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The Rise and Fall of Theranos

The Rise and Fall of Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Two years ago, the blood-testing startup Theranos was one of the hottest assets in Silicon Valley. Valued at $9 billion, it guaranteed nothing short of a paradigm shift in medicine with its groundbreaking, needle-free test process. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a 32-year-old Stanford dropout, was effusively profiled in the business press as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But now, the company is fighting for its survival, in the midst of claims that its tests are “at best, fundamentally flawed and, at worst, unsafe.” The disturbance began six months ago, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s breakthrough technology, which could reasonably run hundreds of tests with blood from a finger prick, couldn’t really deliver. Not long after, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates lab testing, said that Theranos put patients’ lives at risk with faulty tests at its California lab. The latest blow: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lately began independent criminal investigations into whether Theranos deceived investors about its technology.

Nothing is proven yet. It’s very unusual for the SEC to investigate a privately held company like Theranos, but it could begin to happen more often. SEC Chair Mary Jo White wants to give more enquiry to the growing number of so-called unicorn startups, which are valued at more than $1 billion, “because they pose a high risk to investors.” The company’s fate is now in the hands of its charismatic founder—as the company’s leader, chairwoman, and majority stakeholder, Holmes can command what she wants done at her company. It’s a common procedure in Silicon Valley’s startup philosophy, where boards have “little real power.” Many venture capitalists are willing to take the risk, hoping to get in with the next Mark Zuckerberg, but “if trouble brews,” the cult encircling a founder can become a obligation. That’s largely because there is no such thing as investigative journalism in Silicon Valley. Journalism here is largely confused with, and deliberately conflated with, public relations, but they’re not the same thing.

So far, Theranos has never been able to establish its testing technology really works. Rather than publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, or letting its blood-testing machines to be assessed by external experts, the company has continually kept its methods cloaked in secrecy. Theranos has reasoned that it was guarding trade secrets, but testing openness is customary routine in the medical industry. Even drug companies, which function in a exceedingly aggressive segment, issue adequate results of their drug trials to establish that a medicine actually works, whilst even keeping sufficient details secret to make their product proprietary. Blood testing is a $73-billion-a-year commerce set for disruption—as any person who’s had blood drawn can confirm, it’s laborious, uncomfortable, and pricey.

Theranos is under investigation for fraud, which is weird for a private company. Theranos is performing tests on patients without having published peer reviewed research—a cardinal sin in science—and with minimal federal oversight. Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators

Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto

Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto, an early promoter of hedge fund investing, passed away on Sunday 13 March 2016 after a long sickness. On November 12, 1969, de Picciotto opened his own asset-management bank in a city dominated by such well-known private banking names as Pictet Group, Lombard Odier, Darier and Hentsch.

Edgar de Picciotto founded Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) in 1969. UBP is one of the most favorably capitalized private banks in the world, and a leading player in the field of wealth management in Switzerland with $110 billion in assets under management at the end of December 2015. Edgar de Picciotto, who was born of Syrian-Lebanese parentage, moved to Switzerland in the 1950s and worked as a financier before founding UBP’s predecessor in 1969. From the bank’s inconspicuous headquarters on one of Geneva’s chief luxury-shopping drags, he built a customer base of affluent individuals and institutions all over Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East.

De Picciotto was born in Beirut and hailed from a lineage of businesspersons, which lived from the 14th to the 17th century in Portugal, moving in later centuries via Italy and Syria to the Lebanon. He afterward lived with his parents and brothers in Milan, ultimately deciding to study mechanical engineering in France. However, it was financial engineering, which took his perpetual fancy. He earned his spurs and made financial contacts, working in his previous father-in-law’s bank in Geneva. In its 2015 annual report, UBP recalled,

As our 2015 Annual Report was going to print, we learnt with deep sorrow that Edgar de Picciotto, the Chairman and founder of Union Bancaire Privee, had passed away at 86 years of age.

Edgar de Picciotto was a recognized creative visionary and pioneer in a wide variety of fields in the banking industry. He quickly rose to become a leading figure of the Geneva financial hub, and one of the most respected authorities on investments around the world.

In just a few decades, Edgar de Picciotto turned UBP into one of the world’s biggest family-owned banks. Very early on, he also set up a governance structure designed to ensure the Group’s longevity by integrating the second generation of his family into the business.

UBP is his life’s work. UBP is his legacy to us. It now falls to us to grow UBP with the same entrepreneurial spirit that he used to create the Bank, by perpetuating the values that Edgar de Picciotto would wish to see upheld every day and in everything we do.

Edgar de Picciotto’s children and all the members of UBP’s management are determined to carry on the spirit that its founder instilled in it, and they know that they can rely on the professionalism and dedication of all UBP’s staff members to continue to grow the Bank’s business, while also maintaining its independence.

In 2002, news of merger talks between two family-controlled private banks, Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) and Discount Bank & Trust Company (DTBT) over forming one of Geneva’s biggest private banks became newest sign of the altering attitude among the country’s private banks. Withdrawing from UBP’s operational management 20 years ago, de Picciotto set up a governance structure designed to guarantee the bank’s durability. His son Guy de Picciotto has been chief executive officer since 1998, while his daughter, Anne Rotman de Picciotto, and his eldest son, Daniel de Picciotto, are on the board of directors.

Byron Wien, vice chairperson of Blackstone Advisory Partners, had the pleasure of calling Edgar de Picciotto his mentor.

My purpose in reviewing Edgar’s thinking over the past 15 years is to show how he consistently tried to integrate his world view into the investment environment. That was his imperative. He wasn’t always right, but he was always questioning himself and he remained flexible. When he lost money, it tended to cause minimal pain in relation to his overall assets, and when one of his maverick ideas worked, he made what he called “serious money.”

Lessons from Edgar de Picciotto of Union Bancaire Privee

Edgar de Picciotto as a Mentor

Mentors fall into two categories: there are those you work with every day who are incessantly guiding you to enhanced performance. The ability to serve as a great mentor is one of the most undervalued and underappreciated skills in finance. Perhaps better branded as a “role model,” an outstanding mentor can provide not only a wide-ranging knowledge base and technical skills, but also the sagacious financial judgment that implies the high-class investor. Perhaps of even larger importance, a mentor can express a “philosophy of practice,” including the optimal interaction with clients and economists, a procedure for remaining current with advances in the field, and a thorough concept of how the practice of finance fits into a full life. A sympathetic mentor can also provide counselling in selecting the best practice opportunity and can maintain a close relationship for many years.

Mentors are significant to all of us, as they teach us what can’t be learned from books or in the classroom. They set aside a concrete example of “how to get it done,” and, sometimes more importantly, what to be done, when to do it, and whom to engage in the effort. Their inspiration often carries us through when nothing else does.

  • Understand the consequence of understanding the macro environment. “Many people describe themselves as stock pickers … but you have to consider the economic, social, and political context in which the stocks are being picked.” De Picciotto indubitably showed he had a good nose for trends.
  • Meet as many people of authority as you can. “For him, networking never stopped.” De Picciotto took great pleasure from knowing smart people and exchanging ideas with them.
  • “Nobody owns the truth.” De Picciotto would test his ideas on those he cherished and, and if he ran into a convincing conflicting opinion, he would contemplate on it seriously and sometimes change his position. While he never lacked principle about his ideas, he was unprejudiced and malleable.
  • Value the trust and the delight of friendship and the vainness of resentment. De Picciotto was gratified of his own success but also an enthusiast of the success of others who were his friends.
  • Never talk about overlooked opportunities except when you are disapproving yourself. Be your own harshest critic. Even if you are an intellectual risk taker, you will make many mistakes. Diagnose them early, but never stop taking risks, because that is where the tangible opportunities are and your life will be more invigorating as a result.
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Posted in Investing and Finance Leaders and Innovators

When Ronald Reagan forgot about his adapted son Michael Reagan

In 1945, President Ronald Reagan and his first wife, the actress Jane Wyman adopted a son Michael E. Reagan. His adoption was not a happy one and he is now estranged from his family.

'Reagan: The Life' by H.W. Brands (ISBN 0385536399) ‘Reagan: The Life’ by H.W. Brands recalls Michael Raegan’s story, who as a child was “neglected as those of any famous parent. Invited to speak at his adopted son Michael’s boarding school, Reagan failed to recognise his boy under a mortar board. ‘My name is Ronald Reagan. What’s yours?’ he said. ‘Remember me?’ came the sad reply: ‘I’m your son Mike.'”

In 1964 Ronald Reagan was the commencement speaker at an exclusive preparatory school outside Scottsdale, Arizona. He was standing with several of the graduating seniors, who were invited to pose for pictures with him. He chatted to each of the graduates in turn, and to one of the boys said: “My name is Ronald Reagan. What’s yours?” The boy said, “I’m your son, Mike.” “Oh,” said Reagan. “I didn’t recognize you.”

Reagan and his first wife Wyman divorced in 1952. Michael Reagan was born in Los Angeles to Irene Flaugher, an unmarried woman from Kentucky who became pregnant through a relationship with U.S. Army corporal John Bourgholtzer. Michael Reagan is a conservative radio host and strategist for the American Republican party.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

Charles Baudelaire: In Praise of Cosmetics

Charles Baudelaire introduced the idea that no woman is so beautiful that her beauty would not be enhanced by cosmetics.

Charles Baudelaire, French poet and essayist For much of the history of humanity, the wearing of cosmetics by women has been viewed, in the West at least, as something associated with harlots and stage performers (with those two professions once being considered almost equally disreputable). As an early nineteenth-century song once asserted, it is nature itself that “embellishes beauty,” so what need would a virtuous woman have for makeup?

The French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire (1821- 67) was raised in this culture of “naturalized beauty” and never really questioned it in his early years. But then, in the 1860s, the man who coined the word “modernity” began to question what Romantic artists and writers referred to as the “supremacy of nature.” In his book, The Painter of Modern Life (1863), he turned his attention to the nature of beauty in the chapter titled “In Praise of Cosmetics.” Charles Baudelaire wrote in his “In Praise of Cosmetics” (1863,) “I am perfectly happy for those whose owlish gravity prevents them from seeking beauty in its most minute manifestations to laugh at these reflections of mine … .”

Baudelaire had always felt especially drawn to the opposite sex, and was conscious of how society’s notion of beauty was changing in an increasingly industrialized world. His essay on beauty was a little too whimsical to be taken absolutely seriously, but it was nonetheless a triumphant defense of the notion that makeup can make the beautiful even more beautiful. “External finery,” Baudelaire wrote, is “one of the signs of the primitive nobility of the human soul.” Every fash ion is “charming,” and every woman is bound by “a kind of duty” to appear magical, to astonish, and to charm her fellows. Accordingly, nature could now be imaginatively surpassed by applying black eyeliner, which “gives the eye a more decisive appearance,” and rouge, which “sets fire to the cheekbone.” Baudelaire’s emphasis on the beauty of artifice over nature marked a significant departure from the Romanticism of the first half of the century, reflecting the rise of decadence and Aestheticism, to many of whose practitioners he was a hero.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Music, Arts, and Culture

Ben Franklin’s Fable of The Lion And The Dog

Ben Franklin's Fable of The Lion And The Dog

In January 1770, in the London newspaper The Public Advertiser, Benjamin Franklin published a fable about a young lion cub and a large English dog traveling together on a ship.

A lion’s whelp was put on board a Guinea ship bound to America as a present to a friend in that country: it was tame and harmless as a kitten, and therefore not confined, but suffered to walk about the ship at pleasure. A stately, full-grown English mastiff, belonging to the captain, despising the weakness of the young lion, frequently took its food by force, and often turned it out of its lodging box, when he had a mind to repose therein himself The young lion nevertheless grew daily in size and strength, and the voyage being long, he became at last a more equal match for the mastiff; who continuing his insults, received a stunning blow from the lion’s paw that fetched his skin over his ears, and deterred him from any future contest with such growing strength; regretting that he had not rather secured its friendship than provoked its enmity.

'A Benjamin Franklin Reader' by Walter Isaacson (ISBN 0743273982) This is one of the many his articles, letters, hoaxes, and other pieces of political propaganda all aimed at convincing the British colonial powers that its oppressive treatment of the American colonies would sooner or later backfire. Franklin was acting in his capacity as the spokesman in London for several colonies.

Franklin “humbly inscribed” this to Lord Hillsborough, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had become Franklin’s most ardent opponent.

Lord Hillsborough (Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire PC) served as the colonial secretary from 1768 to 1772, a critical period leading toward the American War of Independence.

For a great collection of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, see ‘A Benjamin Franklin Reader’ by Walter Isaacson. Not only was Franklin a self-made man, but he gave great advice about connecting with people and interacting with others both from a business and from a personal point of view.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Philosophy and Wisdom

Sam Walton Saw No Need for Unions at Walmart

Pro-Union Activists Protest Against Walmart's Anti-Union Policies

Walmart has always been criticized for its policies against labor unions. Supporters of unionization efforts blame workers’ reluctance to join the labor union on Walmart’s anti-union tactics such as managerial surveillance and pre-emptive closures of stores or departments that choose to unionize. Leaked internal documents show that Walmart’s strategy for fighting to keep its workers from forming unions includes instructing managers to report suspicious activity and warning workers that joining unionizing efforts could hurt them.

Walmart’s management has contended that it’s employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company’s open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart wrote in his autobiography:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I have always believed strongly that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart. Theoretically, I understand the argument that unions try to make, that the associates need someone to represent them and so on. But historically, as unions have developed in this country, they have mostly just been divisive. They have put management on one side of the fence, employees on the other, and themselves in the middle as almost a separate business, one that depends on division between the other two camps. And divisiveness, by breaking down direct communication makes it harder to take care of customers, to be competitive, and to gain market share. The partnership we have at Wal-Mart—which includes profit sharing, incentive bonuses, discount stock purchase plans, and a genuine effort to involve the associates in the business so we can all pull together—works better for both sides than any situation I know of involving unions. I’m not saying we pay better than anybody, though we’re certainly competitive in our industry and in the regions where we’re operating; we have to be if we want to attract and keep good people. But over the long haul, our associates build value for themselves—financially and otherwise—by believing in the company and keeping it headed in the right direction. Together, we have ridden this thing pretty darned far.

Source: Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made In America

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The Comprehensive Benjamin Franklin Timeline

The Benjamin Franklin Timeline

Benjamin Franklin is revered as the truly distinguished American for his way of living. Assiduous, industrious, ingenious, opinionated, involved, entrepreneurial, intelligent, inquisitive, patriotic, and he lived to be old. He was a printer, a politician, an author, writer, and journalist. He was an inventor, a thinker, and a doer. He was an honest and righteous man who zealously wanted these colonies to be free, self-determining, flourishing, and protected.

He was one of the founders of the United States. America was very privileged to have this right man at the right time. He was well loved as a diplomat and he was a manufacturer of ink. This one man could have filled the lives of ten men with achievements and honors. Lastly, he was most mercifully and humanly flawed.

1706 … Born in Boston on January 17 (Jan. 6, 1705, Old Style). One of seventeen children born to his father, Josiah Franklin,and ten to his mother, Abiah Folger.

1714 … Attends Boston Latin School.

1718 … Apprenticed to brother James Franklin, a printer, who taught Ben the printing trade.

1722 … Writes Silence Dogood essays in the New-England Courant, his brother James’s newspaper.

1723 … Runs away to Philadelphia.

1724 … Moves to London with the intention to acquire equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia.

1725 … Wrote pamphlet “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain” and, in it, rejected Christian dogma. Later regarded this pamphlet as an embarrassment.

1726 … Returns to Philadelphia.

1728 … Opens his own print shop.

1729 … Writes the “Busy-Body” series essays. Buys Pennsylvania Gazette.

1730 … Enters common-law marriage with Deborah Read. Son William born.

1731 … Founds Library Company of Philadelphia.

1732 … Son Francis born. Launches Poor Richard’s Almanac.

1733 … Moral Perfection Project that consists of twelve guidelines to help make himself morally perfect

1735 … Controversy over preacher Samuel Hemphill.

1736 … Clerk of Pennsylvania Assembly. Son Francis dies. Forms Union Fire Company, one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America.

1737 … Made Philadelphia postmaster.

1741 … Launches General Magazine, which fails. Designs Franklin stove.

1743 … Daughter Sarah (“Sally”) born. Launches American Philosophical Society.

1745 … Collinson sends electricity pamphlets and glass tube.

'A Benjamin Franklin Reader' by Walter Isaacson (ISBN 0743273982) 1746 … Summer of electricity experiments.

1747 … Writes “Plain Truth.” Organizes militia.

1748 … Retires from printing business.

1749 … Writes proposal for the Academy (University of Pennsylvania).

1751 … Electricity writings published in London. Elected to Pennsylvania Assembly.

1752 … Kite and lightning experiment.

1753 … Becomes joint postmaster for America.

1754 … French and Indian War begins. Proposes Albany Plan of Union to create a unified government for the Thirteen Colonies.

1757 … Leaves for London as agent. Writes “Way to Wealth” and last Poor Richard’s Almanac. Moves in with Mrs. Stevenson on Craven Street in London.

1758 … Visits Ecton to research ancestry with son William.

1761 … Travels to Flanders and Holland with son William.

1762 … Returns to Philadelphia. Son William made royal governor of N.J., marries.

1763 … Postal inspection trip from Virginia to New England. French and Indian War ends.

1764 … Paxton Boys crisis. Defeated in bitter Assembly election. Returns to London as agent.

1765 … Stamp Act passes.

1766 … Testifies in Parliament against Stamp Act, which is repealed.

1767 … Townshend duties imposed. Travels to France.

1768 … Wages press crusade in London on behalf of the colonies.

1769 … Second visit to France.

1770 … Townshend duties repealed except on tea. Made agent for Massachusetts.

1771 … Begins Autobiography. Visits Ireland and Scotland.

1773 … Writes parodies “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Smaller One” and “Edict of the King of Prussia.” Boston Tea Party.

1775 … Returns to Philadelphia. Battles of Lexington and Concord. Elected to Second Continental Congress. Proposes first Articles of Confederation.

1776 … William removed as royal governor, imprisoned in Connecticut. Declaration of Independence. Goes to France with Temple and Benny.

1777 … Settles in Passy, feted throughout Paris.

1778 … Treaties of alliance and commerce with France.

1779 … Salons of Madames Brillon and Helvetius. John Paul Jones’s Bonhomme Richard defeats the Serapis.

1781 … Appointed (with Adams and others) to negotiate, in Paris, peace with Britain.

1785 … Last meeting with son William. Returns to Philadelphia.

1787 … Constitutional Convention. Elected president of Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

1790 … Dies on April 17 at age 84.

For a great collection of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, see ‘A Benjamin Franklin Reader’ by Walter Isaacson. Not only was Franklin a self-made man, but he gave great advice about connecting with people and interacting with others both from a business and from a personal point of view.

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Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Apply New Knowledge to Solve New Problems

Education is what have left after forgotten everything you’ve learned. Today, people must constantly forget things they know.

Product generations often last less than 18 months. Some entire product lines turn over every year, and some in six months. Companies that roll to success are those that develop constant learning capacities and exploit them.

Learning can become a renewable resource. An educated person is like a spring: as a spring replenishes itself when water is withdrawn, so educated individuals replenish their learning when knowledge has served its purpose.

Educated people know how to learn. A person who has been trained in specific tasks but not educated in the art of learning is like a dipper, which gets its water from an external source. When the water’s gone, the dipper can’t refill itself.

In the industrial age, education was not essential to successful job performance. Tasks were broken into small subtasks, which people performed repetitively. Once the worker had learned the mechanical procedure, further learning was unnecessary. A robot could do it.

Well, robots are doing it, which means that something more is required of people. They must learn to become more than repetitive doers; they must become purposeful thinkers.

Today, knowledge must generate more knowledge. Workers must learn to bridge between what they already know and what they need to know to achieve continuous improvement.

This calls for skills in interacting with other people and applying new knowledge to solve new problems. Corporate education should develop these skills.

Knock down walls (bureaucratic barriers that block communication). In many companies, communication flows through narrow channels, chimneys of power, usually from the top down. People walled off from these chimneys are left to work in an information vacuum.

Today’s leaders must demolish the walls that prevent the lateral flow of communication. With the walls gone, information permeates and people find it easier to be focused, flexible, fast and friendly. You can’t focus the efforts of your workforce if your organization is criss-crossed with walls that impede the flow of information. You can’t be flexible if you have a rigid structure in which every division and department is a closed information loop. You can’t be fast if information has to seep slowly through layers of management. And you can’t be friendly if your people don’t talk to other people inside and outside your organization.

If you look around, you may see plenty of boundaries that need to be removed. One may be the door to your office that remains closed to input. Another might be a rigid boundary between hourly and salaried employees. Or it could be a boundary that shuts out ideas that don’t originate in your own organization. Other boundaries might be the lines between divisions. If one division develops a new method or technology, does it share it with other divisions?

Among the toughest boundaries to dismantle are the ones managers erect around the borders of their turf. People who are promoted to their “levels of incompetence” and armed with the word “manager” in their titles, stake out their own turfs and guard them jealously. In a corporation without boundaries, advancement means moving into positions in which expertise is interchanged and knowledge is put to productive use by coaches, advisers, and knowledge workers. In such corporations, advancement for individuals results in advancement for the entire company.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Mental Models and Psychology

How to Create a Culture of Accountability

How to Create a Culture of Accountability

Most people view accountability as something that belittles them or happens only when performance wanes, problems develop, results suffer, something goes wrong, or someone seeks to identify the cause of the problem, all for the sake of pinning blame and pointing the finger. When things sail along smoothly, people rarely ask, “Who is accountable for this success?”

Most dictionaries define accountability in a negative view. Consider Webster’s definition: “subject to having to report, explain, or justify; being answerable and responsible.” The words “subject to” imply little choice in the matter. This suggests that accountability is a consequence for poor performance, something you should fear or avoid. When people experience accountability this way, they shun it and justify poor results.

We need a more positive and powerful definition of accountability. Consider ours: “A personal choice to rise above your circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results.

This definition includes a mindset of asking, “What else can I do to rise above my circumstances and achieve the desired results?” It involves seeing it, owning it, solving it, and doing it, and requires making, keeping, and answering for personal commitments. Such a perspective embraces current and future efforts rather than reactive, historical explanations. With this new definition, you can help yourself and others do everything possible to overcome difficult circumstances and achieve desired results.

Accountability in Action

As hard as he tried, Dave Schlotterbeck, CEO of Alaris Medical Systems, could not get his 2,900 employees to perform. The $500 million company had resulted from a merger of IVAC and Imed. While the merger should have produced strength, debt and under-performance stalled all efforts.

The breakthrough at Alaris was the result of focused effort. Through a series of cross-functional feedback sessions between operations, sales, quality, customer care and service, individuals were confronted with hard facts. People could see the problem and how they could change it. They overcame the barriers of functional expertise and prefer ences and aligned themselves for the common good. ALARIS attained a culture of accountability in which everyone wanted to do and achieve more.

Here are four steps to take in creating a culture of accountability

  1. Know what result you need to reach. Whether you have a sales goal, a delivery date for your product, or a minimum ROI to achieve, know what result you need to reach. Once you set the goat make it clear to all managers and employees. Everyone must know what they are working for and how their job moves the company forward.
  2. Generate joint accountability for results. This occurs when everyone assumes accountability for the result. No one can even think, let alone say, that he has done his job if the team has not achieved its targeted result. In fact, no one can think or say that she has achieved her individual result if the company has not achieved its result. Leaders can create joint accountability by targeting a clear result, driving the result though the company, and holding everyone accountable for achieving the result—not just doing his or her job. Joint accountability demands that everyone become accountable for producing the results the company must achieve.
  3. Keep people focused on achieving the result, not just putting in time and doing tasks. Often, job descriptions push people into boxes. They give people the idea that they are getting paid and using their skills to perform a defined function or task. The task mindset leads people to believe that if they perform their functions, they’ve done the job, whether or not the result is achieved. Effective leaders lead people beyond the boundaries of their jobs and inspire them to relentlessly pursue results by creating a culture that motivates them to ask, “What else can I do?” until the results are achieved. They help people see that their “job” is to achieve the results. The daily activities that comprise people’s jobs must be aligned with the targeted results.
  4. Direct you own destiny. Only when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, actions and results can you direct your own destiny; otherwise, someone else will. Accountability enables you to influence events and outcomes before they happen. You will gain much more from a proactive posture than from a reactive one.

This view of accountability can help revitalize your character, strengthen your competitiveness, heighten innovation, improve the quality of your products and services, and increase your responsiveness to the needs and wants of your customers and constituents. When you create a culture of accountability, you will achieve the results you want, and everyone will help you along the way.

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How Peak Performers Move Ahead and Pursue their Dreams

How Peak Performers Pursue their Dreams

I’m often asked, “How do I know if I’m a peak performer?” Frequently the people who ask seem afraid that the answer will be “You aren’t. You don’t measure up.” You begin answering the question by examining your current situation, “the horse you’re riding on.” You may have chosen wisely and well, knowing that loving your work and being inspired by its possibilities are critical to a life filled with challenge, rewards, and energy. You may have selected your job on those grounds. Still, amid job stress, internal politics, firefighting, and the craziness of daily life, your mission may be nearly forgotten: “I did love it once—or at least I knew I could love it. Now that sense of being in the right place, working at the heart of things, feels faraway.”

Anyone who feels that way will find it difficult to see his or her direction, values, and opportunities as part of a coherent mission. To paraphrase George Santayana, many of us redouble our efforts when we have lost our direction. The result is not necessarily failure. Several famous and wealthy people have mislaid their original missions. The result is, though, that their redoubled efforts often secure gratification not quite their own, at considerable cost to body and soul.

So they must ask another question: “Is my place to stand, in my current commitment, true to my real passions, or have I traded my passions for security or glory, and settled for gratifications hot quite my own?”

The key is to identify your current situation—candidly, with “ruthless compassion,” and then to act in your own behalf. Peak performers assess the degree to which their abilities, jobs, and work environment coincide to move forward their mission the degree to which their current stand gives them leverage to achieve those ends they feel destined to accomplish.

Many of us know the feeling of being close but not quite there, having the mission in sight but a bit out of focus. We adjust; we move elements around; we struggle, perhaps for years. We fail to see that we are having difficulty not with coping and adaptation but with growth and change. To others our struggle might seem puzzling. Those who know us well may feel that what is best for us is obvious. But, obsessed with the trials of daily life, we ignore the “real stuff” of our place to stand and the “right stuff” in ourselves.

“Will I ever discriminate between what really matters in work and life and what only seems to matter? Will I ever judge wisely and have the courage to act in my own behalf?” For the peak performers, the answer to these questions is yes.

Some of us have yet to find our place to stand. We have not taken our best stand, have not fully engaged our mission. But old missions—real ones don’t die easily. They may recede into the background, but they are still waiting there, ready to move to center stage. Like an unrequited love, a real mission lives on in the mind of its creator, awaiting its resolution: “It just didn’t work out. I got pulled away by different interests and responsibilities. The circumstances changed, and the passions cooled. It just wasn’t practical to go on. Besides, something more reasonable came along.”

How to Promote Peak Performance

Promote Peak Performance

Our reasoned, reasonable loves offer but shadows of the motivation and potential of our real ones. Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye once observed: “Realistic people with practical aims are rarely as realistic or practical in the long run of life, as the dreamers who pursue their dreams.” Peak performers know this distinction.

With work, as with people, there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. But if the love is real, its feelings bone-deep and wholehearted, the 50 ways serve only as rationalizations and excuses. Many of us have major responsibilities: equity positions, family obligations, our friends’ expectations, our familiarity with a place and a job. Instead of allowing themselves to be trapped in such situations, peak performers accept the risks and temporary discomforts of challenging themselves to better the situations. In spite of their fears and self-doubts, they exercise their courage and face the difficulties.

As they reflect on the journey, a memory, an award, or a picture may trigger associations with a face, a name, or an old life plan. With missions loved, as with people, come a torrent of images. There is a certain pathos to such reflection, taking its origin as William Wordsworth said poetry does: “from emotion recollected in tranquility” This emotion, not sadness, reconnects them with the source of their motivation. Peak performers move ahead and pursue their dreams.

Others might say: “I always wanted to be .. .I wonder what would have happened if .. .I never knew why it didn’t work. .. If only … If only … If only … ” Such normal feelings trigger further reflection for the peak performer: “What did I learn from that situation? How can I recapture those old dreams, perhaps in an altered or updated form? How can I act in my own behalf? And how can I ensure against being like those people who are unable or unwilling to learn from such reflection, who continue in their rut, riding the horse long after the race is over and the beast has died?”

As a peak performer, you recognize yourself as a person who was born not as a high achiever but as a life-long learner. With the capacity to grow, change, and reach for the highest possibilities of human nature, you regard yourself as a person in process. Not perfect, but a person who keeps asking: What more can I be? What else can I achieve that will benefit me and my company? That will contribute to my family, community, and society? And then answering for yourself.

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