Volume 7, Issue 6
ă 2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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?
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:
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
stated in the May 2005
issue of Executive Times that the Senate
vote on the nomination of John Bolton as
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).
2005 Hopkins and Company, LLC. Executive
Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s
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