EXCELLENCE Potpourri:
A Collection of (Important) Papers

I. The Moral Bedrock of Management: Maximizing Human Capital Development

II. TRAINING: Investment #1

III. The 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious: This Is the (OBVIOUS) Stuff I Care About. This Is the (OBVIOUS) Stuff, the Absence of Which Sends Me into a … RAGE

IV. Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place

V. PUTTING PEOPLE (REALLY) FIRST!

VI. #1 Then/1982. #1 Now/2014: A BIAS FOR ACTION

The document herein attached is just what it says it is–a potpourri, a miscellaneous collection of my favorite recent essays on EXCELLENCE. (Tom Peters. EXCELLENCE. What else?) Several are recent additions–“The Moral Bedrock of Management” and “TRAINING: Investment #1.” The pair are responses to itches I’ve long intended to scratch in print; now I have. “The 34 BFOs/Blinding Flashes of the Obvious” is a summary document of just what the title says, obvious and vital itches that few too managers vigorously scratch. “Systems Have Their Place: SECOND Place” is, dare I say it, one of my favorite pieces that as far as I’m concerned has not gotten appropriate attention. The final duo–“PUTTING PEOPLE (Really) FIRST” and
“#1 Then/1982. #1 Now/2014: A BIAS FOR ACTION” are updated papers on my two favorites-forever topics.

Enjoy!

#McKQ50

Don’t miss the interview at McKinsey.com, “Tom Peters on leading the 21st Century.” On the 50th Anniversary of the McKinsey Quarterly, they interviewed Tom, and the conversation basically covers his outlook on the next 50 years. Use the link above to find the online version of the interview, which includes several short video clips and a Twitter feed of the talk around what Tom had to say.

Tom in the Media

Mitch Joel of Twist Image did a “Six Pixels of Separation” podcast with Tom on the state of business today. You can find it on iTunes as SPOS # 429, or here at twistimage.com.

Listing Tom as one of 22 Thinkers to Follow on Twitter, Drake Baer at Business Insider writes this: “Unlike other members of the management elite, Peters is always in conversation with his followers. So throw a quandary his way.” High praise in Tom’s way of thinking.

Tom especially loved this Twitter exchange started by Thinkers50: “Thinkers Who’ve Reinvented Themselves via Twitter.”

Bully for Me!
I’m The Cleverest Person in the Room!

Last week, I attended a memorial service for one of my great mentors, the generally acclaimed #1 leadership guru (and extraordinary humanist) (and leader in his own right) Warren Bennis. About 15 of his friends and colleagues spoke—myself included. It was eerie: We each—without exception—said the same thing, albeit in slightly different words. Warren made you feel clever—and at the center of his universe. This ability, in addition to its ultimate expression of humanist existence, may be the effective leader’s most valuable attribute when it comes to engaging the mind and heart and soul and energy of others.

Consider these related quotes:

“When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli, I left feeling I was the cleverest person.”—Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s (American) mother

“When you are talking to [Bill Clinton], you feel like he doesn’t care about anything or anybody else around but you. He makes you feel like the most important person in the room.”—Mark Hughes, screenwriter, Forbes blogger

Leadership is about how you make people feel—about you, about the project or work you’re doing together, and especially about themselves.”—Betsy Myers, Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

“It was much later that I realized Dad’s secret. He gained respect by giving it. He talked and listened to the fourth-grade kids in Spring Valley who shined shoes the same way he talked and listened to a bishop or a college president. He was seriously interested in who you were and what you had to say.”—Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Respect

“Rather than talking at the assembled group [about the work], he went about it from the other direction. He started out by asking people to tell us about what mattered to them. By sharing their stories with each other, people felt more connected—these gatherings became an opportunity to go from ‘me’ to ‘us,’ and from there to ‘What we can do together.'”—Betsy Myers, on Marshall Ganz’s work with community organizers, from Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

I would—literally—beg of you to do more than skim these quotes. To be sure, I was very emotional throughout Warren’s service. But I was also stunned at the repetitiveness of the theme among people of remarkably different backgrounds.

Try and translate this into the/your daily practice of leadership. It’s not that I think you—or I, for that matter—can match the intensity or sincerity of Warren’s engagement. But we can at least be aware of our oft straying attention amidst a harried day. Warren’s days were doubtless more harried than yours or mine. But for the duration of the time you were with him—10 minutes or two hours—his ability to make you the star of the drama was matchless. At the very least you can acknowledge the importance of this state of affairs—and raise your personal awareness of your moment-to-moment state of mind. You can also practice attentiveness—one manager reports that she writes “Listen” on her hand before a meeting.

There is, by the way, a virtuous circle process that emerges here. Your attentiveness is fun—that is, you learn a helluva lot about the person, their motivations, and the task at hand via the process that one keen observer calls “fierce listening.”

Try it.
You’ll like it.
You’ll try even harder.
You’ll get better.
It works.
(And in the process probably makes you a better person—nice bonus, eh?)

NB: One useful approach to improvement is becoming a formal student of asking good questions. This is an art—but also a science. I.e., you can study and practice deliberately. One point of entry is Ed Schein’s book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Rather Than Telling; also see Schein’s Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. When asking becomes your primary mode of interaction, your attentiveness and other-centeredness more or less automatically go up.

Brand You: 1997 Remembered

From the well-received Dataclysm: Who We Are, by Christian Rudder, co-founder of OkCupid/p. 209:

“While aspiration and the prestige of association may be timeless [branding] concepts, truly new territory has recently opened to the brand people. In 1997, Tom Peters, a motivational speaker and management consultant, published an article called ‘The Brand Called You’ in Fast Company magazine—and the era of personal branding was born.”

(FYI: Mr. Rudder is highly critical of my writing style in the FC article—failing to acknowledge that the piece was edited not by me, but from a phone interview by Fast Company co-founder and former HBR editor Alan Webber; besides, to add a gratuitous remark, Dataclysm, though a fascinating book, scores off-the-charts on lousy writing.) (FYI 2: I want to puke when labeled a “motivational speaker.” My definition of a “motivational speaker”: fly-weight, self-aggrandizing, delusional dickhead.)

Cool Friend: Bob Sutton (No. 2)

Bob Sutton returns to talk with tompeters.com about his new book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, which he coauthored with fellow Stanford professor Huggy Rao. Filled with impressive case studies, the book describes what works as well as common pitfalls. One of our favorite ideas is characterizing two models for scaling as Catholicism vs. Buddhism. Curious? You can learn more by reading Sutton’s new Cool Friends interview. You can also visit the book website, www.scalingupexcellence.com, or follow Bob on Twitter @work_matters.

Update!

I’ve already made a non-trivial update of my Annotated Master. It’s now 788 slides long—including over 200 annotation slides.

Thinking about slides per se, I wrote this note—on an early slide in the presentation:

The worst feedback I can get on some slide is, “That was a great quote.” Well, I think some of them are pretty darn good. But the point of this presentation is reflection and discussion—and action.

Fact is, I see each of these “great quotes” as fully operational—translatable into “TTDNs”/Things To Do Now.

My great hope is that you will take some bits that pique your interest, ponder them, talk them over informally or formally with colleagues—and, as you see fit, develop a concrete effort to test them in your organizational context.

I’m in this thing for learning and action and personal/organizational improvement—not as a provider of “great” or “clever” quotes.

Okay?

A New Annotated “Master” Presentation

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my last two presentations—to an HR assemblage in Indianapolis and to an entrepreneurial gathering in Edmonton. I was moved to combine the two presentations, add a bit from hither and thither, and then go on an annotation binge. (Something I haven’t done for quite a while.)

You’ll find the end result here—a 567-slide PowerPoint presentation that includes about 100 “pages” (slides) worth of annotations. The goal is an up-to-date standalone piece. For better or for worse, it adds up to a brief (yes, 567 slides is my version of “brief”) representation of “TP’s story, circa 2014.”

I hope you’ll find it of value—and “steal me blind.”

Edmonton

The E-Town Festival, an Edmonton Economic Development initiative, finds Tom in Canada today. Quote from their website: “E-Town Festival feeds the mind and heart of people who get excited by innovation, creativity and disrupting common thought.” Sounds like Tom is a good fit as one of the headliners!

PPT presentations for downloading:
E-Town Festival, Edmonton Economic Development, Final
E-Town, Edmonton Economic Development, Long

MOOC with a Cool Friend

Trying to grow your organization? Spread pockets of excellence?

There are two days left to sign up! Cool Friend Bob Sutton, a Professor in the Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford, is offering a MOOC in scaling. Bob tells us that lots of people are involved in the design of the audio/video, etc., and there will be some cool guest speakers. Sign up here by September 12. The 5-week course begins on September 15.

Bob Sutton is knowledgeable about innumerable organizations and their scaling successes and failures. This is a unique opportunity to take a high quality course.

Note: We’ll be talking to him soon for a second Cool Friend interview.

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