Monday, September 30, 2013

Campbell CEO Denise Morrison on Career and Power

Denise Morrison said early on in life that she wanted to become a CEO: That, she did, in August 2011, for Campbell Soup. She encourages women to declare their aspiration, and be strategic about themselves and their career. They need mentors, sponsors and relationships to realize their aspiration.

Denise Morrison
Interestingly, Denise Morrison calls it work-life "integration," instead of work-life balance, when asked about her toughest sacrifice in managing her career. She defined it as being able to set priorities in the moment, as life happens. So, rather than having rules set-in-stone, she prefers to handle some situations as they come.

Denise Morrison
Denise Morrison is among Fortune's and Forbes' most powerful women. She defines leadership as service, and finds power in giving. There's power involved in getting people excited about what they're doing and unleashing their potential. That's the biggest contribution a CEO can make.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fashion Icon Tory Burch Mentors The Muse

Fashion icon and WSJ Startup of the Year mentor Tory Burch advises Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos, co-founders of career platform startup The Muse, on everything from company culture to branding.
Mentoring ought to be a conversation, but it has to begin somewhere.  Tory Burch does it right, as she mentors The Muse co-founders.  While the entrepreneurs are spirited, even a bit tense, Burch is a picture of calm and centeredness.  She asks questions, and listens intently:
  • Where do you want to be five years from now?
  • Are you constantly updating the information of company you represent?
  • Do you focus on your own company, that is, your culture and people?

Tory Burch
Perhaps it is the very zen that Burch is, which prompts Cavoulacos to ask her, in turn, about how her company came to be such a well-known, awesome brand.

This process of becoming has both organic and thoughtful elements:  that is, things that Burch had to think through and plan for, and things that simply happened along the way.  Her point about authenticity is a crucial one.  Customers are savvy and they have options.  So if they catch wind of any disingenuous branding, they're out.  Burch emphasize hiring a great team, whom she works at making happy and doing great work.  Not everyone fits their company, but who do are undoubtedly treated to an awesome culture.

So to reiterate, the foundation of good mentoring is a conversation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Art of Neutralizing Difficult People

Because they needle needlessly and criticize repeatedly, difficult people can distract you from what you are saying in a meeting, for example, or worse yet make you doubt your own competence or worth.  Nina Godiwalla, CEO of Mindworks, offers very practical advice that refocuses the needling back to the topic at hand and stops you from internalizing undue, maybe abusive criticism.  It's the art of neutralizing an opponent by not (a) engaging in a battle and (b) demeaning him or her in turn.

"I'm disappointed I couldn't get my point across, because I really believe in this product." 

"When you respond with an observation, you actually disarm the other person."

"Is there anything I can do you to help you take care of your other commitments?"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Personal and Fashion Evolution of Norma Kamali

Her sixth-grade teacher wrote "know thyself" in her graduation book, and fashion icon Norma Kamali has drawn on this guidance for her learning and growth since 1967.  For example, as a young woman she thought she was the smartest person on the planet, but over time she was no longer sure about such a boastful sobriquet.  

She also shifted her standing vis-a-vis men:  from more of a follower, to more of an independent.  Mind you, she does not see herself as a maverick, but her track record has essentially been that:  popularizing fashion shoulder pads, opening an online store on eBay, and expanding her offerings into health, fitness and beauty.  

Finally, the irony of "know thyself" meant "know others" as well.  Her clientele wondered why, over time, they could no longer fit into the fashion she designed and could  no longer afford them.  She heard them, and responded accordingly with KamaliKulture:  fashion under $100, which fit real, everyday women.  To put on a fashion show of women from the studio audience, instead of super-thin professional models, is not just avant garde but empowering.         

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forbes Fabulously Fortunate 400

Yeah, sure, I have $1.3 billion in my wallet right now.  Fast facts on Forbes four hundred fabulously fortunate (i.e., filthy rich) people. In case you missed the alliteration, let me wish you a happy Friday!

Me: "Anyone around here ever heard of Mark Zuckerberg?" Mini-Me: "Hmm, the name rings a bell ..." Me: $19 billion will ring a lot of bells!

Hmm, I'd love to have lunch dates with each of these women. My only request: They pay :p

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Elemental, Tacit Issues of Emerging Markets

There are elemental, tacit points that Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group, relates vis-a-vis emerging markets.  The overarching one is that global business is a vast forest and top leaders need to segment clusters of trees and focus their strategies accordingly.  Which opportunities do they want to pursue, and what talent do they need to execute on their strategies?  How well do they groom talent from their own backyard, that is, a developed country, and how can they build requisite knowledge and skills in the local talent pool, that is, the emerging market?  Where and how specifically can they generate revenues?  

I have lived abroad, and consulted across countries, and I can vouch for the opportunities and the challenges that Lesser speaks of.  There are sociopolitical matters, however, that he merely hints at.  Sure, there are explicit descriptions about how business is done in a particular country, as I was discussing this morning with two business friends in Dubai.  But as one of them reminded us, It's more a matter of whom you know, and less a matter of what you can do.  In the Middle East, we call it wasta, and developing business relationships and carving out measures of success often hinge on wasta.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Intrapreneurial David Armano at Edelman Digital

Not all companies can be like Edelman Digital, and allow even star staff members such leeway to do their own thing.  Not all staffers can be like David Armano, who sounds to be quite the smart, plugged-in go-getter.  But there is probably a space, an opportunity, and a degree of intrapreneurship, which could work for many companies and for many talented staffers in their midst.      

This is a well-conducted interview by Bryan Elliott, as he admires Armano in how he goes about his work. Yet, he also challenges Armano with potential risks of doing what Edelman has allowed him to do.  The point is, it works for both parties in this case.  Moreover, outright entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but perhaps many staff members can still exercise their entrepreneurial spirit and talent within the corporate milieu.     

Along with this video, Entrepreneur Online includes really enlightening commentary in the description box:
There is an ongoing "nurture vs. nature"-style debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or learn their skills along the way through experience. What's discussed less often is the growing breed of hybrids called intrapreneurs -- people who take on entrepreneurial roles within large companies. 
David Armano, managing director at Edelman Digital in Chicago, is one of them. Armano is a super talented guy and helps manage some of the biggest brands but chooses to help build Edelman's empire instead of starting his own venture.

Why? Armano will tell you that Edelman takes good care of him and it's not just about a salary. Armano is creative and doesn't like to be chained to his office and Edelman gets that. They give him freedom and he does his thing. As a result, Armano may be one of Edelman's best evangelists as he is an active speaker, writer and face in the digital and social world. He is as charismatic as he his tough and it's not uncommon to see him riding around Chicago on his Harley. This persona is good for business as clients see him (and Edelman) as progressive, free-spirited and not tethered to old-school policy or ideas.

Watch this episode and let us know your two cents on entrepreneurs vs. intrapreneurs. Which one are you?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ariel CEO John Rogers Beats Legend Michael Jordan

This clip from the Wall Street Journal is awesome to watch.  It took place at a Michael Jordan camp in 2003, where, I gather, CEOs get to go one-on-one with the basketball legend.  Enter:  John Rogers, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments.  

John Rogers

What made Jordan great was the fact that his competitiveness hardly took a day off.  He had a love for the game that was sublime, for both the joy and the seriousness with which he played it.  Rogers came in, perhaps with nothing more than the thrill of facing up to a legend.  But he had his game face on, and he took it to Jordan, in ways a CEO must when business is on the table.  Fun is always there, but it's woven along with threads of competitiveness to create what is very much human fabric.  Success is knowing that those threads are intricately woven together.  

In the Mutual Fund Executive who Beat Michael Jordan, Chris Ballard recounts the one-on-one between Rogers and Jordan:
The game begins, fittingly, with Jordan still ribbing a previous victim. "Don't be mad at me, I'm just too good," he booms. "What, you think I had this camp just so you all could beat me?" Taking the ball first, Rogers drives right and lofts in a runner. Then he goes left to hit a leaner. The crowd of 150 or so -- campers but also coaches like John Thompson and Mike Krzyzewski -- begins to murmur. Predictably, Jordan evens it, and the end appears imminent until... Michael misses a jumper. Then he clangs another! 
So Rogers again hurtles left and, nearing the hoop, jumps off both feet. Jordan, clearly into it now, times his leap to swallow up the shot. Only Rogers, in a move he's practiced a thousand times but that still appears impossibly awkward, leans away from MJ as if eluding the curl of a crashing wave. He spins the ball up, up, up and over Jordan's fingertips, off the glass and in. On the video the first thing you hear is Jordan ("Oh, no!"), followed by comedian and camper Damon Wayans, who jumps at the chance to mock MJ. (Lest you think Jordan had lost his edge, he immediately brought Wayans onto the court and ­humiliated him 3-0.) 
Naturally, Jordan demanded a rematch with Rogers, right? Actually, he didn't. ­Instead he hugged Rogers -- the two go back a ways from Jordan's days in Chicago -- and said, not so huggably, "Next time we're on the court together, I'll show you what it's like to play in the NBA." But that has yet to happen. Rogers ­hasn't been back to Flight School, and MJ stopped playing campers a few years ago. As for Rogers, he had DVDs made from the tape and dispensed them to friends and employees, because, well, wouldn't you?
Clearly Rogers can ball.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Making Sure Others See your Potential

You may have quite a lot of talent or potential, but unless you translate this (a) into performance results and (b) as something others actually see, you are bound to fall short of any high-level career aspiration.  Forbes contributor Dorie Clark does a fine job of walking us through three steps to take and anchoring her advice on a real story (Chris).  Below are screen shots from her video:

What are the particular things you need to do (or not do) to fulfill your aspiration?

With the changes you make, how do you best facilitate and reinforce newly positive responses from others? 

In what ways can you better showcase your talent higher up and across the organization?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Aspiration + Inspiration + Perspiration = Success

I remember us - a former team - spending a half day discussing the outcomes of an organization-wide engagement survey and working through the actions for our team.  We were keen and motivated, all-hands on deck, and left the session feeling good and smiling infectiously.  

A few days later I asked our manager about our next steps.  I hardly remember what he said, or what he said when I wondered again a couple of weeks later.  I suspected he faced some organizational hurdles vis-a-vis our action plan, which he simply couldn't articulate and, worse, which he couldn't do anything about.  As it were, our spirited engagement conversation gradually unraveled and faded.
Too many times people can get caught up in aspiration and inspiration, and frankly never take their strategy work any further.  We call this common mistake "Dreams that never come true."  
So says AG Laflley, former Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gambler, and I've seen this phenomenon way too much in organizations.

In the Filipino culture apparently it's a common thing, and there is a phrase I learned that meant something like:  It's easy to set fire to a small cluster of shrubs or grass, but it never gets going as it dies soon.

It ought to be:  Aspiration + Inspiration + Perspiration = Exhilaration of Success.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ray Kurzweil Emphasizes Getting More with Less

It's not just positive mental attitude to say that failure is success deferred, as Ray Kurzweil points out.  It's also a fundamental truth of any new or tough endeavor.  More likely than not, our efforts are not going to work the first few times, may be not for numerous attempts.  But to the extent we learn something more each time about what will and will not work, then that so-called failed effort is actually a stepping stone or two toward success.

What Kurzweil describes, and gestures with his right hand, is actually not an exponential curve, but a geometric progression.  Price-performance refers to a product's ability to deliver performance for its price.  It's a ratio that, once again, based on Kurzweil's description should be stated as performance:price or performance-price.  Whether it's information or computing technology, that product costs less and less over time, just as it performs better and better.  The upward curve is a geometric progression.    

Just as Peter Diamandis emphasizes, Kurzweil points out that Facebook and Google had their start on just a few thousands of dollars.  The well-known originators behind each - Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin - proved that the concept would work.  Then, of course, investors came, more confident that they could produce the results at an even bigger scale.

In keeping the theme of these short talks, Kurzweil points out that we entrepreneurs and innovators can do so much, with so little and for minimal costs, because of the computing (and digital) power we have at our disposal.  We live in a day-and-age where everyday people can be producers, distributors and consumers all at once, because of easily accessible and affordable tools.  These tools have an increasingly greater performance-price ratio over time.

Peter Diamandis Emphasizes Passion and Results

Peter Diamandis emphasizes getting it done and accomplishing something.  Passion is crucial, but so are savvy and ability to implement ideas.  In a related vein, Accenture had a tagline years ago that resonated well for me as a management consultant:  It's not how many ideas you come up with.  It's how many ideas you make happen.  

In a way, deep passion is a precursor to doing something meaningful or impactful.  Do the one thing you would do, Diamandis advises, whether or not you were paid.  I'd add, passion isn't something we talk about or convince others that we have.  Rather, it's the interest, and push, and stick-to-it effort, when the going is rough.

Diamandis elaborates on passion, specifically on entrepreneurs "who are passionate beyond belief."  From his perspective, a business can be carved, backers can be engaged, and funding can be secured.  But without that precursor, very little else can happen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Perspectives on James Caan's Mentoring Tips

James Caan (right)

Top Tips To Being a Great Mentor is quite sound and succinct, as James Caan speaks to the essentials of mentoring effectively.  I comment on the four provisions that a mentor brings to a relationship.


In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we find an adage I've done my best to abide by:  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Before mentors can advise effectively, they must take time to understand what it is they ought to advise on.  Indeed this takes patience and listening, and probably asking a lot of questions and verifying their understanding of the colleague's issues.  


I believe in honesty, and I also being in sensitivity and discretion.  Downplaying or dismissing the truth is a disservice to the colleague, yet how that truth is conveyed requires a good amount of empathy on the mentors' part.  They must listen not only with their ears, but also with their repertoire of senses (e.g., sight, feel).  They must discern the issues, while also sensing the person behind these issues.  Mentors must call reality for what it is and see things as they are, but the colleague's readiness matters a great deal as far as being able to call and see it as well.       


Absolutely.  I've trained and coached managers on the notion of speaking positively, even when it's about something negative.  What does it mean, and how can mentors balance this?  To Caan's point, it's about being encouraging and focusing on solutions.  For example, I've mentored young managers who aspired to become CEO.  The likelihood of this, for him and others, is rather small.  But instead of diminishing his aspiration or tamping his enthusiasm down, I worked with him on what he needed to do and what he could do now.  I let him know that it's a long journey and there's no guarantee he will become CEO, even if he did all the right things.  But my efforts were to help him say on track vis-a-vis his aspiration.  


Sometimes mentoring will meander.  Sometimes conversation goes on, and either mentor or colleague wonders where it is going.  First, as Caan emphasizes, the focus is on the colleague.  Second, as long as both have the purpose and objectives of the mentoring front-and-center, then the occasional meandering may simply speak to what I call the colors of conversation and in this respect it may strengthen the relationship nicely.  As mentor, I often check within myself:  Are we fundamentally moving in the right direction, and are we engaging well in order to allow for progress?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Soft Power of Helen Clark

UN Development Programme Administrator - Helen Clark - is a study in modesty and confidence, in a thoughtful interview with Forbes.  She says (a) you must have a strong belief that you can do the job and (b) that belief has to be grounded on something solid - you put in the "hard yards," do your homework, and be properly briefed.

(image credit)
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Clark distinguishes between soft power and corporate power. Soft power is about encouragement, thought leadership, and solutions focus. This is her purview, she says.