Cool Friend: Bob Sutton (No. 2)

Bob Sutton returns to talk with 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,, or follow Bob on Twitter @work_matters.


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.


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."


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.

Training = Investment #1

I have ratcheted the volume WAAAAAAY up re training. I unloaded on the topic last week at Indiana HR in Indianapolis. I have subsequently upgraded a document titled "Training: Investment #1."

All yours ...

[Ed. And, there's an update to Excellence. NO EXCUSES! to reflect the changes to the training piece.]

A Few Quotes …

Call me a "motivational speaker"—and I'll be tempted to punch you. On the other hand, I have collected a passel of "inspiring" quotes over the years. I put this little set together for a colleague. All yours …

"This is the true joy of Life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." —G.B. Shaw, Man and Superman

The master in the art of living
Makes little distinction between
his work and his play.
He hardly knows which is which.
He simply pursues his vision
of EXCELLENCE in whatever he does.
Leaving others to decide whether
he is working or playing.
To him he is always doing both.

Source: Zen Buddhist text

"Make each day a Masterpiece!"—John Wooden, the most successful basketball coach [ever]

"I don't think I was a fine game coach. I think I was a good practice coach."—John Wooden on uber-preparation

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."—Oscar Wilde

"Make your life itself a creative work of art."—Mike Ray, The Highest Goal

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"—Mary Oliver, poet

"Do one thing every day that scares you."—Eleanor Roosevelt

"The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."—Alvin Toffler

"Innovation is opera: Theft and murder and egos and false starts and years in the wilderness and years of treading water ..."—author unknown

"Ever notice that 'What the hell' is always the right decision?"—shrewd observation, attributed to an unknown Hollywood scriptwriter

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."—Samuel Beckett

"Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You simply must … DO THINGS."—Ray Bradbury

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."—Wayne Gretzky

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain."—Ted Rubin, social media guru


Source: Locker room sign posted by NFL football coach Bill Parcells

"The only thing you have power over is to get good at what you do. That's all there is; there ain't no more!"—Sally Field

"There is absolutely nothing that beats hard work. You hoped when you were coming out of college that you were the smartest. It turned out none of us are. But I could sure outwork a lot of folks."—Sallie Krawcheck

"What we do matters to us. Work may not be the most important thing in our lives or the only thing. We may work because we must, but we still want to love, to feel pride in, to respect ourselves for what we do and to make a difference."—Sara Ann Friedman, Work Matters: Women Talk About Their Jobs and Their Lives

"All of our artistic and religious traditions take equally great pains to inform us that we must never mistake a good career for good work. Life is a creative, intimate, unpredictable conversation if it is nothing else—and our life and our work are both the result of the way we hold that passionate conversation."—David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

"I WANT TO BE THOROUGHLY USED UP WHEN I DIE. ... Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."—George Bernard Shaw

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting 'GERONIMO!'"—Bill McKenna, professional motorcycle racer

"It's always showtime."—David D'Alessandro, Career Warfare

"All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves we were all self-employed ... finding our food, feeding ourselves. That's where human history began. ... As civilization came we suppressed it. We became labor because they stamped us, 'You are labor.' We forgot that we are entrepreneurs."—Muhammad Yunus

"Many of us don't see ourselves as leaders, but the truth is that we are all confronted constantly with opportunities to 'take the lead.' [We either] take the lead—or fail to do so."—Betsy Myers, Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

The Big SIX

"We do no great things, only small things with great love."—Mother Teresa

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."—Helen Keller

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."—Anne Frank

"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."—Churchill

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."—Henry David Thoreau

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."—Victor Frankl

HR Indiana

Tom is speaking at HR Indiana, the largest HR conference in the Midwest. As you know, he has been working for the last few months on an essay, "The Moral Bedrock of Management: Maximizing Human Capital Development." In many ways, he says, that essay will be the basis for his speech. "I try to do my best at every event—but this one, I admit, is special. I believe that changing circumstances—especially technology—put, or will put, damn near every job at risk. Hence companies—from 3 employees to 33,333 employees—have an obligation as never before to develop their team. The good news, as I've said for over 30 years, is that this is also the number one approach to maximizing profit and growth in the mid- to long-term." Tom summarizes his argument on a single slide, with text as follows:

CORPORATE MANDATE #1 2014: Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skillset, “soft” and “hard,” of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities. The good news: This is also the #1 mid- to long-term … profit maximization strategy!

You'll find here Tom's presentation as given, and a long version that he plans to annotate. We're also including the "Moral Bedrock of Management" essay.

Tom adds, "This is really important to me, and I hope it may push you toward action."

Update: Moral Bedrock

What should you focus on right now to make Excellence happen in your organization? That's the question that's always on Tom's mind. He's been working on a document called Excellence. NO EXCUSES! (available here) for months. This collection of Twitter conversations now encompasses all the topics Tom sees as important right now for excellence in the workplace. It is 800+ pages of thought-provoking ideas.

"Moral Bedrock," which started as a chapter in Excellence. NO EXCUSES! is now at the center of Tom's attention. As he tweeted during a discussion of business metrics, the best standard to use in making decisions is, "It is the morally right thing to do." Read more in this latest update of "Moral Bedrock."

Some Stuff
18 July 2014

Brief snippets FYI ...

Topic ONE: Generational management.

I'm sick-to-death of the "How do we manage 'Gen Whatever'" bullshit. My response thereto:

As leader, commit yourself fully to helping everyone grow every day. Gen A. Gen B. ... Gen X. Gen Y. Gen Z. Nothing new. Damn it.

People you work with can smell your (leader's) passion for helping them grow. Or the absence thereof. Demographics be damned.

Topic TWO: "Helping."

"Helping" is more delicate than neurosurgery, so half (three-quarters? 90%?) of the time we're helping, in fact we're hindering. (That's NOT glib.)

Thought of the day: "Helping" is the most delicate act there is. (THE MOST DELICATE.) Most managers—newbies or seasoned, especially seasoned—think they understand how to help. They are delusional X10.

"Helping" is an area of intense-committed-sustained professional study—not "instinctive" or "seat of the pants" or "old wives' tales."

Effective-attuned listening is the heart of helping. "Listening" is an area of professional study—not seat of the pants or old wives' tales.

Topic THREE: Selling.

Selling is 80% listening. (Not clear what the other 20% is.)

Hypothesis: Often as not/more often than not INTROVERTS make the best salespeople.

(Re introverts: Persistence and aggressiveness do not require making noise.)

Topic FOUR: Nurturing creativity in yourself.

Best way—bar none—to stay creative is to manage "hang out." RELIGIOUSLY. Hang out with weirdos (on any and all dimensions) rather than "same old, same old" and you automatically win.

The "smartest person in the room" is the one who (KEEPS HIS OR HER MOUTH SHUT) and learns from everyone else in the room.



Puzzled at work? Discover ways to put Tom’s ideas into Action.