Owen at Duke Lacrosse (leadership?) Camp

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Music to a father’s ears. The guest speaker, a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army, impressed the campers with 3 ideas:
1. pick up the trash – your school / your field / your dorm room is your home where you live and receive your friends
2. be respectful to your teammates – easy to find fault
3. don’t make fun of your captains – followers are leaders also

I asked O what this all meant. He related to the LtCol’s notion that leadership stems from personal courage and this comes from knowing yourself. One cannot lead others until you know yourself. Blaming others is a sign that one hasn’t found personal courage which stems from taking a hard look at yourself. Complete clip here.

Good. OK. I’ll try to remember this. Yep.

What Really Motivates People

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Interesting and not that surprising. Curious is how we accept and even reinforce, especially in our professional roles, what we feel not to be accurate. We are motivated by challenge, a sense of participation and feelings of achievement. Cash, in this case, is not king.

The unspeakable ‘M’ word. Who knew?!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


My friend, Mort, wrote me over the weekend describing, really decrying, a management seminar that he attended recently. He contends that his company is trying to persuade its own managers that drastic cut-backs in every expense imaginable are actually investments in the future. “the last time that we heard this – at this time last year – we suddenly came up with a $300,000 fourth quarter surplus that was spread around senior leadership as bonuses.”

Aside from the disappointments of a middle aged man, e.g. no mountains to climb nor maidens to rescued, but merely bobbing and weaving in the form of nodding and agreeing in order to keep the paychecks coming to fund the under-water mortgage debt. He has low hopes for the Tea Party and no hopes for the established scoundrels in office. “Everyone is doing the same things. Selling the same things the same way, ignoring the requirements and pleas of our customers. So, the customers are only investing if they are absolutely positive of the usefulness of their investments. Meanwhile, we make plans and Powerpoints and forecasts based upon our company’s needs and not the realities of our customers. Sort of like taking cocktails orders from a man surrounded by alligators,” he lamented.

“About the only thing that I really learned at the seminar was how much the younger people despise the phrase, implication and level of implied authority termed ‘Manager.’

“We separated into groups representing a variety of roles and ages across our company – a round table of about 7- with the purpose of brainstorming on how to improve our performance for our customers. After a several minutes of noting ways to improve the company in order to better support the current customers, someone mentioned, ‘can’t you talk to your manager about this?!’ Well, this got the younger members at the table laughing and smirking and sharing knowing eye contact. ‘Who needs a “manager?’ They are the last to know; only measure what we do; have no idea about the technology that we work with in our jobs; and basically get in the way’ were a sprinkling of their remarks. ‘Yeah, someone has to keep the higher ups informed, but not by pretending that they are in charge of our work.’ The punchline had two parts:
no one needs a manager and no wants to be a manager.

Seemed to Mort that the other generation, whatever its DNA identifier- X, Y, M or Them – are gypsies in their attitude towards employment and seek coaching or a form of leadership with which he is not familiar. This may explain the blank looks that he gets in his own meetings – or how he feels on conference calls – as they fiddle with their laptops and texting devices, giving him that blank stare of ‘are you finished yet?!’


9/29 a related post on managers. ” He spreads stress around like it’s a communicable disease.”

The safest ship: Leadership. Where fore art thou?

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

BP CEO off to a yacht race amidst the unstoppable mess in the Gulf. Umpires and referees get in the way of a perfect game (Armando Galarraga) and a legitimate game-winnng goal in the World Cup (USA vs Slovena). The indisputable need for restructuring of our financial, health and education systems seems to spiral inconclusively as those charged with our laws and their enforcement behave as though they never thought that their job descriptions really meant how they read. What can one rely on?

As a New Orleanian (Y’at describes us better), Holy Name, Jesuit, Uptown – cue the Krewe of Comus ball theme (ha, not us), I marvel that Hurricane Katrina did not sufficiently impress our nation about the imperative need to take responsibility and to prepare for the suspect and the predictable. So, the gods sent us the disaster-fiasco-crime of the violated Gulf of Mexico with the face of BP, nee the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Now we can add the ugly death of the Gulf’s wetlands to our roster of Staring and Hoping for Painless Change Wrought by Someone Else.

By my count, there are plenty of yellow and red cards to award to many in addition to BP (whose stock at $32/share is a good 3 to 5 year buy in my opinion). Fill out your own list of culprits. My first entry is the jaw-dropping statistic that 30% of our country is medically classified as obese! Consumption of its varied manifestations is bankrupting us in the voyage to early demise. Where to start? Call it the Cheyenne Manifesto of Not Complaining or Blaming until you can answer ‘yes’ to the following:

1. Do you actively manage your health by being active?
2. Do you know the names of your state senator and city council rep?
3. Can you live off of the power grid for 7 to 30 days? In Winter?
4. Do you have enough cash on hand to maintain, as is, the family’s lifestyle for 6 months?
5. Do you know by name the five neighbors on each side of you and across the street?

As I write this diatribe, I realize that those who may read this are not the ones that need to read this. I suppose that the more useful question is:

Are you involved in a program or project at a school, within the community or professional association that provides guidance and example for people who seek to improve themselves?

Impressions of Leadership

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I read three newspapers each morning. This habit, near fetish or fix, began after serving in the Navy in the 1970s. For news aboard ship, the officers would pass-around a clipboard of news captions received in the radio room. Sometimes we received only half of the transmission.

As a consequence of my time out of the popular culture mainstream and periodically when we’re in front of the television or at a dinner, someone will mention a tv program or even song from that period. While my fellow viewers and dinner partners express related opinions and associations, I react as though I just landed here from afar. Now I’m used to saying, “that must have been in the seventies.”

One of my Navy roommates tried to enjoy investing in the stock market. During port calls in the Pacific, he’d receive a pile of Wall Street Journals. He pore through the stack exclaiming and cursing the performance of his investments as their 2 and 3 week histories were compressed into a 2 tand 3 hour interval for him. Speaking of the Journal: I’ve been a diligent reader and loyal subscriber for nearly 30 years. Under the newly formed News Corp. / Murdoch administration, I’m finding the paper predictable in its point of view and shallow in the depth of its reporting. The editors may be interested to know that my wife, a publications designer, approves of the new trim size. At this rate, I’ll drop the Journal and spend more time with the Times.

Which leads me to the topic of leadership because the unwritten news headlines are furious cries for a TARP-like program of leadership. Aren’t we all just looking for a little bit of it here and there?! What are its elements? Can it be taught? Do we only know it when we see it? Is it valued and encouraged?

I work for a technology company in a college town populated by medical professionals which offers a rewarding mixture of possibility, energy and achievement. My favorite discussions are when we compare the mechanics of our worlds. Yesterday, I spoke with a military officer about the organization of a bbq at an April sporting event. In this discussion, she exhibited the same traits of leadership skill that I attribute to others whom I admire in medicine, technology and in education: foremost, their intent is to get something done; they are unfailing polite while being candid; they work hard in the achievement of mission and are eager to acknowledge the contributions of others; they do not lay blame and do not tolerate incompetence, willful or unintended; they solicit genuine feedback about their performance.

What do leaders do? Leaders create environments where people can belong to something larger than themselves. They inspire confidence that the group will succeed in its purpose even as individual members rotate in and out. Great sports teams are the epitome of this. After all, why do some teams become programs that always play well; some never play well; and most played well so long as so&so was there.

Of course, the essence of leadership is courage. What is that and can that be taught?

Leadership is the answer. Followership is the commitment.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Leadership by example; leadership that insists on common sacrifice for the common good; leadership guided by the belief that we all want to belong to something larger than ourselves. Leadership is neither bullying nor all-accepting.

In 1989 after our small company had made it past the 6 month milestone of survival, we enjoyed a pizza lunch and a motivational video of Lou Holtz. He’s not my hero and what he suggested comes to mind now & again. In essence, if you want people to follow you then they must answer three questions with ‘Yes':

1) Can I trust you? To me, this means are you consistent? Are you sincere in your behavior and words. This is not about predictability of performance.

2) Do you care about me? After Joe Sestak won the PA 7th District Congressional seat in 2006, I asked one of the overworked interns at 2am why the chief of staff got so much out of the temps, interns and lowly paid professionals? He smiled and replied, “he cares about me.”

3) Will you be there when I need you? In my own small world, this is the one that matters most. I value reliability more than any other personal trait.

The US Air Hudson River landing & what I love about America

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Common sacrifice. Not bailout; not forgiveness for foolishness and especially not for greed. No need to save us from ourselves. Tell us what is needed and why. Persuade us that we are in this together. Maybe inspire us that we can now be part of something larger than ourselves (after all, is this not the genuine promise of America and being Americans?!). Most importantly, ensure that everyone is expected to contribute and to sacrifice and to benefit in the same way. Most important.

As we are a country of pioneers and willing to do things that no one else has tried, we don’t really like group-think and the comfort of crowds. We will calmly land a plane in a river and rapidly organize a successful rescue (I still feel that Flight 93 on 9/11 tells you all that you want to need to know about America where civilians provided the only timely and significant coordinated response on that dreadful day). There will be no survivors of US Air flight 1549 conventions; these people will just go about their businesses of being Americans.

Let’s get a head-start on the promise and expectations of Mr. Obama’s inauguration by reminding ourselves and insisting of our leadership that we are in this together.

Bravo to the United States Air Force Academy and its graduate, the captain of flight 1549, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III. His history of contingency planning, calmness under duress, insurance of the safety of his passengers and crew and the last one to exit the aircraft (naturally) offers example and sets a tone for us all in this prevailing crash-landing of a financial crisis.

Web 2.0 & summer: 1 day off, 2 ships, 3 thirds

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Memorial Day weekend, like July 4th, means more to me each year as my sons near enrollment in our adult world.

After 5 weeks of Web 2.0 presentations with clients from 3 continents, the nature of these discussions are in a third chapter: ‘We’ve tried a few related projects and want to pick up the pace (aka make investments) where it makes sense.’ Seventeen months ago, chapter 1, clients wanted to know ‘if this Web 2.0 is for real.’ During News Corp’s acquisition of Dow Jones in mid-07, creating a sibling for MySpace, chapter 2 centered on ‘how should we get started?’

As you might expect, enterprise executives are more interested in Web 2.0 as it might enable collaboration to capture the organization’s knowledge and to inspire innovation amongst employees, customers and partners than they are in the tools of Web 2.0 – blogs, podcasts etc, although low-end, low-cost video is compelling.  The thinking is something like, ‘If Wikipedia gets it done with 8 full-time employees, why can’t we do a little better with a lot larger staff?!’

As we talk about the next generation of Internet-savvy employees and customers, I emphasize that regardless which Web 2.0 tools or principles take hold, there will remain the need for two ships: leadership and scholarship.  My eighteen-year-old once suggested to me, “Don’t just yell at me, show me!” which I interpret to be a useful model for both Web 2.0 marketing and management.

My favorite leadership story in tribute to those we honor on Monday:  20+ years ago at a start-up software company, we interviewed a just-graduated engineer from NC State for a technical sales position. He offered capability and charm, but no measurable, related experience – a recipe for rejection. At lunch, one manager noted that the candidate had been fraternity president and asked what management lesson from that experience might be applied to developing our software business?

He replied in an even tone that in such an unorganized, chaotic environment where he had no real authority, he observed that “the mission of the top 1/3 was to keep the middle 1/3 from being like the bottom 1/3.”  Ten seconds of silence ensued; then our General Manager asked him how soon he could start.

Welcome to summer! There’s lots to look forward to.

Leadership Old, Leadership New and Leadership Navy Blue

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Memorial Day weekend, like July 4th, means more to me each year as my sons near enrollment in our adult world.

I observe that the main difference between our generation of managers and those raised on the Internet is that we grew up in a world where Knowledge is Power. Getting ahead often meant knowing the most. They grow up in a world where Everyone Knows and where the Sharing of Knowledge is Power. For our organizations to succeed in this transition, we must be coaches more than managers so that our employees can be players more than spectators. This behavior is different than we’re used to and will require commitment, character and courage – hallmarks of leadership.

Leadership, like innovation, assumes many forms and representations:

IBM’s announced this morning that our VP for Innovation & Technology, Nick Donofrio, will retire in October. We dreaded this notice. Every time he addressed us, his candid, simply insightful and passionate remarks informed every employee of an IBM that was and strives to be in this uncertain and exciting time. After forty-four years with the company (he and System 360 joined in 1964) he won’t be replaced – ’cause we can’t.

I hope that you had the chance to read the description of the women’s softball game in Ellensburg, Washington last month between Central Washington and Western Oregon.  Sara Tucholsky of WO hit a home run to put her team into the lead. Rounding first base, she twisted her knee, falling to the ground unable to continue around to home plate. The game’s rules prevent teammates from assisting one of their own players around the bases.  No problem. Two players from the opposing Central Washington team carried Sara to second base, to third base, and to home plate so that her hit would count.

On Saturday, the USS North Carolina, SSN -777, was commissioned into naval service in Wilmington, North Carolina. This nuclear-powered submarine is about 350′ long with a crew of about 140 and can be required to patrol underwater for up to 60 consecutive days.  If you’re ever doubtful of the caliber of our young Americans or want to observe the power of purpose, please take a tour of one of these impressive boats.

Now you know a little bit of what I know, please put it to use. Nick would appreciate it.