Triple Crown Leadership

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Tag Archives: Bob Vanourek

To Lead Well

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A poem by Bob Vanourek Summarizing Great Leadership “To Lead Well” by Bob Vanourek I’ll start within, Cultivating quality character, Acting with integrity, Listening with my heart, Composed amid chaos, A soul flooding forth with love. I’ll reach out, Caring and connecting, Serving, Engendering trust, Building relationships, Unleashing others who soar. I’ll step up, Saying “Yes,” Choosing wisely, Embracing change, Striving for what’s right, Pursuing our dreams. I’ll leave a legacy, A team of partners, Companions with courage and character, Leading and following, Creators of worthy deeds, Together undaunted. I wrote this poem at the urging of son, Gregg, who thought it would be a fitting close for my latest book, Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse. The poem traces the themes of the major sections of   …Continue Reading


Does Your Business Need an Advisory Board?

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“I was not sure where I was going … But you saw further and clearer than I, … to a place I had never dreamed of …” -Thomas Merton The sad reality is that most businesses fail. The quoted failure rates vary, but they are all dismal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more.”  Many other businesses underperform pitiably. The primary reasons most businesses fail have been summarized this way: •    Poor leadership, management, planning, location, financial or asset management, partners, or •    Lack of focus, capital, customer focus, differentiation, succession, and more Most of these reasons can be traced back to the CEO. He or she lacked the perspectives, insights,   …Continue Reading


The Trust Imperative

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By Bob Vanourek Building trust is an imperative to creating a better world. Through my work advocating ethical and values-based leadership, I sometimes see eyes glaze over. “Whose values?” people wonder. “How do you define what’s ethical?” “Can we really act morally in this rough-and-tumble world?” Fair questions from people trying to survive in a tough, competitive environment. While many of us struggle with what ethics and values mean, almost everyone understands trust. Why? Because we experience it daily in good or bad forms at home and work. We trust our spouse, our children, our colleagues; or we don’t. We have seen and experienced the warm feelings of a trusting relationship; or felt the heartbreak and loss of trust broken. An organization to which I belong, Trust Across America–Trust Around   …Continue Reading


Ethical Leadership–Your Game Changer

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by Bob Vanourek Embracing ethical leadership can be a game changer in your life, as it was for me. But just what is ethical leadership? And how does ethical leadership differ from ordinary leadership and management? Management involves planning, budgeting, and administering. Management watches the bottom line of the organization, focusing on, for example, profitability for a business. Management has a problem-solving focus, organizing groups, staffing them, and largely directing and controlling people, often defining boundaries for people. In management, relationships are based on one’s position power, title, and authority. Management is task-oriented, often telling people what to do or not do. The work is transactional: “You do this for me, and I’ll do that for you.” Management aligns people through policies, procedures, and systems using good “head skills” and   …Continue Reading


The Keys to Success

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What are the keys to success? I pondered this question when asked to speak at the recent GlenX Success Summit in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My task was to define the X Factor that, combined with IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional intelligence), would lead to success, happiness, fulfillment, and achieving one’s best self. A tall order. IQ is traditionally one’s inherent intelligence level, but Gregg and I went further in Triple Crown Leadership, citing the “head” qualities that we discovered in our research, including interviews with leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries. The “head” qualities are raw intelligence, knowledge, skills, and competence. Now take these raw materials and set them ablaze with the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice that Malcom Gladwell famously described in The Outliers. (Deliberate practice is   …Continue Reading


Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence

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  In our award-winning book, Triple Crown Leadership, we reveal five advanced leadership practices for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. The first of these is to recruit, develop, and promote people for both “head and heart.” Head involves the education, knowledge, skills, technical competence, and experience necessary for the work. Heart involves integrity, emotional intelligence, and fit with the desired culture of the organization. Some leaders struggle with how to probe for heart qualities in interviews. In chapter 2 of Triple Crown Leadership, we list some questions that can be used to discover heart qualities in candidates. They are also available here: Interviewing for Heart. Recently, Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert, author, and speaker, published a good article in Fast Company on “7 Interview Questions for Measuring   …Continue Reading


52 Trust-Building Ideas

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Want 52 great ideas for how to build trust in your organization? The annual Edelman survey reveals that less than 20% of business and government leaders are trusted to tell the truth, or that they make moral and ethical decisions. See their 2013 data below. Survey Respondents Distrust Our Leaders Such lack of trust is devastating. Trust Across America–Trust Around the World asked their worldwide experts for their ideas on trust building and designed a powerful wall poster: “52 Ideas that You Can Implement to Build Trust” Contributors include such luminaries as Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner, Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Doug Conant, Stephen M. R. Covey, Bill George, and many more. (I’m proud to have three ideas listed.) This wall poster sells for $7, but I’ll send a pdf of it   …Continue Reading


Boards and Trust

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by Bob Vanourek Higher trust in organizations leads to higher retention, cooperation, innovation, and pride. Higher trust enhances the speed at which organizations work because the fear created in low trust organizations is minimized. Higher trust leads to better results for all stakeholders from customers to employees and shareholders. Therefore, higher trust needs to be on the agenda of boards of directors. Yes, I know they’re busy with risk mitigation, regulatory compliance, governance, financial oversight, and more. But if the board does not insist on a high-performance culture built on trust with all stakeholders, then that board is abdicating their fundamental fiduciary responsibility. For several years, I have been working with Trust Across America – Trust Around the World (TAA – TAW) on how organizations can increase trust within their   …Continue Reading


Helping People Soar

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by Bob Vanourek In 1981 I joined Monarch Marking Systems as their president. This subsidiary of Pitney Bowes was the leader in price-marking equipment used by retailers. But scannable bar codes had just come out, so price-marking equipment might become obsolete. I was stoked by this strategic challenge! Monarch had wisely reinvented itself as a bar code printer company and had just introduced a clunky machine the size of a small desk. It was a disaster. The next logical step was to develop a tabletop version, but Monarch’s visionary VP of Research & Development, Bud Klein, suggested we develop the world’s first hand-held bar code printer. The development cycle for such a leapfrog product was three years. Bud proposed we radically empower a cross-functional team of volunteers to launch this   …Continue Reading


A Leadership Lightning Bolt

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by Bob Vanourek Early in my leadership quest to “find a better way to lead,” I had the wonderful pleasure to work for Jan and Olga Erteszak, Polish immigrants who had fled the Nazis in Europe and then founded a ladies’ lingerie company in Los Angeles. The Olga Company was the creative leader in this industry, designing and producing fashionable lingerie, sleepwear, and loungewear. I learned so much about creativity from Jan and Olga because we literally practiced creativity in meetings. What fun as we stretched our imaginations. One memorable day, Jan, with a wink and that crooked smile of his, gave me some pamphlets to read written by Robert Greenleaf. Knowing my burning interest in leadership, Jan quipped, “I think you’ll find these interesting.” The message was ages old   …Continue Reading


Why Do You Want to Lead?

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By Bob Vanourek I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate this story now.) I was 29 years old and working nightmare hours for a high-flying firm that was rapidly acquiring companies. My job was to fly out and spend all week, every week, “integrating” the acquired firms. “Integrating” meant consolidating their plants, cutting duplicate costs, and often firing their founders. The look of disbelief on those entrepreneurs’ faces when they were terminated just broke my heart. In Chicago my wife asked me,   …Continue Reading


A Triple Crown Winner at Last

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That’s why it’s called “the most elusive championship in all of sports.” It’s taken 37 years since Affirmed won the coveted Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing in 1978 for another winner to break through. On June 6 American Pharoah (an inadvertent misspelling of “pharaoh”) became only the 12th horse since 1875 to win the Triple Crown. The bay colt ran wire-to-wire in the lead in perfect weather before 90,000 raucous fans at Belmont Park to win by 5 ½ lengths. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, all within the last five weeks, American Pharoah wore earplugs to muffle the distracting noise. All the other seven entries in the 2015 (and 147th running of the) Belmont Stakes had skipped the Preakness three weeks earlier to rest. Many racing experts   …Continue Reading


New to the Boardroom? How to Succeed

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image credit: Bigstock By Bob Vanourek   Congratulations. You’ve just been invited to join your first public company board. Great. Now, what can you expect? It’s not just approving the CEO’s strategy or officer compensation recommendations after asking a few questions. It’s more than risk assessments, financial statement reviews, and meeting with the outside auditors periodically. It’s much deeper and more complex, especially if you want to bring a new brand of leadership to the boardroom. You will be confronted with difficult challenges you are not likely to have faced before. What do you do? When do you lead assertively? When do you lead softly? When do you follow? Who do you talk to for advice? How do you succeed? Based on years of experience with many corporate boards as a   …Continue Reading


Double Your Productivity in 15 Minutes

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Guest Blog by Dan Forbes, Founder of the Lead With Giants™ Community In the early 1900s Charles Schwab was president of Bethlehem Steel, a small, struggling company. He was looking for ways to increase productivity and profits. In walked Ivy Lee.  He was a business consultant and promised Schwab that in just fifteen minutes he could share a secret with the company’s managers that would double productivity. The skeptical Schwab asked Lee what he was selling and at what price? Lee told him to just try it for six months and then, “You can pay me what you think it’s worth.” Here’s the secret Lee shared with the managers: Every night, at the end of each day, write down the six most important things that need to get done the next day.   …Continue Reading


Take Fear Along For The Ride

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“I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, But he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela Years ago in Dallas, Bob attended a presentation on courage that made a lifelong impact on him. He expected to hear some inspiring words about famous people, or perhaps acts of heroism by first responders or soldiers in battle. Instead, the speaker was an older woman who simply told the audience her story. She had been happily married and was in business with her husband. Everything seemed to be going well until one day when her world fell apart. Her husband came home and, with no prior warning, announced he wanted a divorce because he   …Continue Reading


The Power of a Team Charter

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  In case you missed our article on the importance of written charters for special action teams in CoBiz Magazine this summer, we are sharing a slightly edited excerpt, along with a link to our written charter template, in this week’s blog post. Whether to attack a problem, exploit an opportunity, or achieve a philanthropic goal, setting up special teams and committees can be very effective. These special action teams form for a defined period, ranging from a few days to months or longer. They normally have a small number of team members, such as five or seven. Their participants may work full- or part-time for the team. These teams accomplish their mission and then disband, only to see other special action teams formed and disbanded when their mission is complete. In addition to other advantages,   …Continue Reading


Governance Guidelines for Corporate Boards

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   Image credit: iStock “If you have leadership without governance,  you risk tyranny, fraud and personal fiefdoms. If you have governance without leadership,  you risk atrophy, bureaucracy and indifference.” – Mark Goyder, Founder Director, Tomorrow’s Company   With so many corporate scandals in recent decades, much focus has been placed on upgrading corporate governance practices, and rightly so. In my (Bob’s) experience, most large corporations have given careful thought to their governance guidelines. Google, a firm we admire (see “Snapshots” on pages 238-242 of Triple Crown Leadership), has a nice set of governance guidelines. IBM has a nice set too. But most smaller and mid-sized corporations need some additional guidance in this area. (Perhaps some of the larger firms would appreciate some fresh thinking too?) Consequently, I created an Outline   …Continue Reading


The Dangers of Toxic Micro-Cultures

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Image credit: Painting by Leah Saulnier www.paintingmaniac.com   Does your organization have some toxic micro-cultures? If so, you ignore them at your peril. Much is written these days about the importance of culture in boosting an organization’s success. Strategy is important, as are talent, business models, innovation, and more. But culture, “how we do things here,” as we like to define it, can be the trump card, because it permeates everything in an organization. Culture is what people do when the boss is not around. Wise leaders craft the culture purposefully and make the desired behaviors explicit and clear. Culture can have a big impact on whether people act ethically, honorably, and responsibly. For example, when direct supervisors were observed to behave unethically: 42% of employees felt pressure to behave   …Continue Reading


Learning to Trust Your Judgment

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This blog was previously published by Trust Across America – Trust Around the World as a part of their 100 Days of Organizational Trust program. We hope you will enjoy this blog and also visit their website for more great blogs and other insights on trust. Many folks are reluctant to trust their own judgment. They may feel they should not speak up when some alarm bell is going off in their head for a variety of reasons: “It’s not my job to speak up.” “I’m not in a position of leadership or authority.” “I’m not smart enough on this topic.” “I don’t have the experience needed to speak up.” All these blocks are normal, but we need to learn to trust our own judgment and speak up when it is essential   …Continue Reading


Special Leadership Responsibilities of Boards

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  Boards have special leadership responsibilities to ensure their organizations are trustworthy. If their firms are not trustworthy, they will suffer at the hands of regulators, customers, employees, and shareholders. But surely boards are consumed with the important duties of corporate governance, strategy, risk management, compliance, executive compensation, and succession. Can we realistically expect boards to take on something as ethereal as trust? Yes, we must. Boards cannot discharge their fiduciary duties without attention to the trustworthiness of their organization. Decades ago, the vast majority of an organization’s assets were tangible, such as cash, equipment, and buildings. Today, intangible assets, including brand and reputation, often predominate. Boards have a fiduciary obligation to protect these intangibles, which can be tarnished with the pressing of a cell phone’s video camera, or a posting   …Continue Reading


Why Boards Should Pay Attention to Corporate Culture

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“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” Lou Gerstner, former IBM CEO   Most boards think “culture” is the soft, fuzzy stuff that some CEO’s or HR leaders may pay attention to. These boards are sadly wrong. A high-performing, ethical culture can be a great source of competitive advantage. An organization’s culture is “how we do things here”—how people behave in their relationships. Business is a set of relationships, and healthy relationships are built in trust. Organizations with a toxic culture pay a heavy price in lost revenue, damaged reputation, lawsuits, and more. By contrast, organizations with a high-performance, trust-based culture (e.g., Southwest Airlines, Zappos.com, and Patagonia) enjoy a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle with their stakeholders. They build trust and employees unleash more of their talents and   …Continue Reading


Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change

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Our friend and colleague, Bob Whipple, the Trust Ambassador and CEO of Leadergrow, has written an important new book, Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Here’s a review of it I posted on Amazon.com: “Priceless and Practical. Don’t embark upon an organizational change effort before reading this book.   Bob Whipple, the Trust Ambassador, has written an important book. During my years leading organizations in extreme transitions, I wish I had had Bob’s book with me. Transitions, such as mergers, often fail or operate sub-optimally due to cultural issues, frequently because the parties involved lack trust in one another. Bob outlines steps leaders can take when embarking upon organizational change to mitigate the risks and avoid the pitfalls. Especially useful are his Figures and Tables, illustrating clearly the barriers to navigating   …Continue Reading


Servant Leadership through Time

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The concept of leaders as servants goes back into ancient history but was articulated most clearly in the 20th century by Robert Greenleaf in an essay, “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970. In the next four years, two more essays explored ideas that an entire institution – and a society – could act as servants, and that trustees should act as servants. In 1976, Paulist Press published Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, a book that combined these and other essays. See The Center for Servant Leadership. Bob joined the chorus in 1995, when he contributed a chapter on “Servant Leadership and the Future” in a book edited by Larry Spears called Reflections on Leadership: How Robert K. Greenleaf’s Theory of Servant-Leadership Influenced Today’s Top Management Thinkers. The   …Continue Reading


CEO Tip: Trust Your Board As Your Ally

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  Some CEO’s and boards have close, trusting partnerships that serve them and their firms extremely well. They are, in my experience, the minority. Most CEO’s I have met see the board as a group they need to “manage,” a dinner and meeting they need to prepare for, taking preciously valuable time away from running the business, which is the CEO’s real job. To many CEO’s, the board is tolerated, professionally and courteously of course, but a group relatively uninformed about how hard it is to really run the business. The time spent preparing for board meetings is huge. Staff reports prepared; rehearsals of PowerPoint presentations; after-meeting meetings to decipher what the board now wants and what to do to get ready for the next session. What’s the solution? A   …Continue Reading


Paradoxes of Leadership

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Paradox: A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.   Leadership is rife with paradoxes, competing claims, countervailing pressures, and conflicts. There is frequently a “thesis” and an “antithesis” in leadership dilemmas, often requiring a “synthesis.” Here are some leadership paradoxes and other interesting dualities we have learned: Serving followers and being served by followers Flexing between the hard (steel) and soft (velvet) edges of leadership Being optimistic while staying grounded in reality Having confidence and humility Being decisive and collaborative Protecting people and taking necessary “casualties” Being in charge and unleashing other leaders Getting results (ends) with integrity (means) Preserving the best of the past and embracing change Making some lonely decisions and being connected Asking and telling Speaking and listening Being patient and impatient Knowing answers and   …Continue Reading


A New, Overarching Goal for Boards

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One of the painful results of boards embracing the goal to “maximize shareholder value” is shown in the Edelman Trust Barometer: Only 53% of respondents trust business Only 18% of the general population trust business leaders to tell the truth The overarching goal for corporate boards should not be to maximize shareholder value. Instead, boards should set as their primary objective to: Build an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. Excellent means achieving extraordinary results for customers, employees, and shareholders. Ethical means achieving those results the right way, with integrity, not cutting ethical corners. Enduring means achieving those results sustainably, being conscious of the firm’s impact on the planet, and acting responsibly to ensure precious resources are not wasted. Enduring also means acting sustainably inside the firm, not burning people out, nor   …Continue Reading


Leadership Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

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J.R.R. Tolkien in military uniform, 1916. Image: public domain Leaders Venture into the Unknown “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins Leaders Step Up “I will take the Ring,” Frodo said, “though I do not know the way.” The Burdens of Leadership  Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Leaders Undertake Great Challenges “This is the hour of the   …Continue Reading


Put Trust on Your Daily Docket  

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Let’s assume that as a CEO or board leader you want your firm to be viewed as trustworthy by its stakeholders. You realize a more trusting set of relationships between people will be useful, perhaps even a breakthrough to improved performance. Great. But this is a field where you don’t have expertise. You have been bred in the battles of line and staff assignments where results had to be achieved, new ideas implemented, and problems resolved fast. Building organizational trust is a strange, new endeavor. What can you do? Give them some books to read? Hire a consultant to conduct some workshops? Tell everyone you’ll put “trustworthiness” into the performance appraisals? That will get their attention, but it may not help much. Fortunately, unlike ethics, or values, trust is a   …Continue Reading


Blame Boards For Excessive CEO Pay and Perks

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Compensation levels for CEO’s and C-suite execs took off like a rocket starting in the 1980’s. It was caused by the dual whammy of Milton Friedman’s “maximize shareholder value” maxim and the advent of the “leveraged buyout” focus from private equity firms. I should know because I participated in those phenomena as a CEO. The stock options I was granted during those years far exceeded the norms of option grants in prior decades as boards tried to “align” management’s financial interests with those of shareholders. There is nothing inherently wrong in private equity, stock options, in divesting unproductive assets, or delayering bloated companies. Those undertakings are a healthy part of marketplace adjustments, as long as they are done ethically and respectfully. But the C-suite financial gains that boards approved to,   …Continue Reading


Tweet Chat: Speak Your Mind about The Essentials of Leadership

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Tweet Chat August 4 ~ Monday 7 pm eastern, 5 pm mountain time The Essentials of Leadership #leadwithgiants   Join Bob Vanourek and Dan Forbes, the guru of Lead with Giants, for an exciting, interactive Tweet Chat on August 4 at 7 pm eastern time (5 pm mountain) on: The Essentials of Leadership  Tweet Chats are a fun way to engage in a conversation with many others on Twitter. It’s easy to do. You send out a tweet that includes: #leadwithgiants  You will be networked with many others around the globe. Dan will ask Bob questions about the Essentials of Leadership; Bob will respond; and you can respond too with tweet comments, adding, agreeing, disagreeing, or retweeting related posts from other Tweeters. The session ends after 60 minutes. Just don’t forget   …Continue Reading