First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

The Good Jobs Strategy: A book review by Bob Morris

Good JobsThe Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs & Boost Profits
Zeynep Ton
New Harvest/Amazon Publishing and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014)

The best strategy to achieve business success? It’s really so simple…and, yes, so difficult

Many years ago, Southwest Airlines’ then chairman and CEO, Herb Keller, was asked to explain why Southwest is the most profitable of the ten largest airlines and has a cap value greater than the other nine airlines combined. He replied, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders.” I was reminded of that statement as I began to read this book. Although Zeynep Ton focuses much of her attention on four companies (Costco, Mercadona, QuikTrip, and Trader Vic’s), she explains how others such as Southwest and Zara have also used a good jobs strategy to achieve and then sustain high profitability while continuing to be ranked each year among companies that are the most highly admired and the next to work for. According to Ton, more than ten years research leaves no doubt about this reality: “Great performance, whether in customer service or the quality of manufacturing, requires operational excellence. Operational excellence requires a great operational design and great people to carry it out. Neither can make up for the lack of the other.”

However different companies in service industries may be in most respects, Ton has identified what those among them that have a good jobs strategy share in common. She calls it the “Virtuous Cycle of Retailing” which has four interdependent, mutually supportive components: High Labor Budgets > Good Quality and Quantity of Labor > Good Operational Execution > High Store Sales and Profits > High Labor Budgets > etc. It is important to note that, for those who follow the good jobs strategy, labor costs are in fact an [begin italics] investment [end investment] that — as the cycle suggests — results in hiring better people who, in turn, run more efficient and more productive operations that, in turn, generate high store sales and profits, and that makes hiring better people not only an investment but a very smart investment.

Consider Walmart and Costco. The Walmart mantra is something like this: “We need to run a really efficient operation because customers come to us for low prices.” The choice is clear: Improving jobs would mean either that Walmart would make less money or that customers would have to pay more. Wrong. “The assumed trade-off between low prices and good jobs is a fallacy. There is, in fact, a good jobs strategy, even in low-cost retail, that combines high investment in employees with a set of operational decisions that deliver value to employees, customers, and investors.” Over a ten-year period, Costco’s index share price tripled Walmart’s.

Ton shares the nine principles of Mercadona’s Total Quality Model (TQM) to which the supermarket chain has been committed since 1993 when then president and CEO, Juan Roig, pressed for their adoption: Everyone is reliable, anything that does not provide value to customers is not done, every company is an assembly line, have a scientific mind, do it right the first time — zero defects, everything can be improved, the company has to prescribe and endorse only what is best, abide the law, and convince rather than conquer. Mercadona’s employees have the best benefits in the industry as do QuikTrip’s: “All receive a range of benefits, including a Christmas bonus, tuition reimbursement, free fountain drinks and coffee when on duty, and an employee assistance program to help with personal problems. All employees can benefit from the QuickTrip Cares Employee Disaster Fund, dedicated to helping employees who are affected by natural disasters or life-altering energies such as a house fire, an accident, or a sudden illness in the family.”

How do employees respond to a good jobs strategy? Here are two incidents that occurred at a Trader Vic’s store. Ready to check out, a customer realized that she had left her wallet home. The cashier paid and then said, “Just pay me back next time you’re here.” At another store, a customer was a dollar short and about to remove an item when the cashier reached into his pocket for the dollar. “Pay it forward and have a great day.”

Zeynep Ton offers an abundance of real-world support for the good jobs strategy, one that can be of substantial value to everyone involved, not only in services industries but in all organizations with a human community of stakeholders. “The good job strategy is difficult, but it is possible, profitable, and very much worth the effort.” My own opinion is that now and in years to come, this strategy — if executed properly — can achieve a decisive competitive advantage. Everything needed to make that happen is in this book.

Friday, January 17, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pat Lencioni’s Latest Point of View: “The Lost Art of Simplicity”

LencioniHere is a brief excerpt from Pat Lencioni‘s latest Point of View. To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.

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This is going to be a difficult POV to write, because making a case for the power of simplicity is no easy task. And yet, more than ever, I’m convinced that simplicity is the scarcest commodity among leaders, and probably the most important. Here are some good quotes that attest to this on a theoretical level.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Albert Einstein believed that “most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone.”

And yet, in my consulting to organizations of all kinds, from high tech companies to churches to banks, I find that there is a natural tendency among managing leaders to add unnecessary complexity to situations, problems, descriptions and solutions. As a result, plans do not come to fruition, employees get confused, customers become disappointed and leaders are left discouraged.

So why do leaders do this? Why would they complicate their worlds and create problems for themselves and their organizations?

First, I have to believe that they don’t know that they’re doing it. Based on my experience, executives generally don’t like to make their own lives more difficult. But since that is exactly what they’re doing, there must be a powerful underlying cause. I’m guessing it has to do with pride, and usually the intellectual kind.

Think about it this way. When someone acquires a great deal of knowledge through education, either formally at a university or by reading voraciously about a given subject, it is natural that they’ll want to employ that knowledge. In fact, they’ll probably want to use it even if it’s not required, or for that matter, helpful. Otherwise, they’ll have to admit that all the time, effort and money they put into learning may have been something of a waste.

An example from outside the world of business might be helpful here. Consider a dietician who studies nutrition and exercise physiology for a number of years in school. People hire her to help them lose weight and get fit. Few people in her situation will be satisfied simply telling her clients to eat smaller portions, exercise every day, and avoid one or two particularly harmful foods. While that would be a more understandable, reliable and actionable solution than a complex combination of vitamins, supplements, pilates classes and underwater yoga, the latter seems to be a more common prescription if the magazine covers I see at the grocery store are any indication.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Patrick Lencioni is founder and president of The Table Group, Inc., a specialized management-consulting firm focused on organizational health. He has been described by The One-Minute Manager’s Ken Blanchard as “fast defining the next generation of leadership thinkers.” His passion for organizations and teams is reflected in his writing, speaking, and consulting. Lencioni is the author of nine best-selling books with nearly three million copies sold. After several years in print, his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team continues to be a fixture on national best-seller lists. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, became an instant best-seller in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and BusinessWeek. His later works include Getting Naked (2008) and The Advantage (2012).

The Wall Street Journal has named Lencioni one of the most in-demand business speakers. And he has been a keynote speaker on the same ticket with George Bush Sr., Jack Welch, Rudy Guiliani, and General Colin Powell. Pat’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as BusinessWeek, Fast Company, INC Magazine, USA Today, Fortune, Drucker Foundation’ Leader to Leader, and Harvard Business Review.

As a consultant and speaker, he has worked with thousands of senior executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations and professional sports teams to universities and nonprofits, including Southwest Airlines, Barnes & Noble, General Mills, Newell Rubbermaid, SAP, Washington Mutual, and the US Military Academy at West Point, Bain & Company, Oracle Corporation, Sybase, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America from 2000-2003. Pat lives in the Bay Area with his wife Laura and four boys.

Monday, October 28, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wisdom of Titans: A book review by Bob Morris

Wisdom TitansThe Wisdom of Titans: Secrets of Success from Entrepreneurs Who Rose to the Top
William Ferguson
bibliomotion books + media (2013)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison

According to William Ferguson, “After interviewing the eleven titans for this book, and based upon my knowledge of and interaction with many others, I found a blueprint – a recipe of behaviors and attitudes, if you will – that truly makes the difference…The common thread among them is the importance of service. Brands, technology, and processes aside, what makes [their] companies successful are the people who have customer contact, whether the customer is a patron at a dining table or a patient in a clinic.”

Although Herb Kelleher is not one of the eleven, this is precisely what the former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines has in mind when explaining his company’s extraordinary success: “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our shareholders.” Presumably all of the eleven “titans” agree. Ferguson suggests a major value that each personifies, although all great business leaders embrace these values to varying degree:

o J.W. (“Bill”) Marriott: Have fun at work
o William (“Bill”) Sanders: Be a student of the business
o Stuart Miller: Make your mark outside
o Noel Watson: Grow the bottom line — period
o Julia Stewart: Coach, mentor, and teach others
o Robert L. Johnson: Create value out of a vision
o Sam Zell: Be true to yourself
o Richard (“Rick”) Federico: Take a risk to do things differently
o Paul L. Diaz: Measure your progress at every step
o John Robbins: Be mindful of the shadow you cast
o William A. (“Bill”) Jensen: Make a 2 percent difference

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, presented as mini-commentaries within the narrative, also listed to indicate the scope of Ferguson’s coverage.

o Tapping the Wisdom of Titans (Pages 1-4)
o CEO Performance Objectives (15-16)
o An Exemplary Board of Directors (31-32)
o The Right Leader for the Right Time (48)
o The Seamless Transition (63-64)
o The Teaching Leader (76)
o Dealing with Risk and “Pilot Error” (93)
o Evaluating CEO Performance (107-108)
o Cultural Capability (122-123)
o The Strength of Being a Team Leader (130-131)
o Tough Times Call for Strong Leaders (143-143)
o Outwork Your Competitors (162-164)

In the Epilogue, Ferguson observes, “Entrepreneurs who become titans are able to assemble the pieces in such a way that the whole is a unique and value-added creation far greater than the individual parts…The transition from entrepreneur to titan also depends largely upon the culture that is built; in a very real sense it sets an expectation for behaviors and interactions, whether among employees or with customers. To a person, the titans profiled in this book could define their cultures in tangible terms that, not surprisingly, evoke excellence, commitment, integrity, attention to detail, and recognition that success can never be taken for granted.”

It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their respective industry segments. Jim Collins writes about good to great companies. In this volume, William Ferguson examines good to great business leaders, entrepreneurs who became titans. Remember what you learn from them…and apply it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Business: A book review by Bob Morris

Art of BizThe Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants
Raymond T. Yeh with Stephanie H. Yeh
Zero Time Publishing (2014)

Note: Occasionally I re-read a book published years ago simply for the pleasure of spending time again with a dear friend. That is especially true of this book. I envy those who have not as yet read it.

* * *

The Practicalities of Philosophical Convergence

Yeh is one of several business thinkers who have learned a great deal from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. In this volume, he rigorously examines “five strategic arts,” devoting a separate chapter to each of the five, focusing on those organizations and individuals that best illustrate the values which Sun Tzu affirmed more than 2,500 years ago. Here they are: The Art of Possibility (Medtronic, Grameen Bank, and Southwest Airlines), The Art of Timing (Royal Dutch/Shell, Intel, and Southwest Airlines again), The Art of Leverage (Wal-Mart, Dell, and yes, Southwest Airlines again), The Art of Mastery (Singapore, the U.C.L.A. Bruins men’s basketball team, and indeed Southwest Airlines again), and finally, The Art of Leadership (Coach John Wooden of U.C.L.A, Earl Bakken who co-founded Medtronic, and of course, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines). When discussing his primary objective for JetBlue Airlines, CEO David Neeleman replied that he and his crewmembers (not “employees” or even “associates”) were determined to “bring humanity back to air travel.” That is one of Yeh’s key points in this book. He insists that the best organizations “have a soul and they find a way to make a profit consistently, while also serving the community.” That was a lesson which Neeleman learned during his brief association with Southwest Airlines. It is no coincidence that year after year, the companies identified by Fortune magazine as being “The Most Admired” and “Best to Work For” are also the most profitable in their respective industries.

What sets this book apart from so many others which have addressed many of the same issues is the fact that in it Yeh brilliantly correlates and sometimes blends Eastern and Western concepts of business success and personal fulfillment. Not only organizations but each of those within those organizations has a soul and must find (or be provided with) a way to achieve financial success while also serving the community. In essence, the “art of business” is really the art of having standard of living and quality of life in proper balance. The greatest leaders throughout human history have helped others to do so. Hence the importance of having VPV: vision, purpose, and values. A great leader inspires others with a vision and mobilizes them to pursue a shared future (the Art of Possibility); she or he initiates or responds effectively to change, especially to a crisis (the Arts of Timing, Leverage, and Mastery); and he or she can innovate constantly because values-driven leadership has developed and nourished both talent and integrity throughout the entire organization (the Art of Leadership).

According to Yeh, in addition to having a soul which creates meaning for its people, a great organization must also “know where it is going and somehow always seem to flow with the changing world, arriving at its destiny in perfect synchrony. A great organization cleverly leverages everything in its environment, including competitors, to effectively and efficiently utilize its resources. It is also the master of its trade, constantly treading on the leading edge while maintaining effective balance. Finally, a great organization is made of leaders “who help to actualize the organization’s vision by aligning their dreams to it.” Long ago, a 12th century French monk, Bernard of Chartres, (not Isaac Newton) suggested that all of us are able to stand atop the “shoulders of giants.” Today’s great leaders are those upon whose shoulders we and others will be privileged to stand in years to come.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The UnStoppables: A book review by Bob Morris

UnStoppablesThe UnStoppables: Tapping Your Entrepreneurial Power
Bill Schley
John Wiley & Sons (2013)

“We take good care of our people, they take good care of our customers, and our customers take good care of our shareholders.”

Former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, provided the title for this review and Bill Schley fully agrees with him about having an employee-centric organization within which everyone is customer-centric. It is no coincidence that many of the same companies that are annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those that are most profitable with the greatest cap value in their respective industry segments.

The thesis of this book is that the Accelerated Proficiency system creates employee evangelists who are UnStoppable entrepreneurs. What is especially interesting about this system is that it can be successful in any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Moreover, those whom I characterize as “evangelists” can be developed at all levels and in all areas. As I read the first chapter, I was reminded of Jack Welch’s comments during one of GE’s annual meetings when he then served as its chairman and CEO. He responded to this question: Why do you admire small companies so much?

“For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

Presumably Schley would agree with Welch while emphasizing, also, the shared faith these people have in themselves, in each other, and in the organization within which almost all limits on personal growth and professional development are self-imposed. He would also stress the importance of persistence, perhaps even tenacity, citing a distinction made by Eric Jacobsen, a successful entrepreneur: “The difference betweens and everybody else is: the entrepreneurs are simply the ones who step up to the plate; successful entrepreneurs keep swinging.” I would add courage, what Jack Dempsey had in mind when suggesting that “champions get up when they can’t.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Schley’s coverage.

o The Four Steps for Accelerated Proficiency (Page 34)
o Three Master Principles of Accelerated Proficiency (36-38)
o “Fear’s Unwelcome Cousins”: Risks, Failures, and Obstacles (46-52)
o True Team: The Number One Fear Tamer (58-59)
o The Optimizers Versus the Entrepreneurs (73-75)
o Everything You Need to Know about Ideas (80-91)
o The Law of the Laser (100-103)
o The UnStoppable Six (111-115)
o Business Planning: Make the UnStoppable Six Your Template (116-117)
o Your Dominant Selling Idea (124-130)
o The Roots of Small, Super-Powered Teams, and, True Teams (137-141)
o Big, Simple Cultural Symbols (143-145)
o True Teams at Rackspace: The Untold Story (145-148)
o Succeeding with Customers, and, Customer Psychology (152-157)
o What’s Measured Is What Matters: The Net Promoter Score® (158-160)
o The Five Universal Steps to Selling (184-195)

The Accelerated Proficiency system is best explained in context, within the narrative, but I feel comfortable pointing out that (a) almost anyone in almost any organization can develop this proficiency that includes completing a four-step sequence; (b) it is usually triggered by a major crisis, challenge, or opportunity; (c) it can help to achieve almost any objective and, more often than not, it proves to be the decisive factor for success; and (d) it requires mastery of certain “emotional mechanics.” (Be sure to check out Schley’s presentation of the “Emotional Mechanics Crash Course” in Chapter 4.) As he notes, “Accelerated Proficiency provides you with a Skill Set, a Rules Set, and a Power Set. These will enable you to visualize the whole process, get yourself to do it one time on your own, and repeat it at will.”

Better yet, as Bill Schley points out, supervisors can also use the system, within an accelerated time frame, to help direct reports as well as others for whom they are responsible to become Minimally Functionally Qualified (MFQ): to “get in motion, start doing, and effectively teach themselves.” If you are look for a comprehensive, cohesive, and cost-effective way to increase the percentage of workers who are positively and productively engaged in your organization, look no further. Here in a single volume could be, perhaps, all the information and counsel you need to achieve that strategic objective. I urge you to check it out.

Saturday, May 25, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Changers: A book review by Bob Morris

World ChangersWorld Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It
John A. Byrne
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011)

Exemplars of an opportunistic mindset and acceptance of risk and potential failure, as well as independence and control

John A. Byrne is chairman and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media Inc., a digital media startup that is launching a network of websites for the global business community. C-Change currently has two highly successful sites, Poets& and Poets& Little more than two years old, P&Q generates more than one million monthly page views and boasts a book imprint division which published its first title in 2012. World Changers is his first book in ten years since the publication of his collaboration with General Electric Chairman Jack Welch. Straight from the Gut (2003). His other books include the recently published It’s All About Who You Hire, How They Lead…and Other Essential Advice from a Self-Made Leader (2013), co-authored with Mort Mandel, a self-made billionaire and highly successful entrepreneur in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds. Also, Informed Consent (1995), The Whiz Kids (1993), Chainsaw (1999), Odyssey (1987), and The Headhunters (1986).

Years ago during an annual meeting, GE’s then chairman and CEO, Jack Welch, explained his reasons for admiring entrepreneurial companies: “”For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

Byrne observes, “I’ve been flattered to have had General Electric CEO Jack Welch, an intrapreneur of there ever was one, ask me to work closely with him on his memoir – a collaboration that resulted in my spending more than a thousand hours with him. I envy that unique opportunity as well as Byrne’s conversations with 27 entrepreneurs whose 25 companies did indeed “change business as we knew it.”

Two of them co-founded Home Depot (Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus) and another pair (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) co-founded Google. During the conversation with Blank and Marcus, Marcus recalls when they “threw GE out” and purchased their light bulbs from Philips. Welch responded, “Why would you do that to us? We’re friends.” Marcus’ reaction? “He was full of crap. His thing was bottom-line oriented and ours was customer oriented and it just didn’t match. It didn’t work. We bought a few things from him, including refrigerators. But he never got the bulb business back. He didn’t deserve to get it back.”

Byrne provides a brief but remarkably informative introduction to each conversation. However different the entrepreneurs may be in most other respects, all of them “share a set of common behaviors and attitudes. Ernst & Young’s own research identified what it calls the essence of an entrepreneur. It is, if you will, the shared DNA of people who are using their life’s work as an expression of self.” There are three core attributes that every entrepreneur shares: An Opportunity Mind-set, Acceptance of Risk and Potential Failure, and Independence and Control.

“To these three core strands, entrepreneurs bring drive, tenacity, and persistence. They live what they believe, building success on the basis of a strong culture and values. They seek out niches and market gaps. They are the architects of their own passionate and focused vision. While being non-conformist, they also are team players. And they are voracious networkers, building an ecosystem of finance, people, and know-how.”

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a Farmer’s Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now share a few brief quotations from Byrne’s abundant orchard.

John Mackey, Whole Foods Market: “I do think we have a disruptive business model. But we don’t think about it in those ways. We are not a bunch of business school graduates who are trying to come up with a disruptive business model. We are a purpose-driven business, which is attempting to fulfill its mission. (Page 13)

Howard Schultz, Starbucks: “There was no efficiency at Starbucks. We were flying high without instruments. I say that with a smile but we shouldn’t be proud of that. But growth and success cover up a lot of mistakes. It’s hard to look in the rear-view mirror when you’re looking forward all the time.” (59)

Jess Bezos, Amazon: “The balance of power online moves away from the merchant toward the consumer. This is because customers have been information online. Comparison shopping is just a click away.” (67)

Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines: “The business of business is people. In a lot of companies you have to surrender your personality when you show up for work…We never felt that way. We always felt that if you allow people to be themselves at work, they will enjoy what they are doing. They’ll be more productive as a consequence of enjoying it.” (75)

Steve Jobs, Apple: “Picasso had a saying: `Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas. Part of what made the Mackintosh great was the people who were working on it were musicians, poets, artists, historians, zoologists, who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.” (88)

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn: “The old paradigm of climbing up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The un certain, rapidly changing conditions in which h entrepreneurs start companies are what it’s no like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”

Oprah Winfrey, Harpo, Inc.: “How do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? If feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know. The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead.” (159)

Larry Page, Google: “We didn’t start out with a search engine at all. In late 19945, I started collecting the links on the Web, because my adviser [at Stanford’s Graduate School] and I decided that would be a good thing to do. We didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with it, but it seemed like no one was really looking at the links on the Web – which pages link to which pages. So it is a huge graph. I figured I could get a dissertation and do something fun and perhaps practical at the same time, which is really what motivates me.” (199)

Phil Knight, Nike: “In the early days, when we were just a running shoe company and almost all our employees were runners, we understood the consumer very well. There is no shoe school, so where do you recruit people for a company that develops and markets running shoes? The running track. It made sense, and it worked. We and the consumer were one in the same.” (240)

Great stuff can be found within all of the 25 conversations. I feel obliged to point out that Byrne is an active participant, indeed an erudite contributor rather than someone who merely tees up questions to which others respond. I hope this brief commentary of mine makes crystal clear that John Byrne was uniquely well-qualified to conduct interviews of 27 entrepreneurs “who changed business as we knew it.” What they reveal and Byrne’s brilliant analysis of their revelations provide a wealth of information, insights, and wisdom in this single volume, published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (December 2011). These exemplars of entrepreneurism do indeed possess an opportunistic mindset and acceptance of risk and potential failure, as well as independence and control.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trust Edge: A book review by Bob Morris

The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line 
David Horsager
Free Press (2012)

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Presumably all C-level executives agree with David Horsager about the importance of trust within a workplace culture (a) between and among those who labor there and (b) between the given organizations and everyone else who is directly involved with it, notably customers.  Years ago, Warren Buffett observed, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Although all C-level executives may affirm the importance of trust, many (too many) of them spend less than 20 years earning it and less than five minutes ruining it. Lack of trust and respect for a supervisor is probably the reason most often cited by highly-valued employees who leave. It is certainly among the major factors that explain why positive and productive employee engagement in the U.S. workplace is, on average, less than 30%. Much of the material in Horsager’s book can help to increase that percentage.

Now consider this: Many of the companies that are annually ranked on lists of those that are “Best to Work for” and “Most Highly Admired” are also ranked on the lists of those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their respective industries. That is no coincidence. Horsager focuses on a number of such companies that include Amazon, Apple, Harley-Davidson, IBM, IKEA, Southwest Airlines, and Charles Schwab. Their people trust their supervisors, they trust their colleagues, and they trust those for whom they are responsible. Both trust and distrust are contagious. Much of the material in Horsager’s book can help those who lead an organization to establish or strengthen a culture of trust.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o       The High Cost of Suspicion (Pages 21-23)
o       Barriers to Trust to Overcome (34-39)
o       The Oracle of Omaha (55)
o       [Why] Conflict is Inevitable! (63-64)
o       Tips for Effective Listening (80-81)
o       Accountability: How? (116-118)
o       Being a Mentor (139)
o       Commitment, Harley-Davidson Style (151-155)
o       Finding Common Ground: Questions Build Connect (172-174)
o       Six Ways to Motivate Contributors (189)
o       Consistency Builds Habits [Good or Bad] (229-230)
o       Extend Trust to Gain Efficiency and Effectiveness (241-242)
o       Fifteen Tips for Rebuilding an Organization’s Trust (262-263)
o       The Making of a Trusted Online Presence (299-301)
o       An Environment of Trust (310-314)

I commend Horsager on his skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include a pair of sections that conclude the first 15 chapters, “The Trust Edge” and “Ask Yourself…,”  sections that review the chapter’s key points and then pose questions that the reader is encouraged to pose…and then answer. At the conclusion of the 16th and final chapter, he suggests “Five Ways to Sharpen Your Trust Edge.” These sections can facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the material later.

The “pillars of trust” on which Horsager focuses are Clarity, Compassion, Character, Competency, Commitment, Connection, Contribution, and Consistency. Obviously, there are countless other words that could also serve as names but perhaps no other set of eight whose names begin with the same letter. The names are far less importance than are developing and then sustaining those strengths. Almost all of the material in this book can help individuals to achieve two separate but interdependent strategic objectives: to establish or strengthen their own pillars of trust (however named) and then help others to do so, also.

David Horsager agrees with Peter Drucker: If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business. He would then suggest that, if people don’t trust you or what you offer, you don’t have a customer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Values Are Strategic: A book review by Bob Morris

When Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter & Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 Companies
Rick Tocqigny with Andy Butcher and the P&G Alumni Network
FT Press/A Pearson Imprint (2012)

A brilliant examination of the power and impact of core values that can transform individuals as well as organizations

With regard to the title of this book, I presume to suggest that core values always have strategic implications, for better or worse. If those values tolerate and thus condone incivility, for example, they will have a profound, negative impact on an organization’s efforts to achieve its strategic objectives. The reverse is also true. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company offers an excellent case in point. At every opportunity, it not only affirms but demonstrates each day that “we are ladies and gentlemen who are privileged to serve other ladies and gentlemen.” With regard to Southwest Airlines, retired chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, expressed its core values best when observing, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our investors.”

With Andy Butcher, Rick Tocquigny provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel when explaining “how the basic values of Procter & Gamble transformed leadership at Fortune 500 Companies.” As is true of all other outstanding business books, this one is driven by research…but with a clever twist. More than 1,000 P&G alumni and current employees were surveyed. The detailed results are provided in section 9 of the Appendix (Pages 242-252). A total of 36 of the respondents are also quoted extensively within a narrative framework that consists of six Parts. In fact, a separate chapter is devoted to each contributor. The titles of the Parts correctly suggest recurring themes: sustaining industry leadership, applying core values for capability, core values and teamwork, core values drive vision, doing what is right [as well as doing it right], and changing lives.

The book concludes with the last theme and that is eminently proper, given the fact that core values can transform people who embrace them…and those people can then transform an organization, sometimes even a country. As former P&G chairman, president, and CEO, A.G. Lafley, explains in the Foreword, “The stories in this book celebrate the gift we were all given – core values that really work. And they show how robust focus on core values adds great enterprise value and value to your personal life. Core values at work can bring out more engagement, more fulfillment, better work-life balance, and long-term business and financial success for your organization, yourself, and the communities in which h you live and work.”

The book’s subtitle emphasizes leadership and that includes but is by no means limited to occupants of the C-suite. On the contrary, values-driven leadership is urgently needed in any organization, at all levels and in all areas of operation. As Tocquigny and most of the 36 contributors indicate, P&G’s basic values (e.g. honesty, fairness, tradition, trust, work ethic, mutual respect, and integrity) are embedded in its employees as well as those who relocated to other organizations where those same values also have had a beneficial impact. That is, these organizations were transformed by the vales-driven leadership of P&G alumni, regardless of their official title.

Although P&G is one of the largest and most complex companies as are most of the companies by which most of its alumni were later employed, almost all of the material in this book is relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.  Because human beings are involved, no organization is perfect and none ever will be. That said, only human beings can bring core values to life and invest them with profound meaning through their behavior and, especially, in their relationships with others. I want to reiterate what I said earlier: Core values always have strategic implications, for better or worse. What do they say about your organization?

Thursday, May 17, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The CEO’s Role in Talent Management

Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Halley Bock for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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Don’t just tell your employees they’re your most valuable asset — show them. And get your CEO involved in talent management efforts to drive home the message.

Most organizations widely publicize the fact that talent is their most valuable asset — and that’s often true. But when employees see a disconnect between such claims and what actually happens behind closed doors, there are bound to be repercussions in engagement and retention. To avoid this, organizations must show, not tell, their people how they’re valued — and this can start at the top with the CEO.

[Halley offers three specific suggestions. Here’s the first.]

Create a people-first culture. While there are many responsibilities a CEO can delegate, setting and reinforcing the culture isn’t one of them. Herb Kelleher, famed former CEO and co-founder of Southwest Airlines, understood this to a degree that many leaders still struggle to comprehend. By placing utmost importance on defining the culture and ensuring it had everything to do with his employees, he created one of the most successful airlines in history. Kelleher’s motto was, and continues to be, “You have to treat your employees like customers.” By treating them right, he could be assured that they, in turn, would treat the customer right.

Creating a people-first culture has more to it than just coming up with a catchy motto. A CEO must be committed to the employees at the deepest level. This means addressing their needs through increased flexibility in corporate policies, caring for the employee’s family by extending inclusive benefits and investing in their future by prioritizing promoting from within.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Halley Bock is the CEO of Fierce Inc., a leadership development and training company that drives results for businesses by improving workplace communication. She can be reached at her firm.

Friday, May 11, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Allow e-Mail to Control Your Day?

In the writing skills course that we teach at Creative Communication Network, entitled Write Your Way to Success, we discuss how to handle e-Mails.

Most of our participants claim they write e-Mails as more than 85% of the type of writing they do on the job.

Obviously, writing e-Mails is often responding to other e-Mails.

And, the question is, do you control e-Mail, or does e-Mail control you?

Do you remember the Southwest Airlines commercials a few years ago, where a woman dropped a cake because she heard a “bing” on her computer, announcing an e-Mail?  Or the one where the guy jumped over a cube wall to get to his e-Mail?  They were exaggerated events, but not too far from reality.

You likely remember the synopsis of the book that I presented at our First Friday Book Synopsis entitled The Tyranny of e-Mail by John Freeman (Scribner, 2009).  In that book, he presented a strong set of hints for writing and reading e-Mails, including scheduling a time to read e-Mails so that you concentrate on what you read and what you write, and so that you control e-Mail, instead of it controlling you.  If you missed the original presentation, you can find it on

I thought this piece published on February 21, 2012 in the Harvard Business Review blog by Amy Gallo, entitled “Stop Email Overload,” was also provacative in the same sense.  Click here to read the entire article.

Think about some of these principles.  How much more productive would you be if you dictated when and how you went through your e-Mail?  What if you decided how e-Mail fit into your day instead of jumping to check it everytime your computer beeped to tell you something new has arrived?

Let’s talk about it really soon!

Monday, February 27, 2012 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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