Executive Times

Volume 7, Issue 6

June, 2005


ă 2005 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.


One consequence of the imperial CEO model for management is that action is deferred on many issues until the CEO as a modern Oracle of Delphi weighs in. This wise and all-knowing CEO leads an organization paralyzed from acting without specific direction. The best executives delegate effectively, and do more asking than telling. The “better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” school of management succeeds when an effective executive sees an action that needs to be taken and acts. That judgment is then affirmed or denied if it ever makes the light of day. Often, leadership comes from those who do not have the role or position of leadership, but see an opportunity to help the leaders succeed. We’ve selected a few examples of initiative and the need for it in this issue for your reflection. As you think about what others have or have not done recently, think about your own behavior in your organization. What have you done lately to help others lead? How do you shore up others’ weaknesses? To whom do you look for help in leading where you have shortcomings?


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; and five are mildly recommended with two star ratings. Visit our 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. Forty one new books were added to the “shelf of possibility” during May, leading us to fall further behind in our triage effort to select the 15 books we read and review each month. For your summer reading, there’s plenty to choose from, but 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 books@hopkinsandcompany.com.


The notion of leadership in the United States Senate may not seem connected to the leadership of most organizations, but in many respects, similarities exist. The Senate leaders are elected by peers who don’t always follow the direction set by leaders. Knowledge workers report to executives, but often act in their areas of expertise without any interest in the perspective of their bosses. After weeks of posturing by Senate leaders over the filibuster of judicial nominees and the so-called nuclear option in changing Senate rules, fourteen Senators, seven Democrats and seven Republicans, got together on their own on May 23 and hammered out a compromise. Breaking with their leaders, this gang of fourteen gave their leaders an escape from the boxed corners they had created for themselves and their parties. Thanks to the initiative of these fourteen peers, the leaders could take cover from their majority caucuses which didn’t want them to back down, and still be able to take credit for moving the issue forward. In other corporate and organizational settings, executives can become stuck, and need help in getting out of a difficult situation. Bystanders will watch and opine. Leaders will step in and act. The fourteen Senators were leaders.

In your organization, are you more likely to be a bystander or a leader? Would you be willing to bail your leader out of a sticky situation, or are you more likely to sit back and see what happens? On whom do you rely to bail you out of situations where you can’t back down? How do you know when to take initiative? How do you encourage others to take initiative?


We read a profile in the May 30 issue of Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_22/b3935105.htm) about an executive who needs others to bail him out from being the one person on whom all others depend because it’s clear he’s not likely to take that action on his own. Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael S. Jeffries has led the organization since 1992, posting profit gains for the past 48 quarters, facing down complaints about racy ads, settling racial discrimination lawsuits, and current corporate governance criticisms. “It's not just questions of corporate governance that have some concerned, though. ‘Abercrombie's biggest weakness is that it is all about Mike,’ says A.G. Edwards & Sons analyst Robert Buchanan.” During his career, his success has been because of what he’s done or not done. He learned retailing at the old Abraham and Strauss subsidiary of Federated under Chairman Alan Gilman and with current J. Crew executive Millard Drexler and others. According to Business Week, Drexler remembered, “He worked twice as much as any of us.” Gilman recalled, “Jeffries was so in control that he failed to develop his staff. ‘A gifted guy who does it himself is different from a gifted guy who helps people help him do it.’” For the A&F racy ads, photographer Bruce Weber “says Jeffries interviews everyone used in his shots.” “To this day, there's no detail that he doesn't approve, from all merchandise at A&F and the three other labels he has developed to how clothes are folded on store tables.” Will executives at A&F take the initiative to pull Jeffries out of these details? How do the other gifted workers at A&F feel about his involvement at such a low level of detail? After so much time doing what he’s been doing as CEO, can Jeffries change and let someone else decide how the clothes are folded? Stay tuned.


Is it time for you to stop doing some of the things you did to succeed in the past? Can you rely on others to make decisions on some details? Are you willing to give a gift to someone in your organization who isn’t letting others help him or her by helping them delegate effectively? How do you control without micromanaging? How do you engage your talented workers in getting things done? How do you help someone in a transition from a doer to a delegator?



Life at work can become frustrating for those individuals who feel pigeonholed into a specific role, when they want to stretch their wings and take on new experiences. A recent ‘In the Lead” column in The Wall Street Journal (5/24) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111688945561441129,00.html) called attention to this problem. “Executives talk a blue streak about the importance of developing talent. But many quickly form rigid opinions of staffers, and then resist changing those views despite evidence that employees have matured, become more seasoned or possess talents that weren't apparent when they were first hired. … Those who resign themselves to being pigeonholed by the boss end up contributing at a fraction of their potential. … Pigeonholing persists in part because it is efficient, at least in the short term. Top executives depend on certain tasks getting done, day in and day out. The easiest way to accomplish that is to assign employees to jobs and functions in which they have experience. But rigid typecasting also discourages initiative and innovation, not only among lower-level employees but also among middle managers.”


Before your talent flies to competitors for the challenges they want, are you willing to take a chance on someone with desire? What actions can you take to overcome ways in which you’ve been pigeonholed within your organization? What steps can you take in the next few months to expand your experience? How can you communicate effectively your interest in broadening your expertise? What do you do to ascertain the aspirations of those who report to you, and how do you find ways to help them fulfill their dreams?


The header of an article in the May issue of Fast Company caught our attention: “Change or Die.” (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/94/open_change-or-die.html). Phrased that way, if you think most of us would choose to change, you’d be wrong. According to the article, the odds are nine to one against you changing. At IBM’s Global Innovation Conference, farsighted thinkers looked at health care and concluded “that the root cause of the health crisis hasn't changed for decades, and the medical establishment still couldn't figure out what to do about it. Dr. Raphael "Ray" Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, an annual summit meeting of leaders from every constituency in the health system, told the audience, ‘A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral.’ That is, they're sick because of how they choose to live their lives, not because of environmental or genetic factors beyond their control. Continued Levey: ‘Even as far back as when I was in medical school’ – he enrolled at Harvard in 1955 – ‘many articles demonstrated that 80% of the health-care budget was consumed by five behavioral issues.’ Levey didn't bother to name them, but you don't need an MD to guess what he was talking about: too much smoking, drinking, eating, and stress, and not enough exercise.” The article goes on to describe how the same situation applies to organizations. According to Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, “‘The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.’ Those people may be called upon to respond to profound upheavals in marketplace dynamics - the rise of a new global competitor, say, or a shift from a regulated to a deregulated environment - or to a corporate reorganization, merger, or entry into a new business. And as individuals, we may want to change our own styles of work - how we mentor subordinates, for example, or how we react to criticism. Yet more often than not, we can't. CEOs are supposedly the prime change agents for their companies, but they're often as resistant to change as anyone - and as prone to backsliding. … Kotter has hit on a crucial insight. ‘Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people's feelings,’ he says. ‘This is true even in organizations that are very focused on analysis and quantitative measurement, even among people who think of themselves as smart in an MBA sense. In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.’ Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, in Sausalito, California, …like Kotter, realizes the importance of going beyond the facts. ‘Providing health information is important but not always sufficient,’ he says. ‘We also need to bring in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions that are so often ignored.’” Fear of death may not have been enough of a reason to choose to change, but getting a new vision of the joy of living led to prolonged lifestyle changes. Perhaps at work, setting a new and positive vision will lead to transformational change. One way or another “Mastering the ability to change isn't just a crucial strategy for business. It's a necessity for health. And it's possibly the one thing that's most worth learning.” Take the initiative this month to improve your ability to change.


How resistant are you to change? To what extent have you mastered the ability to change? How can you help those who report to you choose to change? Is your organization better prepared to die than to change? Are you?



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

Ř      Within days after the release of the May 2005 issue of Executive Times, an astute reader informed us that we failed to buy a terminal vowel when we commented that former Ford CEO Alex Trotman chose to live in Ann Arbor instead of the town where other auto executives live outside Detroit. The correct name of that town is Grosse Pointe, as we confirmed when we checked the town newspaper online at http://www.grossepointenews.com/ and learned that the town has spent $5,000 on a public relations firm to promote itself. In our opinion, that’s happened not a minute too soon, but one issue later than we wished. We apologize for our error.

Ř      We stated in the May 2005 issue of Executive Times that the Senate vote on the nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN wasn’t held yet, and that vote remains unscheduled as of this issue. In the meantime, we enjoyed these comments from Stanley Bing in the May 30 issue (http://www.fortune.com/fortune/bing/0,15704,1061927,00.html) of Fortune: “One thing I never thought I would see, however, now seems to be transpiring in our nation’s capital: a senior executive of our empire is currently being hoist by his own petard. John Bolton, President Bush’s choice to be our ambassador to the United Nations, is being called to account not for financial malfeasance, sexual indiscretion, or any other wacky behavior we’ve come to expect from narcissistic, type-A senior executives of multinational hegemonies. No, Mr. Bolton is being called to account for being a lousy boss. And that, friends, is unprecedented in my experience, and possibly reason for a delicate puff of hope. Is it possible that this might be the leading edge of a trend? That there will be accountability for management style in the evaluation of an executive’s suitability for future office? Ha! I’m going to start looking for a squadron of pigs sailing over my head on their way from J.F.K. to LAX. … We’re all blunt! What’s the problem? But we all know that there is a problem. These guys who are never wrong, who yell, who punish, who manage through fear, they’re not really great stewards of the corporation, are they?”



At the May 18 annual meeting of Intel, Andy Grove stepped down as Chairman of the Board and became Senior Advisor, another transition in his career with the company that began in 1968, and included outstanding leadership as CEO from 1987 to 1998. Thanks to Intel, Andy Grove, and his colleagues, the world has changed in the computer revolution because of a progression of faster and cheaper chips leading to enhanced computing power. In his final message in the latest annual report, Grove said, “I am asked sometimes what I would like to be remembered for. My answer is always the same. I would like to be remembered for helping to build an organization that sustains itself long after my tenure. Ultimately, that is what succession planning is about.” At Intel, Andy was a product of good succession work through diverse work assignments and focused attention to areas in which he needed to improve to succeed at the next level. He continued that approach in helping the Board choose his successors, as both CEO and then as Chairman. When Grove shifted from CEO to Chairman, he embraced the challenges of corporate governance as the scientist he is: discovery through experimentation and attention to what works and what fails. Grove’s lifetime accomplishments are legion and he’s written books to pass along his wisdom and his personal story (see our review of Swimming Across). His clear thinking resonates throughout. One speech at a 2000 Harvard conference on the Internet and society contained this blunt advice: “For governments, do no harm, first and foremost. Individuals, embrace that which confounds you most. And for businesses, do more and talk less.” Grove has done a lot, and the organization he helped to build is poised to continue doing more, thanks to his wise and effective stewardship.


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).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


The Year of Pleasures

Berg, Elizabeth

Grief. Lyrical novel in which newly widowed protagonist leaves Boston for small Illinois town and searches for new life and old friends. Reading dialogue is like eavesdropping on conversations among friends.


Buarque, Chico

Offbeat. Creative romance novel by Brazilian musician, describing how a ghostwriter becomes sidetracked to Budapest and falls in love with all things Hungarian, including a woman.

Fried Chicken: An American Story

Edge, John T.

Legs. Both foodies and travelers will enjoy the chapters of the first book in a planned series on iconic American food. Edge travels the USA and finds the best chicken, and provides recipes along with some great stories of people and places.


Fellowes, Julian

Kind. Debut novel by academy award winner for Gosford Park screenplay. Witty and biting observations of life in contemporary England where there are snobs of all sorts in all places.

The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers

Hansen, Eric K.

Community. Nine engaging and memorable essays spanning thirty years about the unusual people Hansen has met in remarkable places around the world.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Huxtable, Ada Louise

Survivor. Finely written, balanced biography of the person and the artist, who survived personal and professional losses and convinced others to bend to his stubborn will because he always knew what was right.

The Mermaid Chair

Kidd, Sue Monk

Magical. Ensemble of characters finding mystery, romance, betrayal, grief, forgiveness and redemption on Egret Island.


McEwan, Ian

Diurnal. Astutely structured novel presents a day in the life of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne through finely written prose and a complicated plot that will satisfy readers who enjoy that which stimulates thinking.

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders

Mortimer, John Clifford

Youthful. Finally, faithful Rumpole fans get to hear the whole story of the case that launched his Old Bailey career in the form of a novel-memoir, the longest Rumpole story ever.

Magic Seeds

Naipaul, V.S.

Identity. Character from earlier novel reprised to join communist revolutionaries in India, become arrested and jailed, and return to England, still searching for who he is and his place in the world.

Light on Snow

Shreve, Anita

Melodramatic. Narrator’s coming of age recalled in events that begin with her and her father finding an abandoned baby on the snow in the woods behind their house. Grief and redemption in spades, but weak character development.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

Smith, Alexander McCall

Choices. Any book in which characters enjoy tea more than three times gets our recommendation. Mma Ramotswe triumphs again and even ordinary tea becomes exceptional.

It Seemed Important At the Time: A Romance Memoir

Vanderbilt, Gloria

Neverland. Another memoir by a unique and eccentric celebrity that should have been subtitled, “Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places.”


Welch, Jack with Suzy Welch

Spinning. Royalties to charity, written by Suzy, the conversational presentation of management theories and practices will provide two or three useful ideas for any reader.

God’s Gym

Wideman, John Edgar

Virtuosity. Ten stories showcase the range of fine writing from very good through great. Difficult at times, but worth the workout on a theme of faith and strength in many forms.


ă 2005 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:

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

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

Ř      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.