Executive Times

Volume 8, Issue 3

March 2006


 2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Most issues of Executive Times avoid sports metaphors. Perhaps since the wrap up of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin coincided with publication of this month’s issue, we decided to break with our tradition and select stories from the Games that might provide lessons for executives. (Here and there, we couldn’t resist the impulse to compare some executives with athletes.) There are at least two benefits to this approach: since few readers watched much of the Olympics, this can be a fast catch-up; and this is cost-efficient because the leaders of the “motivation industry” will charge a lot more for telling you how to “go for the gold” or “become your best.” One way or another, you and those with whom you work are likely to have “Olympian” moments this year. You’ve prepared to perform, you know the competition, and you’ve made assumptions about the conditions of the playing field. All that’s left is for you to get out there, start humming the theme from Chariots of Fire and do your best. The real value of this issue is that after reading it, you will not be tempted to try to motivate anyone in your organization by using an Olympic theme. Instead, you can get back to normal life by moving on to March Madness.


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. One book is highly recommended with a four-star rating; eight books merited three stars, five are mildly recommended with two-star ratings, and one book earned a one-star rating. Visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 190 books we’re reading or considering so far this year, including 38 that we added to the list in February. 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 books@hopkinsandcompany.com. As an added benefit to Executive Times readers, we’ve put all the books we’ve ever listed on one web page at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


The parade of athletes for the opening and closing ceremonies of the XXth Winter Olympic Games calls attention to the reality of how many competitors there are, how one follows another, and how no one is indispensable. In Turin, the image of this succession became vivid when 25-year-old figure skating veteran Michelle Kwan withdrew from the Games because of injuries, and was replaced by 17-year-old Emily Hughes. For each, expectations vary. Kwan’s goal and dream of winning an Olympic gold medal would have been the capstone to a successful skating career and expectations for her were high. With the award, or without it, Kwan has done well, but it came down to a gold medal or nothing finale. She avoided embarrassment and withdrew when injury precluded her from skating at her best. For Hughes, expectations were low, and any ranking on Olympic ice would be viewed as success. While most executives reluctantly acknowledge that they will be succeeded by someone else, few who take the place of a departing executive find the expectations bar lowered. The Federal Reserve’s new Chairman Ben Bernanke follows the multiple years of gold-medal performance by Alan Greenspan. Unlike Emily Hughes, Bernanke has been cut no slack. In his debut report to Congress on February 15, Bernanke established clear credentials as an inflation hawk, and the markets responded positively. When we read this description in The Washington Post, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/15/AR2006021500538.html) we thought it came from one of the NBC commentators describing a slalom run: “The market seesawed through Bernanke's first monetary policy testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. Stocks fell as he warned of more rate hikes, rose as he reassured investors about the spread between long- and short-term bond yields, then turned mixed as he expressed concern about Federal budget deficits. The major indexes crept upward after his debut ended.” Phew. And his job has just begun.


What tells you it’s time to make way for a successor? Is your career capstone ahead of or behind you? Are you prepared to succeed someone else? When you do, how quickly will you establish your reputation and meet high expectations for your performance? In what ways do you need to continue the legacy of your predecessor, and in what ways do you need to establish your individuality? 



The all-show and no-go performance of Bode Miller at the Olympics recalled the high expectations of superstar Carly Fiorina when she became CEO of Hewlett-Packard. The hype about Miller as a contender for five medals prior to the Games became huge following his media disclosures about competing while drunk in past events. Assuming he was sober during his five Olympic events, he failed at each event. (To savor just part of the Miller over-hype, be sure to visit his website at http://www.bodemillerusa.com.) Fiorina’s super-star image exceeded her actual results and she was fired after she failed to move the company forward. On February 15, when H-P reported results (http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/investor/financials/quarters/2006/q1.html) for the first full year under the leadership of her low-key successor, Mark Hurd, the story turned out to be stellar. Revenues are higher, along with margins, and the stock was the best performer of 2005 in the Dow Jones Industrials, up 37%. When it comes to executive performance, perhaps the model is for all-go, and low-key show.


Do you pay more attention to hype than to results? Are you swayed by image? When you think of your star performers, do you tend to overlook the low-key successful contributors? Are you blinded by starlight? Are you using the right criteria when scoring results? Are you self-promoting to the point of hype? Do your achievements match the hype?


Speed skater Chad Hedrick’s personal style can be found in many workplaces. While smooth talking, saying all the right things, there’s a subtext that can be damaging. He represents that person at work who talks about all of us pulling together for the team, while really expecting everyone to drop what they’re doing to help him. For those who missed the story in Turin, Hedrick competed in five events, and won three medals: gold, silver and bronze. Hedrick’s toothy grin and Texas-sized sound bytes snagged massive media attention. A feud with fellow skater Shani Davis caught particular attention. Like most athletes at the Games, Davis prepared for the best personal performance he could achieve in the events for which he was qualified and prepared. Hedrick had other expectations. He wanted Davis to join the team pursuit relay event, but Davis decided to let the team members who qualified for that event proceed while he prepared for his own best event, the 1500 meter race. Davis went on to win the gold medal in that event. It didn’t take long for some media sources to understand the subtext behind Hedrick’s expectations of Davis, which could be summarized as, “Hey, the black guy isn’t helping me win a gold medal; he’s not being a team player.” Whether racist, selfish, clueless, or genuinely betrayed, there’s clearly a history behind Hedrick’s attitude and concerns. In the workplace, executives need to link individual performance to team results. Teamwork doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is there to help each other. It often means doing the best at a single role to contribute to a shared outcome. Until those expectations are clarified, internal feuds can become huge distractions for any workplace.


How do you keep the players on your team focused on the right issues? How clearly have you communicated expectations about individual performance needed to produce team results? When cooperation is needed, what do you do to encourage that? When individual players have expectations of others, what do you do to reinforce those expectations, if appropriate, or revise those expectations to clarify priorities and roles? What are you doing to prevent the Chad Hedrick in your workplace from distracting the performance of the Shani Davis in your organization, and ensuring that each individual contributes effectively to achieve the best overall results?



Joey Cheek switched from inline skating to speedskating after watching Norwegian Johann Koss in the 1994 Olympics. Koss went on to start a humanitarian effort called Right to Play, which seeks to provide a bit of normal childhood to kids living in refugee camps. In a press conference after winning the gold medal in the 500 meter speedskating competition, Cheek announced, “I've always felt that if I ever did something big like this I wanted to be prepared to give something back. So ... I'm going to be donating the entire (Operation Gold) sum the USOC gives to me, which I think is around $25,000, I'm not sure, to the organization that Johann Olaf Koss either started or gave to in 1994. And I'm going to be asking all of the Olympic sponsors that give hundreds of millions of dollars if they will also maybe match my donation to a specific project. So, as you know, there's been some media but not a ton, especially in the U.S., in the Darfur region of Sudan.  There has been tens and tens of thousands of people killed. My government has labeled it a genocide, and so I will be donating money specifically to refugees in Chad where there are over 60,000 children who have been displaced from their homes. And hopefully, if the region ever gets stabilized, hopefully from pressure through the United Nations or from the U.S. government or from some other agency, then we can go into Sudan and start programs for refugees there. For me, the Olympics have been the greatest blessing. If I retired yesterday I would have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and from competing in the Olympics. So for me to walk away today with a gold medal is amazing. And the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to help somebody else, so I'm going to be donating my money. I'm going to try and talk to the Olympic sponsors, and if there's anyone in particular in the U.S. or Europe who's going to be reading these articles, if you'd like, check out Right To Play.” After winning a silver medal, Cheek said he’d be contributing that bonus to Right to Play as well. So far, corporate matches have totaled over $300,000.


With the results you’ve achieved, what have you done to help someone else? Are you aware of what you do to inspire others? Who has inspired you, and what have you done as a result of that inspiration? Will your best Olympian moment in 2006 be an inspiring one?



Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      The March 2005 issue of Executive Times called attention to the provocative comments of Harvard President Larry Summers that alienated segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty. He resigned on February 21, and said in a resignation letter to members of the Harvard community, (http://www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/2006/0221_summers.html), “…I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future. I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership. … I have sought for the last five years to prod and challenge the University to reach for the most ambitious goals in creative ways. There surely have been times when I could have done this in wiser or more respectful ways. My sense of urgency has stemmed from my conviction that Harvard has a special ability to make a real difference in a world desperately in need of wisdom of all kinds. As I leave the presidency, my greatest hope is that the University will build on the important elements of renewal that we have begun over the last several years. Much as I might have preferred to help, as President, to build more of the magnificent structure that will be early 21st century Harvard, I take satisfaction in having played a part in laying some of the foundations for what may come. …” There are always consequences for leaders who alienate key stakeholders. We look forward to seeing how his successor performs.

Ø      Resume lying last appeared in the April 2005 issue of Executive Times, and has been a topic covered frequently. A consistent message: tell the truth or face the consequences. Another executive faced consequences when RadioShack accepted the resignation of its CEO David J. Edmondson on February 21 days after disclosure that he claimed he had two college degrees, when in reality he had none.




An executive who always seemed to enjoy himself, in success or in failure, on something of an Olympic scale, died in February at age 83. Sir Freddie Laker changed air-travel by creating the low-cost niche in the 1970s. He broke the trans-Atlantic cartel by offering cheap flights with no frills, changing the market from one of fixed, high prices for the wealthy, to one of choices and opportunities for all. He played the role of David taking on the Goliaths of state-sponsored airlines, and winning, to the ongoing cheers of consumers. While customers flocked to his planes, the company failed, but was followed by new and successful companies who thrive in this niche. By the time his company failed, he had increased passenger volume 30%, but made enemies. Some competitors conducted a “dirty tricks” campaign against Laker, targeted at his bankers, and were later convicted and forced to pay him compensation for their misdeeds. According to the Associated Press Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson, who named one of the planes in his fleet “Spirit of Sir Freddie” in tribute, said the ebullient Laker was one of Britain's greatest entrepreneurs. “He was a larger-than-life figure, with a wicked sense of humor, and a great friend,” Branson said. Laker memorialized two catch phrases: “I'm Freddie, fly me” and “sue the bastards.”


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 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


Why Do I Love These People?

Bronson, Po


Family. The stories of the twenty families described here will resonate for many readers, from the power of enduring love to the pain of close relationships that fail.

Her Majesty’s Spymaster

Budiansky, Stephen


Partisan. Entertaining history.  Thanks to the spy networks of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I had documents showing treason by Mary Queen of Scots, and received valuable intelligence about the Spanish Armada.

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading

Corrigan, Maureen


Transported. Memoir of author’s life as a reader, by popular book reviewer from NPR’s Fresh Air. Her insight into how books have shaped and changed her will resonate with readers.

Dog Days

Cox, Ana Marie


Wonked. Debut novel with some humor by the writer of the wonkette blog, covers Washington politics and a presidential campaign, presenting characters and situations readers will care not a whit about.

Specimen Days

Cunningham, Michael


Connections. Three interconnected stories set in the past, present and future, full of beautiful, precise and elegant prose.

Are Men Necessary?

Dowd, Maureen


Relentless. Witty and sarcastic observations likely to be viewed as funny by regular readers of her syndicated column, and as irritants by those who find her tone annoying. To all, her longer form here allows relentless expression.

S is for Silence

Grafton, Sue


Slow. 19th installment in Kinsey Millhone alphabet series, set in 1987 involving a crime from 1953. Flashbacks, slow character development, and boredom will face many readers, and Millhone’s reprise and general quirkiness will please others.

Dark Harbor

Hosp, David


Overwhelmed. Debut novel set in Boston with a few fine characters, good plot momentum, some caricatures, and thrilling suspense.

What the Stones Remember

Lane, Patrick


Recovery. Chronicle of a 62 year-old Canadian poet’s first year in recovery after 45 years of drug and alcohol addiction. Vivid prose with beauty and pain on every page.

Fathers and Daughters

Markovits, Benjamin


Seasons. Four connected novellas named for the seasons, with characters seen from different points of view. Fine literary fiction full of emotional depth and the bonds of relationships.

Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember

McCain, John


Exemplary. Stories of 34 individuals whose behavior epitomizes character traits within seven core values. Inspiring for all ages.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Millard, Candice


Perilous. Gripping account of 1914 journey on an unchartered South American river that nearly killed President Theodore Roosevelt.

Rules for Old Men Waiting

Pouncey, Peter


Memories. Lyrical prose, well-crafted characters and gentle wisdom in this debut novel by president emeritus of Amherst College.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Rakoff, David


Phrasing. Irreverent wit in collection of essays, full of well-turned phrases, mostly of the skewering sort.

Talk to the Hand

Truss, Lynne


Rudeness. Author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves moves beyond punctuation and brings her British wit and acute observations to the theme of rudeness. Laugh aloud and enjoy.


ã 2006 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 executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, 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 reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

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