Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Yearly Archives: 2012

Walmart Corruption Rampant

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The New York Times broke another story on December 17 on the corruption at Walmart de Mexico and the unwillingness of senior leaders at their Bentonville HQ to pursue the allegations. Reporters David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab reviewed thousands of documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses to corroborate their allegations. Their findings allege that in one cited case (among 19 across Mexico) Walmart executives were not just paying off officials to expedite approvals that would have come anyway but were engaged in falsifying documents, circumventing laws, bribing officials throughout the country, and even excavating land with protected artifacts and treasures, all to get a store open before the holiday rush in 2004. When senior executives at Walmart’s HQ were alerted to the facts, they shut down the investigation   …Continue Reading


Creating a Great Place to Work

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Interview with Mary Ann Tocio President and COO, Bright Horizons Family Solutions Leaders Speak Series Founded in 1986, Bright Horizons Family Solutions is a leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work/life solutions. Conducting business in North America, Europe, and India, the privately held company has created employer-sponsored child care and early education programs for more than 850 clients, including more than 130 of the Fortune 500. Bright Horizons has consistently been the only child care organization named to the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” list by FORTUNE magazine. Here are excerpts of our interview with Mary Ann Tocio, President and COO of Bright Horizons, for Triple Crown Leadership: Tell us about the company’s background and founding. Tocio: Bright Horizons was founded by Roger Brown and   …Continue Reading


Are Leaders Born or Made?

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Many people believe that leaders are born, not made. We disagree. Some people may have more natural intelligence, be more outgoing, have innate speaking skills, and so on, and these may be helpful in leadership. But we believe leadership skills can be learned, not necessarily in the old lecture-take-notes model, but through experience, dialogue, role modeling, feedback, coaching, mentoring, and more. If leadership can be learned, then it can be taught. Leadership is learned, not an innate trait of the gifted few. What do you think? Have you developed your leadership capacities over the years? How? Have you helped to develop the leadership capacities of others? How?  


Leading a World-Class Institution

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Interview with Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman President, Princeton University  Leaders Speak Series  Founded in 1746, Princeton University is consistently ranked as one of the finest institutions of higher education in the world. An honor-system school, the university’s informal motto is “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” Distinguished alumni, students, and university leaders range from James Madison to Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Jimmy Stewart, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Ben Bernanke, Michelle Obama, and many others. Princeton is associated with 36 Nobel Laureates, 19 National Medal of Science winners, seven National Humanities Medal winners, and three current Supreme Court Associate Justices (Alito, Kagan, and Sotomayor). Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman, a Canadian-born molecular biologist, is the 19th president of Princeton, the first   …Continue Reading


It Takes Teamwork, Trust, & Values to Win

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Leadership insights from John Krol Former chairman and CEO, DuPont Leaders Speak Series E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, commonly referred to as DuPont, is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It was founded in 1802, and its stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. John Krol joined DuPont in 1963 as a chemist and rose through the ranks to be its chairman and CEO. He has been active on many corporate and nonprofit boards, including Tyco International (for which we interviewed him for Triple Crown Leadership). In that interview, Krol also shared insights on his leadership challenges at DuPont. Here are excerpts: Krol: Back in the 1980s, the world changed for DuPont because of globalization. We were very slow to move. DuPont was based   …Continue Reading


Turnaround Priority: Establishing Psychological Stability

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For turnarounds to work, leaders must establish psychological stability in the organization. Too many turnaround leaders focus only on financial stability and neglect this critical element.  In the turmoil of a turnaround, many people are demoralized, afraid, or angry. Some feel misled or on the verge of panic. Logo-inscribed ball caps stay in the closet. Some people bail quickly while others are out looking for new jobs.  The turnaround leader must establish not only financial stability but also psychological stability. People need to be unfrozen, empowered to work on critical projects with confidence.  At a successful turnaround Bob led, where the extreme negative cash flow flipped to healthy positive in a few years, he began to establish psychological stability through an all-day senior staff meeting early in the turnaround. Here   …Continue Reading


A Vision of Great Leadership

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Interview with Ursula Burns Chairman and CEO, Xerox Leaders Speak Series  Ursula M. Burns is chairman and CEO of Xerox. With sales approaching $23 billion, Xerox (NYSE: XRX) is the world’s leading enterprise for business process and document management.  Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern and then worked her way up to the top. Alongside then-CEO Anne Mulcahy, Burns worked to restructure Xerox through its turnaround.  Burns became CEO in 2009. Today, she leads the 140,000 people of Xerox who serve clients in more than 160 countries. Burns is also a board director of the American Express Corporation and provides leadership counsel to the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export   …Continue Reading


Why Tyco Threw Out Its Entire Board

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Interview with John Krol and Ed BreenTyco International Leaders Speak Series John Krol was elected to Tyco’s board in 2002 and served as lead director until 2008. He is the former chairman and CEO of DuPont. Edward Breen was chairman and CEO of Tyco from 2002 until September 2012, when the company separated into three public companies. Breen is currently non-executive chairman of the Tyco board. Prior to joining Tyco, Breen was president and COO of Motorola. Krol and Breen took over the leadership of Tyco International after its former CEO and CFO were jailed. The company, once a Wall Street darling, had fallen into an abyss. We interviewed them about their early leadership moves at Tyco for Triple Crown Leadership: What were the priorities when you arrived at Tyco?   …Continue Reading


Reinventions of Great Companies

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(Note: This blog was originally written by by Mike Critelli, Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes. We have edited it down for length on our website. View the complete version here.)  Pitney Bowes built a wonderful set of businesses that have served it well for 92 years.  The Company is challenged now because a major growth driver for physical mail, the expansion of consumer credit, declined in 2008, and probably will not return to its pre-2008 levels for at least a decade. This means that the Company will need to reinvent itself in ways that drive growth that are not dependent on mail volume levels.  There are failed and successful reinventions at other iconic companies as well. Eastman Kodak is a sad case of a company that attempted on numerous   …Continue Reading


Values and Culture Key to Success

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Interview with Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos Leaders Speak Series  Tony Hsieh is CEO of online retailer Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, a #1 New York Times best-seller. You can also find him on Twitter (@Zappos) and working with community leaders in Las Vegas to rejuvenate the city. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you describe the organization’s leadership approach? Hsieh: We have a strong belief that in order for employees to want to stay with the company long-term they need to be continually learning and developing both personally and professionally. We have a team here called the “pipeline team.” The vision for them is that almost everyone that we hire will be entry-level. We will   …Continue Reading


Leadership for Bold Social Impact

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Interview with Bill Shore Co-Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength Leaders Speak Series  Share Our Strength began in the basement of a row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in 1984, in response to the famine then raging in Ethiopia. Brother and sister Bill Shore and Debbie Shore started the nonprofit organization with the belief that everyone has a strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and that in these shared strengths lie sustainable solutions. Today, the organization is dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the U.S. by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need every day. Here are edited excerpts of our interview with Bill Shore for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you describe the organization’s leadership approach? Bill Shore: We lead by inspiring   …Continue Reading


How to Make Good Leadership Decisions

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From Lance Armstrong to David Petraeus, how can leaders make so many bone-headed decisions? Leaders need an easy-to-use, bulletproof test for their decision-making. We offer one here. Bob recently attended sessions at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, where Stanford Professor Joseph Grundfest led some fascinating dialogue. We extrapolated the model that follows from that interaction. It is simple, memorable, and powerful: 1. Is it legal?2. Is it ethical?3. Is it smart? Is It Legal? The minimum threshold for all decisions is “Is it legal?” Too many leaders rationalize illegal behavior: • “The chances of getting caught are so small.”• “I’m smart enough to get away with it.”• “Everybody’s doing it.”• “I deserve it.”• “It really isn’t hurting anybody.” Of course, if you are caught, you’ll wonder later how you   …Continue Reading


Adaptable Leadership

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  Interview with Mike Critelli Former CEO and Chairman, Pitney Bowes Leaders Speak Series  Mike Critelli was the CEO of Pitney Bowes (PB) from 1994 until 2007, continuing afterwards as Executive Chairman until 2008. (Check out Mike’s blog: “Open Mike.”) PB, a leading provider of customer communication technologies, was one of the eleven companies identified by Jim Collins as “great” in Good to Great based on its financial performance. PB has also been a perennial award winner in many categories, from one of the top 200 companies for U.S. patents issued every year to a wide array of awards in leadership, technology, diversity, health, environment, and more. Here are excerpts from our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. What were some   …Continue Reading


How to Build a Culture of Character

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  Culture is simply “how we do things here,” a set of beliefs and habits that influence how people behave. Culture forms over time and determines what happens when authorities are not present, setting the tone for the organization and the norms for acceptable behavior. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote, “…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”   Every organization has a culture, explicit or implicit. Explicit is better because it means the leaders understand the importance of culture and are paying attention to it. A healthy culture doesn’t guarantee success, but it provides the foundation for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. We call this a culture of character. How can leaders build a culture of character? Here are four   …Continue Reading


Do What’s Right

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Interview with Four-Star General Jack Chain Former Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command Leaders Speak Series The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was responsible for America’s land-based strategic bombers and nuclear, intercontinental ballistic missiles from 1946 to 1992. General Jack Chain was Commander-in-Chief of SAC from 1986 to 1991. Here are excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership, our roadmap for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization: What was your approach to leadership when you took command of SAC? Chain: The day after I was sworn in I invited all the officers and senior sergeants on the base in for a beer, told them who I was, my background, what I expected from them, and what they could expect from me. Then I went out to all 52 bases in   …Continue Reading


Translating Mission & Values into Results

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Interview with Bill George Harvard Business School Professor and  Former CEO, Medtronic Leaders Speak Series  Bill George was the COO, then CEO and Chairman, of Medtronic from 1989 through 2002, the years when annual revenue increased an average 18% and earnings increased 22%. A host of innovative products were introduced during this time, and the price-to-earnings ratio of Medtronic’s stock went from 11 to 45. But the Medtronic story goes beyond growth and earnings, demonstrating how to build an excellent, ethical, and enduring company. George is the author of Authentic Leadership, True North (co-authored with Peter Sims), Finding Your True North, and Seven Lessons for Leading in a Crisis. He currently teaches at the Harvard Business School. Here are edited excerpts of our interview with him for Triple Crown Leadership. How would you   …Continue Reading


Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo

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Why do you want to lead? All too often, the answer has breadcrumbs back to ego. The drivers may be disguised in other terms such as recognition, status, power, money, or competitiveness. But it ultimately comes back to ego. Bob recalls an executive who worked with Washington politicians. The executive described the mentality he observed all too often as, not just wanting to defeat an opponent, but to destroy him, burn the body, and then salt the earth over the ashes so the opponent could never rise again. Frightening. Looking at this, psychologists might find some underlying insecurity or inferiority complex, driving some people to extremes. Often, they resort to cutting ethical corners, believing such actions are necessary to get ahead. The ability of the human mind to rationalize its   …Continue Reading


No Jerks Allowed

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“You know what a jerk is when you see it.” -Bob Diamond, Former CEO of Barclays Bank(Source: The Guardian) As CEO, Bob Diamond terminated 30 Barclays Bank staff in 2011 for breaking his “no jerks” rule. Diamond said six staff, who ran up a £44,000 lunch tab in London, epitomized “jerk” bankers. He said the rule applied to bankers who are prima donnas, too greedy, too ostentatious, or poor team players. How do you identify the jerks? When does a valuable maverick cross the line into Jerk-Land? How do you decide who to coach—and who to fire?   Here is our custom-built Jerk Identification System: * Ball Hog: Doesn’t play well with others. Wants the limelight. How to Handle: Emphasize the need to let others shine. Watch closely. * Mutterer: Doesn’t   …Continue Reading


Interview with Bob Hatcher, MidCountry Financial

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  “Building a Values-Based Company” Interview with Bob Hatcher President and CEO, MidCountry Financial Corporation Leaders Speak Series  MidCountry Financial Corporation is a financial services holding company. Over the past ten years, it has acquired several financial companies, some of them troubled, blending them into a new, values-based organization. We interviewed Bob Hatcher, its founder, president, and chairman. Please tell us about MidCountry Financial Corporation. Hatcher: We have about 315,000 customers and 1,200 team-members, operating in 19 states. We’re a group of community banks and finance companies, taking retail deposits and providing retail loans, mortgages, consumer loans, and small-business loans. Total assets are $1.4 billion. One of our operations, Pioneer Services, which provides financial services to the military, has been named twice as a “best place to work” small business. Our banks get rave   …Continue Reading


Lance Armstrong Still Racing from the Truth

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 Lance Armstrong was “gaming the system”–exploiting the rules for personal gain. This is so disappointing because Armstrong was one of the most celebrated athletes in the world, with seven consecutive Tour de France championships. Armstrong is also a celebrity cancer survivor and philanthropist. He established the influential Livestrong Foundation, with its popular yellow bracelets, “changing the way the world fights cancer.” The Foundation has raised over $500 million since inception. Good work, indeed. While allegations of blood doping dogged competitors, Armstrong adamantly denied wrongdoing. He proudly proclaimed he had passed hundreds of drug tests. Then everything changed. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published a 202-page report, detailing overwhelming evidence that Armstrong was doping and encouraging others to dope. Armstrong denies the report’s allegations, but Bill Strickland, editor-at-large of Bicycling magazine, noted   …Continue Reading


The Glorification of Busy

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  We’re all busy. There’s nothing wrong with hard work. To the contrary. Working hard can help us achieve at higher levels and deepen our impact. Here’s the problem: glorifying busy. Using it as a tool to impress. This viral Internet meme—“stop the glorification of busy”—has hit a nerve with people far and wide lately. Busy is the new sexy. Busy is the new sexy.   For leaders, it rankles in two ways. First, running us down. Life and work have their natural rhythms and occasional shocks. If we run all-out all the time, we have nothing left when a real sprint is needed. The wear and tear on our health and resilience can do great damage. Second, the herd effect. This glorification disease is contagious, and it can run   …Continue Reading


Interview with Kit Crawford, Clif Bar

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“Sustainable Leadership”Interview with Kit CrawfordCo-Owner and Co-CEO, Clif Bar & CompanyLeaders Speak Series Clif Bar & Company is a privately held, family- and employee- owned company, creating nutritious and organic food for people-on-the-go. It has achieved double-digit annual revenue growth and won a long list of employment, diversity, and sustainability awards, including making Inc.’s list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. and Forbes’ “breakaway brands,” in both cases for multiple years. We interviewed Kit Crawford, Co-Owner and Co-CEO with her husband, Gary Erickson, of Clif Bar & Company, about leadership at the company and its commitment to sustainability. Here are excerpts from our interview with Crawford. How would you describe Clif Bar’s leadership approach? Crawford: Our approach to leadership is about staying true to our values as a company   …Continue Reading


Interview with Daniel Wallach, Greensburg GreenTown

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“Rebuilding Green after a Tornado” Interview with Daniel Wallach Executive Director, Greensburg GreenTown “Leaders Speak Series” A few years ago, a devastating tornado destroyed Greensburg, a small town in Kansas. Remarkably, the town bounced back and created a model for the world for building a “green community.” One national expert called it “the greenest city in America.” For our book, Triple Crown Leadership, we interviewed one of the leaders of the initiative, Daniel Wallach (founder and executive director of Greensburg GreenTown). Here are excerpts of that interview. What led you to your current work at Greensburg GreenTown? Daniel Wallach: A series of severe tornadoes hit this part of Kansas. Greensburg, which is 35 miles south of where I live, was destroyed. Over 90 percent of the town was wiped out,   …Continue Reading


Interview with Dr. Andres Alonso

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“Turning Around a School System” Interview with Dr. Andres Alonso CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools Leaders Speak Series We interviewed Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, about his approach to leadership and the unique challenges of running a complex and large school system with multiple challenges and constituencies. During his tenure, Baltimore City students have reached their highest outcomes in state exams, across all categories of students, and City Schools posted its best-ever dropout and graduation rates. Previously, Dr. Alonso was Deputy Chancellor and Chief of Staff for Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education. Before that, he taught emotionally disturbed special education adolescents and English language learners in Newark. Here are excerpts of our interview with Dr. Alonso. What was the context   …Continue Reading


Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney

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“Breakdowns and Trans-Generational Culture” Interview with Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director, Institute for Enterprise Ethics, University of Denver Leaders Speak Series   Why do so many organizations break down? In recent years, some major corporations have had breakdowns and made significant mis-steps (e.g., BP, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota). We interviewed Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver, to get his insights into what happened. This is the first in a new series—the Leaders Speak Series—in which we interview leaders about pressing topics. BP made some bold pronouncements about sustainability and corporate responsibility but then ran into major problems with the infamous Gulf oil spill in 2010. What happened? Dr. Sweeney: There is often a wide divide between what is said in the   …Continue Reading


Unhappy at Work? Check Before You Step in It

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“The grass always looks greener beyond your cow pies.”  -(We made that up.)  Tempted to switch organizations? Bigger responsibilities, title, pay? Before you make the move, find out what the culture really is. Unless, of course, you’re a serial job switcher only interested in how fast you can become a VP. This blog is not for you. Good luck. (You’ll need it.) Culture matters. Culture is simply how people behave in an organization. Lou Gerstner, after his spectacular turnaround of IBM, wrote:   “…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”   According to a recent Booz & Company global study: “Culture matters, enormously. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture.” So   …Continue Reading


The Legacy of Jim Burke

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(Note: Bob and Gregg Vanourek co-authored this blog with By Dr. Dan Sweeney, Director of the Institute for Enterprise Ethics at the University of Denver) Few corporate executives have provided as powerful a role model as James E. Burke, former CEO and Chairman of Johnson & Johnson. He worked at J&J for 40 years and died on September 28, 2012 at the age of 87. We will miss his presence, showing us the way, and encouraging us to be better than we thought we could be. Jim Burke’s leadership produced an extraordinary company. During Burke’s tenure as CEO and Chairman, J&J’s revenue and market capitalization tripled, and its profits quintupled. His crisis management during the famous Tylenol recall, and his performance as a genuine steward of the J&J “Credo” demonstrated his   …Continue Reading


The NFL’s Replacement Ref Debacle

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                  Indecisiveness, loss of control, delayed decisions, anger, and outrage. We’re not talking about the blown calls of the unfortunate Division III refs thrown into the national spotlight due to a labor dispute. We’re talking about the National Football League, arguably the greatest sports organization in the world. How could the NFL have botched it so badly? What leadership lessons can we learn from this fiasco? The NFL incurred huge brand damage for the piddly dollars involved (about $3 million) for the 121 regular, unionized referees. League revenue is just under $10 billion. The League locked out the regular refs in a labor dispute (ditto the players last year). Pressure to settle the lockout mounted after a blown call that changed the   …Continue Reading


Triple Crown Trophy

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                              Hats off to slugger Miguel Cabrera for winning the Triple Crown batting title in baseball this week. Cabrera, who plays for the Detroit Tigers, led the American League division of Major League Baseball for the year with the highest batting average, most home runs, and most runs batted in (RBIs). The last player to accomplish this impressive feat was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Only 15 baseball players have won the Triple Crown. Cabrera finished the regular season with a .330 average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBIs. (In 1967, Yastrzemski had a .326 average, 44 homers, and 121 RBIs.) (This) is “a remarkable achievement that places him (Cabrera) amongst an elite few in all of   …Continue Reading


The Values Imperative

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                The power of living and leading in accordance with our values is extraordinary. Values are an essential foundation for our quality of life and leadership. When we take time to discover our core values and have the courage to honor and fight for them, our lives are richer and our contributions deeper. How to do so? Begin by asking probing questions: What are my convictions about what is good and worthy? What do I believe in? What will I fight for in my life and work? Answering these questions helps you clarify your personal values. Without knowing your values, how can you live and lead by them? For an example of the power of values in practice, take integrity, a common personal   …Continue Reading


Bucket Filler or Bucket Dipper?

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Sprinkle Joy. -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets of others with kindness and consideration. A bucket dipper does things that make others feel bad. (The metaphor of bucket fillers/dippers is based on the work of Dr. Donald O. Clifton, later enhanced for schools by Merrill Lundgren, the “bucket man.” The concept is similar to the late Stephen R. Covey’s concept of “emotional bank accounts” from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. According to Covey, we build up trust instead of   …Continue Reading


Whistleblowers–Reframing Their Role

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Whistleblowers play an important role in divulging ethical breaches, but we must reframe their role in order to preserve the ethical imperative in organizations. Unethical behavior is rampant nowadays. We see it across the board. We see it in business (e.g., Walmart bribery scandal, LIBOR scandal, Peregrine scandal, and many more); in universities (Harvard, Penn State, Emory, and more); in nonprofits (Boy Scouts, Three Cups of Tea, United Way, and more); and in sports (even catching Lance Armstrong recently). Many governments have passed whistleblowing statutes but usually through a patchwork of laws that sometimes conflict. Even worse, the whistleblower is often viewed as a traitor in the organization—and sometimes subject to retaliation. What’s more, there is a stigma here. Think about “tattle tales,” for example—a real putdown on the playground.   …Continue Reading


Culture: The Entrepreneur’s Blind Spot

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Startups are thrilling. It’s hard to beat the excitement of launching an innovative new venture. The excitement is palpable, and it leads to a kind of euphoria in the venture’s culture. But too often that initial euphoria descends into culture deflation, like the air leaking out of a tire. First it slows you down. Eventually it brings you to a stop. The magic disappears. We’ve seen it in startups, and it ain’t pretty. But it is avoidable. Though a strong organizational culture is critical in startups, it is a blind spot for most entrepreneurs. Many founders take culture for granted, letting it emerge and evolve haphazardly. They dive into the day-to-day struggles of venture-building and putting out fires. Meanwhile, they don’t notice as the culture slowly fades into a pale   …Continue Reading


Your Leadership Legacy

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  What will your legacy be?   In the age of Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, and tablets–of endless emails and ceaseless connecting–how rare it is to stop and think about that question. How rare it is to stick to the long game and not get caught up in short-termism. How rare it is to look to the far horizon, instead of the incessant barrage of immediate distractions and concerns. We all hunger for meaning and significance in our lives, but we leave them out of our daily diet. After a while, we starve for them. The quest for legacy can be found in the deeper terrain of leadership. Though rarely discussed, it is much more important than the vast majority of activities that consume our days. Talk of legacy can be   …Continue Reading


Leadership from the Whole Stable–Secretariat’s Legacy Renewed

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Secretariat was robbed. In 1973, the thoroughbred known as “Big Red” had won the Triple Crown in spectacular fashion, setting the Kentucky Derby record and demolishing the Belmont Stakes record with a time that is still the world record today, winning by an astonishing thirty-one lengths. But Secretariat’s legacy was marred by a clock malfunction at the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness. Big Red beat Sham in that race, but his time was a full second short of the Preakness record. But something was amiss, and controversy swirled immediately. Two clockers for the Daily Racing Form had separately timed the race much faster–indeed, at a record-setting pace. The Maryland Racing Commission agreed that the automatic timer had probably malfunctioned and lowered the race time by three-fifths of   …Continue Reading


Wave of Cheating Scandals–And What To Do About Them

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Sad and shocking news from Harvard yesterday: about 125 undergraduate students are under investigation for possibly sharing answers or plagiarizing on a take-home final exam in a single course. (See here for background.) Harvard President Drew Faust said the following about the disturbing events on the Crimson campus: “These allegations, if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends.” The students in question have been called to appear before a review board. Unfortunately, Harvard is not alone in this struggle. In K-12 education, as we wrote this week in a guest editorial, a fuller picture recently emerged about what has been called “one of the most brazen cheating scandals in the nation.” According to two investigations, the founder and CEO of a   …Continue Reading


Suicide by Quarter–Leading for the Short-Term

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Have you ever: • Told one of your line managers to “do whatever it takes to make your numbers this quarter”? • Pulled sales from next quarter to make this quarter’s numbers? • Cut into critical R&D funds to hit Wall Street forecasts? • Asked the CFO to lower the reserves for future expenses to help earnings this quarter? • Taken an excessive restructuring charge, knowing that you could siphon some of the excess charges from balance sheet accounts into future earnings when you really need them? If so, you are committing suicide by quarter. These all-too-frequent actions are unsustainable. They put you on an accelerating treadmill, sacrificing what’s right for customers, employees, and even investors. These actions are common because people are good at rationalizing them: “Everybody’s doing it.”   …Continue Reading


Faces Behind the Gold

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Hats off to the Olympic champions. Competitors like Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas, and Michael Phelps inspire us. They reawaken our dreams. We admire their talent, dedication, and sheer grit. We revel with them in their gold. But let’s look deeper to the faces behind the gold—all the people who made it possible for these champions to stand atop the podium. We tend to focus only on the athlete. It’s hero fixation. In thoroughbred racing, we focus only on the horse (as opposed to the jockey, trainer, owner, and whole racing team). In business, only the CEO. But across all these domains, excellence is a group performance. Excellence is a group performance. The Lightning Bolt. Usain Bolt, the electric and transcendent Jamaican sprinter, is a textbook example of succeeding on talent   …Continue Reading


Ethics and the Olympic Badminton Brouhaha

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What injustice! How unfair! World-class athletes disqualified from the Olympics even though they were within the rules. Think again. The Badminton World Federation got it right when it disqualified eight women’s doubles players for purposefully throwing matches in order to face easier opponents in the round-robin tournament. (For background on this Olympic badminton controversy, click here.) The Olympic Games are not just about winning gold. They’re not just about fierce competition. They’re not just about personal and national glory. They’re also about excellence. And ethics. And endurance. (We call it the Triple Crown.) Consider the Olympian Pledge from days of old: “Ask not alone for victory. Ask for courage. For if you can endure, you bring honor to yourself. Even more, you bring honor to us all.” Consider the Olympic   …Continue Reading


In Memoriam: Stephen R. Covey

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One of the great icons of our time, Stephen R. Covey, passed away this week. This giant of an intellect with the soul of a child cannot be replaced. His insights into the nature of people, his wisdom, his writing, his speaking, his work and service, his example, his integrity, and his just-plain common sense helped millions of people around the globe become better people and better leaders. It is an astonishing legacy. Covey’s call for “principle-centered leadership” was prescient for what our world so sorely needs today. We are confident that his family, colleagues, and others will carry on the seminal work to which he contributed so much. We certainly plan to try. We were thrilled when Covey and his son, Stephen M. R. Covey, agreed to write the   …Continue Reading


The End of Leadership?

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Barbara Kellerman and Jim O’Toole, two leadership experts we respect, are ticked off about the failures in leadership we witness virtually every day. (See “Mad About Leadership” in Strategy+Business, June 2012). Think of all the leadership-related scandals recently:   Recent Leadership Hall of Shame Barclays Bear Stearns BP Countrywide Financial Galleon Group GlaxoSmithKline Goldman Sachs Johnson & Johnson Lehman Brothers MF Global Penn State Walmart Yahoo!   It’s a long list—and getting longer with a disturbing frequency. Think also of the problems and mishaps we’ve seen from Wall Street mavens, K Street lobbyists, feckless regulators, subprime companies, credit ratings agencies, and more. Atrocious. Kellerman’s new book, The End of Leadership, takes the “leadership industry” (organizations seeking to grow leaders) to task for failures to develop leaders who avoid these blowups.   …Continue Reading


Choose Your Friends and Colleagues Wisely

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Rajat Gupta’s storybook life has taken a dark turn. An orphan from Kolkata, India, Gupta moved to the U.S. to attend Harvard Business School on a scholarship. He ascended to the top (Managing Director) of McKinsey, one of the world’s most prestigious consulting companies, and advised the world’s elite. After retiring, he joined the boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, and American Airlines’ parent company. Soon he may be in prison. A jury found him guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud for leaking insider information—boardroom secrets—to his new friend and colleague, Raj Rajaratnam, a billionaire hedge fund manager (now serving an 11-year sentence for insider training at Galleon). What happened? Just Evil and Greed? Simply a case of a bad man getting what he deserved? Not likely. Gupta maintained   …Continue Reading