Category Archives: Leadership & Coaching

Rabbi’s “Look Up” Sermon Reminds that Attitude Essential in Life and Business

What does a Rosh Hashanah sermon have to do with marketing and business?

I’ll explain.

Looking from Dante's View across the Badwater Basin salt pan to Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet, at the top of the Panamint Mountains. Photo Credit: National Park Service.

Looking from Dante’s View across the Badwater Basin salt pan to Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet, at the top of the Panamint Mountains. Photo Credit: National Park Service.

At Dante’s View in Death Valley National Park (CA), it’s possible to see both the highest point in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney) and the lowest (Badwater).

Rabbi David Nesson described this geological marvel in his Rosh Hashanah sermon. Noting the volatile, dangerous world in which we live, and in the religious/spiritual context of the new year, he identified a life-management choice.  We can either Look Up or Look Down.

No surprise that he encouraged Look Up.  It’s a powerful idea with significant personal meaning.  And, it definitely applies to the business world as well.

Outlook and attitude make a difference in life and in business.  An enthusiastic, can-do approach is positively contagious across the organization. It’s much more fun and productive to work in that kind of environment. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

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Nuclear Sub Commander Transforms Leadership, Gets Winning Performance

TurnTheShipAround Book CoverA nuclear submarine commander has written a must-read book about how to achieve great performance at every level of your organization.

David Marquet’s  Turn The Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders is terrific for all team players in your company.  It’s especially powerful for those entrusted with leading direct reports.  

I loved the book.  Marquet has distilled his philosophy into a concise, attention-keeping,  easy read filled with examples of how he and his crew turned the worst performing nuclear sub into the best.

You, too, can apply this philosophy, but first you’ll have to adopt a new mindset that will lead to different actions.  Marquet’s thesis is that we need to transform leadership from a “leader-follower” mode to one of “leader-leader.”  That’s how he transformed the USS Santa Fe from a dysfunctional “one captain and 134 crewmen” into a high-octane operation of “135 thinkers.” Continue reading

Survival Lessons from 3G Capital Takeovers at Burger King and Heinz

What would you do if your career depended on how you answered three questions in a fifteen minute interview with the new CEO?

That’s what faced the headquarters staff at Burger King upon being acquired by Brazilian-owned private equity firm 3G Capital in late 2010.

And, earlier this year, the leadership team at H.J. Heinz went through the same experience when they became 3G’s latest investment.

The three questions, discovered by Fortune reporter Jennifer Reingold:

  1. What have you done for the brand?
  2. What can you link to driving sales traffic or relevant financial metrics?
  3. What suggestions do you have for the company?

Tough stuff for sure.  As Reingold relates in her article:

“It was nerve-racking, another former executive says.  People were throwing up in the bathroom because their whole career comes down to this.”

Image: iStock.

Image: iStock.

Surviving new management is difficult, especially when it results from merger/acquisition activity.  New bosses often want their own people, regardless of the strength and talent of the incumbent teams.  While assessments can be legitimate, they’re more likely to be incomplete, arbitrary or just a formality.

If you’re on the receiving end, the overall process probably seems unfair, and there’s little you can do about it.  Except, plan ahead for next time.

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For Growth & Success, Get Out of the Office

There’s only so much you can do sitting at your desk.

Let’s face it.  If you’re not engaging off-site with everyone and everything that makes your company tick, that’s a problem – and lost opportunity.

That’s why you and your business team colleagues need to periodically get out of the office and, for example:

•  Listen to your customers;

•  Get direct feedback from your ultimate end-users;

•  Work with sales colleagues;

•  Investigate and learn about important marketing geography;

•  Talk with manufacturing colleagues in the plant.

Photo: Company Facebook.

I was reminded of this critical factor for success by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Twice in the last two years, Starwood has temporarily moved corporate HQ to another country for month-long immersions:

“To get to the heart of two of Starwood’s key markets — China and the Middle East, which account for 75% of its growth — the hotel group’s leadership team, including Mr. [Phil] McAveety [Executive VP-Chief Brand Officer at Starwood], the CEO, chief financial officer and others, took a month to immerse themselves in each location. The team spent March in Dubai and visited China in 2011.”

(Emma Hall, Advertising Age, A Peek Into Starwood Hotels’ Marketer Immersion Program)

Starwood does this to learn.  Here’s what they said in a company statement: Continue reading

A Mindset for Success: “We Have Enough to Win”

I was hoping not to write this post.

You see, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night in the NBA playoffs.  Had the team I was rooting for won, I wasn’t going to write this.  Instead, there’s an extra impetus to highlight why even non-sports fans can take something away from the “corporate culture” instilled by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

Thibodeau has become well-known in NBA circles for his leadership and coaching philosophy of “we have enough to win” and even his more pronounced “we have more than enough to win.”  It’s a refusing-to-blame-injuries-and illness belief system he’s had to put to good use since the team’s best player Derrick Rose tore up his knee in last year’s playoffs (still hasn’t returned to action); and throughout this year’s season and now playoffs.

The Bulls beat the Nets on the road in seven games despite two starting players out with injury/illness for games 6 and 7 and several others playing with the flu (garbage pails were needed on the bench in game six for at least one player to umm, get sick in).  Chicago has a deep and talented team, but their depleted-roster victory can also be credited to the Nets’ poor performance.  Really, Chicago had no business winning the series.

But, this isn’t a sports story.

It’s a lesson about the power of team attitude, mindset and culture.

Check out this quote from Bulls player Jimmy Butler, courtesy of ESPNChicago.com:

“I think whenever you hear it enough each and every day, you start to buy into it.  Thibs [Coach Tom Thibodeau] is constantly saying that, we’re constantly saying that. And we know that we have enough to win because even though (our injured teammates) aren’t on the court with us, they’re with us spiritually. Whenever we come into that locker room, they’re saying things that they see from the TV. They’re always helping, just maybe not physically out there on the court with us.”

Let’s say your organization has to operate without your best competitive asset and a 40% budget reduction (analogous to the Bulls situation versus the Nets). Continue reading

What the Marines Can Teach Business Leaders

“I wish there was a book I could read that would tell me what to do.” (former brand management colleague)

As soon as I heard these words, I knew her days at our company were numbered.

They were, and it was a shame.  She was a new, junior marketer with an MBA from one of the best universities, and clearly a bright person.  At the same time, though, she was not cut out for the rough and tumble world of brand management, at least not in that company at that time.

One of the most prized business capabilities is being able to think on your feet, to take basic knowledge and principles and to be able to apply them in new and challenging situations.  As my former colleague learned, magic instructions rarely exist.  Notwithstanding training and coaching, you’ve got to figure it out!

The challenge is how to develop these capabilities.

Corps BusinessThere’s much good learning from the book Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines (David H. Freedman).  It’s an easy read and contains excellent lessons and/or reminders for marketers and business leaders.

Consider this.  If you were given an inside opportunity to learn from this company, wouldn’t you want to?

[They] “have specialized in operating under chaotic, fast changing, high-intensity conditions that provide not only little way of knowing what the opposition is going to throw at you but perhaps no way of knowing exactly who the opposition is going to be.”

Hell yes!

I’ve previously written about Principle 1, Aim for the 70-Percent Solution:  “It’s better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it’s too late.”

You can learn all 30 principles and more in the book.

In the meantime, I’ve organized 8 Key Nuggets and highlighted 3 More Principles that particularly resonated for me.

1.  Keep Getting Better

“No matter how good the Marines get at any aspect of their mission, they never consider themselves to have reached a pinnacle.  They always suspect that somehow there’s a better way to do things.”

2.  Foster a Climate of Action

“But it does want its people to be bold – that is, to take initiative and, when in doubt, to act rather than mull things over while critical events are unfolding.” Continue reading

Put “70 Percent Solution” & Rapid Fielding Concepts into Go-to-Market Toolbox

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

Business teams often struggle to achieve marketplace action, whether it’s new products or services, changes to their customer offerings or even basic sales materials.

One limiting factor may be a sort of impossible quest for perfection.  That’s why I’ve come to embrace the philosophy of seeking excellence.

I was reminded of this when reading that the US Department of Defense has a division called Rapid Fielding.  Yes, there is a “Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Rapid Fielding” in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering.  It’s intriguing because while US armed forces are rightfully known for many great things, rapid weapons development and deployment are not high on the list.

“The Rapid Fielding mission is to identify, develop, demonstrate, assess & rapidly field innovative concepts and technologies that supply critical capabilities to meet time-sensitive operational needs.”

Rapid Fielding was neatly summarized by reporter Julian E. Barnes in The Wall Street Journal: 

“The rapid-fielding office is in large measure trying to follow the guidance of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who argued that too many defense-acquisition projects spent too much trying to develop a perfect weapon. Instead, Mr. Gates argued, the Pentagon should try to focus on cheaper technologies that offered “70% solutions.””

USMC Flag

iStockphoto.com

There’s a lot for business leaders to take from the 70 percent solution concept, which comes from the US Marine Corps.

“Everyone is always looking for the perfect truth, but you never have it.  Even if you did have it, the other guy is up to something, so by the time you execute it your truth isn’t perfect anymore.” (Colonel Thomas Moore, quoted in Corps Business – The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines by David H. Freedman). Continue reading