Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jeff Immelt and the New GE Way

I just read Jeff Immelt and the New GE Way by David Magee.

I love reading books about great leaders. They inspire me. Like what Immelt said "We are never as good as we can be". So I study.

Immelt had a tough and very public act to follow in Jack Welch. From reading the book, I prefer Immelt's style more than Welch's. The book is polite and makes few comparisons but it is easy to glean from reading.

The book is meant to give insights into lessons a leader can learn from Immelt. And there is much that can be learned. Much is simple (one of the goals of GE is to make things simple). EG ask questions and listen to the answers.

Every book I have read about GE stresses the need for details and processes. Part of any companies success is digging in. Doing the work and knowing the details. As a leader, I like to surround myself with people who like the details. Details win.

I liked Immelt's personal strategy for overcoming tough times:

"Commit to learn everyday (you need an incredible thirst for knowledge)

work hard with passion (competence and energy solve most problems)

Give people a reason to trust (the world is more selective today - trust is a differentiator)

Have confidence (Understand that you can make a difference)

Be an optimist (cynicism is corrosive)"

I was impressed that GE never backed off training, even in tough times. I believe tough times are a good time to invest in training. Partly because change is required and training helps foster positive change and partly because usually there is some surplus capacity so staff have the time.

I resonate with Immelt "I'm a learner, and most good leaders that I like are the same way".

GE's core values according to Immelt are:


These look simple. I would have added more definition. EG change for the sake of change is not good. It is "appropriate change" that needs to be sought. Immelt says "constant reinvention is a central necessity".

I liked what Immelt teaches young leaders:

1 - take personal responsibility
2 - Simplify constantly
3 - Understand depth, breadth and context
4 - Focus on alignment and Time Management. (and no I did not make that one up)
5 - Learn constantly and learn how to teach. (and I would add learn how to learn faster and better)
6 - Stay true to your own personal style.
7 - Mange by setting boundaries, but allow freedom in the middle.
8 - be disciplined and detailed.
9 - Leave a few things unsaid
10 - Put people first (interesting since this has not been a GE trait - I agree - see my review of Primal Management)

As a small shareholder in GE, it is tough to be objective since my investment returns have been less than the index. But when I look at the true facts, GE has actually performed well (not the stock - the company). In the 6 years from 2001 to 2007, sales and earnings both increased by 60% while the stock price dropped 7%. And since then, the stock has dropped by 66%! So poor investment.

This said, true maturity is being able to learn from people regardless of circumstance.

The book is well written. Macgee is a good writer with impressive credentials. I will read his other books. It is an easy and quick read.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Truth Telling and Billy Taylor Race

Photo courtesy of Heathstones.

Truth Telling
In ancient times, court jesters were used primarily to provide feedback and criticism to the leader. Because they were, in theory, jokers, anything they said was "a joke" so they could get away with giving feedback that would have cost others their lives. They still had to employ tact and diplomacy as their role did not give them total immunity. (As I write this I am thinking what a nice leader I must be as I rarely have people beheaded or whipped).

One of the roles that I like to have around me in leadership is the truth teller.

A truth teller tells me the truth. It tends to be tough and leaders tend to be insulated so they need this.

Sometimes the truth teller states the obvious things that I know in my heart but it gets me moving to solving the challenge.
A good leader encourages truth telling. A good team member truth tells tactfully and respectfully, without sarcasm. It takes both to make a perfect team.

Today I ran the Billy Taylor 15K race. Perfect weather for it. Perhaps 15 degrees C and overcast. The race started fast. Many of the participants were only doing a 5 K and there were a lot of students who tend to jack rabbit start. So I let many people pass me.
It was windy and by the time the 5K runners were turning around, I thought, "I should just do 5K next time". The course was considerably ligher after the 5K runners dropped off.
I was at 19:30 at 4K (I asked another runner who was checking his watch as I do not run with one).
By 7K, I was steadily passing runners. Hitting the 7K mark was great since I often run 5 miles (8K) so I knew I was on the home stretch. The wind seemed to lessen.
By 10K, the runners had spread out and I was largely running alone.
In the end, I finished in 1:13:49 or 4:54/K or 7:56/mile. Not a bad finish.
The toughest part of the run was after when I had to run 3K to get home. My muscles were sore by then and I had let them seize up a bit.
Running a race is not the best Time Management technique for running (It took most of the morning by the time you show up, get your number etc) but it is one of the tricks I use for exercise motivation.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Primal Management Book Review

I just finished a great book - "Primal Management - Unraveling the Secrets of Human Nature to Drive High Performance" by Paul Herr.

Herr starts with a statement "Business..has pretended that emotions and feelings are irrational and unimportant. This is simply wrong". The rest of the book goes on to successfully prove this point.

He uses the scary statistic that only 31% of the employees are motivated in America. If that statistic is true, there is huge upside opportunity in our businesses.

He talks about 5 "appetites" that all people have.

1) Cooperation - People want to work together in groups. Groups are more powerful. Successful leaders can grow teams that work harmoniously towards a common goal. People want to belong to a group.

2) Competency - People want to be competent. They also want recognition for this. There is a self esteem loop that occurs. Be competent, get recognition, be more competent etc. Successful companies and leaders can enhance this loop.

3) Skill deployment - people want to be allowed to use their skills. One of the challenges of the leader is to help people use and strengthen their unique abilities. Because everyone is unique, people are not just replaceable cogs. If anyone leaves, the company loses that persons' uniqueness.

4) Innovation - People are naturally curious and will come up with good ideas. Good leaders help nurture and encourage these.

5) Self-Protection - People are motivated to feel secure. One huge downside of the current turbulent times is this security is being threatened. Good leaders seek to create stability.

Herr makes the point that all decisions are first made with the emotions. We then go on to rationally justify our actions.

Herr sets a high bar for leaders. Walk the walk. Truly care for the people who work with you. Exceptional caring leads to loyalty and dedication.

Herr emphasizes the we based leadership style as opposed to the me based one. Good leaders trust their people, respect them, are polite to them and recognize that the only way to thrive in business is through their people. I am of the belief that the larger the company, the more the leader simply sets the tone or culture but in order to succeed, the people need to make the decisions. So decision making is not necessarily the job of a good leader.

I am a big believer that it is a combination of the numbers and the human side to make a successful company so the book resonates with me. I find that much of the business literature tends to focus more on the numbers and less on the people.

This is a great book for any leader to read. Should be required reading for all CEOs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Controlling the Time Social Media Takes

I have largely been on holidays and notice that my productivity is lower than I would like. So I went back to tracking my time using my time tracker time log.

I know advancing my understanding of social media (Twitter, Linkedin mostly but also would apply to Facebook, Blogging etc.) was on my list of things to do but I found it was taking too much time. So I came up with this post on:

8 Ways to Control Social Media.

There is nothing wrong with spending time on Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin etc. if that is how you choose to spend your time. I feel these tools have tremendous value but is not controlled can absorb more time that I choose. I think many of the same rules could be used by some people for TV.

My 9 ways to Control the Time I Spend Include:

1 - Decide what you want to achieve and get out of social media. Decide how much time you want to devote to social media. And decide what you want to accomplish with it. Like any challenge, defining the goal is key. It is like my Time Leadership concept - Leadership (goals, vision, direction, effectiveness) come before Management (action, efficiency)

2 - Track the time you spend. It may surprise you. And if it is not in line with your goals, this alone will likely spur you to take action.

3 - Use tools to make things go faster and to help focus on what your goals are. I love Tweetdeck. I use it as a research tool to keep tabs on the topics I want to follow. And I often add a column just like I would do a google search to research a topic. Another tool is Hootsuite which allows me to post multiple twits but have the send at a later time.

4 - Think quality. Reading bad material is like watching a poor TV show. If it is not adding value to your life, just don't do it. The same goes when posting. I use a variation of what my mom used to say "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". My variation "If you cannot add value - don't say anything at all". Think adding value.

5 - Have good files for things you want to post on. I simply use an email folder to file things I might use in the future. And I have a physical file as well since some things are not electronic. As with all Time Management, organization systems help.

6 - Have some ready to go. I have used this concept for years in blogging. I have 50 entries that I can edit a bit and post in a matter of minutes.

7 - Write efficiently. I wrote an article called "How to Write and Article in 20 Minutes" on the topic. I think the Twitter 140 character maximum might help us all be more efficient communicators.

8 - Set specific times to look at it. I now do not leave Tweetdeck open, I turn it on for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night or 10 minutes 3 times per day. I can easily browse most material by doing this.

9 - Consider a Social Media fast for a few days. You will not miss much. And you will likely return to it with a greater appreciation on what you want to get from it.

In the end, think value (to you and others) and think quality, not quantity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leadership Legacy

One powerful way I use to motivate myself is to think of what legacy I will leave. I imagine what I will have accomplished and the impact I will have had on people. My Leadership Legacy.

This is just another way to Set goals. It works.

From Kathryn Fialkowski's Blog:

Someone told me a story once, where a person was guided to look back at the journey of their life displayed on a tapestry. "It's beautiful and perfect," they said. The guide said, "wait, you are looking at the wrong side." And he flipped the tapestry over. There on the other side: knots, entanglement, loose threads. It was messy and complex. The guide said, "this is the journey as you lived it. The other side is what you leave behind."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Success Rules - Start to Finish Momentum

My blog post on Success spawned feedback that prompt me to write on it again.

My mom said "Finishing is one Success rule". So true. I know a lot of people who do 80 or 90% but never finish.

I would add "Starting is also a Success rule". Often people simply do not start. So start it.

Both parts of just doing it are important. Then they need to be tied together and what I use is momentum.

So what are some of the tricks I use to gain and keep momentum from start to finish?

1 - I have many mantras. Statements I repeat often to myself. One of these is "Just Do It". Hopefully Nike does not sue me for it.

2 - I do the worst thing first thing. I have a to do list. I simply go through it and pick the one task I am like the least and do it first. Brian Tracy calls this "Eat a Frog first thing and the rest of the day looks better". He even wrote a simple book on how to solve procrastination called Eat That Frog.

To add power to this technique, I create 2 first things. First thing in the morning and first thing after lunch. What originally spawned this was the fact that I could not call someone first thing in the morning often because they would not be available so I started adding after lunch. I found this so effective, that I have kept this habit.

I soften the technique some by adding "15 minutes". I have the theory that I can do anything for 15 minutes. Often when I start it I keep going but I give myself permission to stop after 15 minutes.

3 - Break the big job down into small parts. Small parts are not onerous. And often some of the small parts are easy to do.

4 - Do a few small parts of the job. Success builds momentum.

5 - Set a specific time for a job or task. I find I am more likely to do something if I have a specific time to start it.

6 - I ask myself "what would I like to have done by the end of the day". This simple technique often inspires me to complete the task.

7 - Sometimes I journal. I tend to do this sporadically. For me a journal is not where I put my feelings. Rather I write what I accomplished and how I am doing on my goals. For some reason, knowing that I will write about it helps me keep on task.

Any other ideas on starting, maintaining momentum and finishing?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Success Ideas

I am taking a break from work. It gives me lots of time to reflect.

Today, I am thinking about success. Asking people what helps success. Although, not a complete list, here are some ideas:

1 - have Success Habits. We are the product of what we repeatedly do. So decide what habits support success.

2 - Have clear goals and vision. Knowing what your definition is of success is half the battle.

3 - Develop systems that support what needs to be done.

4 - Accept failure. Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap. Learn from it but it does not make you a failure.

5 - Have discipline.

6 - Look for the good always. Successful people tend to choose to be optimists.

7 - Realize your reaction is in your control. We choose how we rspond to situations.

8 - Of course I would have to say study Time Management.

What other ideas can you add to how to be successful?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Work The System - a Book Review

I usually do not rave about books I read. One way I judge if a book is good is if I actually take action as a result of reading it. I love this book and have taken action as a result of reading it.

Sam Carpenter (the author) sent me his book "Work the System - The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less." My instant knee jerk response was to reject the book based on the title. I am a work ethic guy. I reject get rich quick and short cutters. I wrongly assumed this was one of those books. It is not.

I actually love competing with companies and people who shortcut. Work ethic has been one of my competitive advantages.

The gist of the book is "Its all about the systems you build to support your business". Spend you time polishing and perfecting them.

I have a degree in Systems Design Engineering (U of Waterloo) so the book brought back memories of what I had learned in school. And it drove home that I need to be vigilant in applying systems theory (and practise) to myself and my business.

Carpenter breaks the systems problem down into 3 different actions. First - Defining your Strategic Objective. I might call this goals. Then turn this into a set of Principles. Principles could be considered to be corporate culture. I have often said that a CEO should not focus on doing all the decision making but on culture so that decision get made with the right logic and thought. Coach on culture but let people make decisions.

And then the book moves to specific procedures. And documenting them well.

The part of the book that focuses on procedures is very similar to Gerbers eMyth and the principles those books tout. What I like a lot more about Carpenter is he is not saying he is the sole genius and you need to make every job so mindless you can hire a non thinking monkey to do it. He encourages feedback on the systems from everyone.

I realize as I phase out of SYNNEX that I had built great systems that really allowed me to do what I do. I certainly am planning my new systems for my next challenge. And I realize my personal systems also need some work.

Work the System definitely applies to business but also can be applied to personal life. Things flow more smoothly if we have good systems in place and if we constantly perfect them.

The book's points and are valid. Carpenter puts it all together with a very interesting book. He tells his personal story of working for years from dawn to dusk and getting no where. And how, in desperation, he changed his approach from "doing" to "working on the system". And how that turned his business and life around.

Good book. Read it (and I don't usually say that)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Cats - The Nine Lives of Innovation

There was a nice article about me in CDN.

Today is the first day of "holidays" for me. I am determined to have good discipline and habits during my break. I feel disorganized at home so today will solve that. For me, organization and systems are how I gain productivity.

I have been enjoying twitter (although I am not too active on it). I am working on understanding the impact of social media. tomcarswell usually had good referals. Particularly enjoyed the Social Media Guide he tweeted about.

Twitter says when you go to tweet "what are you doing" and so many people put irrelevant stuff up like "eating a ham sandwich" which does not add value. Others however do share insights and refer good URLs. Interesting media.

I read "Cats the Nine Lives of Innovation" by Stephen Lundin. Good book. Lundin was the co-author of "Fish".

The book as the titles implies is about innovation and how companies and people can become more innovative. His thesis is that innovation and creativity can be learned and there are certain things that can be done to enhance creativity.

One concept I liked was his authentic energy concept. Authentic energy is energy that flows from choice and commitment rather than obligation or fear.

In an interesting paradox he talks about lack of clutter and quietness as being one way to get to creativity and in other chapters he talks about the need for uniqueness, clutter and social interaction. The two concepts seem somewhat opposing; however, I certainly understand where he is coming from and I think different creativity needs different things at different times.

One thing that I constantly use to enhance my creativity is reading. I think that is one of my biggest creativity enhancers.

The forward of the book was written by Tony Buzan who originated the mind map so the book talks a lot about mind maps as the creative way of getting to solutions. I have used mind maps for years.

Good short book and I highly recommend it.