Tuesday, September 16, 2008

22 Vital Traits to Be The Person At The Top - or not ?

In her book, How to Think Like a CEO, Ms. Benton (picture) describes 22 vital traits to be the person at the top:

1. Secure in self
2. In control of attitude
3. Tenacious
4. Continuously Improving
5. Honest and Ethical
6. Thinking before talking
7. Original
8. Publicly modest
9. Aware of style
10. Gutsy / A little wild
11. Humorous
12. A tad theatrical
13. Detail oriented
14. Good at their job and willing to lead
15. Fighters for their people
16. Willing to admit mistakes, yet unapologetic
17. Straightforward
18. Nice
19. Inquisitive
20. Competitive
21. Flexible
22. Good Storytellers

To be the best and the brightest, you must also:
• Build followership
• Be consistently impressive, credible, genuine, trusted, liked, comfortable, and confident
• Avoid self-sabotaging habits
• Create other leaders

I like lists, I like lists very much, but the more lists you read, the more shallow they become. Take the above Benton lists for example. Are we supposed to look at our CEO's and tick any of the 22 items if we recognize such an item or attitude in our CEO ? That is precisely the weak point of the above lists, they only feature attitudes, there is hardly any reference to knowledge. Leadership, it seems to me, has been boiled down to a soft potpourrie of values and attitudes. Attitude is power so to speak. Show me the leadership lists that feature brilliant minds, highlighting exceptional knowledge, in math, in chemistry, 7 languages spoken and written, in depth knowledge of production processes, customer behavior, history, statistical analysis, masters in science and physics, authors of a dissertation or a thesis, I am looking for lists featuring CEO's who can fly a plane, repair a car, build their house, explain the stars and planets using their correct Latin names, understand and speak Chinese, make their own excel spreadsheets with turntables, build a solar panel driven kitchen for the local scouts, write a haiku, were number 1 in class, think faster than the majority of their employees, predict correctly the outcome of an innovation, solve the IHT crossword without mistakes, …knowledge, not attitude, is power!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Massai Wisdom for Western Businesses

A group of tribal Massai elders visited the Institute of Directors in London a few months ago. Purpose of the visit was to discover if leadership skills of Massai could be valuable tools in our Western company cultures.

Some Massai wisdom:
- "One Head is Not So Wise": Business people should seek advice from other members in their organisation, no matter from what level.

- "Think Nomadically": Define your cattle (your customers and capital), define your green pastures (marketing opportunities). Focus on getting the two together.
- "Sense of Community": Makes your company stronger, it keeps your company together, everyone has a say. All members in the organisation are given high levels of responsibility, therefore all members take pride in themselves and in the part they play in the organisation.
- Most Important Qualities of a Massai Leader (CEO): Patience, Courage and the Ability to Ask Questions.
- "Don't Get into a Fair Fight": You might lose. Find out what you are good at, focus on that. Play to win.
- "Take the Lead": Tribal leadership is about courage. Have the courage to take difficult decisions. Luck is not a strategy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who is more important to you: your CEO or your boss ?

Just ask yourself 1 question:
Whose name do your kids know? The name of your boss or the name of the CEO ?
There is your answer.

About your kids and your company:
This is a perfect litmus test. Your children probably do not know the name of the CEO of your company. But they probably know your boss's name. When current (2008) General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt grew up, his father worked on the line at GE. Immelt says he never knew the name of the CEO of GE, but he always knew who his father worked for. Today Immelt reminds his first line supervisors and middle managers that they are the company for the people who work for them.

(Picture: CEO General Electric, Jeff Immelt)
Or ask yourself the following questions:
- Who has more impact on your workday ? Your boss or the CEO ?
- Who parcels out the rewards ? Your boss or the CEO ?
- Who gives you your annual performance appraisal ? Your boss or the CEO ?
- Who helps you succeed ? Your boss or the CEO ?
- Who helps you achieve your personal goals ? Your boss or the CEO ?
- Who makes a direct difference to the bottom line ? Your boss or the CEO ?

- Who's got the biggest impact on profits and revenue ? Your boss or the CEO ?
At first sight most people might think it is the CEO. But when you think this through, it becomes clear that before making profits you need to establish revenue, and revenue is coming from ...your customers. And who makes a difference to your customers ? The hundreds or thousands of employees going out every day selling and delivering services that make a difference to these customers. It is as simple as that. The C-suite of a multinational is most of the time responsible for laying out a strategy, molded by fashionable management theories from 'hot' highly paid management gurus, always printed in full color on glossy paper. However I know multiple multinationals where official strategy hardly ever makes it beyond the executive suite, while the company is thriving on an army of people lead by first line and middle-managers applying common sense and simple sales tactics.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Former Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, on education

- "Although developing countries are investing heavily in education, along with research and development, the US is not."

- "In the developing world the governments, parents and even children value education over almost everything else, but the situation is very different in the US, and I see a similar situation in the UK."

- "Despite the influx of technology into education, the most important thing in any classroom is a good teacher."

- "Nations are only as strong as their education systems."

- "The world’s most powerful nation needs to do more to nurture Research and Development, as well as overhaul the education system. Putting all the new and fancy equipment found in today’s American classrooms aside."

- "A good teacher is the best tool for a good education anywhere in the world."

- "In many respects, the same is true in the UK as well, where the state school system just isn’t as good as it should be - even though our students are continually posting record pass rates in GCSE and A-level exams. The problem is that developed countries are using technology to great effect, but they’re forgetting that the most important thing in any classroom is the quality of the teacher, everything else should be secondary to that."

(from Craig Barrett at IDF, the annual Intel Developer Forum, 19 August 2008)


Thursday, September 11, 2008

21 Leadership Tips

1 Fix the problem, not the blame
2 Tell people what you want, not how to do it
3 Manage the function, not the paperwork
4 Don't DO anything
5 You never have to make up for a good start
6 Get out of your office
7 Lead by example
8 Delegate the easy stuff
9 Don't get caught up in looking good
10 Quality is just conformance to requirements
11 Learn from the mistakes of others
12 Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Based)
13 Set an example
14 Know Your GPM (Goals, Plans, and Metrics)
15 Train your supervisors
16 You can't listen with your mouth open
17 Practice what you preach
18 Leaders create change
19 Don't limit yourself
20 Anyone can steer the ship in calm waters
21 You have to make a difference

(tips from an Impactroom reader)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vepec evening sponsored by The WSJE Future Leadership Institute

VEPEC, the Belgian Marketing Organization of flamboyant president Jan Bax, organizes every year a series of conferences for her members, most of the time marketing specialists.

The WSJE Future Leadership Institute became a sponsor of the organization because we needed to strengthen relationships with marketing managers and directors as they are the gate to potential sponsorships. I also wanted to learn more about the organization of small but highly qualitative conferences so I could implement the knowledge into our own seminars. Thirdly the Vepec organization allows me to install a WSJE networking table prior to the conference.

Tonight the topic was all about the influence of sensuality and nudity in contemporary advertising. Key speakers were Harm Van Kessel, marketing manager Playboy and James Magazine, Wei-Sen Khor, marketing manager Philips and Siegfried Dewitte, professor marketing of the Catholic University of Louvain. The evening was moderated by Goedele Devroy, a Belgian television news journalist.

I took the opportunity to put a Wall Street Journal Europe copy on all seats in the auditorium before the conference started. The idea was to glue 2 leaflets on top of the cover of the paper to promote the WSJE Future Leadership Institute. Unfortunately I ran out of time to manually glue the 240 leaflets on the paper myself, so I mobilized Vic and Bob, 2 of my children, and my wife to help me put the leaflets on the paper as fast as possible before I took off to the conference. As said, I am a one man company within the company.

We learned from Playboy marketing manager Harm Van Kessel that Playboy has stopped being a magazine, and that it now acts as an advertising agency. From Philips’ Wei-Sen Khor we learned that the least bit of nudity in the environment of a multinational will raise eyebrows but that in the end, they collaborated successfully with Playboy in introducing a bikini-line trimmer to the market. The most exhilarating speech came from marketing professor Dewitte who studied the effects of sensuality into consumer’s behavior. It is actually proven that males with a more than average level of testosterone in their system will become sissies immediately after they see a visual with a sexual connotation. They will loose their normal level of rational and act impulsive compared to their behavior in a non-sexual environment. That doesn’t mean you can sell them a car when it is being promoted by a naked woman. Although they will be in a state of being more open to the suggestion of buying it, it doesn’t mean they actually will buy the car as there are other parameters that influence their decision. They might for example decide at that particular moment to finally buy a car from another brand they saw at another place at another moment.

How do you know you are a male consumer with a high level of testosterone ? Just subtract the length of your ring finger from the length of your forefinger. When the difference is more than 4 mm’s, you have a high level of testosterone and consequently you will be more susceptible for images with a sexual connotation.

above: Jan Bax at Vepec evening
below: Vic and Bob preparing newspapers for the Vepec conference

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Paris, Saint Sulpice

Paris. Since it became clear that The Wall Street Journal Europe will close its Brussels headquarters and make almost everybody redundant before the end of this year, except for a few -including me-, I have changed my mindset about my own programs. I have gone back to my mindset of the nineties, a period in which I established my own companies starting from my small university studio. I had to do it all by myself, and I drove a 2PK which served most of the time as my office. Strangely enough I find myself in a comparable situation today. I am building the programs on my own, no staff to work or start with, driving around in a Fiat Multipla, most of the time serving as an office. I am actually building one of the programs, The Future Leadership Institute, as if I don't have Wall Street Journal Europe capital and that all money spent is my own. Suddenly I find myself booking hotels -almost unconsciously- from the same category as I was booking in the nineties, mainly Christian guesthouses under 50 Euros a night or small 2 star hotels, most of the time in neighborhoods taken from dark epic novels, or not even booking a hotel when driving back home through the night from Paris or London is an option.

When you are building a company, and I don't think I speak for myself, the night becomes your friend. That is inevitable, since you meet people during the day, on their terms, and you follow up with proposals and administration during the night. You hope to reverse the situation in due time when you will be able to hire your first employee, but that means you have to start selling a lot more than you are doing right now. Your last meal is a snack at 2 am from a cafe that closes at 2.30. You might even find friendship from the owner of the cafe as he understands how things work at the sharp side of life.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Europe read by rocket engineers

It is not too clear on the picture, but it was very clear to me. Through the doors of the Hilton City Brussels hotel I spotted a Wall Street Journal Europe reader. He turned out to be a high ranking IATA officer, always traveling the world. He usually picks up the WSJE on airlines and in 4 to 5 star hotels. He loved our compact format, especially handy on airplanes. He was very positive about our 'value chain', meaning wherever in Europe he was able to pick up the newspaper on day A (free or paid), which was not always the case for USA Today he added. He was remarkably well informed about all what is happening around our newspaper. He likes WSJE, but doesn't like Murdoch's Fox Channel (the man is Italian, but lives in Canada) in the US. "The only good thing about Fox is the Simpsons on Sundays", or "The experts on Fox Channel are first of all good looking"...

When we talked a bit about aviation industry and the future of aviation he educated me as follows: "Yesterday planes were flown by 3 pilots. Today they are flown by 2 pilots. Tomorrow they will be flown by 1 pilot and a dog. The pilot is there to look at his computer, the dog to prevent the pilot of touching the sticks." Surely an IATA joke.

Speaking to this man, undoubtedly well educated (as a rocket engineer I learned), with a very bright eye on the world, it again illustrated to me the high quality of our readership.