First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Women on the home front: Debate over work-life balance continues

Jones_FRONT-1Here is an excerpt from an article written by Bernie D. Jones for From the Square, the official blog of NYU Press, an academic book publisher based one block south of Union Square, NYC. “With a focus on sharing the ideas and opinions of our authors, From the Square also features news, updates, and all things digital from the NYU Press community. We encourage you to join the conversation with us and our authors by commenting on our posts!”

To read the complete article, check out other resources, learn more about NYU Press, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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It has been fifty years since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystiquein 1963—and twenty years since the Family Medical Leave Actwas signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. Thus, the month of February saw several notable events in the world of work-family balance: those two anniversaries, plus the announcement by Marissa Mayer, a mother and the CEO of Yahoo, Inc., of a new ban against employees working from home. This policy change only reinforced the significance of the two anniversaries.

The Feminine Mystique has been credited with spearheading the modern feminist movement that pushed more women to seek highly paid jobs and professional careers, where before they had been forced by traditional conventions to remain at home. Articulating “the problem that had no name,” Friedan explained that highly educated wives were consumed by the drudgery of housework while their skills remained unused.

Yet, the question remained, once women went into the workplace, either because of personal preference or because of economic necessity, how would they manage their responsibilities at home? The answer came twenty years later in the form of unpaid family medical leave that would become available to working parents, men and women who gained up to twelve months unpaid leave for the birth of a child.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Bernie D. Jones is Associate Professor of Law at the Suffolk University Law School and editor of Women Who Opt Out: The Debate over Working Mothers and Work-Family Balance (NYU Press, 2013).

Monday, March 25, 2013 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Listen up, biz leaders: It’s time to rethink everything

Here is an excerpt from article co-authored by Geoff Colvin that appeared in Fortune magazine. To read the complete article, check out other resources, obtain subscription, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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We’re not living in ordinary economic times. Every company needs to determine if its strategy requires an overhaul or just thoughtful tweaks. Here’s how to start.

FORTUNE — Remember when Motorola (MMI) ruled the mobile phone business worldwide? And then Nokia (NOK) did? And then BlackBerry (RIMM) did? And now none of them do? As Fortune headlined a recent BlackBerry article, “What the Hell Happened?”

We all ask the same question about Kodak, monarch of the global photo industry for a century, now bankrupt, while Instagram, a photo-sharing service with a dozen employees, is sold to Facebook (FB) for $1 billion. And while we’re at it, what happened to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)? To Yahoo (YHOO)?

We’re not living in ordinary economic times. The convulsions of the past five years have left many business people asking the most fundamental questions about their companies: Will our strategy work in this environment? What must we change, and what must we not change? Do we need a new business model?

Reconsidering strategy can turn into a miasma that consumes endless time and yields nothing. Yet the process is manageable. One way to think through your strategy in today’s uncertain environment is to answer three basic questions.

[Here is the first.]

1. What is our core?

A finding that’s consistent across cycles is that the best performing companies keep investing in their core no matter how bad things get. Look at what Dupont (DD) did during the Great Depression. Even as profits plunged, the company resolved to keep funding chemical research — its core — no matter what. Among the results: nylon, neoprene, and other products that brought Dupont billions of dollars over the following decades.

In good times, companies often wander into businesses for which they command no special capability. Then, when a downturn hits, those non-core businesses blow up and have to be axed. Pioneer bailed out of the grindingly competitive flat-screen TV business in the recent recession. Home Depot (HD) shut down its Expo chain of home design centers. Google (GOOG) closed non-core businesses that sold advertising on radio stations and in newspapers.

Excellent companies are certain of their core. Early on in the recession, Brad Smith, CEO of software firm Intuit (INTU), said, “We’re not going to cut innovation. This company for 25 years has been fueled by new product innovation. We’re protecting the innovation pipeline so we come out of this strong.” He would cut elsewhere if necessary, but in the realm of personal and small business finance software, he’s up against mammoth competitors, including Microsoft (MSFT). He cannot afford to fall even a fraction of a generation behind.

Are you sure of your company’s core? If not, you’ve got to do some corporate soul-searching.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

Geoff Colvin is senior editor at large at Fortune magazine. A longtime Fortune editor and columnist, he is one of America’s sharpest and most respected commentators on leadership, globalization, wealth creation, and management. As former anchor of Wall Street Week with Fortune on PBS, he spoke each week to the largest audience of any business television program in America. His national bestseller, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else, won the Harold Longman Award as the best business book of 2009. His email address:

Saturday, December 1, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Marissa Mayer Is The New CEO Of Yahoo – It Has To Do With Brilliant Decision Making

I just read this article on about Melissa Mayer, the new CEO at YahooMarissa Mayer Is in Over Her Head:  That’s just how Yahoo’s new CEO likes it by the always insightful Farhad Manjoo.  She described how she decided to work at the then very new company, Google, which had very-few-employees. Here’s the key paragraph:

“I had to think really hard about how to choose between job offers,” she said. Mayer approached the choice analytically. Over spring break, she studied the most successful choices in her life to figure out what they had in common. “I looked across very diverse decisions—everything from deciding where to go to school, what to major in, how to spend your summers—and I realized that there were two things that were true about all of them,” she said. “One was, in each case, I’d chosen the scenario where I got to work with the smartest people I could find. … And the other thing was I always did something that I was a little not ready to do. In each of those cases, I felt a little overwhelmed by the option. I’d gotten myself in a little over my head.”
After weighing her options, Mayer chose Google.

So…  work with the smartest people you can find.  And tackle a challenge that is just a little bit too much.  I think the idea is that if it pushes you just the right amount — tough enough to be very, very difficult, but!, still doable — then you learn more, you might succeed spectacularly, and you are then more ready for the next, bigger challenge.

Mr. Manjoo is not sure that this decision, heading Yahoo, will be successful (there may not be that circle of “the smartest people she can find”), but he is convinced that it will be fun to watch:  “And even while I have severe doubts that Mayer will be able to turn Yahoo around, I’m excited to see what she can do with the place. Yahoo has long been headed for failure. Now, at least, it will be an interesting failure, not a depressing one.”

This much is clear:  a person with the ability to follow a very serious process of decision making, a process that can lead to a brilliant decision, will probably lead the pack.  Because, most of us are just not very good at making decisions.


(an aside:  I have said, in one way or another on this blog, Farhad Manjoo is the writer that most consistently gives me the insight that I need).


Wednesday, July 18, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , , | Leave a comment

Donald N. Thompson: An interview by Bob Morris

Don Thompson is an economist and professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. He has taught at Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics. He is author of nine books, including The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, which details his explorations in trying to understand the high end of the contemporary art market. Shark has been published in thirteen languages. His most recent book, Oracles: How Prediction Markets Turn Employees into Visionaries, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (June, 2012).

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

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

Thompson: A dozen brilliant people I encountered in grad school (at Berkeley) and later, in universities, businesses and government. From each I learned new things, but more important, new ways of looking at problems, and how to think outside the box.

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

Thompson: My formal education included an MBA, which got me interested in problem solving, and a PhD, which furthered that interest but is also provided an essential entry point to an academic career. So the formal education part has been invaluable for my career path.

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?

Thompson: The importance of the soft skills involved in communication, motivation and managing.

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

Thompson: Citizen Kane. The explanation is in the eyes and mind of the viewer.

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

Thompson: I’ll suggest two: Michael Mauboussin’s More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Columbia Business School Press 2008), and Cass Sunstein’s Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide (Oxford University Press, 2008). The Mauboussin book is about business, but more centrally, about making rational decisions. The Sunstein book is about how wrongheadedness gets worse when people get together in groups. Both are brilliant thinkers, I recommend anything with those names attached.

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know.”

Thompson: Right. None of us is as smart as all of us (which is also a Japanese proverb).

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Thompson: The prediction market equivalent is probably, “If you really are afraid of the answer, don’t ask the question.”

Morris:  And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Thompson:  It never occurred to me that there was another option. Probably too late now.

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

Thompson: That is a great quote. I once was presented with its equivalent, by a Columbia marketing professor named Al Oxenfeldt, with whom I had co-authored a couple of articles and was proposing a new topic, which I had collected a lot of data on. Al said, “If something is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.” Quite right.

Morris:In Tom Davenport’s latest book, 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?

Thompson: That is exactly the philosophy of Jim Lavoie and Joe Marino, co-CEOs of my favorite prediction-market company, Rite-Solutions – which is the subject of the first chapter of Oracles.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

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

Don’s faculty page, please click here

Amazon’s Oracles page, please click here.

Amazon’s The $12 Million Stuffed Shark page, please click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constantly Changing Leaders – This Makes It Almost Impossible To Build A Functional, Effective Corporate Culture

Call this just a quick, and incredibly obvious, observation…

Dan Weston, business consultant par excellence, tells me that it takes two to three years to even make a dent in the reshaping of the corporate culture challenge.  He is very good at it, has a definite plan to help organizations in this challenge, and yet there is no “one session, one retreat, one conversation” magic pill to get this done.  Reshaping a corporate culture is a multi-session, over-time, long-haul challenge.

So, imagine the turmoil in a company that faces impressive, almost overwhelming competition (Google, et. Al.), and a workforce that is whiplashed by the constant changing of leaders.  That is the challenge facing Yahoo at the moment.

Scott Thompson, Yahoo’s third CEO in about three years, has officially left the building.
(Yahoo’s CEO is out. Now what?)

Uncertainty; whiplash.  People need to know “this is what our company/organization intends to be.”  A trusted, respected leader plays a pretty big role in that “this is what our company intends to be” task.  Going through three leaders in three years makes this almost impossible.


(A personal note:  My youngest son is getting married this weekend, so with my current schedule, I may be doing a little less blogging at the moment.  My apology.  And thanks, as  always, to Bob Morris, who keeps this blog a daily source of wisdom and insight with his many offerings).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | , , | Leave a comment

Where do big ideas come from?

Albert Einstein

Here is an article written by Steve Tobak for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching a football game where the kicker is about to attempt a field goal to win the game, my hands grip the chair, I hold my breath, and I wonder what’s going through the guy’s mind.

When Michigan’s Brendan Gibbons nailed a 37-yard field goal to win theSugar Bowl in overtime, guess what was going through his mind? Brunette girls. No kidding, that’s what inspires the guy. And it works.

We can’t all be great athletes, so some of us have to “win the big game,” so to speak, with our intuition, our ideas. Which brings us to a subject of much confusion and debate in the business world. What inspires “big idea” people? Asked another way, where do big ideas come from?

Actually, many so-called “left brain” or analytical people I’ve known over the years, including an awful lot of managers and executives, think the whole concept of some people being more intuitive or inspirational than others is pure mythology. Well, maybe it is and maybe it’s not. But scientists say that intuition can be a powerful factor in human decision-making and idea creation.

For what it’s worth, I agree.

Following your Intuition can be as simple as listening to a little voice in your head, trusting a feeling or sense of warning, or following your own internal “focus group of one,” against the “better judgment” of many.

Where does it come from? Good question. It’s probably a vestige of an evolutionary survival mechanism. An “intuitive” caveman sensing danger, for example, would hide in his cave and avoid being eaten by some blood-crazed saber-toothed tiger. Since he survived, he’d pass that instinct on. At least that’s the theory.

In any case, human intuition has probably been on the decline for some time, owing to an increasing dependence on our overdeveloped neocortex, logical reason, and technology, and not to mention a significant decline in people living in caves with bloodthirsty predators around

Don’t even get me started on our newly found addiction to gadgets, social media, and instantaneous communication. You can’t sense or intuit anything when you’re distracted. Personally, I think that’s sad, considering there’s at least anecdotal evidence that intuition plays a significant role in scientific, technological, and business innovation.

For example, against all logic, Albert Einstein was obsessed with light. That passion for light and his famous thought experiments where he pondered what he would see if he rode on a beam of light led to the special theory of relativity and E=MC2, one of the greatest discoveries in the history of physics.

In his book Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen says he came up with the big idea that made Microsoft more money than just about any business in history: Charging per-copy royalties for the IBM PC operating system instead of a flat license fee.

And what possessed entrepreneur Mark Cuban to sell to Yahoo for $5.9 billion in stock and then immediately hedge that stock against a market crash at the very peak of the dot-com bubble? All the so-called experts rode the market down and lost trillions in investment capital.

Now, I’m no Einstein, but I have worked together with a large number of innovative entrepreneurs, engineers, and executives over the decades. In my experience, there are five relatively common factors that inspire intuitive people and ultimately lead to big ideas.

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To read the complete article and share Steve’s thoughts about the “five relatively common factors,” please click here.

Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He’s managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve, follow him on Facebook, or connect on





Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Josh Linkner: An interview by Bob Morris

Josh Linkner is the New York Times bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 30 business books of 2011. He is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. Josh is also an Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan.

Josh is the Founder, Chairman and former CEO of ePrize, the largest interactive promotion agency in the world providing digital marketing services for 74 of the top 100 brands.

Prior to ePrize, Josh was the founder and CEO of three other successful technology companies. He has been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, the Automation Alley CEO of the Year, and the Detroit Executive of the Year. Josh’s writings are published frequently by Fast Company and Forbes and he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, and on CNBC. Josh is also a professional jazz guitarist performing regularly in jazz clubs throughout the United States.

Most importantly, Josh in on a mission to make the world more creative.

Morris: Before discussing Disciplined Dreaming, a few general questions. First, which of the skills you have developed for playing jazz have proven to be most valuable to your business initiatives? Please explain.

Linkner: Business today is all about improvisation, which is the essence of jazz.  Perhaps in the past we could just follow the operating manual and do what we were told, but today the world is too complex and fast.  Today it’s all about real-time innovation and creativity.  Individuals may get hired based on their resumes, but they’ll get promoted and reach their dreams based on their ability to create.  In that context, being a jazz musician was the best MBA I could have ever received.

Morris: When and why did you found ePrize?

Linkner: I launched ePrize in 1999.  At the time, the whole world was focused on internet ADVERTISING (Yahoo, Google, etc).  Meanwhile, the category of promotions was a large part of the marketing mix but largely dormant online.  Rather than following the herd and launch yet another online advertising company, I decided to zig where others zagged.  I decided to break free from conventional wisdom, and launched the first internet promotion company in the world.

Morris: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

Linkner: That mistakes aren’t fatal; they are merely the portals of discovery.  Also, it’s better to over-pay for A-level talent early on (even if you can’t afford it).  They will drive exponential value and help you win faster.

Morris: What prompted you to found GlobalLink New Media in 1995?

Linkner: I had a degree in advertising, was a life-long tech geek, and loved design.  When I first saw the internet, I knew I found my home.  I realized that while only 2% of companies had a website at that time, it wouldn’t be long before EVERY company had one.  Someone needed to design, built, and host them so I seized that opportunity.

Morris: Years ago while interviewing Andy Grove (then Intel CEO and author of Only the Paranoid Survive), he convinced me that C-level executives should lead their organization as if it were in a turnaround mode, whatever its age, size, and nature may be. What do you think?

Linkner: I’m a big fan of Andy’s.  His point is that winning companies must always be in a state of reinvention and growth.  They must always stay hungry and foster urgency and innovation.  Couldn’t agree more.

Morris: Presumably you are constantly interacting with business executives who are with client companies, who comprise an audience to which you speak, and who contact you with feedback. Here’s my question: To what extent (if any) have their greatest concerns changed during – let’s say – the last 3-5 years?

Linkner: In 2008 we suffered an economic catastrophe, and the rules of the game fundamentally changed forever.  A few years ago, you might hear a leader talking about doing things “the way we’ve always done it.”  No more.  Today, nearly every industry is in the midst of massive upheaval.  Today, we live in a world of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition.  Leaders today realize they need to innovate, and their chief concerns now focus on fostering creative and innovation within their organizations.

Morris: As you reflect back on your life thus far, who have had the greatest impact on your personal growth and professional development?

Linkner: I admire mold-breakers.  People that bust free from traditional thinking and change the game completely.  Steve Jobs.  Charlie Parker (jazz saxophonist).  The Groupon guys.  Seth Godin (author) People who dare to be different and end up creating something truly different and remarkable.

Morris: You have asserted that creativity “is what will separate the winners from the also-rans in the emerging world of business – and life.” How so?

Linkner: Today, nearly every competitive advantage of the past has been commoditized.  Creativity is the one thing that can’t be outsourced.  The one thing that can separate a company, team, or individual from the competitive set.  Today, precision execution is merely the ante to play.  Sustained differentiation can only come from breakthrough creativity.

Morris: Here’s a two-part question: To what extent are creativity and innovation different? What do they share in common?

Linkner:  Innovation is a subset of creativity.  Innovation often deals with product launches and is often relegated to the C-suite or to heads of R&D departments.  Innovation requires creativity, but creativity is something that is much more broad.  It applies to people at all levels of an organization.  Today, we all are responsible for delivering “everyday creativity.”  Small creative acts that add up to big things.

Morris: In your opinion, what will be the single greatest challenge that business leaders will have to face during (let’s say) the next 3-5 years? Any advice to offer?

Linkner:  Building creative cultures, and working with purpose to unleash the creativity of their teams.  Creativity is the most valuable natural resource in any organization, yet it is often a resource that is largely untapped.  The leaders that prioritize and invest in creative cultures will be the Wall Street darlings of tomorrow.  In fact, they’re the darlings of today (Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, etc)


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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Josh Linkner cordially invites you to check out the resources at


Monday, June 13, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marc Cenedella ( in “The Corner Office”

Marc Cenedella

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Marc Cenedella, founder and C.E.O. of, a job search Web site, says that “How are you doing?” is not a very fruitful interview question.

To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

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An Interview Is More Than a Social Call

Bryant: Tell me about the first time you were a manager.

Cenedella: That was at HotJobs. I’d been at a private equity firm for two years before that, and I inherited a staff of 10 during the dot-com boom, and I learned a whole host of lessons that first year on the job. All of the errors you make as a first-year manager, I made them.

Bryant: Give me a couple of examples.

Cenedella: Not setting expectations, not building relationships first. I’d come out of private equity where it’s about deals. In an operating company, that doesn’t really work.

Bryant: Where did you go from HotJobs?

Cenedella:After we sold HotJobs to Yahoo, I ended up taking six months off and traveled literally around the globe. I thought a lot about what my experience had been and the way I was managed, and what was good or bad about how the company was managed.

Bryant: What was your approach when you started TheLadders seven years ago?

Cenedella: It became a matter of figuring out how to build a team and share with them what inspired me to start the company. There’s a quote from the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that really spoke to me. It says, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

So the management style that I have is first, share your passion. Explain to people why it’s an exciting idea and how they can be involved in it. In an entrepreneurial business, the most important thing, the thing that creates the most excitement and value and interest in the business is the big picture — where are we going. You can destroy little bits of it by all these little errors that you make. But if you fix all of them and you don’t have the big picture, then you’re never going to get there. Really engaging people in that big picture is way more important, I think, to success.

So I’ve learned to do the big-picture stuff, and I can be really great at the analytics — sitting down and running the numbers. What I’ve had to learn over time is the middle part about, O.K., how do you build a team? How do you assign a team to do something? How do you give them enough rope to be successful, and when do you take it back? The middle part has been trial and error for me.

Bryant: Talk more about that.

Cenedella: At 30 employees, you can kind of still be an entrepreneur and see everybody and bark out orders. Beyond that you really can’t, so you have to decide, “Hey, is this what I want to do?” There are many serial entrepreneurs and they go on to the next thing and that’s great. For me, this is something I want to be involved with for my life. And if I’m going to be the manager, I ought to learn more about managing.

Bryant: How did you learn to do it?

Cenedella: Getting a coach is the best thing that you can do. I’ve done four years with two different coaches, and it is just fantastic. There’s what you say and there’s what people hear, and the gap between those two is sometimes enormous. What really matters is what people hear, not what you say.

Being a manager also isn’t about trying to become perfect. You’re not going to stop making errors. But it’s about having a mature appreciation for the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Probably everyone around you is a flawed human being. What are your flaws and how are you going to manage around them? What are your strengths? How are you going to optimize those?

I also learned a good trick, which is to ask somebody, “How are you doing?” They’ll usually say, “Good.” And I’ll say, “No, no, really. How are you doing?” And they’ll answer, “Good.” But then I’ll say, “Tell me what would you say if you weren’t doing good? How would you express that to me?” And then they tell you things. It’s partly little tactics, but the more important part is making it clear that you want to hear what they have to say.

Bryant: How else has your management style evolved, particularly as the company has grown?

Cenedella: For me, the demarcation lines have been 120 employees and 360 employees.

Bryant: How so?

Cenedella: Let me say something that’s going to sound surprising. As C.E.O. today, I actually can’t get anything done. So if I have a really good idea and I go tell people, “Hey, you have to go do this,” or I impose it on them, people wonder, what does he really mean? It’s open to so much misinterpretation and confusion that actually you’re doing more harm for the organization than you are good.

So the job of the C.E.O. becomes, “Hey everybody, what are everybody’s good ideas? O.K., and what’s yours? That’s awesome. What do you think of that? Hmm, now anybody have a different view?”

I came out of Harvard Business School and the case study method, where the professor speaks 10 percent of the time, and the students do the rest. It’s tremendously valuable in business in general. You’ll get better answers than if you, the C.E.O., try to come up with ideas and impose them. You actually get better work out of folks as a result.

Bryant: What else do you do at the company to set the tone you want?

Cenedella: When we do something good, we come together and we celebrate. In baseball, a guy hits a home run, goes around the bases, and all his teammates come out and they give him a high five, and that’s awesome. And then every time somebody hits a home run, they do that.

In business, people tend not to do that enough, so when we achieve a goal, we have to go celebrate. And there are two reasons why we need to do that. As human beings, we’re not emotionally and anthropologically different from who we were on the plains of Africa 100,000 years ago. We need to feel that hey, I’m in a community.

The second reason is that out of everything that I could be focused on in a year, the thing that gets rewarded with a party will be the thing that I really focus on. So I’ll tell everyone, if we hit this mark or we hit that mark, we’re having a party. Then it’s been concretely expressed to the employees that that must be the important thing. So it’s a way to double and triple underline the really important goal.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on that he started in March 2009. To contact him, please click here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dan Rosensweig in “The Corner Office”

Dan Rosensweig

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Dan Rosensweig, president and chief executive of Chegg.  To read the complete interview, please click here.

Bryant: Tell me about some important leadership lessons.

Rosensweig: One of the blessings I’ve had, really for my entire career, is working with founders of companies, whether it was Bill Ziff at Ziff Davis or with Jerry Yang and David Filo at Yahoo [click here What I love about that culture is the energy, enthusiasm and the unbridled passion for what’s possible, as opposed to spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out the obstacles.

In Silicon Valley, if you spend a lot of time thinking about the obstacles, you’ll talk yourself out of everything, because the more you look at it, the less logical something sounds, since no one has done it yet. Founders simply ask what needs to be done and what’s the best way to do it. And that’s fun. It’s had a significant impact on the way I think, the way I lead, the way I manage, and the opportunities I seek out.

I like being surrounded by people who have very little fear and very little respect for the past — not in a negative way, but in a positive way. They appreciate everything that’s been done, but they constantly look for how to do it better. When you lead with what’s possible, and how you create value for people, it’s energizing. Being around that kind of energy and inspiration has allowed me to think bigger than I probably ever would have thought.

Bryant: You just started at Chegg this year. What was your first-day speech to the staff?

Rosensweig: I articulated why I came. What’s the opportunity we see? How do we want to define success? What’s the bigger dream? Many people work really hard every day, but they’re incrementalists. When you are in a growth company, you have to really open people’s eyes to the bigger possibilities, so they think differently. Once they understand how to define success and what their role is in success, they make better decisions and you can push decision-making down.

Stylistically, I try very hard to be descriptive about how we want to define success and not necessarily prescriptive on telling them exactly how we want to do it — because, frankly, many of them are a lot smarter than me at what they do.

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To read several of Bryant’s more recent interviews of other executives, please click here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview: Alan Deutschman

Deutschman’s most recent book is Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders. He is one of America’s leading writers on change,

Alan Deutschman

leadership, and innovation. His earlier groundbreaking book, Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life, debunks various myths and misconceptions about this crucial topic and reveals the surprising truths about what actually inspires and motivates real change. In a 21-year career as a business journalist, Deutschman has been the Silicon Valley correspondent for Fortune, a senior writer at GQ where he wrote the “Profit Motive” column, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair where he has co-authored the “New Establishment” power list for the past decade. Most recently, he was a senior writer for Fast Company. Deutschman has interviewed and profiled many of the most influential and innovative figures in global business, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates,’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sergey Brin, and Virgin’s Richard Branson, and he has studied the successful turnarounds and change efforts at companies such as Apple, IBM, and Yahoo. In addition to Walk the Walk and Change or Die, his other published books include The Second Coming of Steve Jobs and A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma.

Morris: In Change or Die, you identify “the three keys to change at work and in life.” For those who have not as yet read the book, what are these “keys” and how can they be used most effectively?

Deutschman: The three keys to change are what I call the “Three Rs” for “relate, repeat, and reframe.” “Relate” means that you form a new emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. “Repeat” means that this new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need. And “reframe” means that the new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life.

Morris: In your opinion, is it possible to balance what is most important in one’s personal life with what is most important in one’s career?

Deutschman: Yes, I do. And the key is exactly the words that you used: “most important.” Being a leader, whether you’re the CEO leading a huge company or the head of a team with a handful of members, means focusing on the key issues and tasks, not micromanaging. Real leaders have a better chance of making it to their kids’ soccer games.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Walk the Walk. For those who have not as yet read this book, you assert that a “real” leader is someone whose values and behavior are wholly consistent with what she or he affirms. You cite several exemplars, including Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Martin Luther King, Jr., Wendy Kopp, Ray Kroc, Nelson Mandela, Fred Smith, and Thomas Watson Sr. Which of them, in your opinion, best exemplifies “real” leadership? How so?

Deutschman: Well, everyone who’s praised in Walk the Walk is a superb leader. The bar is set pretty high for inclusion in the book. Obviously, though, some of these leaders pursued higher stakes and confronted greater obstacles than did others. While it’s a worthy goal to try to create a national chain of clean, inexpensive fast-food restaurants, for example, that’s obviously not something that you can compare with struggling for the rights for an oppressed people.

Morris: Jean Lipman-Blumen and Roy Lubit have much of value to say about “toxic” people, especially those in leadership positions. In your book, you are very critical of Mark Fields, Al Gore, Laura Turner Seydel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Do you consider them to be “toxic”?

No, I don’t consider Fields, Gore, Seydel, or Schwarzenegger to be “toxic.” I think that they all believed fervently in the changes that they advocated. The big problem is that they all had serious blind spots about how their own behavior had to set a compelling example for other people to follow.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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