Executive Times

Volume 9, Issue 5

May 2007


 2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC

Note re: links---certain hyperlinks assume that you are registered as a subscriber to the site. If you are not a subscriber to certain sites, the links will fail. If you register, the links should work. Also, certain hyperlinks expire and may not be available when you try to go to the site.


At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin is reported to have said to those assembled, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The best executives do everything possible to help hang together when they lead people for some purpose and provide the resources to produce some desired result. In this issue, we describe the challenges in a networked world for executives to improve personal networks, to inspire customers, to organize people effectively, to ensure employee safety, and to make the right connections to generate desired performance results. As you think about the stories in this issue, consider the quality of your networks, and think about how you can best help everything and everyone hang together.


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. One book received our top rating. The Gallup Organization has updated the popular book, First, Break All the Rules with a data-rich sequel titled, 12: The Elements of Great Managing. A mystery title received a four-star rating; twelve books are recommended with three-star ratings, and one book is mildly recommended with a two-star rating. Visit our 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 354 books read or those being considered this year, including 42 that were added to the list in April. 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. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


Many executives desire to maintain control of everything possible, but some things are better not to control. The cover story (http://www.forbes.com/2007/04/18/breakthroughs-community-technology-tech-cz_tp_07networks_0419networks_land.html) in the May 7 issue of Forbes focuses on networks. Inside there are twenty eight essays on various aspects of this topic. The essay by Seth Godin talks about companies delivering messages to customers in a networked world. Godin opines, “The biggest mistake marketers make when they see the power of the consumer network is that they try to control it, own it or manipulate it. This always fails because the network doesn’t care about you and can’t be bought. The smartest marketers aim to inspire, not to control. When Microsoft tried to promote its new Vista operating system, it sent laptops to influential bloggers. They were trying to control the conversation by seeding their version of the story with powerful voices online. It didn’t work. Instead, it provoked a firestorm, with some claiming that Microsoft was trying to bribe bloggers. So, if you can’t buy or bully your way into the network, what should you do? Make something worth discussing, something people actually want to talk about. … The network hates to be controlled. The harder you fight to dominate it, the harder it will fight back. … The world is changing, and it’s natural to revert to what you know. But that doesn’t mean it's going to work. Great companies don’t push, they lead.” Some executives have to rethink the importance of control.


Are your customers likely to recommend your products and services to others? What are they likely to say to their peers about your organization? Do your offerings inspire customers? Are you wasting money trying to push something that your customers don’t want or value? Are you wasting energy trying to control the uncontrollable?


When executives want to achieve change, what follows is usually a reorganization. We read in a McKinsey Quarterly web exclusive article titled, “The Role of Networks in Organizational Change,” (http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1989&L2=18) that “…reorganizations, like rites of spring, come and go with surprising regularity, often without significantly boosting organizational effectiveness. A key part of the problem is that the boxes and lines of formal organizational charts mask myriad relationships in networks that crisscross the borders of functions, hierarchies, and business units. These networks define the way work actually gets done in today’s increasingly collaborative, knowledge-intensive companies. Little wonder that total-quality-management projects and the reengineering of business processes—to take just two examples of organizational-change efforts that largely ignore these essential but invisible networks—fail at least two-thirds of the time. In our experience, companies that invest time and energy to understand their networks and collaborative relationships greatly improve their chances of making successful organizational changes. Sophisticated approaches can map networks and identify the key points of connectivity where value is created or destroyed. A network approach can help companies to make change stick by working through influential employees, to focus on points in the network where relationships should be expanded or reduced, and to measure the effectiveness of major initiatives.” Read the rest of the article for good advice on how to take the steps that are more likely to lead to successful change.


How well do you understand the collaborative relationships that help work get done in your organization? Are you aware of the key points of connectivity? Do you know who the influential employees are, and are you working to expand the right relationships at work? Will your next reorganization be more effective than the last one?



Many people spend more time with fellow workers than with anyone else. That connection and closeness can be nurturing or disturbing. Following the violent deaths at Virginia Tech, The Wall Street Journal titled Carol Hymowitz “In the Lead” column, “Bosses Have to Learn How to Confront Troubled Employees” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117728763130878499.html), and presents what some companies are doing to deal with this issue. Pitney Bowes … has a help line that employees can call anonymously if they're concerned that a colleague is exhibiting erratic or angry behavior, or has a problem such as substance abuse or depression. ‘We felt, on balance, it’s better for employees to know they can call with concerns instead of sitting at their desks scared to death,’ says Michele Coleman Mayes, senior vice president and general counsel. Human-resource executives discreetly investigate the complaints. … Executives should be aware that ‘violence rarely begins with someone walking in and shooting others,’ says Roger Brunswick, a psychiatrist and president of management consultant Hayes Brunswick in New York. ‘Violence usually builds slowly and starts with bullying, intimidation and threats.’ If the employee is very distressed or potentially violent, a manager encourages counseling with a mental-health professional, and may suggest a transfer or a leave of absence or, as a last resort, may dismiss him or her. ‘We have to ask, “What's in the best interests of all our employees?” because we're responsible for everyone's overall safety,’ says Ms. Mayes. … Good managers must be acute observers and empathetic listeners. When they sense an employee is distressed, they don’t ignore him or her. ‘They understand that people are messy, and when someone is in fight-or-flight mode, they talk to them, push them to get help and don’t let them remain isolated,’ says James Harter, chief scientist of the Gallup Organization's international-management practice. At Pegasystems, top executives take time at each of their quarterly meetings to ask one another whether they've observed any employees whose behavior has suddenly changed or who are ‘going through a tough life situation,’ says Ms. Procaccini. ‘If you're concerned about people’s physical safety and emotional well-being, that concern can’t be an afterthought, it has to be at the front of your mind.’” Finding the right way to care for all employees may be a challenge for many executives and organizations.


What steps do you take to confront troubled employees? Are you more likely to avoid confrontation? What ways are appropriate to express your care, and what ways are out of bounds?



After an executive has recognized that connections matter, it’s important to understand which connections matter most. A recent report from Deloitte Research titled, “It’s 2008: Do You Know Where Your Talent Is? Connecting People to What Matters,” describes this in detail. (http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/cda/doc/content/us_consulting_hc_connect_talentmgmt%282%29.pdf) According to Deloitte, “Three kinds of connections matter most when it comes to performance: connecting people to people in ways that promote personal and professional growth, connecting people to a sense of purpose, and connecting people to the resources they need to do great work. Connecting people to people is about building and sustaining intentional networks of high-quality relationships. People achieve a sense of purpose in their jobs when four conditions are present. First, they must find their work internally motivating. Second, people find meaning when they belong to a community that reflects their identity and core values. The third condition that matters is cultivating a sense of pride in the organization and its mission. Fourth, people connect to a sense of purpose when they clearly understand their organization’s strategic direction and how their efforts contribute to it. By connecting people to resources, we mean enabling them to manage knowledge, technology, time, and physical space in ways that improve their performance and allow them to adapt to change.” (Multiple ellipses omitted.) This publication can be helpful as you examine the effectiveness of your organization. 


Are you paying attention to the connections that matter most when it comes to the performance of your organization? How well are people in your organization connected to each other, to a common purpose and to the necessary resources to perform? How quickly do you find out when connections are missing or ineffective? 



Personal networks help executives get things done, and the best executives are usually the best connected. Liz Ryan notes in Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/mar2007/ca20070326_012522.htm) that these individuals are called “connectors” and, “Connectors thrive because they actively seek to move the value of their networks from one contact to another. They know—they trust—that this interaction will benefit them, too. Their networking isn’t a matter of ‘help me, right now,’ but rather of finding common elements among the people they've known for years and the new people they’re meeting. … Everybody knows them, and everybody trusts and appreciates them. What more could a working person ask for? Even the most gun-shy corporate person can and should establish one solid new business relationship per month. If you're not doing that, ask yourself: Is my network a professional asset to me?”


So, is your network a professional asset to you? Are you a connector? Are you well-known and well-trusted? Are you increasing your network connections each month?



Here’s an update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      Those readers who still enjoy the occasional Enron story will appreciate the fine page one article in the April 25 issue of The Wall Street Journal by John Emshwiller that gives an inside story about former treasurer Ben Gilson’s life behind bars over the past three years. You can find the article at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117709990014377244.html.

Ø      In the January 2006 issue of Executive Times we called attention to an article that explored the differences between former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg and his successor Martin Sullivan. In a recent interview (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117547406921156382.html) with The Wall Street Journal, Sullivan commented, “I worked with Mr. Greenberg for 35 years, and clearly during that period of time he could see that we had different management styles. But nonetheless I had a very successful career. There’s different ways of getting the best out of people. There are people you have to put your arm around and cajole to get better out of them. And there are others you seriously have to kick. I have an open style of management. I will tell you that people realize when I’m not pleased, though. And that’s where it has effect because it’s rare.”



Some executives thrive on restlessness, while others stick to one thing that they do better than anyone else. A paradigm of the restless mode was Warren E. Avis, who founded the car rental company in 1946. One story says that he didn’t like having to wait for taxis when he flew in and out of cities, and came up with the idea of renting cars at airports from his personal restlessness. Avis sold the company in 1954. In a 1985 interview with The New York Times, Avis said, “What’s the purpose of getting up in the morning unless there's excitement?” Avis found his excitement in all sorts of ways. We read in that 1985 interview that. “Chatting with a visitor, he must pardon himself seemingly every few minutes. The phone beckons. It seems like 20 or 30 business proposals is a light day for him. ‘That was the vice chairman of this transportation company,’ he says after one call. ‘I like the guy. And, you know what? I just might end up buying his company. I just might.’ … He is chronically antsy. He bought four hotels, then sold them. ‘Hotels were too slow,’ he says. ‘Changing sheets didn't excite me.’ One year, his lawyer phoned him in Europe about investing in a bank in Warren, Mich. All right, Mr. Avis said. Buy it. He got back from vacation the owner of a bank. He installed himself as its chairman and showed up for his first directors meeting. ‘I walked out in the middle of the meeting and told my people to sell it,’ he says. ‘I was totally bored to death. I didn't want to sit there and listen to a lot of loans being approved. Boring!’ … ‘My interest was in changing the world,’ he says, ‘and I found out it was a bigger and more expensive job than I thought it would be. I found out that Caesar, Hitler, Alexander tried to make changes in the world and it’s a long, difficult procedure. You almost have to totally dedicate your life to do it. I don’t want to dedicate my life to anything. I want to taste everything. I want the vacations. I want the play.’” Warren Avis died in late April at age 92. We read in one obituary that “Mr. Avis was fit and active until shortly before his death, even water skiing until the age of 89.”


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 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


Christine Falls

Black, Benjamin


Quirke. Under a pseudonym, John Banville debuts in the mystery genre with a novel replete with complex characters, well-paced plot, lyrical prose, and realistic dialogue. Perhaps a series featuring protagonist Quirke, a pathologist. 


Buckley, Christopher


Swift. Funny and biting satire of generational conflict with a modest proposal to solve the social security problem by offering baby boomers tax breaks and perks for voluntary suicide at a certain age.


Cannadine, David


Pictures. Comprehensive and well written biography of this successful banker and business executive, Treasury Secretary, art collector and philanthropist.


Clarke, Richard A.


Predictive. Former anti-terror pro blends fact and fiction to predict ways in which networks and communication can be disrupted (BlackBerry outage, only longer). Set in 2012.


Clinch, Jon


Pap. Debut novel fleshes out Huck’s dad, Pap, with vivid and gruesome description of this dark character and his life.

Paula Spencer

Doyle, Roddy


Addictive. Reprised character is now a recovering alcoholic, trying hard to improve her relationship with the grown children who grew up while she was drunk.

Then We Came to the End

Ferris, Joshua


Cohort. Promising debut novel set at an ad agency at a time of layoffs, replete with familiar characters, funny episodes, and serious issues.

The Edge of Disaster

Flynn, Stephen


Scenarios. Homeland security expert presents plausible scenarios of our vulnerability to various disasters and offers practical recommendations for changes we can make to reduce our risks.

Past Perfect

Isaacs, Susan


Justice. Novel provides entertaining and light reading with a protagonist obsessed with unraveling a mystery that haunts her: why was she fired from the CIA more than a dozen years ago?


Larson, Erik


Detailed. Travel to the early 20th century with Larson as he intertwines with rich details the story of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless communication, alongside the exploits of Dr. H.H. Crippen, a notorious English murderer.

The Starbucks Experience

Michelli, Joseph


Espresso. Consultant studied Starbucks’ success and derives and illustrates five principles that led to that success. Interesting stories of people at work.

The Light of Evening

O’Brien, Edna


Contrasts. Lyrical writing with multiple narrators and letters presents the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, the losses and loves of their lives, and the loneliness that comes from estrangement.

The No Asshole Rule

Sutton, Robert I.


Intolerance. Life’s too short to work with jerks: fire them or go someplace else. Keep one around as the ongoing example of behavior not to emulate.

The Power of a Positive No

Ury, William


Useful. Seasoned negotiator, one of the authors of the classic Getting To Yes shares stories about a process that improves outcomes.

12: The Elements of Great Managing

Wagner, Rodd and James K. Harter


Tangible. The Gallup Organization folks are back with ten times the data supporting the 12 elements that their research shows make the most difference when it comes to managerial success. Read it now. 


2007 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. 

To subscribe to Executive Times, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html and we’ll bill you later.  Consider giving clients or friends Executive Times as a gift. Gift subscriptions to the web version include an e-mail notification of the gift.  Print version gift subscriptions can also include “Compliments of (giver)” with your corporate logo on each copy. 

About Hopkins & Company

In addition to publishing Executive Times, Hopkins & Company engages in a variety of other activities focused on helping executives succeed, including:

Ø      Coaching: helping individuals or teams find ways to do more of what works for them, and ways to avoid what's ineffective

Ø      Consulting: helping executives solve business problems, especially in the areas of strategy, service to market, performance and relationship management

Ø      Communications: helping executives improve their written and oral messages

To engage the services of Hopkins & Company, call Steve Hopkins at 708-466-4650 or visit www.hopkinsandcompany.com.