Volume 10, Issue 1
2008 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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Turning the calendar page to a new year can provide a convenient time to conduct some executive fine tuning. For some executives, this means being determined to slough off those activities and behaviors that are less effective and to try to focus on the activities and behaviors that get the right things done. This issue of Executive Times calls attention to some recent articles in the news that might stimulate your own determination at making those changes that you think will improve your effectiveness. To whatever extent you can learn from the experience of others, these articles may help you think about your situation in new ways.
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Two books received highly recommended four-star ratings; ten books are rated three-stars, and three books received two-star ratings. Visit our current bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2008books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 165 books read or those being considered this year, including 18 that were added to the list in December. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering or if there’s a book lingering on the Shelf of Possibility that you think we should read and review sooner rather than later, let us know by sending a message to email@example.com. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.
Strategic leadership makes all the difference in achieving organizational success, but the obstacles in achieving strategic changes can be formidable. There’s a comprehensive article on this topic in strategy + business titled “A Blueprint for Strategic Leadership” http://www.strategy-business.com/press/article/07405?gko=0a739-1876-26510307) that might help. According to the article, “…the quality of individual leadership matters. In case after case, in organizations and in society at large, when the single individual at the top is replaced, everything else changes — either for the better or for the worse. But the effectiveness of leaders depends, more than is generally realized, on the context around them. Over time, the leader’s capability is shaped by the top team’s quality, and by the capabilities of the full organization. These can either provide invaluable support for the changes a leader wants to make or render those changes impossible. Hence the best leaders pay a great deal of attention to the design of the elements around them: They articulate a lucid sense of purpose, create effective leadership teams, prioritize and sequence their initiatives carefully, redesign organizational structures to make good execution easier, and, most importantly, integrate all these tactics into one coherent strategy. … Through their actions, leaders have a great deal of influence over an organization’s culture, but very little of that influence is direct. They can’t make a team more skilled or committed through directives alone; requirements mean very little if they cannot be translated into specific behavior changes. … A design for strategic leadership is … not a new approach; it is simply the practiced, considered strategy for change that the best and most long-lived companies have always used. There is no real mystery to it, but it takes the kind of commitment, dedication, and respect that truly makes a company a great place to work.” The full article fleshes out the components of a design for strategic leadership and is worthwhile reading for any executive struggling with implementing strategic change.
How clear is the “why” or purpose of your organization or your unit within the company? How effective are you and other members of the leadership team? How well do you prioritize and sequence strategic initiatives? How well do you integrate everything into a coherent strategy?
What’s your attitude about excuses? How do you give and receive them? How easily do you accept reasons for why something important can’t be done? How do you help overcome obstacles? Do your own excuses invite others to emulate you?
Could any of these efficiency tips help you in 2008? Is your effectiveness constrained by the inefficient ways in which your day is structured? What changes can you make to get more of the right things done every day?
Some executives feel guilty when they spend time on hobbies that seem unrelated to work. Here’s a prescription for 2008: take hobby time as needed because it’s good for you. We read in the Career Couch column (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/jobs/02career.html) in The New York Times (12/2): “Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus, said Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. ‘When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy,’ she said. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlations between flow states and peak performance, said Ms. Kauffman. Being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain — chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine — that keep you focused and interested in what you’re doing and that energize you, said Dr. Gabriela Corá, a psychiatrist who is managing partner of the Florida Neuroscience Center … ‘Making time for enjoyable activities stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated,’ she said.” So, take some hobby time and feel better at work.
What activities do you love that sharpen your focus and help you think clearly? What energizes you? Are you doing enough of those activities to remain at peak levels of overall performance?
Before leaping into a new year with a lengthy to-do list, it makes sense to examine the lessons learned from the recent past. To help jumpstart your examination of recent lessons, here are a few of the lessons shared by lawyer, writer, actor and economist Ben Stein in the 12/9 edition of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/business/09every.html) titled, “Lessons From the Pits of Travel and Investment:” “As I went through my financial and travel records for 2007, I realized that — as usual — I had made a great many mistakes. I’d like to help you to avoid making the same mistakes, so here they are. … When it comes to travel, do not trust a certain airline as far as you can throw it when it tells you a flight is on a wide-body plane. … never take a room on the top floor of a hotel without careful examination. Noisy, vibrating air-conditioners are often right above you, driving you crazy. Be warned. … As I was looking at my stock statements for 2007, I noticed I had done fabulously well — by my very modest standards — on my large, broad-market index funds (especially Fidelity Spartan Total Market and Vanguard Total Stock Market), on my Canadian and Australian index funds and on an emerging-market index fund and a developed-market index fund. But many of my individual picks had been clobbered. My belief is that I am not alone here. Unless you are a thorough genius like Warren E. Buffett, buying individual stocks is tricky, especially in a wildly down market for financial stocks. My resolution for next year is that I will buy only broad indexes and Berkshire Hathaway, if I have any money left over after feeding our three dogs, six (yes, six) cats and my endless extravagance.”
What lessons from the pits have you learned from recent experience? Which of your recent mistakes have you acknowledged, accepted and used as an impetus to do something different in 2008?
Here’s an update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
Ø In the March
2004 issue of Executive Times
we speculated about the messy leadership changes at Coca-Cola but never revisited what happened. Not long after that,
E. Neville Isdell returned to the
company from early retirement in Barbados and as CEO oversaw the process of
stabilizing the company and moving it forward. We read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (12/6) (http://www.ajc.com/business/content/business/coke/stories/2007/12/06/CokeCEO_1206.html)
that Isdell announced that in mid-2008, the company will split the role of
Chair and CEO, and Muhtar Kent,
whom Isdell brought back to Coke a year ago, will become the new CEO. The
article anticipates a model transition will occur.
Ø In some prior years, we’ve noted Fortune’s annual list of the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business. Here’s a link to the 2007 version that appears in the 12/24 print issue: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.101_dumbest.fortune/index.html.
Latest Books Read and Reviewed:
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