Archives: April 2007

Appreciating Talent

We hear all the time, "talent is important," "our people are important," or "our greatest assets are our people." We know that talent is the center of organizations. Without talented people, an organization will not be successful, can't grow, won't have great ideas, and will not be able to execute its strategy. Are we really appreciating and caring for the talent that makes things happen in organizations?

In a recent newsletter from the National Association of Women Business Owners, I read a report of a poll they'd done asking respondents what kind of praise was offered at their workplaces. Here are the results [newsletter is not available online—CM]:

28% said verbal.
2% said monetary.
3% said tangible rewards or incentives.
43% said a combination.
24% said praise isn't often awarded.

Though the sample was not statistically determined, this is a telling result. If we want higher levels of engagement from our talent, then 24% is an unacceptable number of workplaces where no recognition of good performance is customarily made. How hard can it be to acknowledge talent for work that is excellent? Could it be that in 24% of organizations polled, there is no excellent performance to be recognized? I wonder. What are your thoughts? Is excellent work recognized or rewarded in your organization?

Notes from the Amalfi Coast: Girls Rule! Stop unnecessary hospital deaths! Read this book!

[Links to the articles Tom mentions are below.—CM]

Nearly half of all millionaires are now women (24 April 2007)
Why today's women want a girl (25 April 2007)
Lifeline for 1m hospital patients (25 April 2007)
The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

It's How You Tell 'Em!

The UK's Guardian newspaper is in the middle of presenting a truly fabulous mini-series of the best speeches of the 20th Century. Here is the list of speeches, that are being presented daily from 21st April – 4th May:

Winston Churchill, We shall fight on the beaches, June 4, 1940
John F Kennedy, Ask not what your country can do for you, January 20, 1961
Nelson Mandela, An ideal for which I am prepared to die, April 20, 1964
Harold Macmillan, No going back, February 3, 1960
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, March 4, 1933
Nikita Khrushchev, The cult of the individual, February 25, 1956
Emmeline Pankhurst, Freedom or death, November 3, 1913
Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream, August 28, 1963
Charles de Gaulle, The flame of French resistance, June 1940
Margaret Thatcher, The lady's not for turning, October 10, 1980
Jawaharlal Nehru, A tryst with destiny, August 14, 1947
Virginia Woolf, A room of one's own, 1928
Aneurin Bevan, We have to act up to different standards, December 5, 1956
Earl Spencer, The most hunted person of a modern age, September 6, 1997
[Some have audio; others don't. And to date, the first seven are available; the rest are to come.—CM]

You can read transcripts, as well as listen to the actual speeches at www.guardian.co.uk/greatspeeches. I've just listened to the Winston Churchill speech, which took place shortly after the Dunkirk Landings—it really conjoured up the spirit of the moment in a chilling way.

What do you think of the list—which do you think is the finest of them all, and is there any one that you would have added to that list?

Cool Friends: Women Gurus Network

Once upon a time, in December 2004, there was a gathering of about 100 of Tom Peters' closest friends and associates, in Manchester, Vermont. At this gathering were Sally, Marti, Robyn, and Susan, four very accomplished women. And they talked. To the group, to each other, at lunch, and after meetings. They realized that they all had valuable expertise. And that each in her own right had an impact on the world. "What if we banded together?" they said. "How much more impact could we have if we formed a women's network?" Thus, the Women Gurus Network was born. We talk to three of the founders, Sally Helgesen, Marti Barletta, and Susan Willett Bird, in our new Cool Friends interview.

Built Not to Last

I recently came across some interesting nuggets in the Fast Company archives (a treasure trove of ahead-of-their-time business articles) on the necessity of "creative destruction." Some sound bites ...

In "The Death of Corporate Permanence," Adam Hanft says, "The free market tells us that bankruptcy can be a good thing, in the way that the death of an old tree allows younger ones under its oppressive canopy to grow ... We've experienced what can only be called the Death of Permanence; what remains to be seen is the way the new Economy of the Evanescent will influence our business and even personal interactions."

In the article "Built to Flip," Christina L Darwell says, "Increasingly, successful businesses will be ephemeral. Instead of being built to last, they will be built to yield something of value—and once that value has been exhausted, they will vanish."

In the same piece Gary Sutton adds, "The problem with Built to Last is that it's a romantic notion. Large companies are incapable of ongoing innovation, of ongoing flexibility. Companies that are built to last forever usually find out too late that the world has changed right under their noses. ... Nothing lasts forever, and one attribute of sustainability is knowing when your time has come."

Exciting stuff (to me anyway). [Note from Cathy: You might recognize these as quotes Tom himself has used. It's no surprise to us that a long-term denizen of Tom Peters Company picked the same ones.]

But these quotes raise a few questions. Many readers of both this website and Fast Company are entrepreneurs, small business owners, and consultants who live in the service economy. But what about the manufacturing world? For those of you who are Change Agents in the industrial sector, how do you sell "Destroy to Create," "Cherish Impermanence," and "Make a Quick Exit"? How does "destroy it before your competition does" go over in manufacturing environments that take pride in their history and longevity? Let's talk.

Leaders Take Breaks

Item #45 in The Leadership50 from Re-imagine! states: Leaders take breaks. And Tom is taking his own advice. He's off walking in a foreign country. Not New Zealand; he's already been there. We don't know where. Maybe he'll return with pictures and stories; maybe not. So at least until the end of April, there won't be any posts from Tom as he's left his computer behind. In the meantime, folks from the Tom Peters Company will be blogging occasionally. Yes, we know it's not the same as Tom, but Tom's off recharging his batteries, because he's got a lot of traveling to do in May.

Event: Yellow Pages

Tom was in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Thursday, speaking to a group sponsored by Yellow Pages. He had no Internet connection at his hotel, so I am just bringing the PPT to you now. Let's just say he wasn't staying at the Four Seasons this trip. If you attended the event, we'd love to hear from you in the comments. And if you'd like to get the slides, you can do so with the link below:
Yellow Pages, Santo Domingo

Event Slides

Today: 19th Annual Buyouts Symposium East, New York City. These are the private equity folks, large and small—geniuses all today; tomorrow? TP: "The 'last word' is there is no 'last word.'" Message: Revenue Matters Most; you cannot "costcut your way to greatness"!

[You can get the slides through the link below.—CM]
19th Annual Buyouts Symposium East

How Much Is Too Much?

Billy Bragg was coming through my car speakers singing, "A virtue never tested is no virtue at all." That pretty much summed up the two coaching sessions I had just completed. Both of the leaders I have been coaching have been identified as high potential candidates for the executive team. They are highly principled men with a track record of superior results, including building a wonderful high-performance, high-satisfaction team. But, both are now receiving feedback that they have micromanaged, and that they've become very controlling with their team. The only significant change they could identify was the ever-increasing workloads and the reduction of their workforce in the name of efficiency and cost control. At the same time, there has been pressure on them for ever better performance from their team. In their minds, they have not enough people and no room for error. Their virtue as leaders had been tested, and they both felt they had failed the test.

I don't consider myself to be soft on performance demands. It is a highly competitive world, which does demand that performance, and the accompanying workloads, be increased. But I wonder how organizations are determining when enough is enough? In my more cynical moments, I have come to believe they push it until it breaks. In my days of manufacturing management, we could study a machine and produce a pretty reasonable and predictable capacity factor. My question for this group of bloggers is simple. How does your organization determine a human being's "capacity"? Do you also see the effectiveness of leaders changing under high workload pressures? I would love to hear from any of you that have responsibility for determining optimal employment numbers. How do you do it? Are we at a place where too much on the plate is leading to leadership's virtues being tested?

The Tale of the Toothache

"Think, then act" is the Mantra of "the strategy boys."

I've long been an "act, then think" guy.

"Ready. Fire. Aim."—Ross Perot. "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"—E.M. Forster. "Innovation is the reaction to the prototype."—Michael Schrage, Media Lab, MIT, innovation guru.

As you might guess, I loved this quote I found on the "Thoughts" page of Forbes (04.09.07):

"'I think therefore I am' is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches."—Milan Kundera