A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS (Chapter 10) #5012

Chapter 10 is entitled, The 20/20 Vision Advantage.

We’ve rounded the final quarter pole of the book, THE POWER OF PEERS by Leon Shapiro and Leo Bottary. By now we’ve come to understand how powerfully true the subtitle of the book is, “How the company you keep drives leadership, growth and success.” The authors have provided numerous examples proving the validity of that statement. You’d think more CEOs and business owners would avail themselves of the opportunity to surround themselves with their peers so they could experience THE PEER ADVANTAGE. But as Keith Ferrazzi and others have noted, these relationships don’t just come about naturally. They’re formed with intention and purpose. I suppose that’s one reason they can be rare, mostly finding their way into the lives of the very best of the best. Just another reason why you should give serious thought to joining their ranks.

And it’s a chief reason why Bula Network is now forming the first two charter groups of THE PEER ADVANTAGE, exclusively for U.S. based small business owners. THE PEER ADVANTAGE is an online peer advisory group comprised of 7 small business owners from around America who come together twice a month for 2 hours each time – that’s a total of just 4 hours monthly – expressly to grow their businesses and their lives as business owners. This isn’t kumbaya kind of stuff. It’s real-life, real-time business building where we can come together to discuss our biggest issues and opportunities. Quite simply, it’s about us joining forces to put in the work to take your business to new heights of achievement and success.

Chapter 10 begins with a quotation from former MIT Engineering School dean Gordon Brown. “To be a teacher is to be a prophet. We are not preparing children for the world we have lived in, but for a future we can barely imagine.” The same could be said of CEOs and business owners as we try to build and prepare our companies for the future.

Broadening your view and expanding your perspective can be accomplished when your peers bring it into a view unlike anybody else in your life. When we exchange experiences and ideas from peers who occupy different spaces, different industries – we can more easily make application to our own circumstances. Your peers can help you more easily evaluate your challenges, take advantage of your opportunities and chart a course for your future. That’s how peer advantage provides a vision advantage. It helps you not only prepare for the future, but shape it.

In 2008 the recession had a serious impact on many businesses. The authors talk about one CEO of a jewelry designer and consultant with jewelry in more than 2000 stores nationwide. Luxury and accessories were hard hit by the downturn. The CEO responded quickly by focusing her designs on a fashion-forward appeal. She was part of a CEO peer advisory group. They encouraged her to travel and maintain a trade show presence in spite of the investment. That steady persistence secured Macy’s as a new client in Q3 of 2011. In 2012 she increased her business 40%.

During this troubling time her CEO group worked as a functioning council ready and able to help her steer her company successfully. She not only met the challenges, but she created opportunities. All at the urging of her CEO group who were seeking her best interests. She was able to see more clearly with the help of other CEOs in her group. It prevented her from being blind-sided or short-sighted.

Looking back, we can see what happened to the economy in 2008, but there were business owners and CEOs who saw it coming. They didn’t know exactly what was coming or how deeply it would impact business, but they could see a storm coming. So they responded and prepared, thanks to the foresight provided by their peer advantage group.

In 2006 there were a number of CEOs in Atlanta who were part of a group. Part of their collective work involved following an economist with a solid reputation for tracking the global economy. Signs of a banking crisis began to appear on the horizon and one of the CEOs in the group, a banker himself, agreed that it was just a matter of time when people would be scrambling. The group knew a correction was coming and figured it might come by late 2008 or early 2009. Other members of the group were seeing signs in their own industries. All this resulted in the group sticking together to prepare and help each other.

The banker in the group led them through a series of exercises to prepare. Each company was credit line dependent so they were all able to keep their current financing or get new financing thanks to these exercises.

The group members also knew that when the crunch hit members might be tempted to cut the investment of being in the group. They all agreed it would not be a good time to leave the group, simply to save a few bucks a month. They agreed they’d stick together no matter what. Today, every CEO is in place in the group and in their company. Each member is thriving.

Planning and preparation are important. As the German military saying goes, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” There are always unknowns. Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” You may not be able to predict, but you can – and must – plan.

Sailboat racers will tell you that no two races are the same. Too many variables are in place – like wind, weather, equipment, competitors and more. Sailboat racers say that to win, you have to get your head out of the boat. It helps to pay attention to the instruments, but it only matters relative to the other boats in the race. Working with a diverse group of CEOs or business owners is a way to get your head out of the boat, to stop working in the weeds of your business — and to start working seriously on growing your business.

Business owners and CEOs are challenged to future-proof their businesses. Agility is the advantage. Peer advantage provides that.

CEOs and owners are advised to consider factors from the customer’s perspective rather than thinking in terms of macro trends, income, sales and profit ratios. How do customers see their own situation? How are they making their decisions? The more we can become acquainted with customers in other spaces, the more objective we can be and the more likely we’ll be to spot trends that can guide us in our own decision-making.

That distance from our own situation allows us to be more objective. We’ll be better able to see trends we may not have otherwise seen. Working with peers outside our industry provides us that vision.

The authors liken looking at macro data to driving our car forward while looking in the rearview mirror. The past is the past. It may not provide much guidance on the present or the future. Gone are the days of undisrupted industry. So now we all must think like a futurist.

Sheryl Connelly is the corporate futurist for Ford Motor Company. “Blue jeans have been around for roughly 150 years,” she says. “In the early 1900’s if I tried to walk into a fine hotel wearing blue jeans, I wouldn’t get past the front door. Jeans were worn by laborers. They were low cost and highly utilitarian. Today, they are high fashion. They are common in many office environments, and I could wear them at just about any fine restaurant. What changed in the last 100 years were our values, attitudes and behaviors. This is what CEOs need to pay attention to.”

She suggests that the SWOT analysis remains valuable today. The problem is that the SWOT tool is extremely limiting. Connelly suggest the problem is you don’t own your strengths, your customers do. They’re the ones who determine where you’re strong. And they’re fickle. Another way the SWOT is limiting is CEOs can be blindsided by competition. Often unlikely competition. Think Blockbuster and Kodak. Their failure to respond didn’t end well.

Rather than a SWOT analysis, look inward, broaden your view and focus on what you can’t control that could impact your business. Stay on top of trends, technology advances, economic drivers, environmental concerns and political dynamics. Then consider what Ms. Connelly describes as wild card events, such as 9/11 or the 2013 earthquake in Japan. Those events have an immediate impact and have to be considered in real-time.

One approach is to exhaust the “what if?” questions. Take a look at your business from 10,000 feet. Ask all the questions about things beyond your control. And employ scenario planning. Look at your assumptions and question them. CEOs and owners who have the peer advantage are surrounded by others who will help them do that. They can uncover each other’s blind spots and help each other see things more clearly.

The chapter then dives into a number of examples where CEOs and owners were able to seize opportunities. It’s not just about dealing with problems. Improved vision helps us spot opportunities, too. There are solid stories of groups that helped each other see and examine opportunities that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The final part of the chapter shows how peer advantage can improve vision to allow members to see things more globally. We’re all prone to silo ourselves. We occupy our space, our industry. We run with folks who also operate in our space. It can restrict our point of view and narrow our field of vision. But through peer advantage we can truly see and understand how all the different sectors of industry interface with one another and how connected we all really are.

The chapter’s summary reminds us of how our parents hoisted us up on their shoulders to give us a better view when we were too small to see clearly. That elevated height enabled us to see. In a peer advisory group we stand on the shoulders of our peers who help us see better than we ever could by ourselves. They lift us up so we can get a better view.

The trust and mutual respect you share in such a group give you permission to challenge one another’s assumptions, see opportunities where others may just see problems, exchange ideas that may be common place in one industry, but unheard of in another.

A peer group meeting is a place where you can think like a futurist and plan for the best or worst with agility. The peer advantage can help you work on the right things. The chapter ends with this sentence, “Now you just have to find the right peers with whom you can share your aspirations.”

I hope THE PEER ADVANTAGE by Bula Network can provide that experience for you. Find out more by visiting

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Let's Dig Into The Book: A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS #5003 - BULA NETWORK

Let’s Dig Into The Book: A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS #5003

Let's Dig Into The Book: A Chapter-By-Chapter Audio Summary Of THE POWER OF PEERS #5003 - BULA NETWORK

Full disclosure: I produce the podcast for Leo Bottary, co-author of the book THE POWER OF PEERS. Maybe it produces a bias. Mostly it produces insights and enthusiasm around the topic as indicated by the subtitle, “How the company you keep drives leadership, growth and success.”

Chapter 1

“CEOs are faced with a singular reality: there are very few people they can reply upon for impartial advice.”

According to a study conducted by the Center For Leadership Development And Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance and The Miles Group, many CEOs struggle with isolation and a sense of loneliness. Almost two thirds of CEOs don’t receive any outside leadership advice. 100% of the respondents said they’d be open to making changes based on feedback.

Sir Richard Branson, “Many people think that an entrepreneur is someone who operates alone, overcoming challenges and bringing his idea to market through sheer force of personality. This is completely inaccurate. Few entrepreneurs — scratch that: almost no one — ever achieved anything worthwhile without help.”

CEOs can teach one another. A CEO can question the validity of joining a peer advisory group comprised of diverse leaders, “How will CEOs who know nothing about my specific business or my industry help me?” And some may wonder, “How much time are we really going to spend on issues that impact my company?”

By coming together CEOs help each other realize their individual goals. Instead of learning through reading case studies, they work in real-time on actual business issues. It provides a broader range of perspectives and business issues. Far more than a CEO would be exposed to from people at their own company.

But there’s something else…another benefit. CEOs in such groups begin to view their companies vertically and horizontally. They pay closer attention to the power of peers within their own organizations.

The power of peers is partly found in not getting answers, but in being questioned. That benefit is sparked because of a few fundamental elements found in an effective peer advisory group.

One, impartiality. Fellow CEOs aren’t bothered with the considerations of employees, board members, suppliers or customers. They have no agenda other than helping one another grow their business.

Two, shared challenges. CEOs in these groups serve completely different customers perhaps, but they share common challenges about employees, growth, profitability, executive development, technology, and a host of other things. Their diversity results in enhanced learning. The more they talk, the more they realize they have a lot in common.

Three, learning. Shared ideas across different industries, at different stages of growth…makes for rich conversations where deep learning happens. Sharing wins and losses builds trust, further deepening the conversation and learning.

Four, empathy. It takes one to know one. People who have never been a CEO can’t relate, but fellow CEOs can. The empathy of people walking in the same shoes is vital to creating an environment where shared experiences enrich everybody’s life.

Five, owning the solution. Peer advisory groups aren’t consulting firms. Instead of offering solutions they help members arrive at their own. And each member decides for themselves what actions they’ll take.

In 1991 Etienne Wenger-Traynor and Jean Lave coined the term communities of practice. It’s been described as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.” That’s exactly what happens inside a peer advisory group of CEOs or business owners.

In ancient Greece craftsmen formed communities where members trained one another and shared innovations. During the Middle Ages guilds offered a similar experience for artisans.

Ben Franklin, in early American history, organized a group of 12 friends to provide an ongoing forum for structured discussion. That original group was diverse. There were printers, surveyors, a cabinet maker, a cobbler, a clerk and a merchant. They met on Friday evenings to talk politics, morals and philosophy. “Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory,” said Franklin.

In 1793 the group originally known as the Junto became the American Philosophical Society, created “to promote useful knowledge in the colonies.” It still operates today!

Most people first heard of this idea in Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich. He described the advent of the mastermind group and how Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford credited their mastermind groups for much of their success. Hill regarded these groups as the secret to success of all great men at the time.

As of 2015 Millennials represented 45% of the workforce. 28% of them serve in management roles. It’s a generation that relishes connection with colleagues. Digital and face-to-face connections are highly sought and valued.

The communities of practice found in a business peer advisory group – such as The Peer Advantage – gives business owners the ability to work on their current issues and challenges in real time. No case studies. No fictional scenarios. Real-time learning that happens from their own individual and collective experiences.

Peer influence isn’t the same as peer advantage.

We connect online or in person. Mostly we connect with acquaintances, even if they’re people we’ve never met before. We network online or at conferences and seminars. Maybe at local events. It’s likely more selective and with a purpose of advancing personal and professional interests.

There’s a difference between peer influence and peer advantage. In the first one we experience when we connect and network. In the later, we optimize and accelerate, two terms that are the focus of the book.

We optimize when we work together in teams to perform at high levels of excellence. Think Blue Angels or Special Forces. Accelerate is the ultimate means for gaining peer advantage. The objective is to grow, meet tough challenges, achieve lofty goals and grow as leaders.

Peer advantage is peer influence of the higher order. Peer advisory groups employ 5 factors essential to the group experience and to achieving desired outcomes.

  1. Select the right peers – find true peers who share your commitment to excellence.
  2. Create a safe environment – cultivate an atmosphere that is judgment-free, inspiring open dialogue and deep learning.
  3. Utilize a smart guide – someone who can effectively facilitate the conversation.
  4. Foster valuable interaction – establish a process that encourages rich and meaningful conversations.
  5. Be accountable – honor a shared expectation that you will do what you say you’ll do.

No CEO or business owner should have to go it alone. So ends chapter 1.

Buy the book here.

That way you’ll be able to follow along with greater detail. I hope to give you an overall sense of the book’s content, but would encourage further reading and study.

Peer groups are quite natural. We’ve experienced them whenever we’ve been part of a team or organization that works together toward a common purpose. As business owners and leaders most of us have NOT experienced them. Instead, we’re surrounded by our employees, including our executive team. And these are good, maybe even great people. After all, we had a hand in bringing them into our organization either directly or indirectly. We’ve also got vendors and suppliers. Some of them are close to us. We even socialize with a few of them because we like them. And we’ve got professional people helping us at every turn. Our CPA or accountant, our attorney and other professionals who help us navigate a variety of specific challenges. All good people. Some great. But they all need something or require something from us. It’s fine. It’s just how it is.

Through the years I’ve sat down with countless CEOs and business owners to discuss their challenges. In every instance, they’ve admitted there are many things in their lives that they feel must be endured alone. From the CEO who is having secret meetings to have preliminary discussions about an acquisition who confesses he can’t even take that to his CFO to the business owner whose wife has just been diagnosed with a serious ailment. Professional issues. Personal issues.

Every human being yearns for connection. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, or how smart you may be, or how resilient you’ve been (and still are). You need other people. There’s no such thing as the “self-made” man or woman. We’ve all had help. We all need help.

SMB owners are accustomed to going their own way. Maybe you’ve prided yourself in being unemployable because you just can’t work for anybody else. Maybe you’ve just been driven to do your own thing. Whatever your drives and motivators…you’re at the helm of your own business. It all rests on you and you wouldn’t have it any other way. That doesn’t make you immune from loneliness and the desire to have input from others.

There’s a trite proverb, but many would argue that doesn’t make it any less true. I argue that it’s completely false.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.  -African proverb

Instead, I know that business owners can go fast and far together. Growth is accelerated when we have the help and support of others. We can reach higher faster when we go together. That’s what The Peer Advantage is all about. For more details just visit THE PEER ADVANTAGE.

P.S. Check out Leo’s podcast – YEAR OF THE PEER.

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Lip Service, Customer Service & Employee Happiness (People Determine Your Profits) #4019 - GROW GREAT

Lip Service, Customer Service & Employee Happiness (People Determine Your Profits) #4019

Lip Service, Customer Service & Employee Happiness (People Determine Your Profits) #4019 - GROW GREAT

In the summer of 1998 one of my all-time favorite sales gurus, Jeffrey Gitomer, published a book that would become my chief “most gifted” book – Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless: How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know. I’ve given that book to employees, friends, business owners, CEOs and even people with no real business element in their life. It’s a book about and for fanatics – or those who need to become fanatical about service. I had encountered Gitomer sometime earlier – I don’t remember where – and I was already a fan by the time the Business Journals around the country picked up his column on selling.

Gitomer-SatisfactionHard to believe a southern boy fell for a guy from Philly, but I did. Gitomer was blunt, candid and delivered his message with a passion I felt was long-overdue. From my earliest days I saw the benefit and long-term value of not being transactional. Customer happiness was always my focus, even as a teenager selling stereo gear. Why would any sales guy or business owner be okay with customers who just felt “okay” about their purchase or their service? Made no sense to me.

What did make sense was Gitomer evangelical passion and candor. Twenty years ago – as now – businesses continued to market how much they cared about their customers. Few walked the walk. That’s still true. It’s common to see salespeople and business people grab the money. And run.

Earlier in the 90’s – years before Gitomer’s book – a couple of authors wrote another book I had fallen in love with – The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch ’em Kick Butt by Hal Rosenbluth and Diane McFerrin Peters. At the time it was quite a remarkable message. Love your employees before you love your customers because the employees are the ones serving the customer. Again, I had intuitively believed that and been mostly attracted to companies who behaved that way. It helped that Mr. Rosenbluth ran a high growth company that wound up topping revenues of $6B (that’s BILLION) before selling to American Express. How could a guy like that get it wrong? Well, he didn’t get it wrong. Others do.

This clearly was a time of enlightenment for me as a business guy because somewhere during this time I became aware of a man who appeared to be the epitome of a nice guy, Jim Goodnight. He ran a little enterprise in North Carolina called SAS. Talk about fanaticism. Goodnight was fanatical about making SAS the best place on the planet for employees. The Internet had yet to be born. Silicon Valley startups wouldn’t happen for many years. Goodnight put employees on a pedestal and provided services for them that made other business owners cringe. Even then employers were searching diligently for ways to reduce overhead in the way of employee benefits. Instead, Goodnight was searching for ways to provide more benefits that would enhance the lives of his employees. He fascinated me. And made me want to be more like him albeit on a much smaller scale. Goodnight’s SAS blew past the $3B (that’s BILLION) mark last year.

Why do business owners and CEOs still not get it? 

I’ve only reached one conclusion. It’s because most are too short-sighted. Yes, some just don’t see people as valuable as they should. They figured humans are like generic parts, interchangeable. One is as good as another. If you lose one, no big deal. Let’s just plug another in place. But even those who believe people are valuable has set limits on that value. I mean, after all, the benefits packages have to be reduced by 25% this year no matter what. It’s easy to say people matter, but it’s very different to make the investment to prove it.

Even privately held companies are under constant pressure to exceed last month’s numbers. Group think kicks in because we’re all reading Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. Innovation. Creativity. Blah, blah, blah. We read about it, give it a few seconds of thought then we go back to the reality that it has little to do with our life and our business. We’ve got to get sales up. And costs down. It’s the ying and yang of business building that mostly lures all of us. Along the way, we can easily forget the impact on our people — and our customers. We grab today’s dollars because we’re unable to see the five dollar bills we might be able to garner next month. A bird in the hand and all that.

It’s understandable. Well, sorta.

I’ve sat with too many CEOs who lamented about an employee’s performance – a key employee – who performed well until a bit more pressure was applied (intentional or not), proving they couldn’t quite hold up. We’re no different. Apply enough pressure on us to grow that top line, or the bottom line…and we’ll be likely to grab the dollar in front of us. I don’t make harsh judgments about leaders who grow short-sighted, even if I don’t always agree with that strategy.

It was in the early 80’s when I first wrote down and began preaching what I called “non-negotiable standards.” I was involved in turning around a company that was just a few years old, but quickly the inventory had grown obsolete, the people disenchanted and the systems non-existent. Two things ruled all my early actions: cleaning up the company (physically) and establishing non-negotiable standards. I wasted no time telling people what that meant – “non-negotiable standards.” It means things you must do or refrain from doing else you’ll put your job at risk. Now before you think, “Man, how heavy handed” — tap the brakes.

It was fair. Candid, but fair. I wanted employees to own their behavior and performance. That hadn’t been happening. People were lackluster, lethargic and apathetic. Many of them didn’t last. I don’t doubt their goodness as people, but the culture had betrayed them. They had grown accustomed to the pathetic environment. Good performance happens at the hands of good performers. Good performers need fostering, training, encouragement and rewards. In short, they need standards to meet.

Quickly I learned that the good performers who survived had long been frustrated by the unfairness of busting their humps while the slackards sat around without accountability. They embraced the changes and soared. I’ve since seen it happened many times.

Talk is cheap. 

I’ve not yet met the CEO or business owner who openly admits, “I don’t much care about my people. They’re all replaceable.” Instead, most of us – okay, all of us – give it lip service. Yes, some of us back up that talk, but many of us don’t. Some of us wish we could or would back it up. Others of us don’t much care, we just want to be polite and politically correct. A few of us are bullies who honestly don’t care about people. They’re a necessary evil and they vex our existence as leaders. Those are the folks I call “managers.” They’re not leaders. Honestly, they may not be very good managers (that is, people who oversee systems, processes and operations).

We lead people. We manage the work.

That’s my view. You may not share it. It’s okay. You can be wrong. 😉

I could write volumes of books on the horror stories I’ve heard about bosses who behave badly and who treat people even worse. You could likely be a contributing author. We’ve all got tons of these stories. But the behavior still persists.

I cringe every week because every week I hear multiple stories of bad boss behavior. Yelling, screaming, threatening – they’re just too commonplace in some workplaces. Grown people treated like pre-school children. Workers being humiliated. Supervisors and bosses feeling good about themselves by making sure the staff knows who is in charge. Like medieval fire breathing dragons, they roam the office just waiting for a white knight armed to the teeth to cut their head off. Unfortunately for many employees, no such knight ever arrives. Eventually, human indignities realize their limits, and people quit.

No big loss. Hire somebody else.

How much does it cost to hire or replace an employee in your company?

Most don’t know. They’ve never taken the time to compute the lost time, lost productivity, lost revenue or any other losses associated with a good employee walking (or sprinting) away. Sometimes it’s because the profits and revenues are high enough, it doesn’t much matter. That’s really shallow thinking. A business earning strong double digit net profits doesn’t seem bothered because they’re fat and happy. Unproductive perhaps, but fat and happy none the less. If an owner is banking $1M…it can be a daunting task to show him how a shift in his culture might result in a $1.25M income.

I live in the Land Of What’s Possible. What if?

What if we really embraced finding, training and retaining top talent? What if we pushed our chips into the middle of the table to build in some consistency and longevity among our employees? What if we actually put our employees first – above our customers? How would all that impact the customer experience?

Unfortunately many businesses will never find out. They’ll churn through people never figuring it out. They won’t calculate the cost – human cost or business cost.

Some will go out of business. The odds of failure in business are still staggering.

Others will survive in spite of themselves. They’ll never realize their full potential, but they don’t care. Enough. If they did, they’d find another way.

Books and articles about leadership may help shift a collective culture, but then again there’s Steve Jobs. Tyrants get worshipped. Some buy into the notion that you must be an insufferable maniac to succeed. Rather than try to persuade people otherwise, long ago I just decided to urge people working for such people – or people working in dysfunctional organizations – to find new opportunities. Get gone. Sooner than later. Protect yourself. Guard your heart and your own passion for doing good work. Life is way too short to work for a tyrant.

I wish I could impact the bigger picture, but I’m not naive about my own reach. Instead, I think it best to soar with my strengths as Donald O. Clifton wrote (the father of StrengthsFinder). I’m committed to serving leaders who already know the truth of profit generation and business building. People make THE difference. It’s not lip service. It’s not some better-felt-than-told philosophy. It’s a working culture that daily is willing to be tested to prove itself. Owners and CEOs who refuse to give an inch to behave otherwise. They remain committed to doing the right thing all the time, no matter what.

That kind of leadership resolve is rare, but it exists. Just today I had a nice conversation with a CEO who shared his story with me proving that his talk was anything but cheap. Big customer, little customer. They’re all the same to him – deserving of a great experience. He’s in the real estate game. He’s got a good sized team. Back last summer he recounted how he had to part company with an employee who simply didn’t understand that the CEOs “non-negotiable standards” are indeed NON-NEGOTIABLE. Grabbing the money – even for the firm – violated the principles and culture established by this high integrity CEO. He put his money where his mouth was. He acted, not based on financial gain, but on doing what was right. Why? Because he understands how big he’s going to win over the longer haul.

If business guys who achieved $3B and $6B respectively don’t convince you to value people, then I’m certainly not successful enough (financially) to persuade you.


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bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

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Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Episode 253

253 Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4)

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Episode 253

I wrestled with this episode because I knew I wanted to focus on a book or books about General Electric’s spectacular leader Jack Welch. I didn’t struggle about my opinions of Mr. Welch, but rather the vast number of books I’ve read about him and about how GE operated during his regime.

I could have focused on a number of books:

• Jack Welch & The G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO by Robert Slater

• The GE Way Fieldbook : Jack Welch’s Battle Plan for Corporate Revolution by Robert Slater

• Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch and John A. Byrne

• The GE Work-Out by David Ulrich

• At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit by Thomas F. O’Boyle

• What Made jack welch JACK WELCH: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders by Stephen H. Baum

• Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company  by Bill Lane

• Get Better Or Get Beaten by Robert Slater

• Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman

• The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies are Honing Their Performance by Peter Pande, Robert Neuman and Roland Cavanagh

There are others, too. I think I’ve purchased and read every book written about Jack Welch, including the ones he’s written – those with or without his wife, Suzy.

I decided to focus on this book written by the Welch couple because it’s a good distillation of Jack Welch’s ideas, philosophies and beliefs. Yes, it’s clearly from his perspective and so it naturally has his biases built in. Like most extraordinary people he’s got his detractors. Many of them are quite zealous in their criticism of his work at General Electric. He ruffled feathers because he took action. Sometimes people thought the actions he took were extreme and unfair. Nobody can argue with his ability to return value to shareholders though. Under Welch’s leadership, GE increased market value from $12 billion in 1981 to $280 billion in 1998, making 600 acquisitions along the way. Earnings grew 10 fold to over $14 billion. GE stock prices rose from just over $1.25 per share in 1981 to a peak of $60 in 2000. Wall Street loved Jack.

One of the biggest criticisms of Jack Welch was that he lacked compassion for the ordinary, middle-class worker. I think much of that perception stemmed from his open support for strong executive pay. Welch was opposed to restraints on executive pay. He wasn’t concerned with the gap between the pay of an average worker and the executive. He continues to be a strong advocate of the free market and believes that whatever the market will bear is fair game.

Whether you agree with his tactics or his philosophies, you must recognize his dedication to follow what he believed was right. Personally, I found Jack Welch refreshing and in keeping with my fondness for Harold Geneen and others, I found Welch had that one quality I most admired – and still do – candor!

Winning by Jack and Suzy Welch may not have been THE book about or by Welch to help define me, but there’s no doubt that watching, reading and learning about Jack Welch during his GE years helped shape my own beliefs about running business. I was in the early days of my management career when Jack Welch was hitting his prime at GE.

By the time I was well entrenched in my management career I had made some connections with General Electric because they were a supplier. I was running a luxury retailing company in Dallas selling high-end major home appliances and consumer electronics. A new regional manager for GE Appliances arrived in Dallas, Len Kosar. We spent hours and days together as part of a “smart bombing” initiative of GE to study and research the appliance business. Through that process, the GE manager learned that I was a big fan of Jack Welch’s work. Today, Len is President and CEO at Evive Station in Pittsburg.

Back then Len was part of Jack Welch’s GE so when Jack was making a visit to Dallas, Len graciously invited me to attend a small gathering of local business people to go “meet and greet” Jack at the Galleria Hotel. I was more than thrilled. We were all seated in a room where Jack got up to make a brief presentation followed by a few questions. After that we all went to another room where we mixed and mingled as Jack made his way around the room to personally greet every guest. I was ready…I had given this moment lots of thought. There he was, Len introducing me to THE MAN. We shook hands and I told him how much I had admired his work. I told him I had one question I wanted to ask. He was kind and gracious as I asked, “How did you survive the GE culture so you even had the chance to get the top job?”

He quickly cited a champion, who not only suffered him, but promoted and protected him. Welch went on to do that for people he felt were the “top people” at GE. By the time I shook hands with Welch he was well into the famous 20/70/10 routine where he was dedicated to firing the bottom 10% of GE’s team. That first number, 20, represented the stars. Welch believed in taking care of the stars. As for the middle number, the 70 – he knew they were vital, but he also knew some could slip to the bottom 10 while others could be nurtured to the top 20. He wanted to exert pressure on that middle 70 to join the ranks of the top 20%.

Welch himself had been a top 20 and people had fostered his growth inside General Electric. They were instrumental in shaping his views and in giving him the opportunity to fulfill his goal to one day become CEO of the company.

Very early on in my career, when I began following Jack Welch through the press and books, the thing I most admired about him was the thing others found repulsive. He was blunt. He was candid. Shameless in telling people where they stood.

It’s safer to say that all my reading and studying of Jack Welch helped define me as a business guy, more than simply blaming it on just a book. But since this series is about books that helped define me I’m singling out this book by Jack and Suzy Welch, Winning.

The book was published in 2005. Jack: Straight from the Gut by Welch was published in 2001. It was more of an autobiography. You should buy it ’cause like the other books I’ve talked about up to this point – you can grab a copy for a penny! Welch was clearly hitting his stride in a new career as an author and speaker by the time Winning was released.

“I have been asked literally thousands of questions. But most of them come down to this: What does it take to win? I think winning is great. Not good – great. Because when companies win, people thrive and grow. There are more jobs and more opportunities.”

The book is divided into five sections and twenty chapters.

Underneath It All

– Mission and Values: So much hot air about something so real
– Candor: The biggest dirty little secret in business
– Differentiation: Cruel and Darwinism? Try fair and effective
– Voice and Dignity: Every brain in the game

Your Company

– Leadership: It’s not just about you
– Hiring: What winners are made of
– People Management: You’ve got the right players. Now what?
– Parting Ways: Letting go is hard to do
– Change: Mountains do move
– Crisis Management: From oh-God-no to yes-we’re-fine

Your Competition

– Strategy: It’s all in the sauce
– Budgeting: Reinventing the ritual
– Organic Growth: So you want to start something new
– Mergers And Acquisitions: Deal heat and other deadly sins
– Six Sigma: Better than a trip to the dentist

Your Career

– The Right Job: Find it and you’ll never really work again
– Getting Promoted: Sorry, no shortcuts
– Hard Spots: That damn boss
– Work Life Balance: Everything you always wanted to know about having it all (but were afraid to hear)

Tying Up Loose Ends

– Here, There and Everywhere: The questions that almost got away

I admit that two of my favorite chapters are likely ones that cause other people some discomfort: candor and differentiation. Welch writes…

“Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.”

If I have a single favorite chapter of a business book, Welch’s chapter about candor ranks right at the top. For good reason.

“We are socialized from childhood to soften bad news or make nice about awkward subjects.”

“Eventually, you come to realize that people don’t speak their minds because it’s simply easier not to.”

“To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in exuberant and even exaggerated ways.”

“It is true that candid comments definitely freak people out at first.”

“My bosses cautioned me about my candor. Now my GE career is over, and I’m telling you that it was my candor that helped make it work.”

Welch took as much static for his concept of differentiation as maybe anything, based on what I read through the years. He always admitted that the numbers may not be precise, but he staunchly believed there were three basic people: top performers, the people who are vital and the bottom performers. The math he used was 20% at the top, 70% in the middle and 10% at the bottom.

“I didn’t invent differentiation! I learned it on the playground when I was a kid.”

Welch mentions the criticisms in the book. Simply put, Welch felt it was unfair to protect the bottom performers. It wasn’t just unfair to the company and other, higher performing workers, but he felt it was unfair to the bottom performing people, too.

“Once we made the case for differentiation and we linked it to a candid performance appraisal system, it worked as well in Japan as it did in Ohio.”

“While being in the middle 70 percent can be demotivating to some people, it actually revs the engines of many others.” 

He ends the chapter on differentiation like this:

“If you want the best people on your team, you need to face up to differentiation. I don’t know of any people management system that does it better — with more transparency, fairness and speed. It isn’t perfect. But differentiation, like candor, clarifies business and makes it run better in every way.”

Practical, powerful and wise. Yes, it helps that I respect the work of the author. I’m aware that some see Jack Welch as a villain, Neutron Jack.

His mantra, “Control your destiny or somebody else will” was among the most powerful phrases on my business philosophy. But I’m a guy personally adverse to the whole notion of entitlement, pay raises for everybody and “we’re all equal.” It’s not true. It’s unrealistic.

The book is filled with practical, workable advice by a man who exercised everything he writes about. He’s not some professor pontificating about what might work. Welch did it. Well. And no matter how people feel about him, there’s no doubt he knew how to win. He knew processes mattered because he embraced Motorola’s Six Sigma and then improved on it. But he focused heavily on getting, developing and retaining talent.

I’m going to end this series with this book because you’d be hard pressed to argue with what Warren Buffet said about it (printed right there on the front cover), “No other management book will ever be needed.”


Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 3) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Podcast Episode 252

252 Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 3)

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 3) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Podcast Episode 252

You’re gonna think I’m stuck in a 1984 time warp because this 3rd book was also published in 1984. William Oncken, Jr. wrote the book, Managing Management Time™ and created a proprietary training system by the same name. He was born in Buffalo, New York and graduated from Princeton in physics. During World War II he worked on the famed Manhattan Project. He mostly worked in management consultancy and established his own consulting firm in 1960. In 1974 he co-wrote an article in the November/December issue of the Harvard Business Review. It became one of the most requested reprints in the history of the Harvard Business Review.

The One Minute Manager Meets The MonkeyKen Blanchard, the author most noted for the One-Minute Manager series of books, published his own version of Oncken’s Managing Management Time™ in collaboration with Oncken in 1989. Blanchard’s One-Minute Manager brand was ridiculously strong at the time and I’d imagine that book garnered much wider fame than Oncken’s original book. I was never very attracted to the One-Minute Manager series, mostly because the business parable or fable bores me. And seems hokey. I confess I’ve never read a business parable that I found attractive*, but I was so fond of Oncken’s original work I bought a copy of Blanchard’s collaboration with him. I will admit there was a book entitled, The 59-second Employee: How to Stay One Second Ahead of Your One-minute Manager that I found entertaining. I’ve still got a copy of that somewhere, but let’s get back to Mr. Oncken’s work.

By the way, you can find a used copy of this book over at Amazon for a penny. I’ve now given you 3 books – three great books – that you can buy for a penny each. And don’t fret about the date of publication, 1984. All of these books have messages that hold up over time because people haven’t changed, even though technology, economies and other things have.

Like the other two books (#250 and #251), this book is focused on people. But unlike the others, whose authors I admired at a personal level because I found out more about who and what they were, I admit I didn’t do that with this book. Oncken was a mystery to me, but throughout the book he revealed key parts of his life. The book has enough biographical information to serve the reader with a better understanding of the author. Mr. Oncken’s company was based in the Dallas area and it still is today.

When I bought the book in 1984 I’m almost certain that I was initially drawn to the illustration on the front cover. I was never fond of time management books or systems. But when I first read the book I was reminded of a neighbor who lived two doors down from us in the early and mid-1970’s when I was just a kid. He was an “efficiency expert.” I was fascinated by that because I had no idea what it meant. He also practiced karate and would sometimes be seen wearing his karate get up as he went to and from wherever he went to beat up people. Our dads weren’t efficiency experts and they sure didn’t practice karate so he was quite the man of mystery in our neighborhood. I realized early on in reading this book that Mr. Oncken was likely an efficiency expert.

The book consists of 6 chapters. Including the index it’s 244 pages long. My copy is a hardback copy, filled with quite a few illustrations that obviously emanate from the mind of a math/physicist sort of guy. Yet the book isn’t written in an overly academic fashion. In fact, most people feel the tone of the book is very down to earth. At the very beginning the book in a section entitled, Key Dilemmas Of Organizational Life, Oncken writes,

“Where did the time go today?” Tens of thousands of managers are asking this of their secretaries around quitting time every day.

This first chapter basically reveals and reviews the 3 objective sources of a manager’s time management problems:

1. Boss-imposed time
2. System-imposed time
3. Self-imposed time

Oncken uses juggling oranges as a metaphor for managing these areas. That means managers have a 3-orange problem and professionals have to work on keeping all 3 in the air at the same time.

Chapter 2 is called, The Management Molecule. It’s a comprehensive description of how managers need to formulate their own molecular list to help them manage all of their daily interactions. Every phone call, every interoffice encounter, every meeting…the author includes them all. This chapter was so not up my alley when I first read it, I had to re-read it and it wasn’t fun at all because I’ve already told you I’m not a big fan of the whole time management thing. But I determined to grind it out and you should, too. It drives home the point of controlling your time and work as much as possible.

He ends the chapter using an illustration of a co-worker who is in a habit of accosting you every Monday morning with stories of his Sunday afternoon golf game. You’re polite so you suffer this time waste every Monday. It costs you an hour every Monday and drives you crazy. You’d love to discourage this behavior, but you don’t know how.

By performing the molecular list to better manage your time you are now armed to stop this madness, argues Oncken. He writes…

Next Monday when he starts his story, you will open your desk drawer and pull out your molecular list to see if his name is on it. If not, you’ll say to him, “I don’t have to listen to this. Your name is not on my molecule. See for yourself.” With that you thrust the list under his nose, and motion him toward the door. His feelings, since he is an obvious amateur, will no doubt be hurt. But guilt feelings will no longer afflict you: Your molecular list gives you solid moral justification for insisting upon first things first!

Funny, isn’t it? And you’re saying, “I could never do that.” That was my reaction, but I had a bigger reaction. It’s a theme in all these books so far. Candor. Crazy, seemingly insane straight-forward conversation where you call it like you see it. How can you not be attracted to a guy who can write that? I was. I still am.

He went on to say this, as he ended chapter 2…

But suppose, on the other hand, his name is on your molecular list; what then? You will patiently hear him out, of course. And the time lost in so doing you will charge off to the administrative overhead cost of molecular maintenance.

I won’t go chapter by chapter, but here’s a list of the chapter titles:

Chapter 1 – Principal Objective Sources Of The Manager’s Time Management Problems

Chapter 2 – The Management Molecule

Chapter 3 – Principal Subjective Sources Of The Manager’s Time Management Problems

Chapter 4 – Building Molecular Support

Chapter 5 – Maintaining Molecular Stability

Chapter 6 – Maximizing Leverage For High-Value Output

Even though I’m not fond of the business parable format, you may find The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey to be an easier to digest delivery of the message. One advantage of that book are the pages where the authors distill an idea in a single sentence or two. I’m going to list those here because they’re gems of wisdom.

“It’s tough to work for a nervous boss, especially if you are the one who’s making your boss nervous!”

“Why is it that some managers are typically running out of time while their staffs are typically running out of work?”

“For every monkey there are two parties involved: one to work it and one to supervise it.”

“Things not worth doing are not worth doing well.”

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

“The more you get rid of your people’s monkeys, the more time you have for your people.”

Then there’s this page out of the book (page 59 on my paperback copy) –

Oncken’s Rules of Monkey Management

The dialogue between a boss and one of his or her people must not end until all monkeys have:

Rule 1 – Descriptions: The “next moves” are specified.

Rule 2 – Owners: The monkey is assigned to a person.

Rule 3 – Insurance Policies: The risk is covered.

Rule 4 – Monkey Feeding And Checkup Appointments: The time and place for follow-up is specified.

Back to the single page sentence bullet-points…

“All monkeys must be handled at the lowest organizational level consistent with their welfare.”

“The best way to develop responsibility in people is to give them responsibility.”

“Monkey Insurance Policies: 1) Recommend, then act…2) Act, then advise.”

“Practice hands off management as much as possible and hands-on management as much as necessary.”

“Never let the company go down the drain simply for the sake of practicing good management.”

“Assigning involves a single monkey; delegation involves a family of monkeys.”

“The purpose of coaching is to get into position to delegate.”

“If you always agree with your boss, one of you is not necessary.”

“Swift and obvious penalties pursue those who treat other people’s requirements in a lighthearted, cavalier fashion.”

The final chapter of The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey is entitled, “The Ultimate Conversation.” It’s just 2 pages long, but it’s a terrific way to end today’s show because it properly distills the benefits of Oncken’s system.


* Not entirely true. While recording I remembered one that I did rather enjoy, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out Of The Box by The Arbinger Institute.

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 2) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Podcast Episode 251

251 Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 2)

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 2) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Podcast Episode 251

In part 1 I talked about the leader of ITT, Harold Geneen. His book, Managing by Harold Geneen with Alvin Moscow had a big impact on me. Ironically, Geneen’s ITT bought the company led by another author and business leader who may have had an even bigger impact on my business philosophies and techniques. And when ITT bought the company, they ran this guy off.

The first version of this book was published in 1970, long before business was on my radar. But by the dawn of 1984 a revised version of the book was published. I can’t remember, but I probably bought it because the subtitle drew me in. It still does.

Further Up The Organization: How To Stop Management From Stifling People And Strangling Productivity by Robert Townsend was a monumental book for me. The first version – the 1970’s rendition – was Up The Organization.

By January 1984 I was a big time fan of Tom Peters, co-author of In Search Of Excellence. Tom Peters had talked openly about how brilliant Robert Townsend was. Townsend was part of the executive team of American Express before being recruited to run Avis, a then struggling car rental company that had never turned a profit. In the early 60’s, under Townsend’s leadership, the “We Try Harder” campaign was born and Avis joined the ranks of profitable companies. Townsend continued to lead the company until Geneen’s ITT acquired them in 1965, resulting in Townsend’s departure.

After that he went on to become a senior partner of Congressional Monitor. During that time he wrote the first version of the book, Up The Organization, which landed on the New York Time’s bestseller list for 28 weeks in 1970. Almost 15 years later, when the new version of the book was published, I was well into my own management career.

Sometime in the 1980’s I got into audio programs, especially programs that Tom Peters was producing. Among them, was a cassette program Tom did with Robert Townsend, based mostly on this book: Winning Management Strategies for the Real World. That was a few years after this book was published, but I remember being so happy to finally have a voice to the author of this book, Further Up The Organization.

I must have played that audio to and from work a thousand times. I enjoyed listening to these men talk business. Somewhere in a box I’ve still got the cassette. I’m sure of it. I just don’t know where. Of course, I don’t have a cassette deck, but I’d find a way to convert it to mp3. I went looking online and can’t believe nobody is selling it as a downloadable audio file.

Townsend was a refreshing voice for me. A street fighter kind of business guy. The first sentence of his introduction to the new edition says quite a lot.

Since I wrote Up The Organization in 1970, much has happened, but nothing essential in organizational human behavior has changed.”

But he goes on…

In many of the major American industries, the same kind of leaders have been rising up the golden escalators and presiding in turn over the decline of their companies, their industries, and, as a consequence, the position of the United States in the world’s productivity pecking order. In their companies, the workers still check their brains at the gate.

This book is an attempt to help people change that.”

For Townsend, it was about how people do work together and how they should work together…and how they would work together if they just had the chance. He called it participative management or Theory Y, because he said, “I don’t know any better terms.”

This book was an instant hit with me because Townsend was irreverent, snarky and funny. He didn’t come across like the Princeton grad he was. Instead, he came across like the local business guy who had figured out how people work best. He was intolerant of hubris and I loved him for it. If I had thought I wanted to experience working for the likes of Harold Geneen, well, the idea of working along side Robert Townsend was beyond anything I could comprehend. How cool would it be to work for a guy to wrote a memo to the readers of the book with this admonition…

Dip into it someplace. If you don’t get at least a hollow laugh and a sharpened need to kick that 200-foot sponge you work for, then throw the book away. It’s not for you. There are already too many organizational orthodoxies imposed on people, and I don’t want to help the walking dead institute another one.” 

Townsend believed in operating companies as if people mattered. It was more novel then than now perhaps. But I think it’s still more novel than people think. Townsend didn’t have in mind ping pong tables and free snacks. He had in mind people being alive in doing their work together.

I remember Townsend’s opposition to Assistants-To. I didn’t live in a world with Assistants-To. I knew about Assistant Managers and other lifeforms known as Assistants, but Assistants-To were new to me. Townsend wrote…

In my book, anybody who has an assistant-to should be fined a hundred dollars a day until he eliminates the position.”

The very few people I knew in bigger business, where Assistants-To existed, were not humored by Townsend’s position, but for me…it was a bit of a canary in the coal mine barometer. It was indicative of an organization that was experiencing bloat and inefficiency.

There are 246 chapters, but most are just a single page. Some are just a paragraph. They are alphabetical and range from topics like Advertising, Firing People, Putting On Weight, Titles Are Handy Tools and Wearing Out Your Welcome. The chapter on Thanks is just a single sentence:

A really neglected form of compensation.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking the book is shallow though. Re-read that sentence he wrote on Thanks. Do you really need to hear more on the topic? Brevity shouldn’t be misunderstood as low value any more than exhaustiveness should be misunderstood as high value. Townsend wrote a couple of pages on a chapter entitled, Too Much vs. Too Little, but his lead sentence exhibits what I loved about Robert Townsend and this book.

Too little is almost always better than too much.”

Townsend was blunt, opinionated and confident. He was unabashed. And like Geneen, he was gone before the Internet age got into full sway. In 1998 he suffered a massive heart attack and was gone at the age of 77.

In that chapter about Too Much vs. Too Little, Robert Townsend mentioned 3 areas: space, people and money. Here’s a single sentence he wrote of each one.

Space: Too much brings out the worst in empire builders.”

People: One person with only half a job can wander around and do real damage in his or her spare time.”

Money: A tight budget brings out the best creative instincts in man.”

The final chapter is one that resonated with me throughout my career and still does. It’s entitled, Workers Should Own Company Stock. In 1984 I had always worked in small business. At this time I was running a subsidiary of a larger company, but it was privately held, like all my employers had been up to that point. Closely held private companies are as prone to bad behavior as larger, publicly traded ones. At some level, they may be worse. Sales may slip, but the owner still buys a new Mercedes every year and the troops are affected. Employees are told, “No pay raises this year,” while the owner takes home record pay. It happens and I’ve seen it throughout my career.

Back in 1984 I had no knowledge of how things might work otherwise. I’d had owners make overtures of an equity position, but I always saw it as a ploy – and in retrospect, I know now that it was. In lieu of increased pay I’d be offered some trivial amount of ownership. I was smart enough to know that unless the company sold my “equity” position would be worthless. I never accepted such an offer.

Over time though, a new thing would capture my attention. Employee Stock Ownership Programs. ESOP’s became part of the IRS code in 1974, but it wasn’t until the early 90’s that I began to really cultivate an interest in them. I had long believed that employees as owners would be a game changer. For decades I had heard business owners lament about their employees. Many would tell me how frustrated they could be because some employees didn’t behave with enough pride. “They don’t care as much as I do,” an owner might say to me. And I’d invariably respond, “They don’t have a stake in the business like you. They don’t act like owners because they’re not owners.” Of course, I’d often be hit in the face with a retort, “But you do.” He’d be right. It was always my competitive edge. I behaved like I owned the joint and it’s why my career was made in being a hired gun, running another man’s business. I was a faithful steward and they trusted me. I’d earned it.

But still…I knew Robert Townsend had it right when he ended the book on this topic and wrote the following:

Get with it, Mac! If 70 percent of your people think of themselves as shareholders, it’s worth at least two percentage points on your company’s pre-tax profit margin.

With 2 percent you can beat anybody in the country. Or Japan.”

Robert Townsend was bent toward candor. It’s the quality I most admired about Harold Geneen. Every leader I’ve ever admired had it, or has it. And the belief that people – if given the best opportunity – will do good work. Together.

That’s why I spent 3 years of my life, while operating a company full-time, to buy the company and convert it into an ESOP. My conviction ran deep. And strong. Until I grew exhausted with the quest and in the face of insurmountable difficulty, I quit. I surrendered, but I never changed my mind. Organizations can exist and operate in ways to enhance and empower or they can exist to stifle and strangle as Townsend’s subtitle suggests. Sadly, far too many perform the latter. I’m still on a quest to help them operate at a high level. Thanks to lessons learned by Robert Townsend, I’m better armed to be more helpful and effective.

Mr. Townsend, I’m doing my best to get with it!


P.S. Next time I’ll tell you about a book that proved to me things could be done with employees being fully engaged.

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