HUMILITY

 

I had the opportunity to golf with the President of a large sports franchise a few weeks back and found it a fascinating day asking questions about the “business of sport”. At some point, we moved around to discussing the importance of marketing and image in sports, which inevitably lead to a conversation on Tiger Woods, the  documentary “The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods” and how his image continues to struggle. In the end, we all agreed that it is because of attitude.

Consider the following case in point (made by my golfing companion): Michael Vick. Convicted of some pretty nasty crimes – a vehicle he owned was involved in marijuana distribution, failed drug tests, petty theft and the most heinous – dog fighting that included torture and execution of under performing dogs. He was convicted federally, did his time and came out with an apologetic manner and managed his image, doing charity work for the Humane Society and a number of other important public moves (A good overview here) starting in 2009.

What happens? $100M contract and not a lot of talk about his past. Even if I am sceptical as to the authenticity of his rehabilitation and authenticity, at least he is making the right steps and has been rewarded.

Another great example of that is Martha Stewart. If there was ever a case of humility, that is it – jailed as an object lesson for others while hundreds of larger white collar, inside traders run free, she managed it with dignity and came out just as strong, or perhaps even stronger. I know that I respect her.

Compare and contrast that Tiger, which is best summarized in the article ‘Still acting like the old Tiger in a new world’:

Tiger Woods stepped from behind a microphone, thankful to be done with a short interview that felt like an intrusion. He took 23 questions, most of them about his golf, a few others about his left leg, then walked off without looking at anyone.

“That’s why you guys listen,” he muttered under his breath, “and I play.”

He was as dismissive as ever, another example of how much has changed in his world, and how little he realizes it.

He has never been apologetic or humble. He still acts like he is No.1, not No. 30, which means that people are no longer tolerating his arrogance and overlooking his shortcomings due to his strong performance.

Which reinforces how important humility is at all times. Imagine how successful these people would have been through the tough times had they been humble from the start. People tolerate arrogant behaviour from the sales rep or high flying manager/leader when they are on top, but await their fall, ready to relish in their failure.  However, those same people will help the successful person reach greater heights and through tough times if that person gives back, acknowledges the contributions of others, says thank-you, remains humble and supportive of others.

Unfortunately for Tiger, he was never coached to be that person when he was successful and it would appear that no one is around to point out the Michael Vick lesson to him now …..

LEADERSHIP OR MICROMANAGEMENT

 

I have been on a bit of a reading push over the last 6 weeks, catching up on magazines and reading 7 books. I am half way through Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, a fictional book on the Vietnam war. The highly rated book reminds me of the movie Platoon, it is certainly full of despair and young men dying. There are a host of interesting leadership situations to contemplate through the book and on Sunday night I was struck by this passage:

“It used to be if you were out in the bush operating independently like we are, no one would second-guess the skipper. They didn’t have the radio power back then. Now they do, and the —- brass think they’re out on patrol. And now the smallest units are run by the colonels and generals, hell, right up to the president. Colonel and above used to be the level where people dealt with all the political shit like congressmen on junkets, television, reporters, you name it. But now those guys are running the show right down to this ——- river canyon and we’re in the politics too. And the better the radios, the worse it’s going to get. The politics is going to come right down to the company level, and people like Fitch and Scar are going to be culled out and people like you will take over.”

An interesting point. So far from the line, calling the shots and reducing autonomy of the front line leaders. One has to wonder what is lost in this new chain of command. I woke up the next morning (yesterday) to this headline, ‘Obama, aides watched and waited during bin Laden swoop’:

Brennan would not say exactly how Obama and his top advisors were able to follow Sunday’s 40-minute Navy SEAL operation unfolding in real time — but the suspicion was that some kind of sophisticated communications technology was available to them.

"We were able to monitor the situation in real time," was all he would say.

A decision like this had to be made at the highest levels due to the significant political risks. But, beyond a extraordinary situation, one has to wonder whether the technology improves leadership effectiveness or erodes it through micro-management? I lean toward erosion.

10 LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM XEROX

 

While in a Queen’s course on strategy and change management a few weeks ago they played a video from MIT where Anne Mulcahy of Xerox shared her ‘Leadership Lessons from the Firing Line’.

She walks through her introduction to the CEO position while Xerox was under siege with the future of the company in the balance. One of her first stories being a desperate attempt to get Warren Buffet to go back on his famous ‘I don’t invest in technology companies’ philosophy and invest in Xerox. He didn’t change his mind, but he did invite her for dinner and he gave a great piece of advice:

Focus on your customers and lead your employees like their lives depend on it”

Mrs. Mulcahy then goes on to discuss her experience during the Xerox turnaround and the leadership lessons that defined her tenure. The highlights from my notes:

· Good leaders listen, with a bias for action.

· Trust your management instincts. Companies love data, but sometimes you must trust your experience and gut.

· Create clear accountability and good aligned goals to guide the organization.

· People need a vision. Even though Rome was burning, people wanted to know the future. Her team wrote out an article of what Xerox would look like in 5 years, which built optimism.

· Invest for the best of times, even at the worst of times. Critics wanted Xerox to cut R&D, but they didn’t. Now 2/3rds of revenue comes from products that are less than 2 years old.

· Keep communicating, don’t go underground. Nothing beats face to face communications, aligns people to the goals and do not go underground.

· Remain customer focused. Spend time with customers, and continually ask ‘Would the customer pay for this?’

· Seek out the critics and look for critical feedback. Search it out, it is a blessing to find issues early on.

· Find the best talent. Hire people who are different, who have skills and views that are different then leverage those people to educate you.

· Lead by example, give credit to others and be humble.

An inspiring leader with a great story. Well worth the 30 minute investment to watch.

SUCCESS

An interesting Middle East quote shared with me today:

‘Success has 1000 fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

So true. Everyone flocks to the win and shuns the failure. Which is why I always say ‘Good news should travel fast, bad news faster’. If you are a sales rep and facing failure (i.e. A lost deal, missing quota), then you need to ensure you do not become that orphan. How do you do that?

  • Make sure that all of the little things are done. Forecast accurately, do whatever internal things are required. Be on time to internal meetings. Be the picture of perfection. Demonstrate that you run a good business and that you are simply working through the issues and that your methods will win.
  • Don’t hide it. Be open about it. Deal going off the rails? Bring in executives, talk through it with your manager, let people know. If you are working on a deal and you lose it without others being involved, you will be an orphan because of YOUR own choice. But if everyone is involved, there is no one to blame. It is a shared loss.
  • Remain accountable. It is fine to blame M&E activity or something in the market, as external factors often have an impact. But, if you always end that with ‘That being said, we are driving a good business, working through the issues and ensuring we do everything to right the boat’, then people will have confidence that your actions and leadership are having an impact. They will be confident that you are the right person to lead through those tough times.

We all face tough times. It is the nature of sales and business. Good years. Bad years. But it is in the bad times that the true test of character happens and the greatness is seen in people. Something that applies to business and personal life.

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