Volume 3, Issue 7
ã 2001 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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All executives rely on others to help ensure success. Selecting and evaluating advisors can become challenging, especially when a single advisor performs multiple roles. For some executives, it can be easy to draw on past experience to apply in today’s more complicated situations. Choosing accounting firms and operational consultants can be done in the context of past selections. Some advisors remain affiliated with organizations over many years, so maintaining continuity becomes an easy decision. For other executives, it can be hard to get help in areas that were not addressed by mentors or prior management. Few members of the last generation of managers chose executive coaches, addressed mental illness at work, or understood the need for personal public relations help. Listening to and learning from critics can be a skill that many executives fail to develop. As you read about what different individuals and companies are doing to get the help they need, think about your own situation and whether you’re getting help in the right areas to ensure the success of your organization.
Experts in learning often point out that we’re most receptive to acquiring knowledge when we’re in a new situation. After we’ve been in a job for a while, it can become harder to take a fresh look and obtain knowledge that’s not consistent with our experience. We read in Business Week (6/11/01) (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_24/b3736101.htm) that newly appointed CEOs can attend a one-day boot camp this Summer for $10,000 and hear from critics and seasoned CEOs about what it will take to achieve success. The CEO Academy was created by the M&A Group, a roundtable created two years ago that now has sixty members. Members found that newly appointed CEOs needed assistance in coming up to speed quickly because boards of directors and shareholders are impatient to see performance results. Attendees will hear about shareholder relations from corporate governance agitator Nell Minow and about working well with the board from superlawyer Ira Millstein. If successful, those speakers are likely to tell the CEOs many things that the CEOs would prefer not to hear. Some will look forward to hearing what lessons fired Xerox CEO Richard Thoman learned from that experience.
How do you obtain knowledge from your harshest critics? What do you do based on what you learn? Are there individuals whose experience may help you avoid certain mistakes? How are you able to draw on that experience? Are there peers you can meet with who understand enough about your situation to help you in areas where you need assistance?
An article inThe Wall Street Journal (6/13/01) (http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB992387742151602535.djm) reminded us that one in five Americans suffer from depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions, so it’s reasonable to assume that even if many individuals never climb the corporate ladder because of those conditions, some executives will suffer from mental illness. Most will suffer silently out of fear. The article describes aspects of the life of Paul Gottlieb, currently Vice Chairman of Martiniere Groupe, formerly president of publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Gottlieb would handle himself successfully in meetings and social settings, but often at the end of the day, he found himself exhausted and wanted to commit suicide. He suffered silently in his 40s, attributing the feelings to a midlife crisis. Finally, after being appointed president and finding the suffering too great, he went for medical help, and through the right drug therapy, he returned to work where he spent another dozen productive years before retiring at age 66. Gottlieb said, “It’s useful to know that you can survive.”
How well are you managing the stress in your life? Do you know signs of depression, and are you experiencing any indications that you may be suffering from something more serious than the normal ups and downs of executive life? Are you willing to receive medical help?
Coaches help up to 40% of
the Fortune 500 companies, according to a Hay Group study we ran
across on the Associated Press wire via cnn.com (http://www.cnn.com/2001/CAREER/trends/05/28/exec.coach.ap/index.html).
In some companies, coaches provide one-on-one help on individual work and
life issues for executives at certain organizational levels. At some
organizations, coaching is part of the leadership development process, and is
used to help exploit strengths and address a manager’s “flat sides”.
According to the article, coaching programs “helped one executive recognize
that he was intellectually gifted -- and needed to have more patience with
his staffers who weren't. Others learn that they are forceful leaders, but
don't leave room for employees to develop their own leadership skills.” One
executive commented that he felt more confident and aware as a result of
working with a coach.
How could a coach help you? With whom do you bounce ideas, and find ways to exploit your strengths and avoid your weaknesses? Who helps keep you energized as a leader? Who else has an interest in your personal success? Whom do you trust to help you achieve success?
We thought we had seen all the different forms of corporate welfare, but we admit to laughing out loud when we read in The New York Times (6/17/01) (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/17/business/17PRIV.html) about a severance perk that fired Lucent executive Deborah Hopkins (no relation) received. Lucent agreed to pay “for a public relations executive for six months to help Ms. Hopkins with her image after her ouster.” We’ll never know how much the perk would have cost because the p.r. exec resigned from the account.
How badly do you need help if your flack quits? Who controls the spin on your image?
We read in The Washinton Post (6/3/01) (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12582-2001Jun2.html) that the Central Intelligence Agency has placed millions of dollars in venture capital in an entity called In-Q-tel that’s made investments rapidly in 16 companies. The non-secret In-Q-tel allows the buttoned-up CIA to take advantage of rapid technological developments that might be useful to the agency, while not being burdened by bureaucracy. CIA leadership recognized that the agency couldn’t compete for IT talent and innovation, so they decided to create a venture fund that would ease a connection between the agency and new technology. Companies receiving In-Q-tel funds can test their technologies inside the CIA which has one of the largest data repositories in the world. We wonder if there are signs around the CIA’s George Bush Center for Intelligence in Langley, Virginia that say “In-Q-tel Inside.”
The record-breaking $19.2 billion quarterly loss at Nortel Networks was referred to by New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgensen as “a milestone in the history of mismanagement of shareholder assets (6/17/01) (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/17/business/17WATC.html).” Since July 2000, almost one-quarter trillion dollars in shareholder wealth has disappeared at Nortel. Having paid exorbitant prices (which The Times estimates at 118 times the value of tangible assets) for new acquisitions, the write down of those assets hit in the second quarter. During 2000, Nortel paid $19.7 billion for companies with tangible net assets of $167 million.
How well do you recognize the limitations of your organization and its culture, and have you found ways to offset those limitations? How prepared are you to manage in a variety of different market environments? When you consider costs and benefits, what approach do you take? How do you compute value?
All together now
Collaboration via the worldwide web continues to expand. We read with interest (The Wall Street Journal, 5/28/01) that IBM invited 320,000 people to a virtual meeting in late May. During a three-day online brainstorming session, 52,600 people logged on to participate in what the company called “WorldJam.” The company is likely to follow up with more events like this one. Other companies are reducing the cost of sales calls by conducting virtual meetings. To check ease of use, you may want to visit one of the web conference sites such as www.webex.com where online meeting rooms are available at a cost of forty five cents per minute, or unlimited use at $100 per month per user.
How constrained are your messages by time and space? How well do you exploit a variety of media in ensuring that communication remains robust within your organization? Can you reduce costs and maintain effectiveness by conducting virtual meetings with employees, clients, customers and other stakeholders?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
Ø We’ve expressed our dislike for Ken Blanchard’s books on the pages of Executive Times, most recently in our scathing review of High Five in the May 2001 issue of Executive Times. We chuckled a bit when we read in The Wall Street Journal (6/22/01) (http://interactive.wsj.com/archive/retrieve.cgi?id=SB993165490163261262.djm) that Blanchard may well have ripped off the One-Minute-Manager theme from a university colleague. Stay tuned to see if this is a case of plagiarism times ten million copies.
Ø Unless you are totally fed up with the stories about Ford and Firestone, including the coverage in the June 2001 issue of Executive Times, you may want to be sure to read the Business Week cover story, “Ford: Why It’s Worse Than You Think,” in the June 25, 2001 issue (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_26/b3738001.htm).
Ø Many issues of Executive Times have called attention to Jack Welch and his success at General Electric. For an alternative view, wherein Welch is considered overrated, read Rob Walker’s article titled “Why Jack Welch Isn’t God” in The New Republic (6/11/01) (http://www.tnr.com/061801/walker061801.html).
Ø One of the best examples of “blame your predecessor” (see the August 2000 issue of Executive Times) that we’ve run across in a while came from Gillette CEO James Kilts. The New York Times (6/7/01) (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/07/business/07RAZO.html) reported that the company failed to pay attention to certain projects and pursued misguided strategies. We’ll see how well the company performs under Kilts’ leadership.
Hundreds of press reports covered Cal Ripkin’s announcement that he’d retire at the end of the current baseball season. Some stories call attention to his many achievements, especially his record for the number of consecutive games played. Other stories point out that he’s spent his entire major league career with his hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles. Many stores call attention to his future plans, including his interest in a leadership role with a major league baseball franchise. The rare reporter called attention to Ripkin’s distance from teammates, and personality quirks. The legacy that we see from Ripkin comes from his work ethic. Throughout his career, he could be counted on to be “in the game” whenever he was needed, in a variety of roles. Executives and managers want dependable talent like that on their teams, and the example that Ripkin set is one that can be emulated by workers in all professions: show up and do the best you can.
(Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers or titles to order copies directly from amazon.com. When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com. Subscribers to the print version of Executive Times can receive the web version at no additional cost. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a request to be placed on the web version distribution list. Also, not all books we read make it to the pages of Executive Times. For expanded reviews of Executive Times selections and other books, visit our book review site at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/books/list.htm.)
Ride the Curve
16 additional book reviews were added during June 2001 at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/books/list.htm.
ã 2001 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 , 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 . We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date.
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