Volume 5, Issue 3
ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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Pursuit of Happiness
The contentment index seems to be hitting new lows. With war clouds looming, corporate malfeasance stories appearing daily, and the economy in a funk, many executives have little to be happy about these days. And does money buy happiness? The billionaire’s list in the latest Forbes shows that those with the biggest bucks suffer market declines along with the rest of us, although they may have more padding left in their security blankets. Sprint’s top executives thought they found a way to keep their wealth secure, but it looks like they got bad advice, and face giant tax bills. Maybe it’s not all about the bucks. As you reflect on the stories we’re calling attention to in this issue, think about the drivers of your own happiness and personal satisfaction. As a leader, how do you assess the contentment levels of your direct reports? Which of your actions cause the barometer readings in your workplace to rise or fall? Does your leadership add to or subtract from the contentment of workers in your organization? Will your pursuits deliver real and sustainable satisfaction for you and for others?
Fifteen new books are
rated in this issue, beginning on page 5, two of which received a stingy
one-star rating. Turn ahead to check those out. You can also visit our 2003
bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html
and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 2003 book
How do you assess and communicate current and future business conditions to your many interested audiences? How do you gather information from others about their assessment of conditions? What impact do the assessments have on your risk taking, capital spending or other business decisions? On whom do you rely for help in planning for the future of your organization?
With a sluggish economy that hangs around like a bad winter's cold and fears over what a war might bring, Corporate America is in something of a stalemate. "A lot of businesses have put themselves on hold," says Colin Crook, an adviser to the Wharton Fellows program at the University of Pennsylvania and former chief technology officer for Citibank. "And the feeling of general economic malaise is worsening it. This is a bleak situation, a double whammy. Nobody sees any positive signs of any sort." In fact, if you add the current business backlash, it's more like a triple whammy. CEOs are feeling understandably swamped by the public outcry against them. The media is more distrustful of corporate leadership than ever before. Shareholders are emboldened by recent governance changes to be more activist. Directors, fearful of increased liability, are quicker than ever to pull the trigger on a chief executive. Employees -- many of them working under the threat of yet another layoff -- are not nearly as admiring, either. Just as many CEOs gleefully assumed much of the credit for their companies' fortunes just a few years ago, they now get the lion's share of blame for slumping stock values that have most investors anxious, if not angry.
When times are good, leaders are venerated. In these bad times, CEOs are taking the blame. Will this mood lead executives to spend less and take less risk? Will that approach just make things worse? Stay tuned.
Eye on the Prize
One approach to achieving happiness is described in the March issue of Fast Company in an article titled, “How To Lead a Rich Life” (http://www.fastcompany.com/online/68/richlife.html). Here’s a key excerpt:
We are better paid, better fed, and better educated than ever. Yet the divorce rate has doubled, the teen-suicide rate has tripled, and depression has soared in the past 30 years. The conclusion is inescapable: Our lifestyles are packed with more stuff, but we lead emptier lives. We're consuming more but enjoying it less.
Surely we're rich enough to feel better than this. So what's missing? It might help to revisit that threadbare but forever-relevant question, Does money buy happiness? You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's willing to argue publicly that it does (although few would give up the chance to find out for themselves). The real story is that all signs point to the reverse: Happiness may help you get rich. In study after study, doing work that you love and having a great marriage and a fulfilling family life are all correlated with financial wealth. The tricky part is that you can't "get" happiness (sorry, Thomas Jefferson) by pursuing it. Put your eye on that prize, and you set yourself on the treadmill of ever-escalating aspirations. We think that we'll be happy when: when we get a better job, when we get more money, when we fall in love. But then, as Samuel Johnson put it, "Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment."
Change your frame of reference, though -- focus on the real prize -- and leading a rich life is surprisingly cheap and highly accessible. The most serious obstacle to achieving it is ourselves. What follows, then, is a values-driven guide to mastering the money issue -- revised and updated for a poor economy. It is informed by cutting-edge insights from the new "economics of happiness," three decades of research on the defining values of America's new leadership class and the state of the American dream, and a comprehensive portrait of the highly effective habits of the truly wealthy. To be sure, this guide has more than its fair share of philosophy. But it also has formulas to measure success, questions to reshape your priorities, and tactics to steer your actions.
This article may help you
think about the prizes you’re pursuing and what impact achieving those prizes
will have on your life. Think about the mix of activities in your life after
reading this article, and make the changes that seem right for you.
Are you doing work that makes you happy? Are your interpersonal relationships enriching? Do you love your life? Do you think of your life as “rich”?
What risks are you willing to take under the advice of trusted advisors? What contingency plans do you have? Do your personal finances and how you manage them have an impact on your organization? Do you think about how your behavior reflects positively or negatively on your organization?
Do your shortcuts take longer? Have you damaged any
relationships because of your inattention? Can you estimate the cost to you
and others of the way you try to do more than one thing at a time?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
Ř The January 2003 issue of Executive Times reported that Ford Chairman CEO William Clay Ford might be selling the IPO shares he was allocated from Goldman Sachs. While Billy saw this as a personal investment unrelated to his corporate position a few months ago, we read recently in The New York Times (2/14/03) (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/14/business/14FORD.html) that while a committee of Ford’s independent directors said there was no reason why he was obligated to do so, Billy would be selling the 400,000 shares he acquired, and will donate the profits to charity.
Ř We’ve paid little attention to stories about mall mogul Al Taubman since we reported in the May 2002 issue of Executive Times about his anticipated jail time and fine for his involvement in the Sotheby’s and Christie’s scandals reported in 2000 (April 2000 and October 2000 issues). We were outraged when we read in Slate (2/25/03) (http://slate.msn.com/id/2079270/) that because of governance changes Taubman shareholders missed an opportunity to make $125 million. According to Slate, while 85% of shareholders supported an acquisition by Simon Property Group, the founding families of Taubman Centers, Inc., retained voting control, an option they exercised six years after their IPO. The families voted to take a pass on the premium offered by Simon.
Calm and Comfort
legacy of Fred Rogers should also remind all of us to find ways to talk about
important things at work, especially in a calm and reassuring manner.
Latest Books Read and Reviewed:
(Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com. When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com. Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2002 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html).
ă 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date.
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