Sunday, December 16, 2012

Exposure – Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower –

In neon, electric Tokyo, a gaijin has risen through the ranks of multi-national corporation to be the first outsider to take the role CEO. Soon after being given control he discovers corporate shenanigans and as he starts to investigate he gets stonewalled by shady characters loyal to the prior leadership. High stakes board room maneuvering ensues and the newly minted CEO finds himself sacked and smack dab in the middle of a major scandal.

The latest from a master thriller director or perhaps a bestseller from a dealer in international intrigue? Nope…the true story of Michael Woodford a three decade employee of technology giant Olympus Corporation.

Woodford earned the title of CEO the old fashioned way; he earned it. One of small number of top executives who found their way to the helm of a Japanese based multi-national, Woodford walks the reader through the finer points of crossing of formal cultural and business traditions of the Far-East boardroom.

Woodford paints a detailed portrait of the changing landscape of business in Japan at a time of internal upheaval caused by the devastating earthquake that hit the nation in 2011. The result is a page turner that only loses some stream when Woodford gets locked into describing the finer things in life that come with the rarified air of the executive suite.

In a day and age when corporate leaders are vilified for their ruthless wheeling and dealing, Woodford’s story is one of a morally centered CEO who faced with a difficult choice, did the right thing and held those responsible for their dirty dealings accountable for their actions.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control – Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani and Bill Guttenberg (Palgrave Macmillan)

With the staggering growth of communications vehicles; the 24 hour news cycle, internet news sites, citizen journalists, bloggers, social media, and the everyone’s a reporter cell phone video, crisis communications has become not only an art form, but a highly valued skillset.

Dubbed the “go-to manual” of crisis communications, Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control by former Clinton White House spin masters Christopher Lehane and Mark Fabiani and their business partner Bill Guttenberg really proves that crisis communications and damage control isn’t brain surgery; much of what they preach boils down to common sense.

The authors cite numerous, recent, high profile examples of crisis situations that went off the rails because the principals involved more often than not left common sense at the door and stumbled over one, two, even three or more of the simple ten commandments they lay out in the book. Even major players get tripped up by these things; Penn State University with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Tiger Woods’ sex scandal and the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico leap to mind.

Easily the most important “Commandment” that the trio lay out is the first; Full Disclosure. There is a reason way the phrase “the cover up is worse than the crime” has become a cliché…because it’s TRUE! Even the “Masters” have been tripped up by this one, when President Bill Clinton wagged his finger at the nation and boldly proclaimed “I did not have sex with that women…Miss Lewinsky.” When the crude details of Clinton sexual exploits with a White House intern played out on the 24 hour news channels and the Drudge Report most couldn’t help but recall the President’s finger wagging proclamation.

The days of the sycophant media covering up the dalliances of President Kennedy are a long forgotten memory. Now the trick according to the authors is Commandment II; speak to Your Core Audience. The Masters rebounded well in Clinton’s case skillfully utilizing the sycophant, liberal media to spin the sex scandal into an indictment of the “vast right- wing conspiracy” out to get the President.

Like I said, it’s not brain surgery, but it is based on a strategy to be responsive, upfront, straight forward and to lay out the problem as you see it and how you plan to directly address it. Think about how things could have been different in some of those high profile cases if the players involved had acted prudently and developed a plan to be ahead of the story instead of chasing after it. The outcomes certainly would have been much more favorable in the end.   

Friday, December 7, 2012

Steve Chandler - 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself

Have you ever wondered why there are literally shelves full of so-called “self-help” books at your local bookstore that sell tons of copies every year? Logically, if these books offered the magic bullet, the secret to success or whatever answer the reader is seeking, then wouldn’t that eliminate the need for new books in the category?

The answer to the questions lies not within the pages of the books, but within the persons buying and reading all those  books.  Steve Chandler the author of the bestselling Success Library series also gives a simple, winning, hint in this the third edition of 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself.

While I have read and reviewed a shelf full of these kinds of books, I don’t think I ever remember an author nudging the reader to “Apply the book you read.” No magic hocus pocus, no secrets to unlock, no course book to work through or DVDs to watch, just straight forward DO IT!

While I don’t think anything in Chandler’s list is earth shattering or groundbreaking, I like the fact that he keeps things simple, straight forward and easily actionable. Things like 22. Kill Your Television, 51. Advertise Yourself and 72. Go To War, aren’t objectives that take weeks to plan then put into play. Chandler’s list contains a wide range of things that you can put into play today.

You won’t be able to use all of the 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, but chances are you’ll find more than a handful that you can put into action and have a positive impact. While it won’t clear the book shelf it will offer you workable solutions.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Impact Equation - Chris Brogan & Julien Smith (Portfolio)

The rallying cry among marketers for the past few years has gone something like this: "you've got to be on Facebook" or "are you Tweeting? Twitter is where it's at!" or "You don't have a blog yet?" Google +. Pintrest. Yada yada yada.

From Fortune 500 companies to Mom and Pop stores the clarion call of social media has been nearly irresistable. The question I have had and one that any smart marketer should be asking; does it work?! Is all the zeitgeist having an actual impact? We are spending all of this time, energy and money to be a part of something, but is it delivering the return, the results, and the impact that we want...or are we just making noise for the sake of making noise?

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith the authors of Trust Agents are back with The Impact Equation which helps conect business strategy and methodology and applying it to social platforms. Consider it a conect to purpose.

Brogan and Smith offer actionable steps that will not only help you be more impactful with your platforms, but also to tie platforms to your strategic plan. It's about being an impact player in your business whether you're just starting out or have been in the social media media game for a while.

They utilize the equation: Impact = C x (R+E+A+T+E). No you don't have to be a math wiz, just understandthat the equation stands for:

Contrast: Does your idea stand out?
Reach: How many people do you connect to?
Exposure: How often does your audience hear from you?
Articluation: Is your idea clear enough?
Trust: Do people believe you?
Echo: Does your idea connect to your audience?
While like all successful marketing, there is no one size fits all formula, The Impact Equation is about finding what works for you to maximize the impact and the outcomes of what you're doing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Richard Minitier – Leading From Behind (St. Martins Press)

The President of the United States is often referred to as the “leader of the free world.” The underlying premise of award winning, investigative journalist Richard Minitier’s latest best seller Leading From Behind” is an examination of the leadership skills of President Barack Obama.


Minitier examines Obama’s quick rise to the highest office in the land and dissects Obama’s leadership, notably on some very high profile issues like debt/taxes, healthcare, and foreign policy issues like killing Bin Laden and Israel..

While the so-called “Affordable Care Act” has been labeled one of Obama’s signature first term achievements, Minitier makes the case that Obama amounts to nothing more than an absentee landlord when it came to getting the heavy lifting done on getting the bill passed. While it is the legislative branches purview to write and pass legislation, it is the President who often drives the bus on what they deem to be pet projects or legislation.

Certainly healthcare reform was front and center on the Obama agenda when he took office in 2009. Yet when it came to deliver the goods on a reform plan, Obama bailed and left the heavy lifting to then House Speaker, Nancy “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” Pelosi.

If you have any working knowledge of Obama’s brief exploits in elective office where he made of habit of not taking a stand, not leading and not voting or voting present. In the Illinois state house, Obama voted present 129 times during his tenure. The folks at place Obama at the mid-low point, if albeit to the far left end of the spectrum when it came to leading on legislation in his two grueling years in the U.S. Senate. Obama chose to sit back while old dog Democrats like Reid, Feinstein, Kennedy, Clinton, Biden, and Specter took the legislative lead.

A quick look at “key” votes in 2008 (according to Project Vote Smart) Obama, a man of the people who claims to care about the middle class, he did not vote on legislation ranging from; Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEP), funding for AIDS/TB/Malaria prevention, a Medicare Bill, Housing foreclosure assistance program and an economic stimulus plan, among others.  

During the 2008 Presidential campaign some pundits were critical about Obama’s lack of experience and his voting record as his desire to pursue higher office and not want to leave a trail or record to have called into question. Minitier however points to a guy not so concerned with being on the record, but the exact opposite of a leader; a guy who is disinterested, rick averse and generally believes he is above it all.

Leading From Behind paints a Barack Obama as a guy who truly believes that he was elected President and he should get everything he wants; someone who confuses Presidents with dictators. It clearly seeps through his approach to leadership, to dictate without having to do the heavy lifting of actual governing. Actual governing can and should pawned be off on others that are beneath him; hence his passing the real work off to others, mostly women. Given the tenor of his campaign’s claims that Republicans are engaging in a “war on women” it makes you wonder about Obama’s attitudes toward women when they are positioned as mere work horses.


Monday, July 30, 2012

J. Keith Murnighan – Do Nothing! : How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader. (Portfolio)-

·        Are you a type A personality.

·        Does the thought of taking a two week vacation cause you to break out in a cold sweat?

·        Do you think that the only way to get things done “the right way” to do it yourself?

Then J Keith Murninghan has a suggestion for you… Do Nothing!

The most difficult thing for a leader, whether you have been doing it for years or if you have just been handed the mantle of leadership, is to avoid over-reaching and trying to tackle too much. Munighan sends the message that leaders need to lead, not work…not saying that leadership isn’t hard work, but he points out; leaders often make it harder than it has to be.

Murnigham points out that great leaders don’t work; they should instead facilitate and orchestrate. They take the 30,000 foot view of their business, department, or team that they lead and formulate strategies and choose the team members who will execute those plans.

When you transition to a leadership role, developing the trust in your team is a difficult initial step. Murnighan points out correctly that if avoid the easy urge to micromanage that your team will reveal the skills they need to get the job done. Your role a leader is to guide and nurture those skills, not overreach and do it yourself. If those skills don’t shine through, then a leader you need to make sure you have the right players on your team…it’s that whole right people in the right seats on the bus going in the right direction thing.

Do Nothing! gives you many actionable items and strategies that you can put in place to help not only your team develop, but also to help you avoid that tendency to micromanage. I have not only recommended Do Nothing! to leaders I know, I am using those tactics to help new leaders within my organization to make the transition from being great workers to becoming great leaders.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The NCAA’s Counterintuitive Leadership

The much anticipated announcement by the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse conviction and the report by Louis Freeh regarding the cover up, resulted in prime example of counterintuitive leadership.


During the announcement, NCAA President Mark Emhert boldly proclaimed, “Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people.”

Yet the sanctions he went on to announce do exactly that!

The sanctions include: a $60 million fine, equal to one year’s revenue from the football program, which will be placed in a fund to aide victims of sexual abuse nationally. Penn State will be banned from Bowl appearances for four years and will have their football scholarships reduced from 25 to 15. There are a number of compliance agreements and oversight stipulations as well.
Where it gets interesting is the fact that the NCAA will vacate all of Penn State’s football wins from 1998 – 2011. I get the fine and bowl and scholarship stuff, but why the collective punishment of the student athletes who earned the victories on the field in those games? What does that do to educate, nurture and protect those people who worked hard to earn those victories? Those students had nothing to do with the cover up, perpetrated by the University’s leadership, of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Sandusky, yet the NCAA has seen fit to penalize them.

This flies not only in the face of common sense, but the statement made by Ehmert. This amounts to the NCAA aiding Sandusky and Penn State to once again screw young people! The focus and blame should be placed on Sandusky who committed these perverse crimes and those in leadership positions who made the choice to cover up those crimes. Until that happens, untold damage will continue to be done to the value of the education and degrees being EARNED by students of the University.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Failure to Lead…Not a Failure of Leadership

The headlines speak volumes; Fox News; Report by former FBI director finds Penn State concealed child sex abuse, ABC News Report: Paterno Concealed Sandusky Abuse, and CNN (with bad choice of lead) Probe: Penn State Showed ‘total disregard’ for victims.

The report in question is the one released today by former FBI Director, Louis Freeh, outlining his investigation into Penn State University’s mishandling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

In short the report concluded: “In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university – Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.”

In an amazingly dead on comment, a janitor at the University concluded that ‘the University will close ranks to protect the football program” after another janitor witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting one of his victims.

I previously wrote a piece that hinted at this conclusion; that the University was more concerned about their public image and protecting their crown jewel, the Football Program. How many historic examples can we point to that show the cover up is always worse than the crime. For what would have amounted to a short term hit, that could have been easily remedied with a strong public relations campaign and community outreach; the alleged leadership of the University created an in-excusable firestorm that will likely do damage to the University as a whole and the football program in particular.

While Sandusky is an undeniable jizz who should spend the remainder of his miserable life in the worst hellhole of a prison, I think the case could easily be made that former University president Graham Spanier, former VP Gary Schultz, athletic director, Tim Curley and yes even Joe Paterno are deserving of a cell down the hall. Their utterly repulsive lack of action turned them into pimps for Sandusky serial child rape.

How those who directly witnessed Sandusky rapes and those who chose to cover them up didn’t call the police, let alone commit blunt force trauma on Sandusky is beyond comprehension. The fact that this cadre of despicable scumbags could feel so little for the victims is almost beyond explanation.

I originally called this a failure of leadership, but the University’s desire to cover up is so pervasive that it really amounts to a failure to lead. Think about how deep mindset extended for this cover up to remain so bullet proof for so long. The fact that no one cracked!  is astounding. No one stepped out of line and did the right thing, all in a effort to protect the mighty blue and white.

Despite the fact that I have a child finishing a degree at the University, I don’t feel sorry for the University when it comes to the all out legal onslaught that they will face from Sandusky victims; you reap what you sow.   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Neil Smith – How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things

Veteran business consultant Neil Smith has worked with a number of large corporations around the globe over the course of the past 20+ years and has narrowed down the common difficulties that most companies encounter to a short list of eight categories that impede their future growth and success.

He spells out the problems using an acronym and details how companies can successfully avoid them in his new book How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things. He boils it down to:

Avoiding Controversy

Poor Use of Time

Reluctance to Change

Organizational Silos

Management Blockers

Incorrect Information and Bad Assumptions

Size Matters

Existing Processes

Smith cites a number of examples in each of the categories; none of them quite rising to the level of case studies, but strong anecdotes from situations he’s been in or companies he has aided.

While Smith does a solid job of encapsulating the problems and offering prescriptive ways to address them, I’m not sure that he lives up to the premise of actually helping companies avoid the problem. It may boil down to being easier said… than done. It’s easy to see how many companies, including your own, are faced with these issues; the more difficult part is answering the question “how did we get into this mess?”

Smith’s experience shows when offers the road map that can guide you through the issue and arrive successfully at your desired goal. The tough part is finding the GPS coordinates to avoid the wrong turn in the first place.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Michael Hyatt – Platform: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World (Thomas Nelson)

I have a dual confession to make…I love to read books on business, leadership and marketing, but I never buy them when they are new. I am amazed the tidbits and strategy that I have picked up on over the years that I use in my own business and my “day job” but I don’t get sucked into the latest and greatest “must have” books.

Why you ask? Call me cheap, but more often than not business people jump on the latest trendy thing, rush out and buy these books, are excited to dive right in and then about 3 chapters in the brakes lock up and book ends up collecting dust on the shelf. Then six months later they get donated to a local charity sale or end up in a yard sale and that’s where I come in!

I think more often than not, these kinds of books offer great ideas, but don’t offer the easily actionable steps that allow people to put the strategies into action. And I think that is exactly what sets the latest book from best seller author Michael Hyatt apart from the shelves of other similar books.

In Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World Hyatt lays out an easy, step-by-step road map for building your personal brand. While many business strategy books offer lofty platitudes about process improvement and paradigm shifts, Hyatt literally walks the user through the process in a manner that doesn’t go so far as saying his way is the only way, certainly offers guidance through the process.

Hyatt further illustrates many of the steps with how he himself has not only used the process, but also made missteps and errors along the way and how to avoid the pitfalls. I found myself for the first time since college taking a highlighter to a book and keeping a notebook handy to jot down the ideas that Platform generated along the way.

When you ponder the so-called fire hose of information that we deal with a daily basis with things like: websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other social media outlets, it can seem like a daunting task to deal with all that’s involved, whether you are starting your own business, an established business or charged with marketing for a company. Hyatt helps to pare that process down to manageable bits.

He not only addresses the something to sell or say, he also tackles the development of your business or product; after all it is the foundation upon which your platform is built.

The problem I ran into during the course of reading Platform was that it generated so many good action steps that it can seem overwhelming. Hyatt does a nice job of reminding the reader that building their platform is a process and it can and should be done over the course of time. Which is why, at Hyatt’s suggestion, I now find myself using Evernote to keep track of everything that is on my plate!

I can guarantee that Platform: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World will end up on your desk for you to refer to often rather than gathering dust on your bookshelf.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gary Hamel- What Matters Now – How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation (Jossey-Bass / Wiley)

What Matters Now is my first foray into the writings of Gary Hamel, described as a “noted business thinker and strategist” and a three-decade member of the faculty at the London Business school and founder of the think tank The Business Lab.

While I am not certain what a “business thinker” is, Hamel delivers an interesting take on his current viewpoint of the business world. I’m not certain however that he delivers anything all that groundbreaking; in fact I think an argument can be made that the bulk of what Hamel deems as mattering now, has really always mattered when it comes to business.

Hamel breaks What Matters Now, into five sections:

·         Values Matter Now

·         Innovation Matters Now

·         Adaptability Matters Now

·         Passion Matters Now

·         Ideology Matters Now

Hamel falls into a populist trap in the early chapters of the book; Values Matter Now, dissecting current public perceptions of so-called “big-business”. While no one can argue that that we have gone through a significant period of business upheaval, much of the problems have been self-inflicted and then magnified by the 24 hour media cycle, but in reality there have always been evil-doers in the business world.

I don’t think the lack of business ethics and values is worse now, however they may have grown in complexity. Their impact has been placed front and center in the public microscope. Mr. Charles Ponzi was around a long time before we ever heard of Bernie Madoff and credit default swaps.     

Hamel’s deconstruction of Apple in the section entitled, Innovation Matters Now reads a bit like a Blue Ocean Strategy case study rather than part of a strategic road map for the future direction of business. Leaders interested in erasing competitive borders and carving a different path to success would be better served delving into Kim and Mauborgne’s break through approach to business.

While overall What Matters Now isn’t in and of itself groundbreaking, it is Hamel’s way of delivering a gentle reminder and course correction for the way business should be done.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dylan Ratigan - Greedy Bastards (Simon & Shuster)

I have always found the portrayal of Conservatives as “angry white guys” entertaining and misguided. Grab your Advil, tune in MSNBC, which is guaranteed to induce a headache, and soak up to nearly non-stop anger and bitterness of the cavalcade of Liberal hosts.

That is the point you have to start from when you read Greedy Bastards by Dylan Ratigan, host of MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show, described by the press materials accompanying the book as “one of the highest-rated, daytime shows on the network.” Talk about damning with faint praise…given the cable news channel’s less than stellar audience numbers.

In Greedy Bastards, Ratigan attempts to details his perspective on our “broken system.” He runs down what ails a wide variety of problems ranging from banking to the stock market and healthcare to big oil/energy. Taking off on his crusade to remove money from politics, Ratigan attempts to draw correlations between the root cause of the problem and the flow of cash to politicians.

I don’t disagree! But I do find it interesting that Ratigan spent much of his early career as a financial journalist covering Wall Street yet he didn’t do a whole lot to raise red flags about the ridiculous Ponzi schemes and outright fraudulent financial instruments that the folks he was charged with covering were creating that became part and parcel of the financial meltdown tsunami that mowed down the housing, banking, finance and insurance industries in it’s wake. These guys created a financial house of cards that got a total pass from the regulators and politicians that wrap themselves in the cloak of looking out for the little guy and Ratigan stood idly by and said nothing until now.

Full disclosure; my day job is in the healthcare industry, so I read that section of the book with great interest. Ratigan lays out a classic example of his friend “Larry” who was clearly suffering a repetitive stress hand injury and was offered medical advice to address the issue with physical therapy which would have offered some relief. “Larry” decided not to follow through on the exercises that were recommended…let me stress that point; “Larry” decided not to follow through on the exercises that were recommended, and later needed to have surgery to solve the problem. It seems more than a bit ridiculous to indict the entire industry based on a patient choice.

Surprisingly, Ratigan does offer up a market based solution to the problem of the high cost of healthcare, rather than turning to the government to fix the problem. He advocates for a solution that I have pushed for many years; allowing market forces of health savings accounts and patient choices to drive down the cost of healthcare through competition and increasing quality.

The roadblock to most solutions tends to be the government and a HUGE increase in regulation. Ratigan bemoans some regulation, while pushing for new regulations, never accounting to the very real costs of those regulations and the fact that regulatory costs get passed through the so-called “greedy bastards” and get paid by the end-users.

The cartoonish cover may not have been the best choice, because it sets the tone for Ratigan’s BAM, BIFF, POW, approach; skimming the surface of very real issues, yet not really offering much in the way of in-depth solutions to the problems. Instead he chooses to nibble around the edges of solutions or offering up tried and failed solutions; like the electric car to solve the so-called energy crisis.

The real solution is not getting money out of politics, which is a limitation on free speech. The real solution is an energized, alert and informed electorate that pays attention and calls their elected officials when the put self-interest over public interest and an electorate that understands that the government is not the source of solving problems, but the source of creating problems.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Betsy Myers- Take The Lead (Atria Books)

Ms. Myers was the COO of the Barack Obama presidential campaign and chaired the Women for Obama campaign organization in the last election cycle. She has served as the executive director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She, like her sister Dee Dee, was a senior official in the Clinton administration, working as the President’s advisor on women’s issues; women’s issues… not the President’s issues with women…I’ll leave it to you to fill in your own punch line.

Suffice it to say that Myers has tackled some high profile, high powered leadership roles. Yet I find her book, Take the Lead, as not so much a leadership book, but rather a set of what she describes as 7 core principles, that she wraps with political anecdotes as an example of those principles in practice.

Myers 7 principles include:
·         Connection – Making people feel seen and heard
·         Collaboration – Being willing to embrace different points of view
·         Authenticity – Knowing who you are
·         Respect – Treating each person as important
·         Clarity – laser focus and uncompromising consistency
·         Learning - always listening and staying open to new ideas
·         Courage – The courage to take risks; to apologize; to tell the truth; to grow

This could be the most contradictory list I have ever seen. Taking Ms. Myers at her own words, how can you be willing to embrace different points of view and be open to new ideas, yet remain uncompromisingly consistent? Does this say more about my Myers background in the political realm then about leadership?

Politicians by their very nature are some of the least authentic people I have ever encountered. Realistically speaking, if Barack Obama had been genuinely authentic during his Presidential campaign, does anyone really believe that he would have been elected President?

Boiling it down, Ms. Myers “core principles” aren’t a road map to leadership, but a road map to becoming a Democrat politician. It reads like a playbook for talking a good game, but doesn’t really show how to deliver the goods, which is really what Democrat elective politics have become – make it sound like you care about and issue/person, act like you’re going to do something, but never really deliver on a promise.

It’s interesting that the two powerful leaders that Ms. Myers worked for were so uniquely skilled at connection, yet such utter failures at having the courage to tell the truth. Interesting political insights…maybe. Leadership book…not so much.