We are back with more leadership lessons from Oscar-winning Best Picture movies and today’s offering is the 1981 film Chariots of Fire 1981. It relates the based-on fact story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. The film was directed by Hugh Hudson. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The film is also notable for its memorable electronic theme tune by Vangelis, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Its principal stars were Ben Cross and Ian Charleson starred as Abrahams and Liddell, alongside with Ian Holm as Sam Mussabini, Abrahams coach. We will consider leadership lessons for these three characters.
In this episode I visit with Dr. Marsha Ershaghi Hames, Managing Director, Strategy Development at LRN. We discuss the ongoing national conversation about sexual harassment which has been ongoing from Weinstein to #METOO. How has this awareness of sexual harassment changed the corporate conversation? Dr. Ershaghi Hames has written the article The Value in Having a Difficult Conversation. We explore why she wrote this and why not is the time to have that conversation. We consider the role of senior management, as well in that conversation? What is the role of compliance? How should supervisors, managers and co-workers be trained to report harassment they might observe that happens to others or that others report to them.
In this episode, I visit with Andi Simon, the Principal of Simon Consulting and author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. Simon is a corporate anthropologist and works with corporations to improve culture and effect change. In this episode we discuss how Simon’s background gives her a unique insight into corporate culture and how that insight informs the work of Simon Associates. She discusses why she wrote On the Brink and how leaders can use it to effect cultural change, bring businesses greater success and drive profits. Andi details her six steps for changing culture in an organization.
Simon noted that “In a corporate setting, leaders espouse values, beliefs and expectations so people know what to do and how to get it done. Everything is fine until something begins to change and that culture must change, too.” Simon suggests any business facing the need for a culture change should try these six steps:
Andi Simon, author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, is a corporate anthropologist, award-winning author and trained practitioner in Blue Ocean Strategy® (www.simonassociates.net). She is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, designed over a decade ago to help companies use the tools of anthropology to better adapt to changing times. Simon also is a public speaker and an Innovation Games facilitator and trainer.
In this special 2017 year-end wrap up, host Richard Lummis and myself reflect back on the leadership lessons we explored over the past year. In this momentous year for leadership, both in business and the wider polis, we considered academics, numerous Presidents, movies, sports figures and some of the current corporate scandals which populated the year.
Our clear listener and fan favorite was our episode on Leadership Lessons from Count Dracula, proving once again the market for interesting takes on the most famous vampire of all-time. It appears the Count still has a large podcast following, even in 2017.
We considered the leadership lessons to be learned from corporate scandals as diverse as the fraudulent account scandal at Wells Fargo, which has uncovered many other types of unethical, if not illegal conduct; the ongoing revelations on Uber, which all began with one blog post, by ex-employee Susan Fowler; right up to the ghost jet scandal at GE. We considered the failures in each area and how the companies are beginning to dig out, both reputationally and financially.
One of our most well-received series was focusing on leadership lessons from US Presidents. From an ad-hoc start with Lincoln and Jefferson, several listeners asked if we could continue this exploration so we have committed to working our way through the pantheon of US Presidents. This year we made it up to Martin Van Buren. We have focused on their leadership as Presidents. Each man has brought lessons which are still relevant today. We both enjoyed learning or relearning about Presidents largely out of the public eye and for me, it was James Monroe.
Our movie series during the month of Oscar was a ton of fun. We both had the opportunity to revisit some great classic movies such as Mutiny on the Bounty, Patton and All the King’s Men. We will definitely put on another month of Oscars series of podcasts in 2018. We also explored more somber texts such as Hue 1968, which looked at the Battle of Hue in the context of the 1968 Tet Offensive and the turning point of the Vietnam War and how the leadership lessons still resonate for the business leader today.
We hope you have enjoyed our offerings on business leadership and will join us again in 2018.
In this episode, Richard Lummis and I consider the recent revelations which came to light that during the tenure of the former Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Immelt and the saga of two corporate jets. Immelt had an empty plane fly behind his jet on corporate trips. This ghost plane tracked Immelt’s jet and was designed to be available if there was a mechanical issue, which presumably could not be fixed sufficiently in time for the CEO’s busy travel schedule. There were several points that the lessons every business leader can learn from these revelations going forward.
Thomas Gryta, Joann S. Lublin and Mark Maremont, writing in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), said that a GE spokesperson noted the reason for the ghost plane ““This practice, which GE has discontinued, involved business-critical itineraries with tight schedules, multiple international stops and, in most cases, security concerns.”” The spokesperson then gratuitously added, ““We do not believe that the understandable criticism of this discontinued practice fairly reflects on Jeff’s dedicated service to GE for over 30 years.”” However the WSJ piece, citing un-named sources said, “While CEO, Mr. Immelt wanted a backup jet in case there was a mechanical issue that could lead to delays”. The cost to operate the ghost plane was about $6500 per hour, adding up to $250,000 to the cost of each flight.
The New York Times (NYT) reported that the practice occurred during his 16-year tenure as CEO of GE. Yet it was the subject of an internal whistleblower complaint in 2014. The WSJ reported, “The company told GE’s directors the company had reduced the practice in mid-2014 and that the continued use of the backup plane was limited to isolated situations such as travel to risky destinations. The board members were previously unaware, the people said, and some were dismayed to learn of the practice. “Obviously, this was an excess,” one of these people said.”
Here was a clear misrepresentation to the Board of Directors. Even if limited to ‘isolated situations’ there was a CEO’s behavior and practices which was so egregious that it took a hotline compliant to change and the company executives were less than truthful to its own Board of Directors that the practice could continue. It was not as if company executives had any lack of understanding that the practice was not approved by the Board. The head of the Board’s Audit Committee mandated the practice must end.
To hide what was going on, the company went out of its way to hide the ghost plane practice as “Flight crews were told to not openly refer to the backup planes, for fear of raising eyebrows, especially at the small airport facilities for private jets, the people said. One person said the flight manifest sometimes listed “Robert Jeffries” or “Jeffrey Roberts” as the passenger on the second plane, when in fact the seats were empty.” That certainly sounds like someone trying to hide something.
What about the excuse that it was for security? James Stewart, writing in the NYT skewered that reasoning by citing to Scott Davis of Melius Research who stated, ““Not even heads of state get that kind of treatment.” Moreover, if the security was such a concern, why was GE sending its CEO there in the first place. Stewart wrote, “No one I spoke to in the field of corporate security said that made any sense, especially in the instance when the second plane stayed in Anchorage while Mr. Immelt traveled to Asia. There are plenty of planes there that could be chartered in case of emergency, not to mention commercial flights with first-class cabins and ample security. Robert Strang, a corporate security expert and the chief executive of the Investigative Management Group, told me he had been conducting security audits for chief executives for 29 years and could think of no similar example.” Finally, “If a destination is so dangerous that it requires a backup plane, then a C.E.O. shouldn’t be going in the first place”. And it’s not as if Mr. Immelt had been traveling to war-torn Syria or Afghanistan.
Next was a point that Immelt himself raised which spoke directly to business leadership. In a letter to John J. Brennan, chairman and CEO of Vanguard and GE’s lead director, Immelt said, “Given my responsibilities as C.E.O. of a 300,000-employee global company, I just did not have time to personally direct the day-to-day operations of the corporate air team.” He added, “Other than to say ‘hello’ I never spoke to the head of Corporate Air in 16 years.” The CEO of the company goes 16 years without once ever having a substantive conversation with the head of the group mandated with handling his air travel? Frankly I do not know whether to laugh or cry at this statement. If it is true what does it tell you about the Imperial leadership style of Immelt. If he is not telling the truth, it tells you about the liberties he is taking with his facts.
Stuart Davis also raised some obvious issues. If the CEO or his underlings were willing to violate the Board’s edict of no ghost jets; what else did they allow? Davis was further quoted, ““You hear about this and you have to wonder what else they were spending money on. You really have to question the financial oversight and controls and internal audit. You have to question the entire organization.””
According to the WSJ article, “GE informed its board’s compensation committee each year about how much the company had spent to fly Mr. Immelt on corporate aircraft, the people said. But those total amounts lacked details such as how many flights the CEO took, the number of pilots involved or the cost of aircraft fuel, people familiar with the process said. Directors assumed that GE’s human-resources executives had reviewed details about Mr. Immelt’s personal and business trips, according to one person. The GE board’s compensation committee should have requested more detail about Mr. Immelt’s usage.” Even if the Board was initially misled by GE executives, it should have asked for the details to test the information presented to it, especially as it had been the subject of a whistleblower compliant involving the CEO.
All this would seem to indicate that no one was either (1) running the ship, (2) watching the ship being run or (3) was interested enough to find out what was going on. That is laid at the feet of the Board, in not asking direct, probing questions. It also points to the role of compliance to resolve whistleblower issues and to monitor on an ongoing basis to ascertain if the remediation has been followed or the company reverted to its prior conduct. Finally, any CEO’s excuse that as a 30-year employee, including 16 as CEO and he never had time to say anything other than ‘hello’ to an employee speaks to a CEO who is not only ignoring his employees but clearing communicating that I do not care about you or your job function at this organization. How is that for not only tone at the top but also conduct at the top.
In this episode Richard Lummis and I explore the leadership lessons from the Battle of Hue in Vietnam in 1968. We consider the failures of the American high command, the role of leaders on the ground and the NVA and Viet Cong perspectives, all from the book Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden.
In this episode, Richard Lummis and consider the leadership lessons from the Presidency of US Grant. The lessons include:
1. Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Acts, leading to the passage of the 15th Amendment;
2. Appointment of minorities to his cabinet and other top government positions;
3. His Indian peace policy. At the start of his administration there were 370 separate treaties with Native Americans. Grant streamlined this process and appointed a Seneca Indian as head of the BIA; and
4. Foreign Affairs. We consider Grant's leadership in the dispute with Great Britain over claims against the Confederate raider Alabama.
Adam Bryant recently retired from the Corner Office column after 10 years on the post. Fans of this podcast know we use many of his articles as jumping off points for many of our podcasts. To commemorate his 10 years of studying business leaders, Bryant published a long-from piece in the New York Times for his final article. It was entitled, “How to be the Big Boss-Lessons form a Decade of Interviewing CEOs”. As a tribute to Bryant, Richard Lummis and I will explore many of the lessons Bryant has drawn. In this first podcast we discuss three keys that Bryant has observed: (1) applied curiosity; (2) enjoying discomfort; and (3) career management.
In the episode, I consider two different issues around communication skills. The first is communicating across cultural boundaries. The second is the technique of asking questions to boost leadership. One of the things most critical issues to a compliance function is breaking through a company’s internal cultural boundaries. In an article by Erin Meyer, entitled, “Getting to Si, Ja, Oui, Hai and Da; How to negotiate across cultures”, she explained that “managers often discover that perfectly rational deals fall apart when their [business] counterparts make what seem to be unreasonable demands or don’t respect their commitments.” She laid out a five-point solution for communicating across a multi-national organization.
Initially look for as many cultural bridges as you can find as it will help you understand what your international audience is communicating to you, in both verbal and non-verbal formats, during a wide variety of activities familiar to any compliance professional such as training, investigations or simple meetings where the compliance perspective must be articulated in any business setting. If you fail to have an understanding or even a person who can navigate these signs for you, here are five steps to help you out: (1) Adapt the way you express disagreement; (2) Know when to bottle it up and let it all pour out; (3) Learn how the other culture builds trust; (4) Avoid yes or no questions; and (5) Be careful about putting it in writing.
Other than the skill of listening, asking questions is about as important to the business leader as any other that can be employed. Yet, equally critical is to ask the right question, which is an issue explored Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman explored this concept in their book “From a Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life”.
Grazer is a well-known and successful Hollywood director who has directed such movies as Splash, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. He believes that much of the success he has achieved is because he asks lots of questions. Indeed, the authors write, “Questions are a great management tool.” This is because “Asking questions elicits information” and it also “creates the space for people to raise issues they are worried about that a boss, or colleagues, may not know about.” Further, by asking questions, you allow “people to tell a different story than the one you’re expecting.” Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they said, “Most important from my perspective, asking questions means people have to make their case for the way they want a decision to go.”
Getting your employees to not simply talk to you but tell you the truth about how they feel or what they may be thinking is a key skill for any leader. Ask open-ended questions so you will not receive back a simple Yes/No answer. Some key foundational questions include, “What are you focused on? Why are you focused on that? What are you worried about? What is your plan?” By asking these or other questions, such as “What are you hoping for? What are you expecting? What’s the most important part of this for you?” as a CEO, you can get much more engagement from the people with whom you work.
In this episode, I consider the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman, co-authored with Greg McKeown about the various types of leaders. They focus two different types of leaders, Diminishers and Multipliers. Multipliers are leaders who encourage growth and creativity from their workers, while Diminishers are those who hinder and otherwise keep their employees’ productivity at a minimum. The authors give what they consider to be solutions and guidance to the issues they bring up in the book.
The book’s basic thesis is that multipliers increase, often exponentially, the intelligence of the people around them. They lead organizations or groups that are able to understand and solve hard problems rapidly, achieve their goals, and adapt and increase their capacity over time. On the other hand, diminishers literally drain the intelligence, energy and capability from the employees or team members around them. They lead groups that operate in silos, find it hard to get things done, seem unable to do what’s needed to reach their goals.
Wiseman breaks multipliers into five disciplines in which they differentiate themselves from diminishers. The first is the Talent Magnet, who attracts and optimizes talent; the second is the Liberator, who creates intensity that requires an employee’s best thinking; next is the Challenger who extends challenges by having others do the hard lifting so that they can stretch themselves; next is the Debate Maker who facilitates a debate between his or her team which leads to a decision improving a process or issue; and finally is the Investor, who instills ownership and accountability with his/her employee base. Interestingly Wiseman believes that multipliers increase efficiency and productivity by two times.
Diminishers also break down into five different prototypes. They are the Empire Builder, who is only interested in collecting very talented people around themselves so that they look good; next is the Tyrant, whose name is almost self-disclosing but ruins all those around them with their insistent criticisms; next is the Know-it-all who give directives simply to showcase how much they know limiting what their teams can achieve to what they themselves know how to do. This means the team must try to deduce, literally in the dark, the soundness of the decision instead of executing it; and finally, there is Micromanager, who generally believes they are only person who can figure something out and approach execution by maintaining ownership, jumping in and out of a project and reclaiming responsibility for problems which they have delegated. Diminishers usually reduce efficiencies by up to 50%.
Some of the specific techniques Wiseman discussed were to identify not only what the skills are for those on your team but also what comes easily and natural to them. By doing so you can more effectively utilize their talents in implementing a compliance regime. Interestingly you can get employees to stretch through a technique Wiseman calls ‘supersizing’ which is the situation where you give someone a task that may be “one size too big” but allows them to grow into it.
Mistakes are going to happen in any implementation. The same is true when you are operationalizing your compliance program. To overcome this Wiseman suggests a couple of leadership strategies. The first is to talk up your mistakes within the team for debriefing and analysis. The second is to actually make room for mistakes (think of a sandbox) where your team can experiment, take some risks and recover from the mistakes.
I found her next point fascinating, which was to lead by asking questions. As a law student I was drilled by the Socratic method so asking questions is something I am quite comfortable with going forward. Basically, every question is answered by another question. Her technique of leading with questions works with all five categories of multipliers. The reason it is so successful is that people are smart, the not only want to get things right but they want to build and eventually they will figure out how to do it. It is not simply a case of getting out of their way. It is about guiding them with your expertise to come up with not only the right answer but a solution which will work. If you take this approach of leading by asking questions, you not only guidance the functional unit but you get greater buy-in to the entire concept and process as it becomes their process.
I heartily recommend Wiseman’s techniques to you and her book for your library on leadership. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, can be purchased from a variety of online sites, including Amazon.com.
In this episode, I visit with Dan Norris, Director of Training for Holt Development Services. Dan Norris is a lively, energetic and effective presenter who specializes in the science of ethical influence. He is one of only a few individuals worldwide who currently hold the CMCT designation, a specialization in the psychology of persuasion–earned directly from Dr. Robert Cialdini, the leading authority on the subject. Dan helps organizations take the latest scientific research out of the laboratory and apply it in their own day-to-day sales, leadership, and customer service applications.
Dan has a philosophy that focuses on employee development—investing only in tools, training, coaching, and outcome assessments that have been shown to positively change behavior. When not speaking and training, Dan is responsible for furthering Holt’s highly successful Values Based Leadership© programs. These programs evolved from over a decade of effective application within Holt companies and other client organizations, and Dan continues to play an integral role in its design and growth.
We discuss the work of the Holt Development company and how it interacts with other organizations. He explains what makes the method work for such a disparate group of organizations: from non-profits to commercial businesses to sports franchises, including his work with the San Antonio Spurs. Dan discusses the work on influence by Bob Cialdini informs the work of Holt Development.
Count Dracula is one of the four classic Universal Pictures movie monsters from the 1930s; including the Wolfman, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster. What sets him apart from these other three? In particular what is the Dracula brand? Is it fanged teeth and a black cape? Is it the signature Bela Lugosi voice? Is it a bat? In this episode, Richard Lummis and I explore branding for business leaders and discuss the lessons a 21st century business leader can learn from a 1930s movie character.
In this episode, I continue the series on leadership lessons from U.S. presidents in discussing James Monroe Virginia, who was President from 1817 to 1825. He is probably best known today for the Monroe Doctrine which was not his idea and was not known by that name until the 1850s. The life, times and Presidency of James Monroe provide many lessons for today’s business leader. I hope that you can draw inspiration and some insight from them.
In today’s episode we consider an eBook, entitled “Planning for Big Data - A CIO’s Handbook to the Changing Data Landscape”, by the O’Reilly Radar Team, featured a chapter by Alistair Croll, entitled “The Feedback Economy” which informs today’s discussion. Croll believes that big data will allow continuous improvement through the “feedback economy”. This is a step beyond the information economy because you are using the information that you have generated and collected as a source of information to guide you going forward. Information itself is not the greatest advantage but using that information to make your business more agile, efficient and profitable is.
Croll draws on military theory to illustrate his concept of a feedback loop. It is the OODA loop, which stands for observe, orient, decide and act. This comes from military strategist John Boyd who realized that combat “consisted of observing your circumstances, orienting yourself to your enemy’s way of thinking and your environment, deciding on a course of action and then acting on it.” Croll believes that the success of OODA is in large part “the fact it’s a loop” so that the results of “earlier actions feedback into later, hopefully wiser, ones.” This should allow combatants to “get inside their opponent’s loop, outsmarting and outmaneuvering them” because the system itself learns. For the business leader this means that if your company is able to collect and analyze information better and you can act on that information faster.
Croll believes one of the greatest impediments to using this OODA feedback loop is the surplus of noise in our data; that “We need to capture and analyze it well, separating the digital wheat from the digital chaff, identifying meaningful undercurrents while ignoring meaningless flotsam. To do this we need to move to more robust system to put the data into a more usable format.” Croll moves through each of the steps in how a company collects, analyzes and acts on data.
The first step is data collection where the challenge is both the sheer amount of data coming in and its size. Once the data comes in it must be ingested and cleaned. If it comes into your organization in an unstructured format, you will need to cut it up and put into the correct database format for use. Croll touches on the storage component of where you place the data, whether in servers or on the cloud.
A key insight from Croll is the issue of platforms, which are the frameworks used to crunch large amounts of data more quickly. His key insight is to break up the data “into chunks that can be analyzed in parallel” so the data can be considered and acted upon more quickly. Another technique he considers is “to build a pipeline of processing steps, each optimized for a particular task.”
Another important component is machine learning and its importance in the data supply chain. Croll observes, “we’re trying to find signal within the noise, to discern patterns. Humans can’t find signal well by themselves. Just as astronomers use algorithms to scan the night’s sky for signals, then verify any promising anomalies themselves, so too can data analysts use machines to find interesting dimensions, groupings or patterns within the data. Machines can work at a lower signal-to-noise ratio than people.”
Yet Croll correctly notes that as important as machine learning is in big data collection and analysis, there is “no substitute for human eyes and ears.” Yet for many business leaders, displaying the data is most difficult because it is not generally in a readable form. It is important to portray the data in more visual style to help convey the “dozens of independent data sources” into navigable 3D environments.
Of course having all this data is of zero use unless you act on it. Big data can be used in a wide variety of decision making, from employment decisions around hiring and firing decision, to strategic planning, to risk management and compliance programs. But it does take a shift in compliance thinking to use such data. It advocates “fast, iterative learning.” Big data allows you to make a quicker assessment of the impact of measured risks.
Croll ends his chapter by noting that the “big data supply chain is the organizational OODA loop.” But unlike the OODA loop, it is more than simply about the loop and plugging information as you move through it. He believes “big data is mostly about feedback”; that is, obtaining the impact of the risks you have accepted. For this to work in compliance, a company’s compliance discipline needs to both understand and “choose a course of action based upon the results, then observe what happens and use that information to collect new data or analyze things in a different way. It’s a process of continuous optimization”.
Whether you consider the OODA loop or the big data supply chain feedback, this process, coupled with the data that is available to you should facilitate a more agile and directed business. The feedback components in both processes allow you to make adjustments literally on the fly. If that does not meet the definition of continuous improvement, I do not know what does.
In this episode, I visit with Margaret Johnson, the author of the book from From SOS to WOW. This book can help you to move your leadership skills to a new level through by helping you bust through assumptions, unleashing your creative ideas and taking courageous action to finally make the move to where you really want to be personally or professionally. Johnson is a long-time business leadership coach who shares some of the techniques she uses to help folks achieve greater results in business and in life.
We discuss her growing up and college years in Michigan why she got to Texas as quickly as you could. She details her professional career in the energy and power industries and how that work prepare you for your current career. She then talks about what led her to write her book and how it can be used by a person to help achieve personal and professional goals.
You can find the book on Amazon.com by clicking here.
You can find out more about Margaret Johnson by checking out her website, ideasandbeyond.com.
In this episode, Richard Lummis and I explore leadership lessons from Toussaint Louverture, who held the only successful slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere. Our remarks are based on the recent biography of him entitled, Toussaint Louverture by Phillipe Gerrard. While not an obvious character for study in a business leadership podcast, Louverture nonetheless presented several important lessons which translate into to today’s business environment.
In this episode, I consider the leadership lessons which can be drawn from our 7th President Andrew Jackson. I focus largely on the crisis surrounding the charter of the Second National Bank of the United States, which played out over 5 years from 1831 to 1836. This conflict pitted Jackson against most the nation’s political and financial elites, most prominently Nicolas Biddle, the President of the Bank. However, the great politicians of the day, including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were lined up against President Jackson as well.
The crisis came to a head in the summer of 1832 when both the House and Senate passed a bill renewing the Charter of the Second Bank of the US early. Not only did Jackson veto the bill and give one of the most memorable veto addresses of any President, he then took on Biddle directly by removing first removing persons in the administration and government who were pro-Bank and pro-Biddle. In the coup de grace for the Bank, Jackson the gold species from the Bank and moving into state banks across the country. Jackson won the battle completely. His actions were not without negative consequence as the distribution of the species across the country led to rampant inflation and the Panic of 1837. However, by that time, Jackson had departed the Presidency and the fallout was left to his successor Martin Van Buren.
In an article entitled, 12 Leadership Qualities of An Often-Overlooked President, Matt Myatt, writing in forbes.com online reviewed the leadership qualities of John Adams as laid out in David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, appropriately entitled John Adams. Adams presidency was glossed over with little more than a brief mention, most probably because he was President between two of our more memorable presidents – Washington and Jefferson. Samuel Eliot Morrison once said that history teaches us how to behave and Adams provides a great example on it. The following list contains 12 qualities that made him a great man and a great leader: