Archives: September 2009

Link Roundup #7

Cool Friend Chris Brogan mentioned Tom and Re-Imagine! in recent posts.

Cool Friend Rowan Gibson also mentioned Tom in a post about innovation.

There's an interesting debate over national academic standards at the New York Times' site.

Cool Friend Deborah Tannen's first book was You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Now she's writing about what may be an even tougher conversational path to navigate, families, in her new book, You Were Always Mom's Favorite.

Bruna Martinuzzi has added her voice to the chorus calling for integrity in leadership with her new book The Leader as a Mensch. The Globe and Mail gives a brief synopsis of the book.

Too much of a good thing? Crowdsourcing comes to recipes and chaos reigns.

Charisma, What Charisma?

[Our guest blogger is Madeleine McGrath, Managing Director, International, of the Tom Peters Company.]

Last weekend's German elections, won by a coalition of the Christian Democrats and the Free Democratic Party, have caused a lot of press comment about the leadership qualities of the successful candidate for the role of Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

There have been comments on her rather dour and austere demeanor. She is said to lack charisma, with her communication style described at best as calm and measured. She is not perceived as a visionary, and certainly does not have the public profile of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. She had an uneasy relationship with the Social Democrats, her previous coalition partners. Some commentators say that the caution she learned growing up in Eastern Europe has led to a reluctance to take risks as a leader. All in all, she's scoring pretty low on leadership characteristics by my reckoning.

And yet her leadership of the German people through this troubled economic period has built for her an enviable reputation as a statesperson who is reliable and trustworthy. So much so that in a recent BBC Radio 4 profile on her successful election campaign, it was reported that many Germans affectionately refer to her as Mutti (mother).

So I wonder if there are any more general lessons for us here about what followers are looking for in their leaders in these difficult times. Is there a female leader dimension to this? Is the era of the superstar leader, both in business and in politics, firmly behind us now? Are followers looking for substance over style? If so, what does this mean for President Obama, Prime Minister Brown, and anyone leading a business today?

The Follies of Marketing Measurement

[Our guest blogger is Cool Friend Steve Yastrow. Find out more about Steve at]

"If you can't measure it, you shouldn't do it," is one of the stupidest concepts in business.

Many things that can't be directly measured are worth doing.

Here's a really basic example: Should you ask your receptionist to smile when guests enter your office foyer? Of course you should! There is no way to measure the impact of a smile, but you are 100% certain that it is a good idea.

There are many decisions we make every day without being able to measure their direct impact. Should you clean your office before a client visits? Should you use the same logo on your website that you use on your printed brochures?

The answers to these questions seem obvious. But there are many other ideas that are terminated prenatally for one simple reason: The executive with control of the purse strings can't, from his vantage point, see a direct return on investment from this idea.

Important point: Just because this guy can't see a return on investment doesn't mean one doesn't exist.


Excellent Equinox

Summer turned to fall during the Autumnal Equinox at 5:18pm EDT today. We celebrate the changing of seasons with a fresh banner design. A lot of thought goes into each seasonal banner. For this fall, our banner designer, Joy Stauber, has included not only images representing the season, but a colorful photo of baskets from Angola, where Tom will be speaking in October. Have you noticed that she often moves left to right through the beginning to the end of a season with the images? We have a leaf turning yellow with a background of green at the beginning and end with frost on a road that appears to be near Tom's farm in Vermont. She's also used her son's building blocks to begin the phrase Excellence Now, a perfect reminder that Excellence need not be complicated. Have an Excellent autumn!

Link Roundup #6

"Renovating an Industry": One interior designer's story of how she's making herself more accessible in the recession, using a blog, and soon to use Twitter and Facebook.

Frequent commenter Ian Sanders interviews Cool Friend Kevin Roberts.

In other Cool Friend news, David Weinberger's most recent book is Everything Is Miscellaneous, and he talks about it with Susan Bratton at PersonalLifeMedia.

Sounds like our kind of play! Scribblenauts: Your Vocabulary Controls the Game.

Teenagers don't use Twitter ... their parents do.

And a corollary observation: Mothers Use Facebook, Twitter, Blogs More than Average Adults. "According to the study, nine out of ten (93.6%) mothers regularly or occasionally seek the advice of others before buying a service or product. Additionally, no less than 97.2% said they give advice to others about those products or services they purchased."

Are economic conditions controlled by public perception?

"The Good Enough Revolution," where the low end is the space to conquer.

A macroblogging trend? Check out Woofer, it's the anti-Twitter that requires you to use 1,400 characters.

Kimberly-Clark is taking the aging boomer market very seriously. This Wall Street Journal piece describes how they're putting themselves in the shoes of their customers.

Want happiness? Be your own boss. [via Daniel Pink]

Must Be a Mis-quote

Sunday New York Times, biz section, p1, "Tales from Lehman's Crypt." Quote from an ex-Senior Vice President, Ken Linton, who evaluated mortgage quality as a prelude to securitization, and smelled a rat early—or at least a rotting mouse:

"You are not paid to rock the boat."

From a front-line employee at McDonald's, single-Mom with two kids, totally forgivable. Or a 48-year-old GM employee now at Wal-Mart.

But this ...

As I said, obviously a mis-quote.


Julie, Julia, and Me.
(And, I hope, You.)
Exuberance Shakes, Bakes and Moves Mountains!
(Act Accordingly.)

"Exuberance is an abounding, ebullient, effervescent emotion. It is kinetic and unrestrained, joyful, irrepressible. It is not happiness, though they share a border. It is, instead, at its core, a more restless, billowing state. Certainly it is no lulling state of contentment: exuberance leaps, bubbles and overflows, propels its energy through troop and tribe. It spreads upward and outward like pollen toted by dancing bees, and in this carrying ideas are moved and actions taken. Yet exuberance and joy are fragile matter. Bubbles burst; a wince of disapproval can cut dead a whistle or abort a cartwheel. The exuberant move above the horizon, exposed and vulnerable."—Exuberance: The Passion for Life, by Kay Redfield Jamison, Johns Hopkins Professor of Psychiatry

Julia Child changed, no, redefined, the American kitchen, American cooking, American life. A housewife of a State Department operative in Paris, she fell in love.

She fell in love with Paris.
She fell in love with Parisians.
She fell in love with French ingredients.
And French chefs.
And French food.

And she made many, many of us fall in love with all those things, too.
(And we never looked back.)

"Julie and Julia," the movie, is a love story.
To watch the movie was, for me, to fall in love with Julia Child.
To fall in love with Julia was easy.
How could you fail to fall in love with her?

You watched her shriek with unabashed delight as she fondled a pepper or shallot or mushroom in a tiny Parisian grocer's shop—and you marveled as you watched the French shopkeeper, doubtless no instinctive lover of Americans with their questionable grasp of the language (Julia was no linguist), fall in love with Julia's raw, unadulterated Exuberance.

The movie was Exuberance defined.
A, dare I say, perfect picture of the unregulated-unregulatable Power of Exuberance to make the world wobble on its axis.

(NB: Friends of the "real" Julia, to the person, agree that Meryl Streep's continuously "over the top" effervescence was, hard to believe as it may be, Julia pitch perfect!)

The movie was also Excellence defined. Julia's Book #1, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, merits the use of the word "mastering," defines the term "mastery." Ms. Child brought to the party, along with her off-the-shelf exuberance, only one prime attribute, of which she delightedly informs us at the start: She loved to eat!

From that love of food ingested came her years-long journey to mastery. She haunted the food shops of Paris and learned the ins and outs of the ingredients themselves. Fighting an oppressive, "males only" culture, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school; the skeptical master joined the ranks of those fallen victim to JC's exuberance, and her pit bull+ tenacity. She then engaged in a tireless and ceaseless and pothole-strewn Long March to cookbook publication by Alfred Knopf—prior rejection slips and last-minute publisher jiltings were almost too numerous to bear, even for the casual viewer of the movie.

But the story—including the unreported years following the first book in which more books followed, the TV show blossomed and America and its kitchens and pantries succumbed to Julia's thrall—is, in the end, a story of Exuberance.

Julia did indeed master French cooking. But it was her pleasure therein (joy, effervescence, etc—see the epigraph at the top of this post) per se, captured in her prose style and in front of the TV camera, that conquered America. Her delight became our delight. Her sunniness became our sunniness. Her self-effacement in the kitchen as she booted another grounder (flipped an omelet out of the pan and onto the floor) became our license to play. It was ... EJ/Experience Julia ... we bought into as much as or many, many times more than the accuracy or novelty of the recipes she presented.

It was a helluva movie.
And a helluva message.

(Hats off, too, to Julie Powell as played brilliantly by Amy Adams. Julie's own Relentless Pursuit of Excellence—producing all 524 recipes in Julia C's first book in the space of a year, and recording it all at her Blog—was damn near as impressive as her mentor's.)

I came to the movie with a 35-year-old appreciation of Ms Child, an almost equally long obeisance to Ms Streep's acting skills, and a demonstrated 30-year Search for Excellence under my belt. But the movie sent me scurrying back to Kay Redfield Jamison's book—and reminded me of the Power of Exuberance Unbound, of the Power of Exuberance Unbound and the Spirit of One Person to, literally, change the world.

As a practical matter:

I urge you-beg you-command you to inform your HR department today that Attribute #1 in the hiring of anyone in any job, non-technical or technical, shall hereinafter and forevermore be enthusiasm, effervescence—exuberance. And that goes triple or more when it comes to any and all promotions.

On Whose Authority?

We'd like to point you to this piece that Cool Friend Andrea Learned posted over at She reports that separately two male researchers, Michael Silverstein (with coauthors) and Paco Underhill (both Cool Friends, by the way), are about to publish books on seizing the opportunity of the women's market. She says that maybe people will pay attention, as they seem not to have listened to Marti Barletta and other females (such as Faith Popcorn). Inadvertently, Andrea is echoing what Tom posted last week, on finding the article "The Female Economy" by Michael Silverstein and Kate Sayre in Harvard Business Review. Its subtitle puts the message across: "As a market, women represent a bigger opportunity than China and India combined; so why are companies doing such a poor job of serving them?"

Story Power!
(Manufacturing Stories.)
(Sometimes from Whole Cloth.)

Those of you interested—as I am—in "the power of the story," may find compelling this description of Churchill trying to keep British morale up during the long years in which the British Army was in no shape to return to Europe, and the Americans weren't willing to pull the trigger either.

Per premier Churchillian historian Max Hastings (Financial Times, 0904.09):

"But where to fight [after successes in the Battle of Britain had staved off imminent danger to survival], given that the British Army was incapable of engaging the Wehrmacht in Europe? Churchill's policy between 1940 and 1944 was dominated by a belief in the importance of military theater. He perceived that there must be action, even if not always useful; there must be successes, even if overstated or even imagined; there must be glory, even if undeserved."

[Hastings also quotes Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee: "Churchill was always looking around for 'finest hours,' and if one was not immediately available, his impulse was to manufacture one."]

Talk about "story power" when the stakes are high!!

In your and my more mundane world:

Have you worked-like-a-demon on your story?

Are you clear about your story (you, your service on offer)?

Is your story Clear & Powerful & Compelling & Exciting & Dynamic?

Try: Money in the Bank!
Try: Civility!

I am hooked on the "power of civility" and the "power of thoughtfulness" as the Number One Long-term Moneymaker.

(As well as a virtuous way to live.)

Three books that you ...
The first is new:
The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath. In his Foreword, my pal, the incomparable Warren Bennis, claims that this book will be shelved next to the likes of Silent Spring and Unsafe at Any Speed—that is, it's a game-changer. I think he has a point. The "best" lawyers routinely lose jury trials to "ordinary" lawyers because the superstars hector witnesses and otherwise come across as bullies. The "best" surgeons, lacking or short on emotional intelligence, are sued every time they pick up a scalpel—and their mediocre counterparts make errors galore, but stay away from the courtroom courtesy great bedside manner. (The stats here are remarkable!) Customers are lost through rudeness—to less effective but more civil competitors. Top employees are lost by the bushel in rude workplaces—even if such workplaces offer great technical opportunities.



You are a damn fool (he said ever so rudely!!) if you don't read-ingest-act on-treat as "strategic" this book.

In the same vein are a pair of books by E.M. Forni:

Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct

The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude

What can I say?

I was near tears as I read them!

They are so very very very right!

They have such a powerful set of messages ... for you and me!

(Or at least me.)
Herewith some excerpts, starting with Forni's decision to get into the "civility business." Bizarrely, he is a professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins, who in 2000 started the Johns Hopkins Civility Project:

"For many years literature was my life ... One day, while lecturing on the Divine Comedy, I looked at my students and realized that I wanted them to be kind human beings more than I wanted them to know about Dante. I told them that if they knew everything about Dante and then went out and treated an elderly lady on the bus unkindly, I'd feel that I had failed as a teacher."—P.M. Forni, Choosing Civility

"The letter from the public relations director of the retirement community was similar to many I had received over the years. It included the date and time of the talk I was soon to give there, directions on how to get to the lecture hall, and other sundry bits of information. As I absentmindedly perused it, the sentence at the very bottom of the sheet caught my attention. It read: 'We will have a glass of water available at the podium.' Of course it is not uncommon for speakers to find a glass of water at the podium—although I have given many a speech without that basic comfort. For the first time, however, a host had taken the trouble of reassuring me in advance that the water would await me at the appointed place and time. An act that many would consider almost negligible was made significant by virtue of being put in writing. Here was someone trying to do all she could to make her guest feel welcome and at ease. The message she conveyed was 'We value you and your presence among us, and we are thinking of all you might possibly need. Rest assured that, as far as we are concerned, you will have the opportunity to perform at your best.' All I had to do, in other words, was relax and enjoy their hospitality. It was thoughtful professionalism at its best."—P.M. Forni, The Civility Solution (from "Eight Rules For a Civil Life," #7: "Pay Attention to the Small Things")

"I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but that in the present case there 'appeared' or 'seemed to me' some difference, etc. The conversation I engaged in went more pleasantly; the modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right."—Benjamin Franklin (in The Civility Solution)

"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."—Lucius Annaeus Seneca (in Choosing Civility)

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."—Henry James (in Choosing Civility)

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unawares."—Paul of Tarsus (in Choosing Civility)

"I can live for two months on a good compliment."—Mark Twain (in Choosing Civility)

Over to you ...
(This post has been on the front burner for some days—the coincidence of its arrival today, following Congressman Joe Wilson's decidedly uncivil outburst last night in the United States House of Representatives, is just that ... coincidental. But, indeed, powerful illustration of the points made above. Wilson's career may not be over, though a prospective rival raised a lot of money after the "occasion," but at the least any leadership aspirations the Congressman may have had are most likely DOA.)