Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Diversity Index review

I read an interesting book by Susan Reed called The Diversity Index - The alarming Truth About Diverstity in Corporate America ... and What Can Be Done About it.

The book is full of statistics about how many women and different races are employed in various places and how that has changed over the years. I assume similar stats apply to Canada.I wish it also had statistics comparing the demographics in general to the overall statistics.

I know where I grew up in small town Ontario, Canada, there was very little racial diversity (unless you count Italian, Scottish, Irish etc) , so it would not be reasonable to have a lot of racial diversity in most of the businesses. (of course not true of gender diversity, since half of the people were women)

I like to think of myself as gender/race blind. By this I mean that I simply want to have the best person for the position, regardless of the race or gender.

There is an uncomfortable catch 22 happening though. I was asked to join a board several months ago. I decided not to (at least not at that time) due to time constraints. I had been made more aware of the lack of women on corporate boards so thought I would suggest some woman to them. I reached out to my network to see who might be appropriate and found few women with enough similar background to mine that I could put forward. So should the company hire a woman with less experience and a weaker background? Tough question.

I think the best way to solve this catch 22 is through entrepreneurship. When you run a business, you are dependent on no one else to hire or evaluate you. It is unlikely that I would have been the CEO of a $2 Billion business had I not started and grown my own business.

This is where it's tough because governments like to bring in quotas and introduce bureaucracy. It's tough to legislate against bias though.

I do not think it would feel very good for someone to get a position just because of a quota system. In my own case, I am a member of Golden Seeds, and would hate to think that I was a member just to make up a male quota of that group. (Golden Seeds invests only in female entrepreneurs)

I think businesses will change when they recognize that they get more value by having diversity. One part of wisdom and maturity is learning from people with different views and backgrounds. We all tend to like and value people who are more similar to ourselves, and part of the reason we are the way we are is because we value the traits that we have. But for success, we need to be challenged.

The book starts discussing The Plan for Progress, which was the plan introduced in the 60s. It shows how companies that adopted a Plan for Progress ended up with more diversity in their companies. It ends ends with a new Plan for Progress, which has the following steps that successful companies followed:

1. They developed a core mantra that fused their diversity goals and ethical principles with their business strategy. Leaders articulated this vision in every internal speech and company communication. They demonstrated congruence.

2. They created a secure, reliable feedback system through which employees from all over the world could communicate safely and directly to a company executive, expressing their concerns over how they were being treated by other members of the company.

3. They provided diversity training to employees and fostered a culture of learning.

4. They administered 360-degree performance measurements to managers in which they were evaluated by subordinates, peers and superiors. Managers' pay was partly determined by how they were rated and how they developed diverse employees.

5. They cultivated and harvested new talent. They offered summer internship and contributed to funds that enabled underprivileged students to go to college. They widened their talent harvest to historically black and women's colleges.

6. They developed, supported, and funded extensive affinity groups. They made it mandatory for managers and officers to be involved in these groups.

7. Companies invested in local communities to improve public school education and opportunities.

8. Executives promoted women and people of color, as well as employees with an international perspective, thereby demonstrating their commitment to the core diversity mantra.

9. Chief executives opened themselves to negative feedback about what was not working by holding regular meetings with managers and employees.

10. They never stopped trying new ideas to foster integration because they realized that companies are highly changing environments.

I think it is also great for minority groups to help themselves within the group. There is a natural affinity to like people who are in the same group and it makes logical sense to help each other.

Interestingly we recently had diversity training at Canrock Ventures. And what came out of it was we needed to have social get togethers Friday afternoon. Not sure how that was arrived at...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Discover Your CEO Brand - book review

I have been thinking a lot lately about my brand - specifically, my CEO brand. I developed it over a 30 year period during which I was much younger and less experienced. Some parts of my brand may not serve me as well as they once did. Partly due to circumstance, location, age, and what I want to do and be.

My brand includes things like highly creative (from a business view), high work ethic, time management guru, reader/constant learner, passionate about self development and maximizing people to be the best they can be, health guy, tech nerd, investor, social media expert etc.

So of course I turned to a book. Discover Your CEO Brand - Secrets to Embracing and Maximizing Your Unique Value as a Leader by Suzanne Bates. She is a best selling author of Speak Like a CEO so must spend a lot of time studying CEOs.

I was surprised there was a big enough market for CEO Branding but it really is about leadership branding in general so the potential audience is much larger.

"Your Brand is in essence your reputation. It is not who you are, it is what others believe you are".

The book cites many examples of great CEO Brands. Using real life examples helps with the impact.

It has a number of exercises to help discover your brand.

It also has a number of possible brands you can add to your list. The one I loved and can identify with and think all CEOs need on their list is Healthy Leader Brand. She is referring to physical health so eating right and exercise although she also has one for emotional health too.

There is a chapter on Social Media and Brand. It does tackle the tough question any leader needs to ask - value vs time trade off. It could have touched more on efficiency (how to get the value without the time) but that is not the purpose of the chapter.

The book is scattered throughout with great business quotes which of course I love. One of them by an acquaintance of mine - Jeff Bezos - founder of Amazon:

"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well"

When I read a book, I always like to ask before reading "what do I hope to get from this book?" In this case, I wanted more clarity into what my brand should be. The book helped although like Bezos says now I need to "do hard things well" myself. The book can inspire though and help with some tools but now I have to do it.

I enjoyed the book.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Progress Principle - Particles move faster than the speed of light

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. It is interesting that scientists seem to have broken the speed of light throwing into question the basic laws of physics. Thinking they will take my engineering degree back(although I have not done any real engineering for years anyways).

So is that progress?

Speaking of progress, I read a book - The Progress Principle - Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work by Thereas Amabile and Steven Kramer.

The problem I see with creativity is it is subtle. I consider myself to be highly creative (not in the artistic way, in the business way) but even I cannot say "have a creative idea". And increasing creativity is tough to measure. For example, this morning I feel 80% inspired?

The Progress Principle talks about 3 interrelated components that can be built to increase creativity - Perceptions/Thoughts, Perceptions/Feelings and Motivations/Drive. They have compelling research on the connection between mood and creativity or progress.

One principle the book pushes that I totally believe in in momentum. Small wins lead to big wins. Small inspiration leads to big inspiration.

They also advocate keeping a journal as a way to inspire progress. I have done this on and off for years. The trade off for me is the 20 minutes to journal which means I lose 20 minutes vs the increased productivity that I get due to the focus that keeping a journal causes. There is a good short section on "guidelines for daily journaling" that is worth reading.

I have long thought about having the appropriate culture that celebrates failure (I always say "Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap")

This is a well researched book (16 pages of citations, 20 pages on their research methods).

Good book. It inspires me which means I will be more creative today, get more progress and therefore, it has served its purpose.


Part of my success has been in identifying and capitalizing on trends. One trend I see is greater movement to video on the internet increasing in importance. Partly because Google says it is so they rank video high in search results. Partly because bandwidth is high and pervasive. And partly because such a high number of people are video learners.

I also think video can be a "lazy" thing for people to do.

Canrock Ventures invested in American Health Journal, a video site with hundreds of high quality videos on health issues from alcohol addiction to allergies to Liver Cancer etc. It is not the sort of site that people would go to unless they have an issue. So search is the way to do it. Tough to make it go viral.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Not About You

I am just back from travel. I stayed in a Delta Hotel. Delta is a midsize middle to high end Canadian hotel chain. The missed on 2 counts this time. There was no regular tea in the room. Bigger and tougher to solve, there was no easy way to plug in the iron.

The former (tea) is just poor execution and the latter (no plug) is poor planning. It takes great planning and great execution to succeed in business.

I read a short book - "It's Not About You - A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business" by Bob Burg and David Mann. As the title suggests, it is a short book - 120 pages.

I love the title. Ties into the Humility Imperative site I spoke about earlier.

The book is written "storybook style". Not my favorite style but i do know people learn from stories. And it is cute and well written.

It tells the story Ben who learns a number of powerful business/leadership lessons:

1. Hold the Vision - clearly I agree with this one. Vision is the first step to success.

2. Build your People. Again, the only way to succeed is by leverage.

3. Do the Work. Stating the obvious. Do the work to succeed. Work ethic was one of my competitive advantages.

4. Stand for Something. And this does not mean just standing from more profit or more sales.

5. Share the Mantle. Success always involves way more than the leader despite the popular business press often trying to make a hero out of just one person.

And of course, no post is complete without some bragging about how advanced my grandson is. He is way ahead for his age. He acts like a teenager - he sleeps all the time. Or perhaps he is acting more like an adult - he sleeps when I talk about Time Management.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan

One of my friends is taking on a new leadership position so my instant thought was what would be the best book for him to read. So when "The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan - How to Take Charge, Build Your team, and Get Immediate Results" came to mind.

I have long been an advocate of 90 day plans. Or really 3 month plans. 100-day is the same thing. 90 days is long enough to accomplish something but short enough to be urgent enough.

This concept is discussed in the book "You're in Charge - Now what".

I liked the table of contents. It describes each chapter well. One principle of speed reading is pre-reading and in this case, the table of contents makes a good pre-read.

I find one of the most important things for a new leader is early wins. It creates the momentum that makes others wins easier. It also helps reputation early and reputation helps future wins. I always suggest that new leaders plan no holidays for the first 90 days and that they plan on having high presence - so arrive early and leave late. Part of that speaks to good advance planning so the personal situation/living etc is all in place.

I liked to propensity for action advocated by the book - complete with lists and charts to assisting in developing the action plans.

Clearly The New Leaders 100-Day Plan is becoming a classic. The Third Edition is coming out on Oct 10th.

This is a great book that any new leader needs to read.

Unrelated, there is a post on Hiring a Good Leader that quoted me. Seems to me that hiring right is the first and most important step.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brothers' Weekend

I am just back after a brothers' weekend with, oddly enough, my brothers. We (Glen, Lyle and I)went to my brother Glen's house in Lion's Head. Certainly drove home the weather difference from Long Island. The nights had a distinct chill on the Bruce Peninsula.

We talk politics (even though I do not do politics), stock market, business, the economy and our business interests. We try to figure out where the future is taking us and how to solve the woes of the world. We hike and play Pinochole and Trivial Pursuit (that I lose at - why fill my head with trivia?). We picked wild apples and I made apple crisp.

We figure this was our 19th weekend over the same number of years although we likely missed a few weekends. As a game we run through the highlights of each one.

We really miss our brother Mark.

The weekend culminated with a birthday party for mom in Guelph. The family had each made a scrap book page that were compiled into a scrapbook. Mom is into scrapbooking. I told my kids this was her thing - for my 80th birthday I want a push-up contest. That's what I am into. They said they would chip in and buy me an entrance to the NY marathon. Oh well...

I cannot say how grateful I am for the life I have. I am very lucky.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

Hurricane Irene put a damper in my plans this week. I ended up stranded for a few days and could not return to NY. Not a big deal - I count that as "found time". Most of my spare time on the long weekend was spent clearing debris and gardening. Irene did a number on much of the gardens.

I read a lot and posted reviews on Amazon. One of the great books I read was "Capturing New Markets" by Steve Wunker. Rather than redo the review here, click on the link if you care to read it. I also would love to increase my reviewer rank so feel free to vote if you like it.


Another book I read was by Diana McLain Smith called The Elephant in the Room- How Relationships Make or Break Success of Leaders in Organizations.

One of the reasons it’s a great book is because it attacks a soft problem that most business books fail to attack. Of course it’s easy to attack numbers and statistical problems, but something as soft as relationships tend to be more difficult.

One thing I liked about the book is that at the end of every chapter there’s a section on key points. Seems like a best practice for a business book.

The book has three parts and ten different chapters. The first part is on understanding relationships. I particularly like the third chapter that talked about perspective in relationships.

The second part talks about strength in relationships. It discusses how to invest in relationships to make them work better.

Part three was about transforming relationships and how to change them over time and how to reframe them.

Although the book is over three hundred pages, the appendix takes 70 pages of those, so it’s actually not an overly long book.

The second appendix talks about the ladder of reflection and it’s definitely worth reading. (Ladder of reflection includes evaluate, predict, explain, describe, select)


According to Right Management, 1/3 of employees eat lunch at their desk. I have been guilty of this but no longer think this is a good idea. Just food for thought (no pun intended)