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 …..



I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and we were discussing how a decision had been made. In this particular case my questioning centered on the fact that our team had not been consulted, there appeared to be no broad consensus or questioning to come to the decision. The response on how the decision was made:

“Because I have done this before. I knew what the outcome would be. So we are doing it this way”

Over the last few weeks I have reflected on just how dangerous that statement is. In the end the outcome might be the same, but with certain decisions the ‘how you decide’ is as important as ‘what you decide’.

Plus, I have found that you may have done it that way before, but it is never exactly the same … things change.


I enjoyed this quote/anecdote from Fast Company on Larry Page:

So Mayer approved an “experiment” in which for several months about one of every 10,000 search requests would return a page with more than two ads at the top. As Mayer had suspected, users seemed to shun pages plastered with five ads. But the test also proved that people would tolerate more than two ads, and Google now runs up to three ads at the top of its pages. “No idea is a bad idea until the data prove so,” Knapp says, repeating what is likely the company’s second-most-popular mantra after “Don’t be evil.”

Even Page has proved willing to reverse himself if the numbers don’t bear him out. “Larry would wander around the engineers and he would see a product being developed, and sometimes he would say, ‘Oh, I don’t like that,’ ” recalls Douglas Merrill, who served as Google’s chief information officer until 2008. “But the engineers would get some data to back up their idea, and the amazing thing was that Larry was fine to be wrong. As long as the data supported them, he was okay with it. And that was such an incredibly morale-boosting interaction for engineers.”

I know many great leaders who are ok with being proven wrong and more than a few bad ones who are not.



On holiday I read a book that was given to me as a gift – Linchpin by Seth Godin. I like his books, with their ‘manifesto’ like writing style. Linchpin is written as a challenge to people with one central theme: “Be different”. I saw the teachings of a few of my best mentors in his writing. My favourite quotes:

  • On busy work – the notion that being busy does not mean success:

“It’s easy to find a way to spend your entire day doing busywork. Trivial work doesn’t require leaning. The challenge is to replace those tasks with rule-breaking activities instead”

  • On investing in yourself, reading self-help books, focusing on your development and really trying to improve day in, day out:

“Getting Things Done could actually help you get things done. A Whack on the Side of the Head could help you be creative. Sales training could in fact help you make more sales. There are books and classes that can teach you how to do most of the things discussed in this book. And while many copies are sold and many classes attended, the failure rate is astonishingly high.
It’s not because the books and classes aren’t good. It’s because the resistance is stronger. Few people have the guts to point this out. Instead, we turn up our noses at the entire genre of self-help. We cynically ridicule the brownnosers who set out to better themselves. We marginalize the teachers who are unaccredited or not affiliated with Harvard, et al. It’s a brilliant plan by the resistance, and it usually works. Don’t listen to the cynics. They’re cynics for a reason. For them, the resistance won a long time ago. When the resistance tells you not to listen to something, read something, or attend something, go. Do it. It’s not an accident that successful people read more book”

  • On expending energy in non-productive ways, reacting to that person who cut you off in traffic:

“Shenpa is a Tibetan word that roughly means “scratching the itch.” I think of it as a spiral of pain, something that is triggered by a small event and immediately takes you totally off the ranch. A small itch gets scratched, which makes it itch more, so you scratch more and more until you’re literally in pain.

You’re on a sales call and it seems to be going well. This is your particular trigger. It might lead to a sale and that would expose you to all sorts of danger, says the lizard. So you say something stupid as a defense mechanism, which leads to a stumble in the rhythm of the meeting. You say something else stupid and suddenly, as you expected, it all begins to unravel. This is your shenpa, the one you invented for yourself.”

  • On the curse of reciprocity .. this one really made me think. It is sad, but when someone gives me something – I often fall into this trap:

“It’s human nature. If someone gives you a gift, you need to reciprocate. If someone invites you over for dinner, you bring cookies. If people give you a Christmas gift, you can’t rest until you give them one back. It’s reciprocity that turned the gift system into the gift economy. Suddenly, giving a gift becomes an obligation, one demanding payment, not a gift at all. So marketers use the reciprocity impulse against us, using gifts as a come-on.”

  • On our perceptions as our reality:

“No one has a transparent view of the world. In fact, we all carry around a personal worldview—the biases and experiences and expectations that color the way we perceive the world”

  • On how to manage your stakeholders:

“The cornerstone of your job is selling your boss on your plans, behaving in a way that gives her cover with her boss, being unpredictable in predictable ways. You can’t go from being a junior account exec to flying the company’s biggest client to Cannes in a private jet and expensing it a month later. You don’t start with the confidence of the company; you earn it”

  • On change:

“1. Understand that there’s a difference between the right answer and the answer you can sell. Too often, heretical ideas in organizations are shot down. They’re not refused because they’re wrong; they’re refused because the person doing the selling doesn’t have the stature or track record to sell it. Your boss has a worldview, too. When you propose something that triggers his resistance, what do you expect will happen?

2. Focus on making changes that work down, not up. Interacting with customers and employees is often easier than influencing bosses and investors. Over time, as you create an environment where your insight and generosity pay off, the people above you will notice, and you’ll get more freedom and authority”

Throughout the book he centers on being different. If you really want to be successful it is no longer enough to work hard, do a good job, fit in. Break-out performance comes from different thinking, from standing out in the crowd, taking risks and pushing into a whole new realm. A few notable quotes:

“Lots of people can lift. That’s not paying off anymore. A few people can sell. Almost no one puts in the work to create or invent. Up to you. Great bosses and world-class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to become remarkable. There are countless people waiting to tell you how to fit in, waiting to correct you, advise you, show you what you are doing wrong. And no one pushing you to stand out.”

That last point says it all, being different is not always appreciated.

I remember having a active discussion with someone on the topic of being different over a coffee last summer. The topic was rather inconsequential, but it makes the point well enough. While members at a tennis club in England, we came to notice a dual standard. The club made it clear that they supported the Wimbledon standard of attire on the court. This was translated into women wearing all manner of attire and men being held to the standard of collared shirts. Contrary to popular belief, it can get quite hot in the greater London area.We would watch the women enjoy the sun in tank shirts while our boys ran the courts in full, heavy shirts. So we inquired about the process to change the rules, which involved requests being approved by a council of members. We then assembled photos of the top 10 male tennis players at Wimbledon in attire other than collared shirts (Most never wear a collared shirt) and submitted the request with a recommendation of change.

It was rejected by the member council, who we learned were long standing members (decades) and not interested in change. We also found out that one of the most prominent and talented male members had been waging this battle for a couple of years. Over that coffee, I made the point that progress is hard and people do not like change. The counterpoint was made “why rock the boat?”, in terms of ‘Why must you press it. Rules are rules”. Right there it struck me .. so many people just want to fit in, as Seth points out.

The only problem is, progress is only made with change. Progress is often painful, many will push against it and mistakes will be made, but in the end if it is worthwhile, someone has to have the courage to do it. The road less travelled …..

Good book.



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.



Harvey MacKay’s note on reciprocity in March offers an interesting perspective. In it he suggests that we should “practice reciprocity without keeping score”:

My Golden Rule of Networking is this:  Reciprocity without keeping score.  Simply stated, it means what can I do for you without expecting anything in return?

My definition of reciprocity is quite different.  You must give without keeping score.  No quid pro quo.  It’s the one fundamental concept that is the most misunderstood in business today.  Few people truly understand this.  You are either all in or all out.

In Linchpin, Seth Godin has a similar view:

They don’t spend a lot of time teaching you about the power of unreciprocated gifts, about the long (fifty thousand years) tradition of tribal economies being built around the idea of mutual support and generosity. In fact, I don’t think the concept is even mentioned once. We’ve been so brainwashed, it doesn’t even occur to us that there might be an alternative to “How much should I charge, how much can I make?”

Without keeping score. So counter cultural.

When I was just out of school and in my first real sales role, I had one of the best salespeople I have ever known give me many gifts with absolutely nothing in it for him. Paul was the best sales person in the company and after I got through the ‘Five No’s to Make a Yes’ test, he took me under his wing, he gave me the gift of his knowledge.

One day I showed up at his house for another session. He pulled out a box and gave me a HP 12C calculator. To Paul, the calculator was key to success in the copier business. The ability to deep dive on the financials of a deal without the help of the gate keeping internal accountants was key. It was the key to creativity in a deal, a facilitator in the quest to think differently. To frame up the time, I was new out of school. I was not making a lot of money yet (My base salary was $1500 per month plus commission). This was a very expensive gift. He had done so much for me already by teaching me, how could I accept it? I could not. I said I would repay him.

He insisted. He demanded no repayment. It was his gift to me. I remember that moment all of these years later.

Reading Seth and Harvey’s note, it made me realize how profound an impact that act had on my last 20 years. It helped me become someone who is always trying to share. If I build a great presentation, I share it. If I build a process that works, I share it. I cannot tell  you how many people I have given my 90 Day Plan template to over the years. But it isn’t always natural.

A funny thing happened to me after the Sales 2.0 conference. At the conference I presented on ‘Leading a Sales Transformation’ and during the presentation I made an offer to the hundreds of people in the room. If you send me an email after the event, I will send you the templates that I use to build a plan for a sales transformation. Now, this template might appear simple, but it is something that I have built over the last 6 years, evolving slowly but surely as I learn and grow as a leader. After the conference, my inbox was hit with forty requests for the templates. A number of those requests came from consultants and I wondered if I had made a mistake. As consultants, wouldn’t they just take my work and try to incorporate it into the services that they sell to other companies? A twinge of selfishness hit.

And then it was gone. I hit send and shared. If it helps them, great.

Thanks Paul. I will always remember the 12C.