Monday, October 31, 2011

The Power of LEO and BEG for Candy

I read a great book with an acronym in the title. The Power of LEO - The Revolutionary Process for Achieving Extraordinary Results by Subir Chowdhury.

From the publishers web site:

L is for Listen. Observe and Understand – To obtain a deep understanding of the issue at hand, assumptions must be put aside and interaction with all relevant parties – including customers, suppliers, and employees – is critical. “You must get up close and personal and go to the source,” explains Chowdhury. That could be the factory floor, a call center, or a customer’s home. And listening is not only about asking questions, but about observing — whether that means watching a worker perform a task or a customer use a product.

E is for Engage. Explore (JE - I prefer to call this explore) and Discover – Once the real nature of the problem is uncovered, the next phase is about searching for the best solution. Chowdhury advocates a special type of brainstorming session that encourages people to relax and try to come up with numerous ideas, no matter how far-fetched they may seem. An informal environment where every idea receives a full and respectful hearing is key. “To get the most out of the Enrich process, you need to embrace change and the idea that what you have now, and what you have done up to this point, simply isn’t good enough,” the author writes.

O is for Optimize - Improve and Perfect – During this phase, participants review the solutions that have already been proposed. They look for flaws and find ways to improve the solutions, making them even more effective. This is a step that some organizations think they can skip. But it is essential, because good-enough no longer works, contends Chowdhury. Everyone needs to strive for the highest quality possible. “If you want to turn out the kind of products or services that will truly delight your customers and attract new ones, you need to keep raising the bar on quality,” he writes. Once the Optimize stage is complete, and only then, can the solutions be implemented."

The book is full of examples which as I noted in other reviews keeps things interesting.

I liked the final chapter that talks about continuous improvement in general and how it not only applies to companies - it applies to individuals. This is one concept that I totally buy in to.

So I was inspired to do my own acronym for Halloween Candy control - BEG.

Halloween - a time for discipline (and tricks). I tend to eat healthy food because that is what is in the house. But for Halloween the kids would not particularly like health food and the Health Bars I got were actually Heath Bars (the wonders of speed reading) and they are addictive.

B is for Brush. So the trick I do is to brush my teeth. When I have done that, I tend not to eat candy (at least for a while)

E is for Equivalents - I also calculate equivalents. 1 small bar (70 calories) is .7 miles or 5 minutes of hard running or 10 minutes of walking. Not a big deal - just need to schedule 2 hours of extra exercise to eat the number I am tempted to eat.

G is for Give Away. And then of course give all the surplus candy away fast.

For health - BEG for Halloween Candy.

Now the question - should I turn it into a book?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Performance Pipeline

Beautiful day here. It was snowing late last night when I was on a short run. And some of it stayed. Snow in New England and area made the news primarily because 2.3 million people are without power.

I was a bit surprised by the snow. It is still quite warm. Still have to harvest carrots, leeks and squash.

Today I did a longer run but inside on a treadmill. Thinking I am getting soft.

I read "The Performance Pipeline - Getting the Right Performance at Every Level of Leadership" by Stephen Drotter.

I had read and reviewed his previous book - "The Leadership Pipeline - How to build a Leadership Powered Company"

As you can deduce from the titles, Drotter feels that almost everyone in a company should be a leader.

The introduction "Dealing with pervasive uncertainty" talks about all the unknowns of the current situation. Although I feel these uncertainties, there is a part in everyone that wants to think that the current time has greater uncertainty than others. I have found we always feel that way though.

He talks about not only having good leadership skills but applying them properly for optimum performance.

Of course he also touches on succession planning. This is the key role for any board. Also key for any organization to have long term staying ability.

Performance Pipeline draws on decades of experience and research so has many interesting stories. The best learning is often gained through stories (and they keep it interesting).

This is an HR book of sorts. There is a great list of interview questions in the appendix. I always find it easiest to pick questions from such a list.

Good book - too much to summarize. Best to just read it.

Now off to read another book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Something Ventured

Random tidbits:

There is starting to be a chill in the air but the beans continue to yield well. The growing season in Long Island is at least a month longer than Guelph.

I did not interview for Brainlogic that ended up on Collaborative Innovation.

I have been sore from added weight lifting. Good sore and self inflicted in any event so tough to complain. I am actually thankful that I am able work out.


Wednesday night I attended a Cinemonde screening of "Something Ventured - Risk, Reward, and the Original Venture Capitalists" (not to be confused by the autobiography on CM Woodhouse called Something Ventured)

It is a great documentary film. Particularly captivating to me since I knew some of the players and knew of all of the companies.

It told of the early days of Kliener Perkins and the funding of Steve Jobs - including interviews with some people who turned him down because he was "arrogant, hippy and smelled bad". At one point, 33% of Apple could have been bought for $50,000.

It included stories of the founding of Cisco (and the firing of the founder by the VC), Atari, Genentech, Tandem, Intel and others.

I found the film inspirational since what I now do is early stage venture funding.

I was struck by the fairly long timeframes for success. Most "overnight successes" took 25 years.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Compound Effect

I love Malcolm Gladwell and think he is one of the great thinkers of out time. I like his book "Blink". It talks about the power of the unconscious mind and how we make snap decisions and conclusions and usually they are right.

There is another great thinker, Daniel Kahneman, who wrote an outstanding article in the NY times that challenges Blink.

In the article he talks about the stock picker and fund managers and the people that manage them. How they are paid huge bonuses, thinking they are contributing when in reality, their results are actually random. This is a phenomenon I call "when you think you are brilliant in the stock market, then stop investing in the stock market".

I read a great book by Darren Hardy called The Compound Effect.

Hardy is a motivational speaker in the Tony Robbins style of motivation (Robbins even wrote a special introduction for The Compound Effect). I sometimes find their motivational style to be off putting (too rah rah and too much "I grew up eating dirt and now own 100 ferraris and you can too"). But there is great validity in the simple underlying message.

Life and success happen over the long term. And small changes daily determine long term success. Small good things now create big good things later (and small bad things create large bad things later).

He talks about the microwave mentality of instant success. Clearly people want it instantly but this is just not the way success happens.

Like Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do".

I have often talked about success habits and the book inspired me to look again at my habits.

I have often called this compounding effect momentum. He even has a chapter titled "momentum". The more success you have, the easier it is to get things done and have more success. I have been fortunate to have had success early in life and that good fortune continues to follow me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breaking the Fear Barrier

Beautiful weekend in Long Island this weekend. Cool and perfect for running.

Apparently the weather in Toronto was a bit nasty for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. People have a very small range that they are comfortable. But there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

I love CBC but they blew it on the live coverage that they promised. Just did not happen.

I was inspired by Fauja Singh who finished the marathon is 8 hours. He is 100. I best get training now if I am going to beat that. I smiled when I heard that he said "it was one of my lifetime goals".

And following from World Business Forum, Jill Hart posted an article on "Great hiring decisions" on her blog at Brain Logic.


Occupy Wall Street is on my mind. I am glad it has been peaceful so far.

People are afraid. The problem with fear is it is not actionable. There is nothing you can do with. To harness it requires thought and energy that most people simply do not have since the fear itself saps energy and creativity.

It is a mature person who can sit back and formulate a plan for positively harnessing fear. For me, the first step would be to manage the stress that fear causes.

I am proud to have been a CEO (I even call this blog CEO blog) and now the world seems to be vilifying CEOs. I agree with some of the views put forward (many CEOs are outrageously overpaid). I do not think all CEOs are bad or have bad motives though.

I read a good book on fear in companies - Breaking the Fear Barrier - How Fear Destroys Companies from the Inside Out and What To Do About It by Tom Rieger. Not sure I like such a negative title.

It talks about the causes and damage that fear cause and what to do about it.

According to Rieger fear stems from bureaucracy:

Parochialism - The tendency to force others to view the world from only one view.

Territorialism - Hoarding and micromanaging. In short, not being a team player.

Empire Building - which is self evident.

And fear can be overcome by overcoming those 3 factors and:

Building Courage Enablers (and making sure there are not courage stoppers)

It then goes on to talk about the Leadership Imperative and the Fearless Company.

One great point he makes is "since fear is created internally, it can be extinguished internally".

I like to have a company that has a high tolerance for failure. I always say "fail often, fail fast, fail cheap". Companies that embrace this as a method for innovation and growth need to have people who are not living in fear.

Friday, October 07, 2011

So you Think You are an Extraordinary Leader

This is a Guest Post by Joe Folkman

So You Think You’re an Extraordinary Leader?

How good are leaders at predicting their own overall leadership effectiveness? Are they more or less accurate than other raters? At Zenger Folkman, we calculated the overall rating for 27,000 leaders. We then determined how effective a leader’s manager, peers, direct reports, others, and the leader themselves were at predicting the leader’s overall effectiveness. Our measure was the amount of variance in the overall effectiveness rating that each person could predict. The Graph below shows the results.

The leaders themselves were only able to predict about 15% of the variability. The leader’s manager was the most accurate predicting 32% followed by Direct Reports 29%, Peers 28%, and others at 25%. This is a strange phenomenon because the person with the greatest amount of information is the leader themselves. After all, they were there the whole time, they saw ever interaction, they were in every meeting and discussion shouldn’t they be a better judge?

There are a lot of dynamics in our evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses. Psychologically, a person’s ego may need protection when others don’t think that they are very effective. When people feel valued and that they are making a contribution, a person might be far more humble about their capability. To understand the phenomenon, we compared the self-rating against the average ratings from others. As can be seen from the graph below, the worst leader (as perceive by others) tended to substantially overrate their ability, while the best leaders tended to underrate their ability.

This phenomenon has been noted in other research by Dunning and Kruger, who were awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Psychology for their report, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments." Basically, these researchers found that people with poor skills consistently overrated their ability.

When we are lost, a GPS can guide us to our desired location. In order to provide an accurate prediction of our current location, GPS needs signals from multiple satellites—at minimum, four separate satellites. In order for an individual to get an accurate reading of their effectiveness as a leader it also requires feedback from four different kinds of raters.

1. Managers: Our managers are the best predictors of our promotion potential.

2. Peers: Our peers help us to understand how we interact with other groups across the organization

3. Direct Reports: Our direct reports know us well and see us in both good and bad situations. The direct reports provide the best prediction of how well we can lead and manager a team.

4. Others: Feedback from others is also very helpful to give us insight into our interactions with other group.

Great leaders are constantly looking for an accurate measure of their current location. Feedback from others is critical. Occasionally doing an anonymous evaluation of our leadership capabilities is needed to fine tune our true location.

Joe Folkman

Joe Folkman is the co-founder and President of Zenger Folkman, a leadership development firm focused on building strengths of individuals, teams, and organizations. Joe is a co-author of the recent Harvard Business Review article “Making Yourself Indispensable.” To learn more leadership tips from Joe, subscribe to his leadership blog or follow him on Twitter: @zengerfolkman.

Kruger, Justin; David Dunning (1999). "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (6): 1121–34. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121. PMID 10626367

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Gary Hamel - The Future of Management

Still reporting from #WBF11. The sessions are awesome and inspirational.

I had lunch with the people putting on C2-MTL, a creativity conference being held in Montreal in May of next year. Their program looks great. Cohosted with Circ du soleil so should be inspirational. Hopefully they will ask me to join them as either a blogger or presenter.

Listening to Gary Hamel - visiting professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School. Wall St journal calls him "world's most influential business thinker". Some quotes:

"deep change takes a crisis" (Seems to me this often happens in personal health situations)
"think like an engineer, feel like an artist"
"less than 25% of the CEOs said they were happy with their innovation pipeline - and they are benchmarking against lackluster peers"
"When you limit an individual's autonomy, you also limit their passion" (As a CEO, I tried very hard to give my people autonomy - perhaps that is why we were successful. And perhaps if you ask my people, they would say I should have tried harder to give them autonomy (I became better over time))
"it is not that work sucks it is that management blows"
"Only 14% of the staff are highly engaged, 62% moderately and 24% disengaged" (Which confirms what I already knew. The key to business success is greater staff engagement)


Rethink first principles. Answer the question "What is the ideology of management". We need to think more autonomy than control of staff.

"We have a hard time thinking of a world without bureaucracy"

He is an inspirational, energetic speaker. (I notice a theme. Great speakers are energetic)

Tamara Erickson - Managing Across Generations

Still live at #WBF11. The speaker now is Tamara Erickson who is speaking about what happens at different ages.

The 11-15 year old time period tends to influence the lifetime. We are influenced by the news, our parents, our national context, our religion etc. Because we share the same national/news context then people of the same age share a lot of commonality.

EG - people born from 1928-1945 saw the birthing of suburbs, increased availability of consumer goods, new technology. Exciting times (except for the start of the cold war) Their common characteristics is they are joiners, loyal to institutions and respect hierarchy and rules. They respect positional authority.

Next - the boomers. 1946-1960. They saw Vietnam, civil rights, womans lib, assassinations of Kennedy and King, protests. Watergate and Nixons' resignation. I am wondering if my Canadian experience differs much from the US experience she is speak of. They want to make a difference, they do not want to join. They worry that they will lose their spot if they slow down. Hard working/driven - staying on top of their game. Idealistic.

Gen X - 1961-1979 Troubled economy, layoffs, rising divorce rates, CNN and electronic games. The first Gulf war. Challenger blew up - a symbol of an institution that let people down. Less loyalty by companies - you are fired, not just laid off to be the first called back. Many women entering the workforce so latch key kids. Their conclusion was "look after yourself". They like to feel that they have options "I am doing this today but...". Parenting has everything to do with helping "my child".

Gen Y - 1980-1995. Terrorism, Columbine. They see the world as unpredictable. This has not scared them - they want to live in the now. Shaped by digital technology - unconsciously competent. More spiritual. Family centric - they love their parents. They trust authority. This can conflict with "Success from delayed gratification"

Understanding generational difference can help to understand other peoples' view.

I love the topic. Thought provoking.

America Needs More Jobs

I am saddened by the death of my friend Steve Jobs.

Perhaps not a friend but a business acquaintance. I met him several times and traded calls and emails over the years.

EMJ (My Canadian technology distribution company) and later SYNNEX sold hundreds of millions of dollars of Apple products. We first signed Apple in the early 1990s when "Apple was going bankrupt". It turned out to be a good decision.

It was before Apple had the iPhone and even before the iPod. I got involved with RIM after signing Apple. It was not until much later that the two companies started to overlap.

Jobs was an icon. He was a legend.

His innovation shaped the technology business.

We need more of his type of innovation and innovative thinking.

He left a mark on the world.

His innovation

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Art of Possibility

Benjamin Zander - The conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra did more than speak. He sang and played the piano. He is hugely high energy and hugely positive. It drives home to me that energy and positivity are part of success.

His topic was the Art of Possibility(the title of her book). I previously reviewed it. Had I heard him before I read it, I suspect I would have been more effusive.

He spoke of giving students an A at the first of their class then ask them to live up to it.

"The secret of life is it is all invented" referring to how we create our life in our mind. And we control our mind. It is not what happens to us, it is how we view it. He advocates having a perfect life.

It is tough to write how energetic and inspirational Zander is. He uses music (and I always say I am not musical - but I can always change my mind - what is the point of having a mind if you cannot change it). If you ever have the opportunity to hear him - go.

And remember rule #6 - Don't take yourself too seriously. (there are no other rules)

Lunch with Malcolm Gladwell #WBF11

I attended a small lunch with Malcolm Gladwell. The focus was Canada.

What does Malcolm have in common with Einstein?

I bet you said the hair but no, it is the genius. He is truly genius. His simple clarity is inspiring.

He has been thinking of "what is the advantage of being marginal" (meaning not the number one player, or leader etc). There are many advantages:

1 - The ability or privilege to observe and learn.
2 - Being non-threatening (this is why there are disproportionately more Canadian comedians (or Jewish, gay, indian or some other minority) - they are just not threatening.

The converse of that is "Leader pressure" which comes with high obligation.

He spoke of the health of countries. This can be measured by the distance between the 80th percentile and the 20th. As the distance gets larger (as it has in Canada), society becomes unstable. There is less common ground. I am part of the privileged top 20 but strongly agree that this is a problem. The riots in London and the protests on Wall St are worrisome.

He also says it harms innovation. This may be true but I challenge him to think that perhaps the ability of people to change their wealth might be the driver of innovation. So the American dream (Start with nothing and end up rich) would drive innovation.

He explained the reason Canadians' tend to have a larger view of the world than Americans. "You simply cannot fill 30 minutes with Canadian news so they fill it with international news".

And the reason advertisements are quirkier in Canada is the population is smaller (and the ad budgets) so there can be more "in" jokes.

When asked about "Blackberry's demise" by one of the audience, he replied "it is not patriotic not to have a Blackberry. Blackberry is way more efficient for email and for many people, this is what they need." So true -I agree with him.

#WBF11 Gary Burnison - Korn Ferry and Angela Ahrendts - Burberry

The next speaker was Gary Burnison from Korn Ferry. I did not recognize the name although I certainly knew the company. Burnison was a great speaker. I guess that should not surprise me - most CEOs are. (One suggestion I have for any aspiring leader is to join Toastmasters)

I think part of the reason he is a good speaker is he uses stories.

"Ceo is in the what business and the how business...but now it is much more about the people business".


Angela Ahrendts CEO of Burberry. Burberry is a leading UK consumer brand of clothing, handbags etc. $2.5B in revenue. It is the 4th fastest growing global brand (although I am sure that will increase when people read this blog entry)

She moved Burberry from a struggling company that was known for trench coats to a highly successful mid/highend brand.

She did that by pushing innovation. She hired a Chief Creative Officer to vision where the company should go.

The Chief Technology Officer has mission to get the word out. Of course they have done this through social media. "more people come to our internet site than to any of our stores". Burberry has more facebook fans than any other global brand. They have even launched products solely through social media.

She wants her people to "not do it for me, not do it for you - do it for the brand".

"Dreams are your most exciting thoughts, your future life in 3D, and by envisioning in your mind you are creating your life roadmap"

"Lead with intuition. Intuition fosters creativity"

Howard Shultz - Starbucks at #WBF11

Howard Shultz from Starbucks spoke. No one can deny that Starbucks has built a great company. I wonder if selling an addictive product helps?

"To exceed customer expectations starts with exceeding expectations of the staff first". People need believe in the leaders of their companies first.

He spoke about the truisms of social media. First establish relationships then you can sell to them - but only a bit. One of my views in social media - try to add value first. Good way to act in life. Add value.

I do not drink coffee so have less appreciation for Starbucks than many people. I do drink tea but find I can boil water about as well as anyone else (and for good tea, the water needs to be boiling). As a frugal guy, I only pay for tea when I feel a need from convenience (I am not near home) or I want the experience (meeting with someone or doing email).

I was impressed that Shultz was brave enough to get political. I do not do politics and in the US particularly, being political will alienate half of the populace. According to Shultz, he became overtly political after the debt ceiling crisis. "All political decisions today are made looking towards the election".

"Leadership is about courage."

#WBF11 Blogging Live from World Business Forum

The day is starting off with "True Leadership & Purpose". Tough topic not to like.

First speakers are Bill George, Malcolm Gladwell and Tal Ben-Shahar. All authors that I like.

"We cannot build our own spirit without building that of others" Bill Clinton

"Learn from great people but do not emulate them. Be yourself. Be authentic." Bill George (author of Authentic Leadership)

From Malcom Gladwell, I learned that I am "profoundly happy". He spoke about entrepreneurs being "Profoundly happy, work harder and longer than most people and they take enormous social risk." "The do not care what people think of them" (JE but I still hope you like me). "We are hard wired to want to be liked." "Entrepreneurs tend to take no operational risks but huge social risks (not caring what people say about him". "Teen agers take large operational risks (do dangerous things) but take no social risks"

Tal Ben-Shahar spoke about the science of Well Being. Positive psychology suggest we focus on what is going well compared to much examination which focuses on what is going poorly.

The key is to ask the right questions. Traditional psychology asks "Why do people fail". Positive psychology suggests we should ask "What makes some people succeed despite unfavorable circumstances". This is because resilience is one of the great keys to success.

"Focus on your strengths for success". Focus on assets - not liabilities.

"Questions create reality." We see what we look for.

"People who write down 5 things you are grateful for each day, you are healthier and happier. When you appreciate the good, the good appreciates"

Monday, October 03, 2011

Goof Off - The Miracle Remover

I saw a product - Goof Off - The Miracle Remover. It is interesting because goofing off can definitely remove miracles. I find the less I goof off, the more miracles happen.

And speaking of miracles, the garden (what is left from the hurricane) continues to do well. Tomatoes that were not damaged are almost done. Only problem is they attract fruit flies. Now I need to figure out how to get rid of fruit flies.

Carrots are awesome - huge and sweet.

Interesting article on Women Lead Startups have less Failures.

And an article on America's most inventive cities.