Take Care of Business by Posting Sincere Quarterly Results While Building Long-term Value

Balanced Shareholder Value Technological progress over the last decade—especially in communications—has accelerated the expansion of commerce, the creation of wealth, and the pace of living.

Consider a few statistics. There are now 15,000 communications service providers operating worldwide; just one decade ago, there were less than 1,000. Last year, enough fiber optic cable was laid to encircle the earth some 400 times. Internet traffic is doubling every 100 days. Nearly 350 million people are already online worldwide with 100 million more expected to join them in 2001. Buying and selling on the Internet, or ecommerce, has reached $700 billion worldwide—and is expected to approach $7 trillion in five years.

Technology and Growth

The technology industry has played a central role in contributing to this growth. Technology company is creating the systems and technologies that will make the Internet mobile and able to do things we can only dream of today. With the phenomenal growth of the Internet, the penetration of cable television and the rise of wireless communications, we live in a world where fact-based information, tailored to our individual tastes, is available 24/7 wherever we are. That is the bright side. On the darker side, the same technology is also delivering us rumors, innuendo, and blatant misinformation.

Pressures of Instant Information on Stockholders With our robust economy, expectations for a better life have never been higher. However, in many cases, high expectations give way to instant gratification and outright greed. Overnight wealth is now part of pop culture. The objective of corporations is to create wealth for shareowners by delivering products and services that customers find of value. You cannot do that if employees are in a free-for-all to undermine their colleagues. Creating value is a far different game than scheming to be the last person standing. And it requires far different behavior to succeed.

In any institution, you can find people who are out for personal gain at the expense of the enterprise. However, the lack of integrity catches up with them. It always does. At the same time, the business world does have its problems, real as well as perceived, including events that raise questions about corporate behavior.

Accidents happen. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was an accident. Manufacturing errors happen. That’s why Bridgestone and Ford are in the headlines today. And sabotage happens. How companies respond to these crises determines the size and healing time of the blemish on their reputations. Companies, like Johnson & Johnson, that are proactive and completely open with the public, recover fast.

Corporate reputations always seem to be under scrutiny. Corporations owe something to their workers, the communities in which they operate, shareowners, and other constituencies. Shortly after I joined technology company, the company held its annual Global Days of Caring—a worldwide employee volunteer effort in which tens of thousands of technology company people participate in worthwhile community projects, ranging from cleaning up parks, beaches and playgrounds, to assisting at childcare, senior citizen centers and homeless shelters. Making a difference in communities has become a central part of technology company’s culture.

Pressures of Instant Information on Stockholders

But meeting the needs of shareowners, employees, and the community is increasingly difficult, because companies face new pressures that are created by the combination of instant information and the growing notion of instant gratification by investors.

A few years ago, business could plan and execute for the long term. Sometimes that meant making sacrifices in the short term that retarded bottom-line growth for a quarter or two. But such sacrifices had the potential to create breakthroughs in technology that could change an industry, the way my company did with the invention of the transistor, lasers, and fiber optics—technologies that spawned new industries.

If a company was strong and had a reputation for making successful transitions and delivering value to customers, investors tended to show patience because they understood that efforts were being make for the long-term health of the business.

How to Beat Wall Street Reliably Today, instead of the idea of who will win in the long term, the market is focused on who’s winning this quarter, who’s winning today. Business has become a spectator sport, a high-stakes game that is played out daily by people who watch corporate box scores scroll across their PCs and television sets, by people who place instant online bets that are based on breaking news, rumors, or the body language of a CEO on CNBC’s Squawk Box—all designed to feed into Wall Street, which has become a casino as millions of new players ante up for the next deal.

Business journalists and financial analysts have the power to cut a company’s market value in half with a single negative comment, or instantly drive its value up with a glowing report.

With the constant bombardment of gossip, rumor, and sometimes deliberately misleading information, it has become increasingly difficult to determine what legitimate business news is.

The temptation to manipulate the system is as strong as the opportunity to do so. At Technology company technologies, we have regular contact with many financial analysts. In addition, the people we deal with are trying to do the right things. But they are under severe pressure in a world that’s been sped up and turned upside down. Their reputations have been built on solid analysis of income statements and balance sheets. That’s how value used to be determined. Now Internet upstarts with small revenue streams and losses instead of earnings can have huge market valuations. How do you analyze these companies and make recommendations to investors?

How to Beat the Street Reliably

'Investor Relations For the Emerging Company' by Ralph Rieves (ISBN 0230341969) Compounding the difficulty is the sheer speed of the market rollercoaster. One analyst recently said, “We live 12-week lives,” living quarter to quarter with the companies he is covering. That’s not healthy. That 12-week life involves predicting an earnings number with factors such as a company’s strength, the market’s strength, as well as a company’s own guidance on what it expects to deliver. They sit on the sidelines, watching and waiting. Meanwhile, companies are on the field competing—driving their businesses toward the finish line. They’re under phenomenal pressure to perform well and cross the finish line with increasingly higher results. It’s not enough to deliver what’s expected. The system rewards companies who under-promise and over-deliver. That’s the only way to consistently beat the Street’s expectations.

Not only are there expectations of a specific earnings number, there are expectations of a precision in delivering the number. In effect, the system is demanding perfect execution in every 12-week period. We have arrived at the age of instant analysis and sound bites that can cause major tremors in the market.

This is the reality companies face today as they work to serve their customers and build value for their owners clearly pressures are great to deliver strong quarterly performance—to “beat the Street”—and to do it consistently to keep the stock price rising.

Stock price was always the key measure of a company’s long-term health. But today stocks have become a strategic weapon. Stocks are the new currency for acquisitions of companies, technologies, and employees to bolster a firm’s competitive capabilities. Your stock price puts you in a position to be the parent or the acquired. Also, the value of a stock has a major impact on a company’s ability to attract and retain employees. Upstart Internet companies that are preparing to go public can be a huge temptation. Much is riding on quarterly performance. In striving not to disappoint Wall Street, companies are tempted to make short-term decisions that could be harmful in the long term. Worse, some companies are under such heavy pressure in the competition for investor dollars that they feel compelled to overstate their market performance and exaggerate their potential. So they provide a set of lenses for the fortunetellers. Sometimes it’s a microscope. Sometimes it’s a telescope. And very often it’s a kaleidoscope. Politicians call it “spin doctoring.” And some businesses have honed it into an art form.

'Using Investor Relations to Maximize Equity Valuation' by Thomas Ryan (ISBN 047167852X) If it works, it’s easier to do it a second time and a third time, until it becomes an addictive drug. Many companies have been on drugs. It’s time to get off them and begin managing their businesses, instead of managing their stock price. It’s a lot easier to cling to your values when you’re riding high. But the true test of a company’s character comes when it stumbles.

I believe that it’s the job of senior corporate leaders to step up to this challenge—to change the game by striking the right balance between the long- and short-term decisions that produce lasting health for companies. Business leaders must refuse to be drawn into shortsighted decisions that are driven by the media frenzy. They must resist being dragged to center-stage in the spectator sport that business has become. Business leaders have been entrusted to build strong companies by growing real value through innovating and delivering products that change the way people live and work. Instead of concentrating on what’s needed to make analysts happy, leaders should be focused of what they can do to serve their customers better. In the long-term that could mean facing up to the prospect of short-term pain if it’s necessary to sustain long-term gain.

Creating Balanced Shareholder Value Over the Long Term

Creating Balanced Shareholder Value Over the Long Term The system may be out of control, but the future is not. Value is not created overnight or over a 12-week period. Value comes from creating products and services that meet market needs. That’s not a short-term proposition. Companies experience vicissitudes. The fast pace of today’s marketplace requires constant adjustments and transitions. Often, companies that go through those transitions will pay the price for a quarter or two. But if they perform well, they come back quickly because of the bandwagon mentality of Wall Street’s fortunetellers.

Every year Fortune magazine compiles a list of America’s most admired companies. The criteria for the list range from long-term investment value to social responsibility. They are also viewed as the best places to work. These companies are taking care of business and meeting the needs of their shareowners, their customers, and their employees. And doing so has paid off. The top 10 percent of Fortune‘s list of most admired companies did twice as well in the stock market as the bottom 10 percent. That’s encouraging, because it says that in the end, good companies will always justify their value as long as they do the right things the right way.

Assess how well you balance short-term expediency and long-term growth.

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Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change

Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change Resistance to change is observed by many as their biggest problem today. Why? Because change is constant, and yet most people get stuck. People resist changes done to them, but they develop a sense of ownership on the ideas they generate. So, I share a simple approach to reducing resistance to change by generating participative involvement and team support for new initiatives. Many teams and organizations tend to operate like the team below:

  • The person in front symbolizes leadership or management—anyone focused forward. Leaders get insulated by their rope to the bumps and thumps of many realities of the journey. They work hard to pull the organization ahead. Their intentions are positive.
  • The people in back represent frontline employees and supervisors who can’t see far ahead and feel every bump in the road. They push but have to trust the leadership to steer. They have no “big picture” of where they (or the wagon) are headed, but do what is expected of them. They lack perception and vision. Intentions are positive.
  • The body of the wagon is well made and sturdy, much like the basic core of any organization. It will do the job for which it was designed. Its nature makes changing direction quite difficult, but it works like it always has. We find that identifying and celebrating early adopters of the behaviors a company wants to instill can create positive infectivity.
  • The Square Wheels represent the traditions, the way things have always been done, systems and techniques to respond to quality and service initiatives, or other relevant issues to the group. They may also represent interdepartmental conflicts. They increase costs of doing business and are inefficient and ineffective.
  • The Round Wheels represent new ideas for innovation or improvement, coming from within the organization. Top management makes public the factors on which it will judge the team’s performance and how that evaluation fits into the company’s regular appraisal process.
  • Customers generally ride on the wagon, being aware of the thumps and bumps of the journey forward but often unaware of the specific causes. Often, they encounter policies and procedures that are not customer oriented. Occasionally, they may feel like they are under the wheels!

Companies make the mistake of worrying mostly about the time it will take to implement change programs. They assume that the longer an proposal carries on, the more likely it is to fail.

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change A great deal has been said about middle managers who want to block change. We find that most middle managers are prepared to support change efforts even if doing so involves additional work and uncertainty and puts their jobs at risk.

On the whole, the visions about the journey forward are difficult to communicate effectively to everyone, and changing direction is hard. Yet continued motivation is necessary to keep pushing forward, and people must trust the leadership to lead the way. After approaching for a long time, however, people in the back may lose interest in where the organization is going or needs to go and become resigned to the Square Wheels. The organization crashes along, and most know it. In the process, we exposed a provocative lens and language to help change managers better understand their mission and methods. When I share this illustration with people, I hear such comments as:

  • Communication between pullers and pushers is difficult. The process of exploring one’s communication styles, behavior and fundamental aims in life is a overwhelming task for most people.
  • Shared vision is crucial. It is very interesting to observe that the essential role of a leader when progressing a shared vision is one of unselfish motives.
  • It’s difficult to change direction. It suggests that the configuration established by cooperation is an effective way to accomplish our goals on a fast-paced world.
  • Teamwork, trust, motivation, and collaboration are needed. Leaders can help people throughout the organization expound systemic comprehensions.
  • Measuring progress is part of individual and team motivation. Progress that is observable tends to be explicit, teachable, autonomous, attachable, it also easy for challengers to reproduce.
  • Issues of cost, productivity and quality are always present. A shared vision is fundamental on the productivity of any business where a leader has so many individuals and groups to attend to in a transparent and selfless manner.
  • Progress is generally not about people—it is about systems and processes. Every organization creates and uses this information. The dispute is that few seem to essentially learn how to manage it, apply it, mature through it and use it successfully.
  • Poor systems are like bumps that demotivate those trying to move ahead. On the other hand, when regarded in systems terms immediate improvements often comprise very substantial long-term costs.
  • Ideas for improvement always exist already within the wagon. Those actions comforted employees that the organization would challenge the layoffs in a professional and humanitarian fashion.

Another reality is that the round wheels of today become the square wheels of tomorrow. Improvement is about continuous improvement, since change is a continuous event—you can’t complete a change initiative.

Probability of Leadership Change Management

Probability of Leadership Change Management There are four things that successful change leaders do well. The probability of change is related to four factors:

  1. The current level of discomfort with the way things are now. This is all about people feeling that things could be different. If they are not satisfied, they are likely to change. If something gets acknowledged as a Square Wheel and not working properly, a Round Wheel possibility likely exists for making an improvement.
  2. The attractiveness of the vision of the future. This one is all about motivation and teamwork. The view from the front of the wagon is different than the view from the back; and apprehending goals and expectations will reduce resistance to change. If the vision is engaging, it is attracting. Making the vision more attractive is straightforward.
  3. The person’s or group’s previous success with change. If the last time people tried to change they felt successful and rewarded, they will repeat the behavior. What gets rewarded gets repeated. But if the most recent attempt was met with criticism and negative comments, they likely won’t be interested in trying again. The same thing happens with team-based initiatives.
  4. The peer or workgroup support for the change. Obviously, if others are supportive, it puts positive peer pressure on an individual to change. But, sadly, most organizations have a tendency to add “mud” to the journey of most teams, bogging things down and making progress even harder for teams struggling forward. The mud can be the bureaucracy, politics, measurement systems that don’t support the goals and expectations—any form of glop that hampers people and clogs systems.

Successful change leaders embrace these tensions even though they make the challenge more complex. This meant nothing short of building new organizational capabilities based upon collaboration and client-first thinking, which not only meant developing new systems and processes but building a collective mindset that would make aspiring to being a one-company culture a reality.

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives So what do we do? Well, let me suggest a couple of simple scenarios.

The first idea is this: Get out of the ditch and get up on the road. This is simpler than you might think. I ask people what things get in the way of making progress, let them brainstorm, perhaps even vent a little, then I ask if there are any incomparable Mud Managers out there. This reframe causes people to consider what others in the workplace are already doing differently and what underlies high performance in an environment where there are two feet of ditch for every foot of road. Invariably, people can generate ideas that are already proven to work. It is not about inventing new ways of doing things as much as it is about identifying ideas and then doing something differently. This increased managers’ understanding of business conditions and boosted employee engagement—and sales rose.

Where you can go from here is a bit surprising: Roll your wagon backwards! Because you have begun to generate a little partner support, you increase the likelihood of change. Now, you should work with the group to generate a list of possible Square Wheels—things that work but that do not work smoothly.

After playing with these themes and asking about “mud,” generate a list of possible issues to address: things that do not work smoothly. Set the stage for some possibility thinking. Get a long list, but resist the tendency to straightaway start fixing things. A week or so later, select one of the Square Wheels and generate some possible Round Wheels to try.

The Hard Aspects of Change Management

The Hard Aspects of Change Management Let your team do the thinking—you focus on maintaining the focus. Paint a picture of what will be different if a few Round Wheels are implemented. You are creating some uneasiness with the way things are now as people discuss the things that can be improved and suggest ideas that they could try to make things work more smoothly. Corporations will always require a hierarchy, but peer role models can successfully lead projects within a change initiative.

You create a higher likelihood of change because people become less comfortable with the way things are and create an alternative shared vision of the future. They build on some feelings of previous success and they work together, as a group, to make things better. Celebrating the reversal of a relapse can help desired behaviors regain momentum.

Participative leadership can reduce opposition to change. Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on what factors most influence transformation initiatives. Visionary leadership is often vital for change projects, but not always.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger Rejects the Idea of a Self-Made Man

'Total Recall' by Arnold Schwarzenegger (ISBN 1849839735) Actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s story has an inspiring premise. The son of Austrian police officer who was a Nazi party member, he moved to New York in the early 1968 to further his career as a body-builder and winning six Mr. Olympia body-building tournaments. In the intervening time, he put himself through business school at the University of Wisconsin Madison, invested in real estate, and parlayed his passion with fitness into a lucrative video- and book-sales company.

Schwarzenegger may have remained a businessperson if not for the success of the documentary Pumping Iron (1977) which transformed him into a minor celebrity and planted the seeds of his Hollywood aspirations. It wasn’t he played a 74-word part in an obscure sci-fi film called Terminator (1984) that he finally became a star.

Even after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long march from a penniless immigrant to a Hollywood star and later the Governor of California, he declares that the notion of the self-made man is a myth. He states that we must all help each other because no one can get anywhere on their own.

I came over here with absolutely nothing. I had $20 in the pocket and some sweaty clothes in a gym bag. But let me tell you, I had this one little apartment and on Thanksgiving, the bodybuilders from Gold’s Gym came to my apartment and they brought me pillows, dishes, silverware, all of the things I didn’t have. None of us can make it alone. None of us. Not even the guy that is talking to you right now, who was the greatest body builder of all times. Not even me, that has been the Terminator and went back in time to save the human race. Not even me that fought and that killed predators with his bare hands.

I always tell people that you can call me anything that you want, but don’t ever, ever call me a self-made man. It gives the wrong impression, that we can do it alone. None of us can. The whole concept of the self-made man or woman is a myth. I would have never made it in my life without the help. So this is why I don’t beileve in a self-made man. Why I want you to understand that is, because as soon as you understand that you are here because of a lot of help, then you also understand that now it’s time to help others. That’s what this is all about.

Source: Arnold Schwarzenegger—Together on the Goalcast Podcast

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What Should Not Be Done

What Should Not Be Done

If I have to conform, how can I create? How can I innovate, if I have to play it safe? How can I discover new ideas in what I am doing?

Many frustrated people are seeking more meaningful work. They are bright and motivated to high achievement. Executives must rescue these talented people by finding ways to amplify their intelligence and motivation. Many high performance rewards await executives wise enough to capitalize on the yearning to create and innovate.

Innovative ideas are often found in paths we have yet to explore, and these paths are often revealed to us by people who ask us questions or give us directions. Questions and directions can be given in the form of what should be done or what should not be done. The form can either catalyze or kill creativity and innovation in people.

Consider questions and directions framed with the intent of advocating what should be. They are markers to assure safety—usually financial or physical—conformity to protocols and rules, and pursuit of wants and desires. Directives or questions emanating from this intent come as “this is what should be done or be happening;” or “what is the correct procedure—what should be done here?”

While “safety” and “security” are crucial to organizational well-being, these words are bipolar to words like creativity and innovation. If you have to conform, how can you create? If you are preoccupied with safety, how can you set sail in uncharted waters to innovate? Many executives confound their people by demanding creativity and innovation through questions and directions aimed at what should be. Executives need not abandon the “should be” form of questioning or directing in order to pursue paths to innovation and creativity. Such an action would excise critical markers needed for survival. The advocacy of an executive should be how to balance safety and security with innovation and creativity. This balance is achieved by using an alternate form of giving directions and asking questions.

Now consider questions and directions originating from what should not be. These directives or questions usually assume the form: “This is what should not be done” or “This is what should not happen.” When executives ask me: “Are you suggesting that I use negative questioning or direction giving as a management style?” I respond: “What could be more positive than avoiding that which should not be, and how can you avoid that which should not be if you don’t know what to avoid?”

Making visible what should not be can demand calling into action our own talents for innovation and creativity. For example, suppose I discover that you have a background in natural science when you and I are in Queensland, Australia, on a walkabout. All of a sudden you say to me: “About 15 feet ahead on the side of our path is a Taipan. If you continue walking in your current direction, you will encounter something that should not be.”

By issuing this warning, you gain my deep appreciation, as I am not interested in sustaining the painful bite of a poisonous reptile. You may also see how fast I can run or how high I can jump. If I try to catch and sell it, you may see what kind of an entrepreneur I am. By telling me with truth and fact what should not be, you cause my creative talents to emerge.

By managing your situation with truth and fact in terms of what should not be as opposed to managing on the basis of what should you be, you catalyze the attributes of innovation and creativity. People are then free to find their own best wave, knowing that are guarded from consequences of operating on the basis of what should not be. They also become confident in your role as one who would forewarn them about things that should not be.

Why are many executive directives I (even commandments of Deity) given in the form of “thou shalt not?” I believe the wisdom of the ages is rooted in a preference for freedom of action and an incentive for innovation and creativity.

Foster creativity and innovation

As I have tested this belief in managing projects and people, it has strengthened my resolve to illuminate, with truth and fact, that which should not be as the way to unleash latent creativity and innovation in people.

Any parent of teenagers knows that making visible hazards, obstacles, and things that should not be, will produce an astonishing array of creative ways around these restrictions. The creativity catalyzed by fear of parental consequences, from traveling restricted roads, somehow adds to their “thrill of the chase” and fuels competitive drive. These reactions are what executives seek.

There are other benefits to this approach. We can more readily agree on what we are about. Specificity in what should be is rarely obvious. Most admonitions are closely akin to “motherhood” statements leaving too many “hard to interpret” generalizations or mysteries for implementation.

When the boss specifies what should not be, we will find it easier to correctly interpret the intent. Things that executives should not do are more specifically set than those things that should be.

You must state what should be in order to promote safety and conformity in your pursuits. But, hopefully, you will add admonitions for behaving on the basis of what should not be. If these are entrenched in truth and fact regarding what should not be, you will foster creativity and innovation in your people.

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Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen – Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go

Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen - Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go The ethical guidelines of the Zen Buddhist tradition invite us to live a life of doting commiseration through restraint and cultivation. We communicate with the world through our bodies, verbalization and minds, and so we are inspirited to explore the intentions and forces that guide our words, actions and pyretic conceptions, and culls, appreciating the puissance they hold to impact on our world in each moment.

The ethical guidelines, undertaken as a Zen Meditation practice, invite us to explore the inchoation of our actions, verbalization, and thought. Shakyamuni Buddha himself devoted forty-odd years to teaching and saving sentient beings. You may be a highly intelligent person who works very hard and has good karmic roots. The second line explains what prevents us. You may think that by putting down the method and relaxing for a while, you are re-charging your energy.

Is there an equivalent to the “Pope” in Buddhism? No mind, or Zen, is a state of non-arising and non-perishing. In working with difficulties—desire, anger, restlessness, doubt, fear which are the Zen traditional hindrances which arise in Zen Meditation—how can one work with them, how can one make one’s spiritual practice so that these become workable?

Zen Koan: “The Moon Cannot Be Stolen” Parable

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Buddhist Insight on Letting Go

The great majority of people today allow others to do their thinking for them. Your life would become a lot more alive and precious for you. Against such a misleading statement, one must enter an emphatic protest. Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other ramifications. More often than not, the infection is transmitted to progeny as well. Yet the rewards of letting go are infinitely more. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

We believe that it is difficult to let go but, in truth, it is much more difficult and painful to hold and protect. Reflect upon anything in your lives that you grasp hold of – an opinion, a historical resentment, an ambition, or an unfulfilled fantasy. Sense the tightness, fear, and defensiveness that surrounds the grasping. It is a painful, anxious experience of unhappiness. We do not let go in order to make ourselves impoverished or bereft. We let go in order to discover happiness and peace. As Krishnamurti once said, “There is a great happiness in not wanting, in not being something, in not going somewhere.”

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The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life

The Gift of Life

The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life There is an art in enjoying the blessings of life, and unless we master it, we court disaster. It is a simple art. It consists in realizing that everything we are and everything we have is a gift, ultimately from the Creator and that every day of our lives the gift is renewed to us. This realization will deepen our joy in possession and it will lighten our grief in deprivation.

In assessing my own condition, I am often tempted to be dissatisfied. My mind wanders towards what I lack. Moreover, if I contrast my poverty with somebody else’s affluence, I am tempted to rebel against my destiny.

However, my mind is set at peace when I suddenly remember that whatever I have is not, in a final sense, of my own making. Nor is it mine by any right. For what did I bring with me into the world that is my home? I came into it utterly helpless. Moreover, the goals towards which I have grown and everything, which has been placed in my hands, to have and to cherish, is a gift given me freely, graciously. It was given in love, a love that I could not really earn and for which I can offer little in return. In addition, when I become aware of this, I find a new contentment.

This awareness of my blessings, and of their source, prepares me also for their inevitable surrender. Either for I know that the things I cherish will not last or that if they do, I, being mortal, will not always is here to enjoy them. A final separation awaits every relationship, no matter how tender. Someday I shall have to drop every object to which my hands now cling.

Enjoy the Roses, Taste of Their Beauty, Delight in Their Fragrance

These thoughts sadden me, but I can bear them more readily when I remember that the measure of my loss is also the measure of my privilege. Shall I rebel because my roses last so brief a time? Shall I grieve when none blossom in my garden? No! I must rather give thanks for those days I was privileged to enjoy roses, to taste of their beauty and their fragrance.

Each day of my life, my blessings are given to me anew. For the gift given me and for whatever time I am privileged to keep it, I am grateful. In addition, when I am asked to surrender my gift, I shall still know that I was richly blessed. Moreover, I shall say, “Praised be Thou, O Lord my God, that Thou didst grant me the privilege to know the gift of life.” This blessing has value: it discourages surrender and fuels religious zeal.

People have to confront regrets. Becoming matured means learning to admit what you cannot change, facing dissonant sorrows, and learning to love life as it truly happens, not as you would have it happen. When somebody attaches unkindness to unfavorable judgment, she is angry. Angry people need to criticize as an outlet for their anger. That is why you must resist unkind criticism. Unkind criticism is never part of a meaningful criticism of you. Its intent is not to teach or to help, its purpose is to penalize. Life is not supposed to be an all or nothing combat between miserableness and blissfulness.

Everyone Needs Positive Role Models: A Good Reputation Inspires Others

Good Reputation Inspires Others We know that before the Bank of New England went under, a lot of business firms withdrew their money and put them in other banks. In the meantime, recollecting that nothing was ever yet done which someone was not the first to do, and that all good things that exist are the fruits of originality, let them be humble enough to believe that there is something still left for it to attain. Reassure them that they are more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of the neediness. American designer and engineer William S. Cobb writes about emptiness is not what you expect in The Game of Go,

Emptiness refers to the absence of something that, for some reason, one expects to find—as when we say a glass, normally used to hold liquids, is empty even though it is full of air. The point is not that there is nothing there at all, but rather that what is there differs from your expectations.

All who want happiness want to eradicate distress? Life is not supposed to be a conflict at all. In addition, when it comes to happiness, well, sometimes life is just all right; sometimes it is well heeled, sometimes wonderful, sometimes tedious, sometimes unpleasant. When your day is not perfect, it is not a failure or a frightening loss. It is just another day. By this system, men lie much cooler, and it is more accordant in every respect, as well as healthier.

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Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines In meeting deadlines, top performers apply seven key principles. This change management is not intended simply to permit the company to endure a few more years—it is proposed to set the company on a path to greater success and thus virtuous jobs for those who remain.

Another is that a blindly optimistic self-explanatory style of deadlines might actually promote a reduction in effort as we might not try as hard if we believe our ability eliminates the need. For the following reasons, I consider this behavior neither compassionate nor moral.

Principle #1 for Meeting Deadlines: Schedules are Sacrosanct

Task teams express a reverence for “the schedule” as the single most important deadline management tool, even though people search for more colorful, personality-driven keys to victory. But it is precisely its implacability that makes a schedule so stable, incorruptible, and enforceable. Amendments to schedule can’t be made capriciously. Changes should be rare, even agonizing, since each adjustment threatens to compress the final stages. Schedules become impersonal enforcement tools, because they do not respond to appeal. The manager can say, “It’s not me—it’s the schedule that’s pushing us all, and we need to keep pace.”

Schedules are not dreamed up by distant executives who then hand them down to task teams, along with deadline dates. All long-term projects are guided by realistic, believable, timelines that benefit from the insight and input of those doing the work. Schedules codify the ambition and enable synergy.

Within each timeline, milestones are set—and celebrated as they are met. These mini-deadlines make the program more manageable, attainable, and comprehensible those who are focused on their part. When milestones are in jeopardy of not being met, alarm bells go off in the minds of project managers and team leaders. All are affected by slippage along the critical path. A milestone won’t be “bumped” unless, and until, the team knows why it is in jeopardy. Allowing more time won’t necessarily correct the process. Margins of time and budget are factored into each schedule and managed by the teams.

Principle #2 for Meeting Deadlines: Partnering

Deadlines involving major, long-term projects are met jointly; the distance between customer and those who serve are bridged in the interest of expediency. Leaders see that their races against time must be run in unison.

While companies discover many rewards in the closer relationships and find that the doors of communication, once opened, are difficult to close, their original motivation is often to save time. “Business as usual” won’t suffice under the conditions of a major deadline. Competitive companies need each other to win. Deadlines are often joint ventures, since few organizations can go it alone. Even global industrial leaders depend on the unstinting cooperation of customers and suppliers to bring their projects in on time. Conversely, much is expected of them. Reciprocation is possible by modifying billing and payment practices, or by waving long-standing bureaucratic requirements, or by re-routing time-consuming communication paths, or by modeling teams to reflect those of the partner. Customers and contractors like feeling part of the delivery process.

Principle #3 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk

Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk Deadlines involve risk. The risks inherent in these projects are not accepted by swashbucklers who revel in danger but by serious professionals who seek ways to reduce the risk—by preparing backup plans, brainstorming creative solutions, and even taking out insurance policies. The risk is accepted, then reduced, to improve the odds to succeed, to make a profit, or to reduce casualties. The willingness to take a chance defines an organization in ways a thousand ads cannot. Word gets around. Companies and individuals who take on risk, and prevail, develop reputations as giant killers.

Something in the nature of “risky” operations binds teammates together. The “sink or swim” mentality of great teams is responsible for innovations that bring their projects in on time. Participating in these deadlines is not simply another day at the office for those involved; these are adventures. Those who pass through the whitewater of a serous deadline can look back on the “nervous time” with a nostalgic pride. “Risk” creates common cause, even more than “reward.” Lackadaisical groups will suddenly become focused and serous once risk is introduced.

Principle #4 for Meeting Deadlines: Company Men and Women

Challenging deadlines are met most successfully by “company men and women” whose most obvious credential is tenure (average of 25 years of service). No one looks forward to retirement (in fact, they seem to dread the day), and all seem to thrive on the formidable tasks assigned to them. While those people are ambitious, success seems to be measured less by personal recognition and more by participation on a job well done. None of them are coy about their futures with the company. “I love it here,” and other expressions of affection and loyalty are heard frequently. Company men and women are usually portrayed as obstacles to bold, forward-thinking newcomers, but they are precisely the people you want tasked with a significant deadline. They are less likely to look on a project as a feather in their caps and more likely to factor in the long-term interests of the company and of the customer (which are complementary).

If you don’t have tried-and-true employees with years of service, entrust deadlines to employees who are sincerely interested in a career with the company. Team players who distinguish themselves by helping others are prime candidates, as are those who demonstrate a real concern for customer satisfaction. Managers must take an active role with a team of fresh faces and lead by example, in creating a sense of mission so compelling that the team will be carried in their wake.

Wise managers assume that peak performers are always being courted by the competition, and could, without proper attention, be gone in the blink of an eye.

Principle #5 for Meeting Deadlines: Family Outreach

The popular stereotype of an executive who sacrifices family for career is somewhat of a contradiction, because, clearly, business success is not sustainable without a strong emotional base. A hard-driving executive plagued by personal problems, distracted by divorce proceedings or custody battles, can’t focus on the job at hand—and may even exacerbate his or her situation by finding a comfort of sorts in alcohol or drugs.

The wise manager recognizes the importance of family and finds ways to involve the “other half” of the deadline team and to enlist their support in the pursuit of the deadline.

When George H. Bush announced the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1990 a cheer was reported at a professional basketball game, and it was to enter into it with anything other than a heavy heart. I know now why that cheer went up, though. The spirit of abstraction.

Leverage the tasks you want to do by withholding them until your more odious tasks are completed first. That way, desirable tasks become a motivating reward.

Principle #6 for Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer

Legal and human resources constrictions counteract names from being released until the selection is complete and the official communications and severance packages are ready. Employees know the moment is coming, but little else.

Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer Thinking in terms of the customer’s deadline and of ways to facilitate the up-line obligations to yet another level of customers or end users is characteristic of great companies. Great organizations never lose sight of the big picture, which includes the customer meeting its own deadline. Great conversations are like anything. Success is usually not an accident. It’s planned. Each company has a reputation as a dependable azlly who will not let the customer fail. That’s true, but letting people go is far easier from a legal standpoint if you’ve established and documented a strong case for why a particular employee doesn’t fit with your culture—and exactly what that means.

Principle #7 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Ramp Up

Most teams have to ramp up to meet their deadlines. It isn’t as if they can meet their challenges the way they are. The challenges they accept are complicated by the steps that need to be taken to meet each deadline—and yet they are not intimidated by the deadlines, nor by the requirements to meet them.

Definitely, we can imagine naysayers. But, the decisions of senior management to accept the challenges have positive repercussions. Organizations are transformed by the requirements to meet the challenges they willingly accept.

Authorize them to communicate and lead, not to just passively watch their departments be clipped without a rationale.

Conclusion: Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Meeting deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy Those involved in setting the deadline feel driven by the schedule, but they are not emotionally overwhelmed. That’s not strong enough, and it’s not quantifiable. By most quantitative standards, the employee is doing great work. In fact, enforced schsedules offer a sense of relief: You then know exactly what must be done daily to be victorious, and even when “off schedule,” you know what must be done to get back on track. Deadline busters willingly bow to the Schedule God, obeying the truest guide to victory in the race against time.

What it is, therefore, matters a great deal, for studies show that what we choose to meet deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy. Pursuing meeting deadlines, for example, actually tends to decrease our happiness in the long run. Pursuing altruistic goals, on the other hand, is one of the few things that actually increases it.

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Holy Grail and Its Healing Properties

A handcolored etching of the Holy Grail, from a series of illustrations for Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal (1882).

Holy Grail is a mystical cup that was thought by Christians to have healing properties.

The Holy Grail is first mentioned in the Arthurian romance Perceval, Le Conte du Graaf (c. 1181) by Chretien de Troyes (1135–1183). The Grail itself is simply a beautifully decorated chalice, or cup, used to hold the Mass wafer, which Catholics receive as the literal, transubstantiated body of Christ. In the story, the wafer sustains the injured Fisher King, who lives by this bread alone. In its earliest conception, therefore, the Holy Grail is best thought of as a romantic medieval appropriation of the Eucharist, which brings health to those who partake of it.

The thirteenth-century poet Robert de Boron added to the Grail legend by describing it as the combination of the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper and the blood of Jesus that Joseph of Arimathea saved during the crucifixion. In this way, Joseph of Arimathea became the first of the Grail guardians, and it was his task to keep the Grail safe until it could help in healing the faithful. In later Arthurian romances, the “Grail Quest” is undertaken by King Arthur’s knights as a means to help restore Camelot-the near paradisiacal kingdom on Earth—which is being torn apart by sin.

Sir Thomas Malory wrote of the Holy Grail in Le Marte d’Arthur (1485): “Then looked they and saw a man come out of the holy vessel …”

Although the Holy Grail has gradually become more than a simple metaphor for the Eucharist, it still retains the strong Christian notion that Jesus’s sacrifice makes possible redemption not only as the healing of moral brokenness (the forgiveness of sins) but also the healing of nonmoral brokenness (the restoration of broken bodies, dying lands, and so on). The legend of the Holy Grail depicts humanity’s quest for redemption, but also hints at what that redemption might look like.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

In all four inventories of the apostles, James, the son of Alpheus, is grouped with Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Academics conjecture that there was a common thread amongst these men prior to joining Jesus, and that perhaps they all once fit in to the rebellious religious faction known as the Zealots.

James the Younger is occasionally called “the Less” (Mark 15:40) though no noteworthy reason has been found for this, except for perhaps to differentiate him from “James the Elder” or “the Great.”

It is commonly thought that James was the brother of Matthew, because both were sons of Alpheus. Like his brother, James came from Capernaum in Galilee, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus came to land early in his ministry, propagandizing in the native synagogues, private homes, and on the sandy shores of the sea. Crowds congregated throughout to listen, and perhaps James came to hear Jesus’ teachings in such a way. However it is believed that James contrasted ideologically with Matthew, both brothers were inspired by Jesus. Renouncing all else behind, together they set aside their disparities and followed him.

One story maintained in the Golden Legend relates that James so bore a resemblance to Jesus that it was difficult for those who did not know them well to tell the two apart. Perhaps there is a minor kernel of truth here. Might this be the motive that the kiss of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Scripture, was needed? Perchance it was to make certain that Jesus and not the holy apostle James was detained.

In the Apostle James’ last days he earned the name the “Divine Seed” for he labored during the course of his life to sow the seeds of Jesus’ message. Thus he flourished in planting faith and benevolence in all who listened.

  • His symbol is the fuller’s club (used in blacksmithing) or a book.
  • Holy days: in the Eastern churches on October 9; in the West, the Book of Common Prayer joins him with Philip on May 1; and in the Roman Catholic Church, his holy day is May 3.
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Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue

Conduct Soul-searching Interviews with Outsiders

Engage in a Constructive Leadership Dialogue If you are a leader, what is your most important job? As stated by John Kotter, leaders groom organizations for transformation and help them manage as they struggle through it. That is their foremost job. However, how do they go about doing it? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said: “My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”

Evidently, setting a direction for the future is an important aspect of leadership. Telling what the organization should become in the long term and how it should get there becomes the foremost duty. Soon after taking the helm of IBM, Lou Gerstner announced, “The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision.” Some people nailed his hide to the wall for that statement. He explains that reporters dropped the words “right now” from his statement. Gerstner felt that IBM was long on vision statements, but short on getting the job done. Fixing the company was all about execution.

Creating a Culture of Leadership

Execution is nothing but aligning people, motivating them, and creating a culture of leadership. Kotter contrasts execution with equally important but managerial duties such as planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem solving. The value of a wonderful strategy is only achieved when it is carried out. And it is the people who make the grand vision a reality. That’s why, as Jack Welch points out, leaders need to make it a priority to plant and nourish talented people at every level.

If you lead a big organization like General Electric, you might have assets at your disposal like the GE John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville, the world’s first major corporate business school. Here everyone from important customers and partners to present and future GE leaders come together to identify opportunities and debate issues. But few organizations have the resources to invest like GE. They can’t operate a dedicated leadership center.

Creating a Culture of Leadership The constraint of a smaller budget is hardly an excuse to not operate key levers that drive superior performance in people. Going back to Welch’s garden analogy, some aspects of cultivation are free, such as sunshine. But how you choose to orient your garden in relationship to the sun makes all the difference. If you place your garden under a large shade tree, you cut it off from necessary nourishment.

While a leader needs to have a strong sense of the direction, cultivating new culture by changing people’s frame of mind and behaviors is the hardest part. In doing so, they can follow the profit-at-any-price model by relying on fear, pressure, and greed, or they can follow a more sensible leadership model based on inspiration, motivation, and enthusiasm.

Four Bad Leadership Models

Even leaders who articulate a convincing vision, inspire followers, and display passion and courage to take on challenges can have wasteful traits that limit them. These tend to manifest themselves in four ways:

  • Know-it-alls: They start believing that they know and do this better than anybody, and believe that they don’t need others as much as others need them. So they tend to treat others as dispensable and tune them out.
  • Micromanagers: They get mired in minutiae and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. By measuring too much, they measure nothing.
  • Perfectionists: They spend too much time doing things right rather than doing the right things, thereby losing focus. They take any constructive feedback as a direct hit and return what they see as not-so-friendly fire.
  • Detached: They become emotionally distant and lose the intimacy and connection to other people. To any push-back, they respond: “Tough! If I can do it, so can you.”

When these behaviors occur, the results follow quickly: Any constructive confrontation within the executive team ends almost immediately. Honest exchange of ideas on options and their pros and cons ceases. What is happening on the ground to the foot soldiers becomes irrelevant. The pressure people feel becomes unbearable. The “guilt trip” that nobody else is pulling their weight becomes harder to take. Any semblance of work-life balance is lost. Conversations become one-way streets, and people feel like glorified order-takers. It seems like they have ceded all authority to the boss.

The leader is quickly surrounded by loyal sycophants in the inner circle who simply want to ride the coattails. Everyone else is in the outer circle-albeit with more self-esteem, yet fearful to say that the emperor has no clothes. Soon people start telling the leader what the leader wants to hear, lest their heads are chopped off. Collaboration comes to a grinding halt, and providing lip service becomes the politically correct thing to do. Everyone looks out for themselves, and any mutually shared goals, if they exist, take a back seat. Any sense of intimacy, camaraderie, and belonging on the team becomes non-existent.

Any concept of a team breaks down. Any sense of empowerment evaporates. The vision of the leader becomes a pipe dream. The strategic plan to get there suddenly has strong disbelievers. The short-term results, obtained through draconian measures, become harder to sustain. As Michael Maccoby notes: “Narcissistic leaders can self-destruct and lead their people astray.” So, there is plenty of leadership, but little followership.

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future

Foster Competencies to Compete in the Future A key challenge for leaders competing for the future is to foster competencies that provide access to tomorrow’s opportunities. Further, as discussed by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad in Competing for the Future, leaders need to find innovative applications of the current competencies. Leaders must objectively assess and proactively improve the caliber of the executive team and the organization as a whole.

However, before a leader can assess the caliber of the executive team, he must take stock of his own. Surveys—whether leadership or 360 degree—are popular and necessary, but rarely tell the leader the whole story. Objective, confidential, and focused interviews by an outsider with each individual on the executive team can deliver unvarnished truth-rich information about what’s really happening behind closed doors. Is there a true strategic alignment? How is the leadership style perceived? How much constructive confrontation occurs? Do people collaborate or simply provide lip service? Is everyone pulling in the same direction?

There are five prerequisites to getting the most from these interviews:

  1. Right reason. First, conduct the interviews for the right reason: improving leadership by eliminating unproductive behaviors. If the hidden agenda is to vilify non-performers or to find scapegoats, the approach backfires.
  2. Objectivity. You need an objective outsider to hold the mirror. This person must not be afraid to find out the truth and tell it like it is.
  3. Confidentiality. The interviews have to be treated as confidential, and the interviewer can’t make any direct attribution to a specific individual. Despite all the talk about openness, blackballing is still a common practice.
  4. Specificity. While recognizing that everyone’s reality is different, the interviews have to focus on direct observations, experiences, and involvement rather than hearsay.
  5. Commitment. There must be a commitment to develop an action plan at the individual and team level.

If these criteria are met, the insights gained from interviews can help create a high-performance culture. The honest feedback and recommendations can raise the candor and constructive dialogue.

Baseball manager Tommy Lasorda said leading people is like holding a dove in your hand. “If you hold it too tightly, you kill it; but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” Finding that delicate balance between providing nourishment and pulling weeds is the key to effective leadership. But it begins with looking in the mirror.

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