Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

Tag Archives: Excellence

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


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


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


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


Transparency Builds Trust

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iStock Photo Let’s consider two otherwise identical firms. Rocket Corp. issues their quarterly earnings press results, focusing on their financial results. Then they conduct their quarterly conference call with investors, reporting their revenue, margins, profitability, cash levels, and citing their revenue and earnings guidance for the next quarter and year. They take questions from those investors on the call and then put the directives out to the management team that: “This is what we have to do to make the numbers for the quarter, otherwise our stock will be hammered.” Endurance Inc. also issues a quarterly press release and conducts an investor conference call, but in addition to the same financial data that Rocket Corp. issued (excluding earnings guidance), they report many additional metrics: Customers: Revenue and market share details   …Continue Reading


The Longest Tail (Guest Blog by Walt Hampton)

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According to Steve Coburn, “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the race since Day 1.” Coburn is the co-owner of California Chrome, once thought to be the heir to the Triple Crown, who lost at Belmont. “Look at it this way, if you can’t make enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby, you can’t run in the other two races. It’s all or nothing, because it’s not fair to these horses who have been running their guts out since Day 1,” Coburn spewed before his wife dragged him off camera. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair. And leaders – real leaders – know that. When I was growing up, I used to compete in the Central-Belden PTA Pet Show. Well, not me, exactly. I would   …Continue Reading


Tips for New Graduates about Leading and Living

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Image: iStock With this cap and gown season upon us, here are some thoughts for new graduates as they transition from school to work or other pursuits. 1. Avoid making choices for the wrong reasons. You are probably under a lot of pressure, both self-imposed and externally thrust upon you. As you look at various work opportunities, even in this challenging job market, consider not only external motivations such as income and status but also internal motivations such as meaning, values, and fulfillment. You will spend lots of time at work, so work hard to find a good fit for you (not for others). 2. There will be a day of reckoning for the choices you make. With time, a job often leads to a series of promotions, or other   …Continue Reading


The Triple Crown of Leadership

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  The sports world is abuzz with excitement. We may have our first Triple Crown winner since 1978, when Affirmed captured what has been called “the most elusive championship” in all of sports. California Chrome is poised to accomplish this incredible feat on June 7 if he can win at Belmont Park. This unlikely horse, bred in California for only $10,000 with a 77-year-old trainer, has won his last six races. Since 1875, only eleven thoroughbreds have won the Triple Crown, including such iconic names as War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation, Seattle Slew, and of course, perhaps the best of them all, Secretariat. Pictured above, Secretariat won the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, in 1973 by a world-record 31 lengths in a time that has yet to   …Continue Reading


Cross-Sector Leaders need to be Triple Crown Leaders

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This guest blog is written by Paul Thallner, an independent leadership and organizational development consultant. Imagine that you are an incredible and gifted athlete, and you become a fantastic baseball player. Then, because you like a challenge, you decide—after a decade of high performance in baseball—to switch to cycling. Think about it: what would you need in order to be effective as a cyclist when you’ve spent all your time playing baseball? In the world of work, transitions like that are happening all the time, and are becoming more common. A September 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “Triple Strength Leadership,” highlighted the growing trend and need for leaders who can “engage and collaborate across the private, public and social sectors.” Authors Matt Thomas and Nick Lovegrove, point to organizations –   …Continue Reading


Three Responsibilities of Great Leadership

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Great leadership has many responsibilities: Safeguarding your colleagues Serving your stakeholders Making tough decisions Planning for succession And much more However, certain responsibilities are critically important and do not get the time and attention they deserve. Here are three. 1) Commit to the triple crown quest of building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. The primary message of Triple Crown Leadership is this: make building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization the overarching priority of your organization. Excellent means achieving exceptional results that have significant, positive impacts on stakeholders: customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, and communities. Ethical means acting with integrity, even when it’s costly or hard, always paying attention to how the results are achieved. Enduring means standing the test of time and operating sustainability when it comes to people and   …Continue Reading


Synthesis: A Critical Leadership Skill

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”-Leonardo Da Vinci Leaders today are swamped with information 24/7. The complexity can be overwhelming. Yet leaders are supposed to rally colleagues with insightful analyses of problems and plans for how to succeed. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. spoke about the importance of getting to the “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Such simplicity accelerates speed and drives change. How can leaders today get to that simplicity? This challenge is one of synthesis. Synthesis creatively fuses multiple elements, often from different areas, into something new and memorable. Synthesis is not a summary. Synthesis takes A + B + C, and then derives D, where D encompasses the essence of A, B, and C but also adds something new that resonates deeply with people. O.J Simpson’s attorney,   …Continue Reading


Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

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Photo: iStock   No matter where you work or live, when it comes to ethics one thing is clear: you will be tested. Ethical pitfalls are all around us. Often you stumble upon them suddenly. Your ethics are tested most when you are under duress (with stress, pressure, or fear). Here is a partial list of what you’re up against: If you work in the world of business… Are you under pressure to withhold damaging information? Lowballing estimates in order to increase the chances of getting an order? “Cooking the books” to deceive analysts or investors? Paying bribes in markets where that is common or expected, reasoning that you must “pay to play”? Pulling sales from the next quarter to meet your targets for this one? Posing as a customer   …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


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


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


The Triple Crown Deserves Better

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34 years. That’s how long it’s been since a Triple Crown. It was way back in 1978 when Affirmed won the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing with 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen aboard. This year, Cauthen wasn’t invited until the last minute to Belmont Park to see if I’ll Have Another could dethrone him with 25-year-old jockey Mario Gutierrez riding. Cauthen politely declined and played golf instead. Probably smart, since I’ll Have Another was wisely scratched with tendinitis before the race, disappointing millions of fans worldwide, and Union Rags, rested for the last five weeks, went on to narrowly win at Belmont in a photo finish. Controversy has swirled around the stable of I’ll Have Another, owned by businessman J. Paul Reddam. A former philosophy professor, Reddam said he left academia   …Continue Reading


How Great Leaders Maintain Exceptional Focus

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One of the cruel ironies of our time is that with such incredible access to information, many leaders are drowning in data and bogging down in complexity. They drink through a fire hose of reports, analytics, blogs, and tweets. Mobile devices blessedly update and painfully distract. At some point, the choices become debilitating, especially with the clamor for near-instant responses to just about everything. For leaders, it is one of the mega-challenges of our time. This challenge is also a great opportunity. For those up to the task, it can be a powerful source of competitive advantage, one that comes from focus—exceptional, sustained focus in the face of swirling distractions. How can leaders maintain exceptional focus? * Smart Choices. First, leaders must choose wisely what to focus on. They must   …Continue Reading


Facebook’s IPO and Hacker Leader

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On May 18th Facebook’s IPO lumbered to close at $38 and change, barely above the opening price but valuing the firm at over $100 billion. Quite an accomplishment for a company started in a college dorm in 2004 as “thefacebook” and one “not originally created to be a company,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We use the metaphor of the Triple Crown in horseracing to illustrate the endeavor to build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations. So, we ask, is Facebook an emerging triple-E organization? To us, excellent means exceptional performance, making your numbers in your chosen field. Facebook’s $3.6 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit last year are stunning, as are its 800 million+ monthly users. But Q1 revenue and profits were down. Facebook lags in the sizzling-hot   …Continue Reading


I’ll Have Another and the Triple Crown Quest

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The quest for the Triple Crown is on. Big time. I’ll Have Another is in the hunt for the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing, the most elusive championship in all of sports. It’s been 34 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown. Since 1875, only eleven horses have earned that honor, racing within a short span of five weeks to victory in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Now the stables of J. Paul Reddam with trainer Dan O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez have positioned I’ll Have Another to win this coveted crown, joining legends like War Admiral, Citation, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew in the pantheon of champions. I’ll Have Another has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. On June 9 the eyes of the sporting   …Continue Reading


Leadership and the Quest for Excellence

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Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. “The world is not interested in the storms you encountered,” says Norman Augustine, the aerospace businessman and former U.S. Army official, “but in whether or not you brought the ship in safely.” Perhaps he took his cue from Winston Churchill. When asked about the Allies’ aim in World War II, he replied, “I can answer in one word. It is victory.” Exemplars can be found in different domains. We associate excellence in leadership development with General Electric and its famous Crotonville training programs. We associate excellence in brand management with Procter & Gamble. Among hospitals the standard of excellence is set at places like Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, and Mayo Clinic. It’s a fair question today to ask whether achieving   …Continue Reading


Now What? A Call for Better Leadership

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Is it just us, or are we bombarded by negative news? •    NewsCorp scandal and cover-up •    A Goldman Sachs exec resigning in disgust in an op-ed read around the world •    Walmart corruption in Mexico •    Hyperpartisanship and focusing on scoring political points instead of solving real problems What do all these negatives have in common? Failures of leadership. Fed up with bad leadership? We are. Concerned about the state of the world? Us too. But we remain optimistic nature nonetheless. We have an abundance mentality, not a scarcity worldview. (Check out Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, a good read.) We believe we don’t have to re-slice the same-sized pie. With the right leadership, we can make the pie bigger   …Continue Reading