shows the importance of doubling down when you’ve found an idea that resonates.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete interview.

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

Her home page with Free 42-Page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook link

Amazon page link

Reinventing You link

Stand Out link

TEDx talk: Finding Your Breakthrough Idea link

Twitter link

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan E. King: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

King, Dan EDan is the founder and principal of CloseReach Consulting and has developed a proprietary growth acceleration model designed for business leaders and senior teams striving to outpace the competition. The model consists of and numerically scores three growth drivers: Strategy Planning, Execution, and Talent. Dan developed this data-centric concept for assessing critical aspects of an organization’s capabilities in order to provide leaders with the knowledge of where weakness resides. Only then, can investments be targeted to the right elements of the business in order to steepen the growth trajectory. Dan helps leadership teams overachieve – fortifying the business so that financial targets are surpassed – the hallmark of hyper-growth.

Prior to CloseReach, Dan held a senior executive role with a mid-market enterprise that delivered double-digit revenue growth for five out of six years and was named winner of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Pacesetter Award in 2010. In December, 2012, the company was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies for the fifth time.

He has developed white papers on topics such as The Keys to Flawless Execution, Achieving Talent Density in a High Growth Enterprise, Strategic Planning – Getting it Right, Applying the Organizational Prowess Scorecard to Create an Integrated Organization.

His book, The Scorecard Solution: Measure What Matters to Drive Sustainable Growth was published by AMACOM (2015)

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Dan.

* * *

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

King: Certainly my parents – my Mom had a strong influence in helping me build relationships and a social aspect to my life. I was rather shy as a young person and she gently pushed me out the door to build friendships. To this day, she tells me “don’t forget to have fun.” She never asks about work. My Dad was more about the work ethic and being conscientious. He pulled some strings to get me my first summer job at 16 working for the Department of Sanitation in a small upstate NY town. Collecting garbage with who we called the “lifers” was the greatest motivation to pursue a college degree. Dad expected me to give 100% to any endeavor and that has served me well. And then there was Willy Carpenter. My little league coach. Willy was like a second dad to me. In addition to baseball, he taught me so many valuable life lessons – respect for others, humility and laughter. He wore a perpetual smile and had a contagious laugh. People loved to be around that man. He worked in a maintenance job and coached little league for 25 years. He exemplifies for me what it means to give away your gifts. He was a legend in Corning, NY.

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

King: Interestingly, it occurred early in my business life. I was two years out of college, having moved to Atlanta from upstate New York. I was what I later learned, a wandering generality. No focus, no dreams. Just a single guy who moved to Atlanta because a friend had preceded me by a year and convinced me that the 6 girls to every guy was a reality in the early 80’s. I never actually confirmed the ratio, but I also had little reason to question it. I was working in retail. Long hours, but energizing. I found the pace to my liking and apparently it showed. My store manager called me in one day and told me I was being considered for a job in the corporate office in downtown Atlanta.

That interview introduced me to my first mentor. The company was growing rapidly, opening stores throughout the southeast. The interview was with the EVP of Human Resources. He had to add to his team as the business grew and he had asked his current managers for a list of 10 high potential from the stores. I made the list, although I wasn’t convinced it was a good thing. HR was not something I had interest in. However, I got the offer and the money was better. It was a Director of Employee Relations role and I spent much of my time visiting the stores, working with store managers and their HR leaders on how to apply best practices in managing a large hourly workforce.

Over the next 8 years, this mentor (although I was too young and naive to recognize this dynamic) moved me through multiple roles with ever-increasing responsibilities. By the time I was 30, I was the youngest VP in the company. Professional growth certainly requires a dose of hard work and being conscientious, but accelerated professional growth almost always requires a mentor. I was very fortunate. Ironically, at the time, I just thought that was how it was. Leaders who cared, were selfless and spent time investing in others. Sadly, authentic mentoring is all too rare. We can’t count the synthetic mentoring programs big companies create. The programmatic approach never is as good as the genuine thing.

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.

King: After my stint in retail, I was recruited for an executive role with Kinder Care Learning Centers. At the time, it was a dynamic, high growth business with 1200 centers around the country, looking after 100,000 infants and toddlers a day. I found the business model intriguing and the nurturing aspect of what the caregivers did each day, humbling. Unfortunately, the founder made some missteps financially during the junk bond era and the business suffered.

The epiphany for me at this stage of my career was deciding to depart from the corporate environment and enter the consulting world. I was introduced to an Australian who had moved to Atlanta in order to replicate the consulting practice he had in Sydney. He sent me to Sydney for two weeks to work there with the managing director. Upon returning, we began working with mid-market businesses on various performance improvement initiatives, focused at the individual, team and organizational levels. That’s when I knew I had found my passion.

Entering an unfamiliar organizational setting and going about learning the model, the culture, the growth drivers and the barriers to improved performance. I loved it. Some have said I have a sixth sense for rooting out systemic issues and grasping the essence of what drives performance. I love the challenge and love helping a business leader see the realities that are often hidden from him or her.

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

King: You know, I’m sure I acquired a certain degree of personal discipline through those years of schooling. The reality is, I have not directly applied a great deal of specific course or academic content in my professional life, given that I changed my major a few times and took courses that appealed to me at the moment. Since I had not identified a professional track at that point, I wandered a bit academically. I did tend bar for all four years of college in order to have some spending money and learned quite a bit about life, people and how personal decisions can impact our futures. Decisions can take one to a glorious place and just as easily to one of extreme sadness and hardship. I learned that the path [begin italics] not [end italics] to take is often more important than the one taken when it comes to personal growth.

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

King: That, even though most business settings are civil, respectful places, everyone is subtly looking out for themselves. Trusting that others will look out for you is not where young professionals want to place their bets. Looking back, I would have been more aggressive, in a positive way and more proactive in mapping my career. I was very fortunate to have had someone who had enough self-confidence and had accumulated sufficient accolades in his career, that he could direct his energy to grooming another. I would tell young professionals to look around and seek out a mentor. Someone who is respected, has integrity and not necessarily trying to reach the next rung.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His consulting firm link

His blog link

The Scorecard Solution link at Amazon

Sunday, April 12, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liz Wiseman: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Wiseman, bio-lizLiz Wiseman is a researcher, executive advisor, and speaker who teaches leaders around the world. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Liz is a former executive from Oracle Corporation. She writes regularly for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time Magazines. She has been listed on the Thinkers50 ranking and named as one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Business Management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University.

Her latest book, Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, was published by HarperBusiness (October 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of LIz.

* * *

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

Wiseman: My husband, Larry, has fueled so much of my personal growth. He is a kind person who sees the best in other people. He believes in me, laughs at my jokes, supports my work, and makes me feel like a genius every day of my life.

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

Wiseman: One of the great privileges of my career has been to work with and learn from Dr. CK Prahalad, the great management thinker from the University of Michigan. CK was a brilliant educator whose gift was never in telling people what to think – it was in teaching people how to think. He taught me how to question and how to hold my ego in check as I uncovered answers. He put me into situations where the demands of the role far exceeded my capabilities, and then he gently coached me as I grew into them.

When I nervously shared the research for my first book, Multipliers, with him, he responded with genuine curiosity and delight, helping me to see the impact it could have. When I asked where I should do further research, he said, “You’ve done your research. It is now time to publish.” There is nothing like having a brilliant person believe in you and push you to be better. One of the reasons that I wrote Multipliers was the hope that everyone would have a leader like CK in their 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.

Wiseman: My big pivot came when I left the comfort of a great corporate job (I was the VP of Oracle University) to go out on my own as a consultant and executive advisor.

I had joined Oracle right out of business school and spent seventeen years in various management jobs. Oracle was a company that was not only growing in size, but one with a true growth mindset – a belief that smart people could figure hard things out. As a result, I faced a steady stream of stretch assignments. I was 40 years old before I had a job that I was actually qualified for! While I took some teasing from my bosses (who had to occasionally explain to others why they had given a big job to one so young and inexperienced), I found the work as thrilling as it was challenging.

At the end of those seventeen years, I realized that I was, at last, qualified for my job. I felt like I had come to a standstill and began resenting my job. Sure, my colleagues and work conditions were still fantastic, but I wasn’t being challenged and the exhilaration was gone. But I had to wonder, does the thrill ride have to end mid-career? Fortunately for me it didn’t. I took a pivot step out of my comfort zone in corporate management and set out to research and write a book on leadership based on a lingering question I had: Why do some leaders drain intelligence in others while other amplify it? Writing a book was honestly something I had little understanding of how to do. Fortunately I again found people willing to take a chance on a rookie (or perhaps my publisher just didn’t realize that I had never written anything longer than an email when she agreed to work with me on my first book, Multipliers).

Nine years ago my colleagues and friends couldn’t understand why I would choose to leave a great gig at a great company to work solo and in obscurity. But, in venturing out, I’ve found greater impact and personal satisfaction.

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

Wiseman: Honestly, I don’t think I use much of what I learned in my formal education; however, I constantly use how I learned. I was fortunate to attend a school and a graduate program that knew their job wasn’t to stuff our brains full of facts but to teach us a way of thinking. Dr. J. Bonner Ritchie, who is one of my intellectual heroes, used to say, “our goal is to teach you how to think and how to manage ambiguity.” I learned to look at issues from often-overlooked perspectives and to understand the unintended consequences of purposeful action. I suspect the real curriculum of college is learning how to learn by quickly mastering a subject, applying what we’ve learned, and then moving onto the next learning challenge at hand. Our formal education can never stay current, but the real value of education is learning to analyze, question, debate, and discover – which are timeless skills. And, there’s an added bonus: learning how to figure out the idiosyncrasies of each professor is great preparation for figuring out what your bosses and other stakeholders expect from you (it changes constantly). I hope our universities don’t succumb to the mounting pressure to become trade schools.

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

Wiseman: I wish I understood from Day 1 that my job was to help my boss solve his/her problems. Fortunately, I had a mentor, Bob Shaver, a VP at Oracle, who taught me this early in my career. I was contemplating an internal transfer and was interviewing for a job in Bob’s division. I described the kind of work I wanted to do and what I hoped to accomplish in the job. Bob assured me that my intent was indeed worthy but that it would be far more helpful to him and the company if I figured out my boss’s biggest challenge and helped her solve it. I reoriented my thinking away from what I wanted and toward what the business urgently needed. While the initial work wasn’t my true passion, I dove in wholeheartedly. I think I built a reputation as someone who understood the strategy and got the most important stuff done. This, in turn, opened up many career opportunities to do work that I truly love.

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

Wiseman: The Lego Movie is a fun illustration of a major shift that is taking place in how we organize and work. The workplace is shifting from a place where we go and becoming something we do. We used to optimize our learning and development efforts to enable people to work in company structures and in teams that had a life of their own. Going forward, we need to optimize around discrete pieces of work to be done and ready the workforce for reconfiguration.

In the movie, the villains build the Lego kits per the exact instructions and then super-glue the pieces into place, creating a spectacular but static object. The young protagonist wants to use the Lego pieces to build something original (and less elegant), dissemble it, and then build something entirely different. Spoiler alert: reconfiguration wins!

Our organizations and team structures need to be built for reconfiguration rather than built to last. We need workforces where talent can be identified, rapidly deployed, and redeployed and where work processes are scrappier. In this more dynamic environment, rapid learning, rather than knowing, will be the most critical skill.

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

Wiseman: I recently read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (yes, I can’t believe I just learned about it). It is such an insightful tome disguised as a children’s book! In it the author Norton Juster celebrates what he describes as “the awakening of the lazy mind.” In the story, Milo, a young, bored boy, passes through a mysterious tollbooth to find himself in a strange land. He meets a king who sends him on a difficult, dangerous mission that involves a secret matter that the king will tell him about when the boy returns.

When Milo returns victorious, he asks the king to reveal the secret matter at last. The king said of Milo’s mission, “It was impossible….but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone—and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing. People often do amazing and innovative things in business simply because they don’t yet know they are impossible.

On the darker side of business might be The Great Gatsby – it’s an interesting illustration of pretense, greed, and misguided loyalty.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 1 of the interview.

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

Rookie Smarts link

Multipliers Books link

The Wiseman Group link

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mike Paton: An interview by Bob Morris

PatonMike Paton has spent a lifetime learning from and sharing with entrepreneurs. The product of an entrepreneurial household, he cut his teeth in banking before running (or helping run) four small, growing companies. For the last seven years, he’s been helping entrepreneurs clarify, simplify and achieve their vision by mastering the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS).

Mike discovered EOS while trying to run a $7 million company in Minneapolis. Drawn to its simplicity and usefulness, he quickly became a passionate advocate of the system and leader of a vibrant and growing community of professional EOS Implementers, clients and fans. An award-winning speaker and best-selling author (Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable, with EOS creator Gino Wickman), he has conducted more than 1,000 full-day EOS sessions with leadership teams of more than 100 companies. He’s also helped thousands more business leaders at dynamic, value packed keynote talks and in-depth interactive workshops. Whatever the venue and format, Paton attracts large audiences, receives consistently high ratings and introduces a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that help leaders “get a grip” on their business.

Mike lives in Minneapolis with his wife Kate and his sons Henry and Charlie. His older son Jon lives and works in Clinton, IA.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Mike.

* * *

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

Paton: My grandfather, Art Pfeil, who taught me how to learn, how to teach, how to work hard, and how to love doing all three.

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

Paton: Gino Wickman and his business partner, Don Tinney — without whom I’d have never discovered EOS and become a passionate teacher of the system. They’ve helped me simplify, clarify and achieve my vision as an EOS Implementer, a business owner, and a man.

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.

Paton: I was fortunate to grow up in a household where teaching and learning was cherished. My sense of curiosity and wonder were encouraged, and it’s something I bring into every class, every book, every job, hobby and personal relationship I’ve ever encountered. The only epiphany is that very few things in life – professional or personal – don’t fulfill that desire for discovery and wonder – if you just open yourself up to it. From a career perspective, that desire to learn and grow – and to have that impact on others who want to do the same – has always driven me.

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?

Paton: What I know now is that we are all in complete control of our own choices, and accountable for the outcomes those choices create. I spent way too much time early in my career focused on people and things that didn’t have anywhere near as much impact as I imagined on my work and my life. I’d refocus all that time and energy on my own actions and outcomes.

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

Paton: This may get a laugh – or bring an abrupt end to this interview – but Tommy Boy has always been a favorite. As silly as that movie is, it fairly accurately identifies some issues (and solutions) common to entrepreneurial companies. First, you have a gifted, gregarious, driven founding entrepreneur who doesn’t adequately develop the next generation of leadership in his company, thereby exposing the organization to risk. Upon his death, a power struggle develops between his pedantic number two, his oaf of a son, his trophy wife, a risk-averse board/capital partners, and an unscrupulous competitor. And the company is saved when the son partners with the people in the business, reconnects with the “soul” of the business, and begins making great things happen. That story is played out each year in literally hundreds of entrepreneurial companies – admittedly with less hilarity and more frequent failures than successes. And, as an added bonus, it’s really funny.

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?

Paton: I agree completely. At some point in every young company’s growth curve, it hits a ceiling. Often that ceiling is caused by the limited capacity of the person (or people) who make most of the decisions, handle all the most important projects, and do the most valuable work. When a “great man” or “great woman” becomes overwhelmed, the company often either flat-lines or fails. Truly great leaders see the need to hire and develop extensions of themselves, so that collectively the team begins achieving more than the sum total of its parts.

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Paton: Many leaders and managers – at every level of an organization – struggle with delegation. There are literally dozens of “root causes” to this issue – some owned by the leader and some caused by their organization. In the language of EOS, we find most of those root causes can be traced back to weakness in one of six “Key Components” of a well-run business – Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process and Traction. And delegation issues can truly be traced back to weakness in all of them.

For example, sometimes a leader fails to delegate because he or she doesn’t have the right people on his or her team, or isn’t cut out to lead and manage. That’s weakness in the People component. Sometimes, the company’s core processes aren’t documented, simplified, and clearly followed by all – the Process component needs work. Sometimes a strong data component (with metrics that alert the leader to an issue and help keep people on track) will help solve a delegation issue.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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

EOS Worldwide link

Mike’s Twitter link

Mike’s LinkedIn link

Mike’s Amazon page link

Mike’s YouTube video link

“EOS Story” YouTube video link

Sunday, March 29, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernhard Schroeder: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

SchroederBernhard Schroeder is the Director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Programs and oversees all of the undergraduate and graduate experiential entrepreneurship programs on the San Diego State University campus. He also has responsibility for the Center’s marketing and outreach on both the SDSU campus and in the San Diego community. He is a part-time Clinical Faculty, Entrepreneurship teaching several entrepreneurship course including Creativity and Innovation.

Prior to moving to San Diego, Bernhard was a Senior Partner in the worlds’ largest integrated marketing communications agency, CKS Partners, which in 1998 had offices in over 30 countries, more than 10,000 employees and over $1 billion in revenue. Bernhard joined CKS in 1991 and working with the other four partners, grew the firm to almost $40 million in revenue by 1995 and led CKS to a successful IPO that same year.

He has experience working with Fortune 100 firms like Apple, Nike, General Motors, American Express, Mercedes Benz, Kellogg’s and others as well as start-up companies. He was involved in the initial branding and marketing launches for startup companies Yahoo! and Amazon. Today, he mentors more than 20 founders of startup companies in San Diego with yearly revenue ranging from $400,000 to more than ten million.

His book, Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now, was published by AMACOM (February 2015).

Here is an excerpt from part 1 of my interview of Bern.

* * *

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

Schroeder: Two people had a huge impact on my personal growth. The first was my father who instilled in me the notion of working to get what you want. He worked two jobs for 14 years to put five kids through private school. Never saw him much in those years but we had an amazing relationship after he retired. So, I started working and making money at the age of 11 and I thought that was completely normal.

The other person who I never thought would have an impact on my life but did was my aunt. Looking back, my aunt was just a good average person who was fun to be around but no one that really stood out in my family. That all changed one day. I was 19 at the time, full of piss and vinegar trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was definitely struggling trying to determine how one laid out their life, like it was a play or something. I was told by my father that my aunt was dying. Just like that. Stomach pains for a few weeks, then the diagnosis. Terminal cancer. Three weeks to live. Having never experienced death in the family, I could not get my head around the concept of death. My aunt was only 38, looking amazingly healthy and was going to die. She had told my father she wanted to meet with me. My fear and apprehension was, “What do you say to someone who is dying?”

I met her in a hospice room at the hospital. When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the bed with a serious mound of paper all around her. I asked her, “What are you doing?” She replied, “I am organizing my life so as not to be a bother when I am dead.” For the next three hours, we talked about life. My life. Her life. And she started to tell me about all the things she had never done or had regretted. She sacrificed for the family and lost the love of her life (my aunt had never married). I can almost picture her sitting on the bed and talking to me as she said,” Bern, no matter what you do with your life, don’t ever have regrets. Don’t ever settle for something you don’t agree with. And live life as if you were going to die tomorrow.” That day when I left, I don’t think I realized what had just happened. But her words would come to define the way I lived my life. My personal life and entire career was defined by this statement,” I will not spend one day being in a place where I don’t feel I belong.” And that is exactly the way I have lived my life.

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

Schroeder: Three mentors have had the most impact in my professional development. The first mentor was in my very first marketing job. I did not realize it at the time because if you have never been mentored before, you really don’t know it is happening (being mentored). The key element is trust. We usually don’t build a quick trusting relationship with our boss. But looking back, he leaned in…he nurtured me, pushed me, scolded me and praised me. In the two years I worked for him, I received five years of experience and advice. He actually created a solid platform for my entire career.

The second person was a few years later and he was a crusty kind of curmudgeon guy we brought in from Xerox. Within about two weeks of meeting him (I reported to him), he pulled me into his office and flatly stated that I was terrible at two things: I did not know how to listen, and I really did not know how to sell. Now, you have to realize in just three years at this marketing agency, I had risen from entry level employee to vice president. So, I thought to myself “this guy is full of shit.” But over the next 3-4 months, he actually proved to me that I really did not listen and I was really not accomplished at the art of selling or as he liked to put it, the art of getting people to buy from you.

He did two things that changed my professional life. The first thing he did was to send me to a “Spin Selling” seminar in San Francisco which I did not want to attend. The three-day sales seminar changed my outlook on my personal and professional life. I learned the skillset of listening. I learned the difference between what people wanted and what they needed. I learned personality types and how to read a room. It was amazing. The second thing he did was simple. He honed my ability to trust my instincts. This is a really hard skill “or feeling” to develop. You can’t really see it. Can’t really take a class or seminar in instinct. Over the next two years, after every client or prospect meeting, he would ask me to deconstruct the meeting. What was “really” going on in the meeting, who were the decision makers, what did they really want and so on. Then, based on my deconstruction and thoughts, he would give me feedback on where I was spot on and where I was completely off and why. Again, you don’t really see or understand it when you are going through personal development in a deep way but looking back, it was huge.

The third person taught me about the power of teams. Up until I met my third mentor, I thought that all my accomplishments to date were based on me. That is, my success was singly determined by me and what I could accomplish. I had been on pretty fast track since coming out of school late (undergraduate at 27 years of age) and I was motivated to move aggressively in building my career. Took on risky promotions and difficult clients and was successful. When I met this person who would become my third mentor, I did not really see him as even being a potential mentor. First, I felt I was his peer. We were both about the same age, both had accomplished a lot and were now partners in building what would become a billion dollar company. But early in my relationship with him, he pulled me aside and in a very nonchalant conversation told me two things: I was not a strategic thinker and I absolutely did not know how to build teams of people that would go “to war” for me. I thought about that. Over the next two years, he taught me how to be real with people. How to nurture and care for the talented stars working for me. I learned the art of management where everybody wins. The other thing he taught me about strategy was perspective. To use a military analogy, I was always the lieutenant or captain building and rapidly executing marketing campaigns. But I was not the general, sitting on the hill or further away, who was looking way beyond the battle…looking at the how the entire war would be waged. I learned an immense amount of strategic perspective from him that lifted me to a new level of branding and marketing strategy. One that allowed me to clearly create brand and marketing strategies for my future clients (like Amazon and Yahoo!) with a very strategic plan, strong on tactics but amazing on marketplace strategy.

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.

Schroeder: It’s hard to identify a turning point or epiphany in one’s life unless it’s something cathartic. Something that shakes or even defines your core. I would have to say, looking back, it was my aunt’s death. Her calmly talking to me as she was dying about never having regrets really formed the basis of how I would view life. I did it my way or the highway. I had people tell me, “ I don’t really like you…but you are one of the sharpest marketing people I have ever met and I respect you.” And seriously, all I wanted was to be respected. I did not really care if people liked me. Never have. The other part of what has become my mantra is I firmly believe no one was born to do anything…so what will you do? I have crafted my career around constantly challenging myself and enjoying life. I am not working on the cure for aids or cancer, so trust me, I have a perspective on what’s important in life. Sell another car or book, great. But don’t get hung up on that. I have wanted to make impacts and bring people along for the ride. I still stay in touch with people I hired and mentored in the mid 90’s. I mentor more than 20 founders of companies in San Diego. I reach thousands of students on the SDSU campus with messages of entrepreneurship, passion and doing what you want to do. It’s the most fun I have ever had.

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

Schroeder: This is a tough question, especially since I work on a university campus. I look back and view my formal education as a necessary part of life to learn some core basics and learn how to become a good speaker and writer. I look at what impacted my life and formal education has played a very small role. My accomplishments have come from doing what I wanted to do that pushed me, really pushing the edge of marketing, mentorships and work/play experiences.

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

Schroeder: Okay, going to date myself here. I remember seeing A Wonderful Life several times and realized two things: I don’t want to be the hated banker guy and I do want to feel like I was important or loved enough to be missed. I also wanted to care about people. Second movie was Dead Poets Society. I wanted to live carpe diem…to seize every day. I did not want to have a meaningless professional career. I did not want a job. I did not want to settle or conform. I did not want to do what other people wanted me to do. I did not want to live through other people expectations. The third movie was Wall Street. I both wanted and did not want to be Charlie Sheen. I wanted success to come from hard work but not from cheating. I never wanted to compromise my integrity or ethics. Maybe walk up to that line but not cross it. The second thing, I knew I was going to be involved in growing or running a big company someday. I did not want to be Gordon Gecko. I did not want to be that guy that ruined people’s lives for money. Maybe that’s why still today, I carry a slight disdain for some venture capitalists. I encourage all the founders I mentor to bootstrap and eat top ramen so as to preserve their equity for as long as possible so that they can maintain control of their companies should they ever have to take on investors.

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

Schroeder: Tough question. What do I say to sound pithy here? As I look back to the books I read in my formative years, I think of Papillion, The Outsiders, Catch-22, The Godfather and a few others. I think the one book that impacted me with its realism and symbolism was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. If you have read this book or seen the movie, you are not supposed to like Randle Patrick McMurphy. But the more I read the book, I saw Randle as one of the few sane people in the book. My takeaway from the book relating to business was life is crazy, don’t try and completely predict it. Whatever your situation, make the best of it and change it if you can. And don’t ever conform in your beliefs or who you are…no one really cares anyway especially in business. And if you can befriend people on your journey, do so. They could be the part of your professional life that matters most. I don’t really remember, in a fond way, all the billions of dollars of products or services I helped sell in my career. I do remember the people, good or slightly crazy.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

His website link

Lavin Entrepreneurship Center link

Fail Fast or Win Big Amazon link

TEDx Encinitas video link

StartUp Circle video link

LinkedIn link

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greg McKeown: An interview by Bob Morris

McKeown, GregGreg McKeown is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His writing has appeared or been covered by Fast Company, Fortune, HuffPost, Politico,Inc. Magazine and Harvard Business Review. He has also been interviewed on numerous television and radio shows including NPR and NBC. McKeown is the CEO of THIS, Inc. where his clients include Adobe, Apple, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Pixar,, Symantec, Twitter, VMware and Yahoo!.

Greg is an accomplished public speaker. He has spoken to hundreds of audiences around the world including in Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, England, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Highlights include speaking at SXSW, interviewing Al Gore at the Annual Conference of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland and receiving a personal invitation from Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, to speak to his Annual Innovation Conference.

In 2012 Greg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Originally from London, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and their four children. He graduated with an MBA from Stanford University.

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Greg.

* * *

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.

McKeown: It happened years ago, one day after our precious daughter was born, healthy and happy at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. What should have been one of most serene days of my life was filled with tension. Even as my beautiful new baby lay in my wife’s tired arms, I was on the phone and on email with work, and I was feeling pressure to go to a client meeting.

My colleague had written, “Friday between 1-2 would be a bad time to have a baby because I need you to come be at this meeting with X.” It was now Friday and though I was pretty certain (or at least I hoped) the email had been written jest, I still felt pressure to attend.

Instinctively, I knew what to do. It was clearly a time to be there for my wife and newborn child. So when asked whether I planned to attend the meeting, I said with all the conviction I could muster…


To my shame, while my wife lay in the hospital with our hours-old baby, I went to the meeting. Afterward, my colleague said, “The client will respect you for making the decision to be here.” But the look on the clients’ faces did not evince respect. Instead, they mirrored how I felt. What was I doing there?! I had said “yes” simply to please, and in doing so disrespected my family, my integrity, and even the client relationship.

As it turned out, exactly nothing came of the client meeting. But even if it had, surely I would have made a fool’s bargain. In trying to keep everyone happy I had pleased no one and sacrificed what mattered most. On reflection I discovered this important lesson: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

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

McKeown: My undergraduate was in journalism which is one of the only majors that teaches you how to ask the right questions. Almost all formal education teaches you how to find the right answer. That’s good as far as it goes. But to ask the right question is a higher and more valuable skill.

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

McKeown: I love the film Gandhi. He is an Essentialist and the film captures this. With singleness of purpose—to achieve independence for the Indian people—he eliminated everything else from his life.

He called the process, “Reducing himself to zero.” He dressed in his own homespun cloth (khadi) and inspired his followers to do the same. He spent three years not reading any newspapers because he found that their contents added only nonessential confusion to his life. He spent 35 years experimenting with simplifying his diet. He spent a day each week without speaking. It would be an understatement to see he eschewed consumerism: when he died he owned less than ten items. He intentionally never held a political position of any kind and yet became, officially within India, the Father of the Nation.

And his contribution extended well beyond India. As General George C. Marshall, the American Secretary of State said on the occasion of Gandhi’s passing, “Mahatma Gandhi had become the spokesman for the conscience of mankind, a man who made humility and simple truth more powerful than empires.” And Albert Einstein added, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” It is impossible to argue with the statement that Gandhi lived a life that really mattered or that his ability to focus on what was essential and eschew the nonessential was critical to his success.

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

McKeown: Can I cheat and point to an essay rather than a book? It was written by Tennessee Williams and was first published in The New York Times and tells the story of his experience following the release of his widely acclaimed play The Glass Menagerie. The piece is called, and contains his thesis in the title, “The Catastrophe of Success.” He describes how his life changed after the success of the play and how he became distracted from the essentials that led to his success in the first place.

For more than 15 years I have been obsessed with a single question: “Why do otherwise capable people and teams not breakthrough to the next level?” The answer, as Williams beautifully captures, is success. It’s a counterintuitive answer: one that is hidden in plain sight. Success can become a catalyst for failure if it leads to what Jim Collins called “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” The key is to become successful at success. The antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less, but better.

* * *

To read the complete interview, please click here.

Greg cordially invites you to check out the resources at his website and LinkedIn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michael Schrage: An interview by Bob Morris

SchrageMichael Schrage is a Research Fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business and a Visiting Fellow at Imperial College’s Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He examines the various roles of models, prototypes, and simulations as collaborative media for innovation risk management. He has served as an advisor on innovation issues and investments to major firms, including Mars, Procter & Gamble, Google, Intel, BT, Siemens, NASDAQ, IBM, and Alcoa. In addition, Michael has advised segments of the national security community on cyberconflict and cybersecurity issues. He has presented workshops on design experimentation and innovation risk for businesses, organizations, and executive education programs worldwide. Along with running summer workshops on future technologies for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, he has served on the technical advisory committee of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Schrage helped launch a series of workshops sponsored by the Department of Defense on federal complex systems procurement. In 2007, he served as a judge for the Industrial Designers Society of America’s global International Design Excellence Awards.

Michael authored the lead chapter on governance in complex systems acquisition in Organizing for a Complex World (CSIS 2009). He has been a contributor to such prestigious publications as the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, strategy+business, IEEE Software, and the Design Management Journal. In his best-selling book, Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, published by Harvard Business School Press (2000), Schrage explores the culture, economics, and future of prototyping. His next book, Getting Beyond Ideas was published by Wiley (2010). His latest book, The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas, was published by MIT Press (2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of Michael.

* * *

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

Schrage: Certainly, my parents. But since adolescence and university, I would unhesitatingly say my friends and, of course, my wife. My friends and I take friendship seriously and we don’t indulge each other’s weaknesses even as we respect that no one is or should be without flaws. I like and admire my friends – and my wife – and they all give me superb perspective on what it means to try to be a good person. There’s a wonderful conversation to be had about “satisficing” and “optimizing” in this context but this isn’t the place.

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

Schrage: These are more awkward than difficult questions because – of course – that’s not the “unit of analysis” I would use. Certainly, my time as a Washington Post journalist/columnist had an enormous impact on me. I was in my early 20s and dealing with extraordinarily powerful, extraordinarily influential, extraordinarily smart and extraordinarily competitive people in a challenging environment. But the same could be said about my fellowship at MIT’s Media Lab back when Nicholas Negroponte was running it. I’ve always – always! – made a serious effort to learn form my professional interactions. Best case, I learned from the very best about what made them “effective” and what make them tick. At worst, I gained greater insight into myself and my limitations. I became much more sensitive to the reality that great intelligence, great influence and great competence did not necessarily correlate with good character – and vice versa.

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.

Schrage: Yes. I was collaborating with my best friend to design and build a really path-breaking new software back in the 1980s. I slept on his couch and we worked together for a fortnight but nothing was coming out of us but frustration and bad arguments. Here we were – two really smart guys who liked and trusted each other and were committed to doing something great – but we were getting nowhere. This made no sense to us and we were both getting depressed.

Rob finally said, “Look, I know a guy – he’s a bit of a nut – but he’s come up with an interesting technology and approach to getting people to work together. We should see him.” I skeptically responded, “What is he? A therapist? We’re going into couples therapy now…?”

But Rob said it wasn’t like that and so we went off to Bernie’s. Long story short: Bernie had hooked up a Mac to a Limelight projector and simply facilitated a design discussion between Rob and myself. As we talked, our conversation was made visible on a large screen. We began talking to each other through the screen; that is, the focus of or attention and communication was the shared space of our screen-based conversation. We began to move the words and phrases and then pictures and graphs. To use Bernie’s phrase, “We could see ourselves being heard….” This meeting directly led to our design document and a real breakthrough in mutual understanding and awareness. I “got” it.

This simple computer-augmented conversation had a huge impact. It was, forgive me, transformative and led directly to my first book about collaboration. I am fascinated, struck, and compelled by how technology can amplify and augment who we are and what we can do not just for ourselves but with each other. This has been central to my academic research and advisory work. I had vaguely appreciated and understood that before the conversation with Bernie but that episode crystalized/galvanized and every other kind of ‘ized’ that into an epiphany.

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

Schrage: Invaluable is a tricky word. Honestly, only three or four formal classes (and teachers) were truly ‘invaluable’ in my conceptual and/or intellectual development. My classes with Doanld Michie on AI; a couple of “history of economic thought” seminars and workshops. A matrix algebra class.

There are only a handful of formal educational experiences I can or would point to as being integral to my professional development and effectiveness. That said, being in those environments – having opportunities for informal exchanges, projects, mentorship, apprenticeship, etc. – was imperative to success. Bluntly, most formal learning mechanisms didn’t fit with my personality, curiosity and aspirations. Fortunately – or unfortunately – I was clever enough to always do “well.” But doing “well” and learning lots aren’t the same thing. I was genuinely interested not just in learning but in understanding the fundamentals and most of the subjects, courses and teachers I had in formal environments simply were unwilling or unable to provide that.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete article.

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

MIT Faculty page link

The Innovator’s Hypothesis/MIT Press link

Amazon link

Amazon link to Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?

YouTube videos link

Big Think videos link

Sunday, March 15, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caroline L. Arnold: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

ArnoldCaroline Arnold has been a technology leader on Wall Street for more than a decade, managing some of the financial world’s largest software development teams and leading some of the industry’s most visible and complex initiatives. A dynamic and engaging speaker, she has appeared before groups as large as 5,000 people. Caroline is a recipient of the Wall Street & Technology Award for Innovation for building the auction system for the Google IPO, and her name appears on technology patents pending. Caroline serves as a Managing Director at a leading Wall Street investment bank. Caroline graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in English Literature, and lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Her book, Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently, was published by Viking Adult (January 2014) and is now available in a paperbound edition, published by Penguin Press December 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Caroline.

* * *

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

Arnold: I’ve been influenced by many people in important ways, but my daughter Helen has had the greatest influence on me. Watching another human being develop, and putting that person’s well being first, has been a great learning experience for me and has expanded my view of life and changed my personal values.

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

Arnold: My father, who always wanted me to be a writer, and Guy Chiarello, who by example and encouragement got me to take the long view of my career. While we were at Morgan Stanley, Guy trusted me with amazing opportunities.

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.

Arnold: For a few years I was a programmer, working strictly on a consulting basis because I felt it gave me more freedom and at some level I felt unready to say, “this is it, this is what I am doing for the next five years.” Giving up consulting to work on Wall Street was a big decision, but I knew it was the right one when one day I realized how much I was looking forward to the next five years advancing my career in one place.

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

Arnold: My education at the University of California at Berkeley gave me a great classical education, exposed me to great works and great thinkers, and taught me critical thinking skills that I apply today both in writing and in Technology. I majored in English Literature, but I also had concentrations in Economics, Philosophy, and Drama. These disciplines may seem far from computer programming, but logic, problem-solving, connecting disparate pieces of information, and creativity are all part of good technology solutions.

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

Arnold: It took me awhile to discover that the greatest pleasure in work is accomplishing something as part of a team, rather than entirely on your own. My first years as a programmer I had my own consulting practice, and I designed and implemented solutions either on my own or with one partner. When I gave up my practice to work on Wall Street, my orientation was towards solving everything myself, being entirely accountable. Within the first year I was given a team to manage and I managed them as an extension of myself, rather than seeing my role as enabling and energizing the team. Once I realized that success lay in empowering the team and investing in each person’s growth, I began to grow not just as a technologist, but as a human being.

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

Arnold: Hmmn, I love movies but am having a hard time thinking about one with business principles that I endorse. I guess I could say that Broadcast News shows the power and limitations of pure professional passion to meet the challenges of a changing industry.

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

Arnold: I learned a lot from reading Adam M. Grant’s Give and Take, which I found a refreshing read on how to thrive in competitive environments while enabling and empowering others–an intelligent take on how good guys can finish first. So much of what gets written and quoted is about winning the rat race while Prof. Grant’s book assess the broader stakes in professional behavior.

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.”

Arnold: Love the quote and believe in the principle. The leader’s job is to inspire passion and performance in others, to work in service of the team’s success.

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.”

Arnold: Well, while I think it’s true that the truly transforming idea may be one that is so alien that others don’t seize on it (i.e., steal it), plenty of good ideas are recognized immediately and promoted by others as their own. But I would still advise not worrying about those who will steal your ideas, because you need to share ideas in order to advance them.

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

Arnold: True, and the time required to go from dangerous idea to cliché is shrinking rapidly as technology renders iteration and adoption ever faster.

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….’”

Arnold: Great discoveries and ideas are often born of observing what one perceives to be an anomaly.

Morris: From Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Arnold: Yes, executing a vision is the entire ballgame. I have known many of vision who simply couldn’t get from whiteboard to implementation.

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

Arnold: The wisdom and challenge of this is timeless, and I’m going to consciously think about it more often. How often do we refactor processes that we should just kill? How often do we feel productive doing something that is really marginal to productivity…like answering every email immediately?

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?

Arnold: I don’t think this is either/or. A great leader making great decisions can change the fortunes of any initiative, as can the collective wisdom of a team. Ideally, you have both – a visionary leader and a smart team empowered to question the leader and advocate direction. I think the “great man” theory has a lot to do with the cult around Steve Jobs, but Steve Jobs was a singular person of fierce passion and conviction who was an business ascetic of sorts, unwilling to compromise, willing personally sacrifice. That he built a great company is undeniable, and if he left behind a great team, it will survive him. Jobs is so unusual, thought, I think that people get into trouble who try to emulate him. Leadership is personal, although lessons from others can, of course, be understood.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

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

Her website link

Twitter link

Link to video of her presentation at Microsoft headquarters

Facebook link

Sunday, March 1, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dick and Emily Axelrod: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

AxelrodsDick and Emily Axelrod come from a long line of entrepreneurs. So it was no surprise when in 1981 Dick left General Foods to form The Axelrod Group. At the time Emily was studying to get her second masters degree, in Social Work.

At the same time as Dick was leaving General Foods, his friend and colleague Jim Shonk landed a huge contract with Ford and needed help. This kickstart from Jim was just what the fledgling Axelrod Group needed to get started. Emily in the meantime was honing her skills as a family therapist. Periodically, Emily would work with Dick to conduct communication skills training programs.

During the early 1990’s, Dick was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the approach most consulting firms were using to bring about organizational change. You know the process: it consists of sponsor groups, steering teams, and project groups, all organized to create the change. When these groups finished their work, they then faced the arduous task of “selling” their solution to the organization. This need to sell the solution brought many a change process to its knees.

Out of this dissatisfaction, Dick and Emily developed the Conference Model®–a process for involving the “whole system” in creating organizational change. Every new idea needs someone who is willing to try something that is unproven, and Ken Goldstien, who at the time was Director of Organization Development at R.R. Donnelley and Sons, was willing to give this untested idea a chance when no one else would. Because of the early success at R.R. Donnelley, companies like Boeing, British Airways, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, INOVA Health System, Weyerhauser, and the Canadian and UK health systems were able to benefit.

At the height of this innovation, Dick had triple bypass surgery, and that is when Emily jumped into The Axelrod Group with both feet. Along the way, colleagues have joined the Axelrod team, and this worldwide network provides a range of skills that enrich The Axelrod Group’s offerings.

Dick wrote Terms of Engagement: New Ways of Leading and Changing Organizations, published by Berrett-Koehler (May 2000) with a paperbound edition published in 2010. He and Emily then co-authored Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done, also published by Berrett-Koehler (August 2014).

Here is an excerpt from my interview of the Axelsons.

* * *

Before discussing Terms of Engagement and then Let’s Stop Meeting Like This, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Dick: This is a hard question. I’ve had many professional teachers from whom I’ve learned a lot about people and change, but as I reflect on this I believe the roots of who I am took place with my father.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from my dad that I carry with me today.

o Do what you love: My father manufactured model airplanes. He took his hobby and made it into a successful business. His work was an extension of who he was.

o Work is dignified: No matter what anyone does, their work should be treated with respect.

o Treat everyone with respect: This is a companion to work is dignified. Both the work and the person doing the work deserve respect.

o Stand up for what you believe: My father single-handedly stopped a race riot by saying no to a group of organizers who came to our house to enlist his support for creating the riot.

o Take care of your family: My father’s will had provisions for the care of his mother-in-law, something he didn’t have to do.

o It’s possible to be a friendly competitor—this is an abundant world where everyone can make a living: My dad had personal relationships with his biggest competitors. In fact his biggest competitor came to Emily’s and my wedding.

o Honesty: Be ethical and honest in all your personal and business relationships.

o It pays to be ignorant: Today it might be stated as, “Have an inquiring mindset.” What he meant was you don’t have to have all the answers, and you can learn a lot by listening to others.

o Personal responsibility: When I was a teenager, my dad told me that if I got a girl pregnant he would not support my family. That was his way of saying that you have to take personal responsibility for what you do.

o Support your friends: If you were my dad’s friend, he would be there for you no matter what. If a widow in Toledo, Ohio needed help, our whole family took a trip to Toledo. If a friend was sick or dying, Dad would drop what he was doing to be with them. If a friend were out of work, he would find a job for him in his company or help that person make connections so they could find work.

o Stick-to-it-iveness: My father spent ten years developing a product called monokote that revolutionized how people covered and painted airplanes. Instead of covering your airplane with paper and then applying many coats of “dope” to get a shiny finish, with monokote (a mylar material) and a heat gun you could put a finish on your plane in a matter of minutes instead of hours. You also didn’t smell up the house, which my mother hated. Dad also invented a heat gun to apply the product because none existed in the market place. There is another lesson here, which is to find out the problems customers have when they use your products and then invent new ways to help them resolve those problems. In this case, time and disgruntled family members who didn’t like the house smelling like a paint factory.

Emily: Besides my parents, one of the first teachers to mention human relations to me was a ninth-grade English teacher: Ms. Fanny Burnett. Every week we had a human relations lesson. This stuck with me through the years and was reinforced through the youth group advisors at church, volunteers in the girl scouts, and other teachers along the way. Another important teacher was Sandra Hammond who is a therapist and Buddhist teacher with whom I studied for 10 years learning her Character Work method and being in a study group with her. She combined the study of Buddhism and family therapy. Also, Dick Axelrod probably has been the greatest influence. We have worked and grown together for 35 years. He is completely honest with me and I trust his feedback.

The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Emily: At first, my family, then the girl scouts as they taught me I could do anything I worked hard to do and really wanted. A chemistry teacher in high school turned me on to science. The women’s college I attended in NC added to that with leadership training and confidence building. Dick Axelrod, Peter Block, Marv Weisbord, Kathy Dannemiller, Peter Koestenbaum, Barbara Bunker, Billie Alban, and my own curiosity built on this foundation.

Dick: Richard Heckler. Years ago Emily and I studied body therapy for two years in a group of people with Richard. This group was so strong that it stayed together for many years following the completion of our formal studies. In this group I learned the connection between mind and body, and how what is happening with the body is as important as what is happening with the mind and emotions. While we were there to learn the mechanics of doing body therapy—how to help people access different thoughts and emotions through touch—I also learned a more important lesson: the power of presence. By this I mean what it means to be with another person so they know they have your undivided attention. Can you see the world through their eyes? Can you experience what they might be experience? Can you attend to their breathing out and breathing in, the rush of color to their face, the nervous movement of their feet? Can you absorb this information in a non-judgmental way and just be with the person? This ability to be with another person in a non-judgmental way, recognizing they are doing the very best they can is something I use everyday whether I’m consulting to individuals, teams, or organizations.

I learned that paying attention is an act of leadership. What and how you pay attention matters.

The other big lesson was that you access different information through the body. One time we were working with a group of about 100 people using our Conference Model® process to redesign the organization. There were three different alternatives that people were trying to evaluate. We had the participants create living organization charts. What we did was outline the organization charts on the floor and then had people stand in the various configurations to look at who they were working with and who they needed to work with. We did this for each configuration and then asked folks to identify the chart where they felt most comfortable. I remember one person who was in a matrix standing there with her arms outstretched caught between two organizations, talking about how painful it was to be in this place in the organization. In actuality the group developed a fourth option as a result of their discussion. Identifying the pain and actually trying out what it might be like to be in the various organizational structures could not occur through talking; people had to experience it. I doubt if the group would have ever come up with the fourth option had they not experienced it.

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

Dick: I was a line manager for Illinois Bell, in a fast-track management development program, responsible for repair service for one part of Chicago. My group was the pilot organization development group for the company. The consultants did basic team-building with us and as a result, our group rose to be 1st or 2nd in every measurable category. The thing I felt proudest about was that every day we put 85 trucks on the street and we went a year without a vehicle accident. We didn’t do any special safety training. All we did was change the relationship between the telephone workers and their supervisors.

Shortly afterwards, the company started an internal organization development consulting group and I volunteered to be part of that group. I was also getting my MBA at the University of Chicago and decided to take up Organization Behavior as my area of concentration. From Illinois Bell I went to General Foods and became the OD manager for Chicago where I worked on implementing self-directed work teams. In 1981 I left General Foods to start the Axelrod Group.

Had my group at Illinois Bell not been chosen as the pilot group, my career as it is today may not have happened.

Parallel to this story is the decision not to join my father’s business. All my life I was groomed as the heir apparent. In fact, working at Illinois Bell was part of my father’s management training program for me. He wanted me to go out and work for big companies and learn how they did things so that when I took over his company, I could bring that learning to the world of model airplane manufacturing.

I took seriously my father’s admonition to do what I loved, and when I found out that organization development consulting is what I love, he never had a problem with that. Even though it meant I would not take over the business he built.

Emily: I don’t recall an epiphany as I have always looked for better ways of doing things no matter what we were doing, from parenting to ways of working. If there was a turning point, it was Dick’s heart surgery. I then had to take over the business side of our company as I was in charge. That a commitment to learning and working more much more determination.

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

Emily: My formal education gave me a wonderful foundation. My social work and family systems work certainly helped in understanding systems and the communication needed to have a successfully functioning system. The concept of emotional safety in order for people to be honest and learning how to language things positively all help. The two things I believe in strongly are learning and choice. This work is about both of these.

Dick: I was lucky enough to go to the University of Chicago on the GI bill. Much of what I learned at the UofC is now obsolete. But what is not obsolete is that at the University of Chicago I learned how to learn. I learned how to think critically about ideas and not to accept that just because someone wrote a book it was true. What was great about a UofC education was that in every course you didn’t just have one text, you had several, and most of the time the authors espoused different theories. It is this learning how to learn that I think has allowed me to continue to stay relevant in our fast-changing world.

At our graduation, in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, our commencement speaker said, “You think you are getting your business degree today that will allow you to become leaders in the world of business and that you will do. But UofC graduates do more than that, they teach.” He went on to say, “I predict that most of you will at some point in your career teach either informally in your work setting or formally at schools and universities.”

One of the biggest thrills of my life has been to teach Crisis Leadership at the University of Chicago.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Dick and Emily cordially invite you to check out the resources at this website.






Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marcia Reynolds: Part 1 of a second interview by Bob Morris

ReynoldsDr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC, works with clients around the world who seek to develop effective leaders. She understands organizational cultures, what blocks communication and innovation, and what is needed to bring people together for better results. She has coached leaders, delivered leadership, coaching and emotional intelligence programs, and spoken at conferences for clients in 34 countries. She has also presented at many universities including Harvard Kennedy School and Cornell University,

Prior to starting her own business, Marcia’s greatest success came as a result of designing the employee development program for a semiconductor manufacturing company facing bankruptcy. Within three years, the company turned around and became the #1 stock market success in the United States when they went public in 1993.

Excerpts from her books Outsmart Your Brain, Wander Woman, and her latest, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs have appeared in many places including Harvard Management Review,,, Psychology Today, and The Wall Street Journal and she has appeared on ABC World News.

Marcia’s doctoral degree is in organizational psychology with a research emphasis on the challenges and needs of high-achievers. She also holds two masters degrees in education and communications.

Here is a brief excerpt from Part 1 of my second interview of Marcia. To read all of Part 1, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Discomfort Zone, a few general questions. First, to what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Reynolds: I am grateful for the combination of significant life experiences with my education. My degrees have given me a deeper understanding of the value of my experiences, including the failures, disappointments, and choices that could have destroyed my life at a young age. In addition to better understanding human behavior, including my own, my education gives me the gifts of analysis and compassion. The combination of street and formally acquired knowledge helped me to be a good coach and teacher for my clients. Now with years of experience in helping leaders improve their emotional intelligence and communication skills, I was able to write the book, The Discomfort Zone, bringing all that I know together to help people have powerful conversations that make a difference in each other’s lives.

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.”

Reynolds: There is nothing more satisfying than discovering solutions to our most difficult problems on our own. Yet when we are stuck seeing things in one way, it is very difficult to see outside of our boxes. Leaders who master the skills of helping others think through their blind spots, attachments, and resistance are not only effective, they are the most remembered and revered.

In the book, Synchronicity, Joseph Jaworski said the most successful leaders are those who participate in helping others create new realities. The leader engages in conversations that bring to light a person’s filters and frames. When the factors that frame the meaning of a situation are revealed, the view of what is true changes and becomes clear.

Think about it. If I were to ask you to recall someone who changed your life by something they said, who comes to mind? My guess is that they said something that challenged you to be more and do more, more than you thought you could on your own. In response, you might not have jumped for joy in the moment. But you always remember the leader who saw you, heard you, and helped you to see yourself and the world in a bigger way.

These are Discomfort Zone conversations, where new ideas are birthed. The moment might be uncomfortable, but in this moment, profound and lasting learning happens. And the person realizes that in the end, they discovered the solutions themselves.

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….’”

Reynolds: I do think curiosity is underrated, that curiosity is the predecessor of great discoveries whether we are learning about the world or about something in ourselves. In Discomfort Zone conversations, the leader listens with curiosity, listening from a “that’s odd” or “tell me more” perspective. Then when they reflect back what they hear, the person could have an epiphany but they are just as likely to respond, “Of course, I should have recognized this long ago” which could lead to just as important of a shift as the epiphany. Curiosity over what is odd, doesn’t make sense, or irregular is a great start to new discoveries.

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

Reynolds: Drucker is correct but when we have our heads down, focused on our work, we rarely have the perspective or courage to step back and see that persistence could be the enemy of progress. According to Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, it is also not our habit to slow down and consider all the possibilities in front of us. That is why having a coach or a leader trained in using a coaching approach can help us assess what we are doing where we won’t or can’t do this for ourselves. The leaders who know how to asks the questions—with curiosity, not negative judgment—that make us stop and question ourselves help us to be more effective. In the end, they help us grow our mental capacity as well. The best leaders are the ones who develop people’s minds as well as their skills.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

To read my first interview of Marcia, please click here.

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

Her website

To go directly to download resources and read about The Discomfort Zone, please click here.

You can rate your ability to deal with discomfort by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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