Executive Times

Volume 5, Issue 6

June, 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Oil Change and Valve Job

Leaders choose when to oil the wheels of change, and when to clear out the clogged valves that impede the effectiveness of an organization. Sometimes these processes occur periodically; at other times executives make sure their methods for organizational renewal and clarity remain ongoing. The simplest questions should have clear answers. Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we value? How does someone know that he or she is doing a good job? How are we different from other organizations? Whom do we serve? We’ve chosen an eclectic mix of stories from the news in recent weeks to stimulate your thinking about this topic, including stories about the impact of a liar on a company’s reputation; dealing with sexism at work; the makings of a good boss; 10 make or break questions to see if your organization is up to speed; and the value of stepping away for a while.


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5, including two four-star (Highly Recommended) ratings for books by award-winning novelists that would be perfect for your summer vacation reading. For the first time, a father and son have book reviews in the same issue. Also, we finally read a Deepak Chopra book and awarded it our DNR rating (Do Not Read). 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 reviews.

Star Scam
To whatever extent you’re skeptical that the actions of an individual employee can damage the reputation of an organization, just reflect on the hundreds of stories in recent weeks about the impact of former reporter Jayson Blair on the reputation of The New York Times. Granted that all media outlets pounced on the woes at The Times following the revelation that Blair had fabricated stories, and that may have compounded perceptions of a damaged reputation. Nonetheless, executives at The Times found themselves in the uncomfortable situation of admitting lapses in effective management. Here are a few of the nuggets we gleaned from the coverage of this story. “Leaders choose not to sweat the small stuff because they've been so successful for so long, they disregard warnings that would trouble a less confident group. The willingness to challenge the status quo and confront dominant but dangerous assumptions are the hallmarks of thriving companies. When these qualities are absent, even smart executives fail.” (From The Wall Street Journal, May 20, the Manager’s Journal column) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105339346632871500,00.html). Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Howell Raines made statements and took questions at a town-hall style meeting of the newsroom staff. “’I'm here to listen to your anger, wherever it's directed,’ Mr. Raines said at the outset of the closed meeting, according to a recording made by someone in the audience, ‘to tell you that I know that our institution has been damaged, that I accept my responsibility for that and I intend to fix it.’ He said later, ‘I was guilty of a failure of vigilance that, since I sit in this chair where the buck stops, I should have prevented.’ But Mr. Raines made clear that he viewed the session as something more: a forum on his 20-month tenure as the newsroom's leader. During this period the paper has won eight Pulitzer Prizes — six for its coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — but it has also been a time of dissension. A growing number of employees have expressed deepening concern about what is viewed as a top-down management style that, they say, could have contributed to Mr. Blair's ability to do what he did undetected for so long. ‘You view me as inaccessible and arrogant,’ Mr. Raines said, ticking off a list he had compiled from his own newsroom interviews in recent days. ‘You believe the newsroom is too hierarchical, that my ideas get acted on and others get ignored. I heard that you were convinced there's a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation. Fear,’ he added, ‘is a problem to such extent, I was told, that editors are scared to bring me bad news.’ (The New York Times, May 15) (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/15/business/media/15PAPE.html). We read in Business Week (May 23) (http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2003/nf20030523_2615_db042.htm), “Little can be done to keep yet another ingratiating fact-manufacturer like Blair from sliming his way into a newsroom. That's because it has been proven time and again that legitimate, law-abiding institutions are woefully unprepared when it comes to preventing infiltrations by scam artists -- particularly those, like Blair, who seem to be doing it for kicks.” Holman Jenkins commented in The Wall Street Journal (May 21) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105347573017687600,00.html), “the controversy is about something that we've long needed a controversy about: racial neuroticism. … Why couldn't the Times tell it had a con man in its midst? Had the paper's nearly gothic hang-up about race affected not just news judgment but personnel policy?”

How sure are you that those you manage are doing their jobs as you want those jobs done? How prepared are you and your organization for being infiltrated by scam artists? Can Raines fix the damage to The Times? Could you, if something similar happened to your organization? What do you do that can create the perception that you don’t want to hear bad news? What early-warning system do you use to identify potential problems? How do you know whether or not you’re perceived as being accessible? How do you know if employees think you play favorites? If you’re the status quo, how willing are you to change?

Rabbit or Turtle?
Executives set the pace for the organizations we lead, and we bring all our biases with us as we communicate expectations. Sometimes, we prefer slow, steady progress; other times, change never takes place fast enough. Those we lead tell us they want us to move faster or slower. Rarely do we hear that the pace we set meets with universal approval. Fast Company magazine sets its bias through its name, preferring the speed version over any other. In the latest issue (June 2003) (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/71/uptospeed.html), there are 10 make or break questions to see if your organization is up to speed, the Fast Company way:

1.       Do you have an emotional bond with your customers?

2.       Does your strategy stand out from the crowd?

3.       Are you a fun place to work -- and a fun organization to do business with?

4.       Are you built to change?

5.       Do you embrace the value of values?

6.       Are you as disciplined as you are creative?

7.       Are you winning the battle for talent?

8.       Do you use technology to change expectations and reshape your business?

9.       Are you built for speed?

10.   Have you built a company of leaders?

Read the article to find out what the editors mean by these questions. See if the companies on their list are ones you want to emulate.


Does your organization need to move faster or slower to accomplish its current strategic objectives? Can these ten questions be the right ones for you to answer and improve your company? If not, what do you ask yourself to determine if your pace matches the optimal way to lead your organization? What do you do to speed up or slow down your organization?


Tinkle Tinkle
Sexism continues to create barriers for women entering the top levels of companies, at least according to Gene Epstein, in a Barron’s cover story (May 26) (http://online.wsj.com/barrons/article/0,,SB105372931761686700,00.html). “Women last year accounted for one out of 13 clout positions -- executive vice president or higher -- in the 500 largest U.S. companies, up from one in 40 as recently as 1995. Back then, only one of those companies had a female chief executive officer; today, seven do. It's no longer a question of whether women will be running a substantial share of corporate America, but when. Barron's estimates that one in seven powerful posts will be held by women by 2010, based on evidence that the trend is getting only stronger. By 2020, it could be one in five. As all that unfolds, a chorus of experts say, corporate culture will change for the better, becoming more collaborative and less competitive, more inclusive and less elitist, and more flexible in the way the work environment is run. And, they add, the workplace will become more productive in the bargain. But there are still plenty of challenges. Sexism at the top remains strong, many executives and observers say. And some who break through may decide that the heady challenges of working at the top are not worth the sacrifice of friendships and family life that the jobs normally require. For that reason and others, the ratio of women in jobs with corporate clout may eventually level off at one in three rather than reaching the demographically equal one in two.”

How much glass remains at the ceiling of your organization? Why? How do you gauge the rate of progress for women within your organization? When women in your organization state their positions clearly, do some view the statements as pushy or arrogant? Do you accept certain behavior in men as positive, that you view from women as negative?


The Good Boss
One element of oiling the wheels of change can involve an assessment of personal changes to improve effectiveness. For bosses, that assessment can be hard to achieve. One way to find out the characteristics of a good boss is to ask employees. That’s what The Washington Post’s Amy Joyce did, and what she heard appeared in the May 25 issue (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33348-2003May23.html). Here are the characteristics or qualities that employees want to see in their bosses: be honest; treat people as individuals; communicate clearly; treat people with respect; be consistent; and admit it when you make a mistake. Once you know what those who report to you are looking for, then you can decide how to become that boss for them. We read more advice in Fortune (June 9) (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/articles/0,15114,450760,00.html) from Al Gini, suggested that even workaholics benefit from vacations. “…to do something well, you have to step away and not do it for a while.” This vacation, try practicing the “not doing” part.

How do you measure up to these criteria for being a good boss? How do your bosses measure up? How does your organization support these qualities? How do you find out if these characteristics hold true for your organization? When you step away, do you not work, or do you never really get away?



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


Ø      Readers of Executive Times since the first issue in April 1999 may remember the lead story in that issue was about the difficult decision leaders face, especially when following someone who did a good job before them. You may be interested in reading the first article that points toward Jeff Immelt of GE erasing the shadow of Jack Welch: Business Week, May 9, “GE Investors saying, ‘Jack Who?’” (http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2003/nf2003059_0620_db014.htm).

Ø      We were ready to update readers about voting rights and the Mall Wars between Taubman Centers, Inc and Simon Property Group, as noted in the March 2003 issue of Executive Times. We planned to report that a federal court ruled that the Taubman family could not vote their shares, and it looked like the shareholder vote to sell the company would be upheld. Instead, we report that legislation has been proposed in Michigan to block the Simon offer.



A New Form of Management
The profitable business of sports marketing was created by Mark McCormack, who died in mid-May. Starting with one client, Arnold Palmer, and a handshake, McCormack built a global management business representing golfers, tennis players, classical singers, even the Pope. A decade ago, Business Age said that “McCormack invented the sports business. It was he who first realized that, within the golden triangle of sport, sponsorship and television, lay vast wealth, just waiting to be tapped.” And tapped it was. If you think athletes are paid too much, you can thank McCormack for that. If you’re able to see whatever sport you want, when you want it, you can thank him as well.


The organization McCormack founded, and of which he was sole owner, IMG (formerly International Management Group), typically receives 20% of endorsement money, 10% of prize money and 3% of salary from its clients for its services. With a vested interest in the level of compensation, IMG drove up pay levels throughout the sports world. Sports Illustrated called McCormack the “most powerful man in sports.” Here’s what McCormack said about his legacy:


“As I reflect back on my own career, I feel honored to have participated and been a part of the explosive growth of sports on the global stage. While I remain indebted to the individual clients with whom we have worked to create the sports marketing industry, I also feel quite proud of IMG's contributions to the global growth of sports. All of us at IMG are proud of what we have given back to sports and individual athletes as we have worked collectively to bring the excitement and passion we all feel about our heroes and teams to more people in each part of the world. We are confident our efforts are challenging the next generation of superstars to raise their performance to new levels. IMG will be there to help them in their quests.”

Three of McCormack’s children work for IMG. Athletes around the world can thank IMG for improving their quality of life, and their ability to compete on the world stage. Business leaders can read McCormack’s many books to learn some personal lessons about having a vision, and carrying it through to fruition.


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 2003 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


Oryx and Crake

Atwood, Margaret

Tomorrow. Finely-crafted novel of what our world could become as we experience the missteps of genetic experiments, corporate imperialism, the values of games and media, and the ability of one person to make all the difference.

What Should I Do With My Life?

Bronson, Po

Glimmers. Bronson’s wandering the country to find out how others have answered this question provide glimmers of self-knowledge for readers, glimmers of newly discovered talents. Savor this slowly and listen for the glimmers that may change your life.

Washington Schlepped Here: Walking in the Nation’s Capital

Buckley, Christopher

The Two Schlep. Informative, historically accurate, walking tours of Washington, DC, peppered with a humorist’s élan and a fan’s enthusiasm. Read our disclosures in the full review before you accept our rating.

Getting It Right

Buckley, Jr., William F.

Origins. The roots of the modern conservative movement can be found in the John Birch Society and among the followers of Ayn Rand. Buckley uses the genre of historical fiction to tell readers what he thinks happened at the creation. The portrayal of Alan Greenspan, who was a Randian, is a gem.

Golf for Enlightenment: The Seven Lessons for the Game of Life

Chopra, Deepak


Lights Out. Our first exposure to a Chopra book left us wondering what others find good about his writing. Take a pass, or just play through.

Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly

White Hats. A respite from the business scandal books. From interviews with executives who’ve done a good job, we learn how business can be done well, and the hurdles that need to be overcome.

Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush

Dubose, Lou

Turd Blossom. Largely self-taught, Rove lives and breathes politics, and has been right more than wrong in the advice he’s given. Read this book and find out more about his nicknames and talents.

Second Spring

Greeley, Andrew M.

O’Malley’s Return. Greeley reprises the crazy O’Malleys and sends them to Rome in 1978 for two papal conclaves. Relaxing, predictable, and entertaining with clean and wholesome intimate relationships.

Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

Kagan, Robert

John Wayne and Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys. Useful primer on the basis of the current relationship between the U.S. and Europe. Made us want to learn more.

The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes

Kummer, Corby

Triple Treat. Atlantic columnist presents comprehensive introduction to the global slow food movement, captivating photography, and a stewpot of recipes.

The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea

Micklethwait, John

Company Brief. Breezy explanation and history of where companies came from and the consequent benefits to society of this revolutionary structure. Great respite from corporate scandal stories.

That Old Ace in the Hole

Proulx, Annie

Annie Got Her Gun. No more obtuse prose from Proulx. Funny, satiric, absorbing story. Anti-big business, coming of age, community values.

My Anecdotal Life

Reiner, Carl

Yuks. Funny and poignant stories from Reiner’s life make readers feel like we’re sitting across the dinner table listening to him relate anecdotes that lead us to laughing or crying with him.

Good Faith

Smiley, Jane

Real Estate. Smiley immerses readers into the real estate boom of the 1980s and the S&L debacle through a tale of the faith we place in others and where than can lead us.

Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron

Swartz, Mimi and Sherron Watkins

Living Large. Hubris, office politics, chaos, greed. At some point, we’ll tire of the Enron rehashing, but Watkins’ involvement in this one caught our attention, and lead to pleasure in reading the horrid tale.


ã 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 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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