Volume 7, Issue 3
ã 2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. One book is highly recommended with a four-star rating; nine books are recommended with three stars; four are mildly recommended with two stars; and one has a cautious one-star rating. You can also visit our complete 2005 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2005books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all books we’re reading or considering this year. Thirty two new books have been added to the “shelf of possibility,” which now has over 180 books in queue. 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, let us know at email@example.com.
Close affiliations at work usually generate higher levels of work satisfaction and lead to improved collaboration. Every executive has been formed by the example provided by a mentor. In the best mentoring situations, the protégé learns, but doesn’t become too attached to a mentor. In other situations, executives can be viewed as such close allies or partners that a change for one means a change for the other. Sometimes a mentor protects a protégé, and the two move from job to job in tandem. Other times, when a mentor moves on, the protégé can remain stable if other relationships at work have been developed and nurtured. We read in The Washington Post (2/13/05) (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18510-2005Feb12.html), “…what do you do when your mentor, whether it be the top boss or just a more experienced colleague who showed you the ropes, gets fired, dies, transfers to another job or otherwise ceases to be in a position to boost your career? The answer, of course, depends on unique facts and circumstances. Sometimes there is nothing to do but update the résumé and scan the want ads. Other times, career counselors and protégés say, a bit of deft maneuvering can keep you employed as your mentor moves on. … ‘If people perceive that in addition to having a close personal relationship with your mentor you are also ideologically aligned with them, then your vulnerability is much greater,’ said Harvard Business School professor David A. Thomas, a career development expert. ‘That's especially true if the [outgoing mentor] represents one side of a very sharp divide around some big issue.’ … Experts say that when they realize they are on the way out, the best mentors will try to make sure their protégés are protected. But Thomas, the Harvard professor, said even the best efforts along these lines won't work if the protégé has not established good relations with other power brokers in an organization. ‘If you don't fit those criteria, and your guy is leaving, you better start packing,’ he said.”
It might be a
personality characteristic, but some executives seem to take pride in being
provocative. Sometimes, it seems executives are provocative for the fun of
it. Provocation, by its very nature, creates instability. It makes good sense
to be prepared for the reaction to provocation, especially when an executive
intends to provoke. The poster executive for this behavior in recent months
has been Larry Summers, Harvard’s president. When invited to
speak at a National Bureau of Economic
Research conference on diversifying the science and engineering
workforce, his intention was fully articulated as he opened his comments: “I
asked Richard, when he invited me to come here and speak, whether he wanted
an institutional talk about Harvard's policies toward diversity or whether he
wanted some questions asked and some attempts at provocation, because I was
willing to do the second and didn't feel like doing the first. And so we have
agreed that I am speaking unofficially and not using this as an occasion to
lay out the many things we're doing at Harvard to promote the crucial objective
of diversity.” (http://www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/2005/nber.html).
Summers went on to generate a firestorm of reaction to this comment, “So my best guess, to
provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by
far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and
employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the
special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic
aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those
considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving
socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than
to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these
problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are,
and working very hard to address them.” Inside
and outside of Harvard, Summers’ comments did provoke. They also made Summers
day job of trying to lead Harvard more difficult, especially because of the
strong negative reaction from Harvard’s faculty of Arts and Sciences. The
aptitude of those at Harvard whom Summers tries hard to influence makes his
job even harder: it’s difficult to convince very bright people to follow you
just because you’re the boss. The March 7 issue of Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_10/b3923054_mz011.htm)
opines that as a result of
Summers’ autocratic management style and the reaction to his provocative
comments, his chance to introduce reforms at Harvard has diminished and
fundraising may be constrained. “Pushing through reforms at Harvard would be
difficult in the best of times. The president cannot simply order people
around. He must build consensus with a constellation of powerful deans and
their faculties. Yet there is broad support for quite a few reforms Summers has set in motion, and many faculty members believe
Harvard must change if it is to remain a leading university. But Summers'
critics say he has needlessly antagonized professors with his autocratic
style. And he has alienated many by passing over internal candidates and
giving tenure to outside stars. ‘He has mishandled the faculty,’ says a
professor who backs Summers. ‘And very few people like him.’ … The Summers
controversy could even harm fund-raising. With a $22.6 billion endowment,
Harvard has long been the envy of higher education. Now it's planning to
raise an estimated $5 billion over the next few years to help pay for
Summers’ plans. The last thing it needs is an image problem. ‘Perceptions
matter in fund-raising,’ says Scott G.
Nichols, associate dean of
Do you have the luxury of being able to speak unofficially? When you intend to provoke, how prepared are you for the consequences of your provocation? Have you built up enough goodwill to weather temporary setbacks? Who and what has provoked you lately? Are you likely to know when your actions or comments have provoked others? Do you have the time to repair the damage than can follow a provocation?
A page one story in The Wall Street Journal (2/22) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110902677306360253,00.html) caught our attention because we’ve
enjoyed the occasional bottle of “two-buck Chuck” that Bronco Wine Company distributes through Trader Joe’s. We read that Bronco CEO Fred T. Franzia irritated competitors
by making a decent bottle of inexpensive wine and went on to infuriate them
by violating the rules of “terroir.” Franzia uses grapes
Are the rules of your business followed by all participants? What happens when a rogue player misbehaves? Do disputes over practices end up in litigation? Can you influence the rules that players follow in your industry? If your actions infuriate your competitors and you remain a rogue player, are you prepared for the likely consequences?
Are you content in your job? Have your ambitions been realized, or are they to do something else? Are your ambitions aligned with your skills? Are you doing the work you want to do?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
we commented in the lead story in the February 2005
issue of Executive Times that Carly Fiorina’s
strength in communication was becoming a liability, we didn’t know that the Hewlett-Packard board was meeting a
few miles from our office to fire her. The business press has been packed
with stories about the firing, Fiorina, what’s next
at H-P, ad nauseum. We pass along two articles that
we find noteworthy. Louis Lavelle commented in the 2/28 issue of Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_09/b3922059_mz011.htm)
that Fiorina violated three rules: make it about
the company, not you; know your company inside and out; and hold people
accountable, including yourself. Carol Loomis reports in the 3/7 issue of Fortune (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/subs/article/0,15114,1029939,00.html)
what happened at the H-P board and why Fiorina was
surprised by their action.
Ø We last checked in on the Greenbergs of AIG, Marsh and ACE fame in the November 2004 issue of Executive Times. The February 21 issue of Fortune (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/subs/article/0,15114,1025115,00.html) contains a story of their unusual familial relationships for those readers who want to be updated.
successful leaders attempt to frame their own legacy through the achievement
of intended objectives. In real life the alignment between intentions and
achieved results can become overshadowed by brief, but monumental events that
define a leader’s tenure. One executive whose many achievements became
eclipsed by a single event was Lawrence
Rawl, former Exxon CEO, who
died in mid-February at age 76. Rawl worked 39 years at Exxon, and led the
company from 1987-1993. He reduced costs, increased oil and gas reserves, and
expanded chemical operations. His tenure became defined by a single event on
March 24, 1989: the leak of 11 million gallons of oil from the Exxon Valdez
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 2005 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2005books.html).
2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive
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