Executive Times

Volume 5, Issue 7

July, 2003


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Rolling Along

For some executives, career progress involves rolling along with the growth of an organization, and moving from one area of accountability to another. For other executives, a career roadmap may involve achieving results with one organization, and using that preparation as a stepping stone to leadership at another organization. Along the way, an executive becomes comfortable or uncomfortable with the other leaders in the organization, and either becomes assimilated into a corporate culture, helps change the culture, or moves to a culture that provides a better fit. Summer and vacation can provide a good time to get a little distance from your workplace, to ask and answer questions about how well you fit into your current organization, and how well you get along with other leaders in that organization. As you think about your similarities and differences, you may find yourself thinking about whether to stay with your current organization or make a change. We’ve chosen news stories in recent weeks that may help trigger your thinking about the degree to which you roll with your organization. Are you with your organization for the long haul? How long do you expect that to be? What compromises, if any, will you choose to make to achieve that outcome? If you’re not comfortable with other leaders in your organization, how soon will you leave to do something else? Do you need to pay increased attention to conflicts between your values and those of other leaders in your organization? If you can’t picture yourself in your current situation for the long haul, what are you doing to haul yourself someplace else?


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5, including a rare four-star (Highly Recommended) rating for a debut novel, Liars and Saints, and a one-star review of Newt Gingrich’s novel, Gettysburg. In keeping with this month’s theme, one of the books reviewed, Final Accounting, describes how the author became assimilated by the Arthur Andersen culture, even though she had to compromise her values to do so. 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. We haven’t updated the Shelf of Reproach recently. That’s the list of books we feel guilty for not having read. Instead, we may get some energy behind creating the Shelf of Ennui, a list of the books we started to read, and dropped out of boredom. Watch for it.

Rolled Over
There may be times when an employee is asked to do something that person thinks is wrong. For anyone presented with this situation, how one responds will have dramatic implications for our work and our lives. A page-one feature story in The Wall Street Journal (6/23/03) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105631811322355600,00.html) called attention to what happened to a WorldCom accountant, Betty Vinson, when she caved under pressure to doing something she thought was wrong. According to the Journal, Ms. Vinson worked in the corporate accounting area at WorldCom, and she was asked to make entries to use reserves to offset some higher than expected operating expenses. Vinson balked, told her boss it wasn’t good accounting, and heard in response that this was a one-time action that wouldn’t happen again. Vinson recorded the transfer out of the reserve account. Feeling guilty, she decided to resign, until talked into staying by the CFO, Scott Sullivan, who said they did nothing illegal, and that Sullivan accepted full responsibility. “Though Ms. Vinson still worried about the accounting issues, she began to rationalize her decision to comply with her bosses' request, according to the person close to her. After all, Mr. Sullivan had been heralded as one of the top chief financial officers in the country. If he thought the transfer was all right, who was she to question it?” Each succeeding quarter, Vinson was asked to make entries that she thought were wrong. When the SEC cracked down on WorldCom, Vinson and other accountants met with federal prosecutors to describe what happened. The prosecutors could have used Vinson as a witness against Sullivan and others, but decided she was a co-conspirator. She pleaded guilty to two counts of securities fraud and conspiracy, and now faces up to fifteen years in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for February. “As Ms. Vinson's experience at WorldCom shows, sometimes it's hard to tell right from wrong in the heat of a workplace battle. And when an employee's livelihood is on the line, it's tough to say no to a powerful boss.”

Could you say no to a request from your boss to do something that you think is wrong? Would you, like Betty Vinson, rely on your boss’ assurance that the request was not wrong, and that he or she would accept full responsibility? Have you ever pressured an employee into doing something that you thought was right, but the employee thought was wrong? How did that change your relationship? How would you deal with that situation today? Are you vulnerable to the behavior of your boss? Does your boss make you more or less comfortable with the risks of that vulnerability?


Rolling Away
More common than the experience of Betty Vinson, who faces prison for her compliance at work, is the way executives drift into a level of comfort, one day at a time. Stress at work rises, and we find a way to cope. Leaders change their expectations, and we find a way to comply. After months or years, we may end up in a job that we wouldn’t choose if we were in a job search. Many of us like the status quo, so we can avoid getting some perspective and asking questions about whether the current job is the best fit for our skills and talents. Especially in the weak economy, some of us can avoid the introspection that could lead to a job change. Summer, especially vacation, can be a time to step back and think about your current job situation, and the degree to which it fits your values and your goals. For help in examining yourself in the context of your organization and your combined future, you may find some useful ideas in the July 2003 issue of Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/72/rationalexpectations.html). The cover story presents “A Guide for the Perplexed Executive.” Here are some of the almost two dozen questions that are explored in this cover story:

1.      Is it time to downsize my dreams?

2.      A few years ago, I wanted to be a star at work. Am I better off just keeping my head down now and staying in the background?

3.      I don't like my job, but I'm a slave to my paycheck. What can I do?

4.      How do I lead for the long haul?

5.      In a down economy, am I better off as a specialist or a generalist?

6.      Is this a terrible time to leave a job you don't love?

7.      How do I stay out of harm's way?

8.      Business is terrible. How do I ask for a raise?

9.      What's the smartest way to get fired?

10.  How can I stay creative at work when my coworkers won't try anything new?

11.  I've gone from being anxious about my future to being scared. How do I face my fears?

12.  I still have a job -- but it's killing me. How do I do more with less?

13.  How do I bounce back from setbacks?

While you’re reading that issue, be sure to note the “7 Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives” excerpted from Sydney Finkelstein’s new book, Why Smart Executives Fail. Here are the 7 habits:

1.      They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment.

2.      They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation's interests.

3.      They think they have all the answers.

4.      They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn't 100% behind them.

5.      They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image.

6.      They underestimate obstacles.

7.      They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past.

As you read about these habits, you may discover that you or your boss may be leading your organization in ways that will not produce success. If so, what will you do?


What approach do you take to making a decision to roll away from your organization? What obstacles prevent you from considering a departure? What advice do you offer to employees who are considering leaving your organization? Do any of those seven habits look familiar to you? Are they ones you practice? Do you see them practiced by other leaders in your organization?


Rolling Home
For many organizations, customers decide whether the organization will make it for the long haul or not. The decisions executives make in how to position a company and its products with customers can make or break a company. One company on the brink of extinction two decades ago, found ways to turn customer loyalty into long-term success, including the creation of a user’s group. This summer, Harley-Davidson celebrates its 100th anniversary as a company and the 20th anniversary of H.O.G., the Harley Owners Group. In fact, the celebrations have been going on all year, and then some. During July the global “Open Road Tour” comes to an end, raising funds for charity. Between now and the end of August, you’ll hear the rolling thunder of potato-potato-potato as bikers are called home in an event called “The Ride Home,” coming to the company’s Milwaukee headquarters for a three-day celebration at the end of August. 10,000 motorcycles are expected to participate in a parade on August 30. Ceremonies, music and fireworks on August 31 will propel the company into its next hundred years. That, and all the 100th anniversary memorabilia, including every imaginable product. To find out when to be in or far away from Milwaukee and the routes thereto, visit www.harley-davidson.com. We’ve already taken a pass on tickets to the events.

How does your organization interact with the customers you serve? How do customers describe your company’s culture or attitude? Could something like H.O.G. help your organization succeed? What events or activities are aligned with your organization’s culture, and what would you never do? If your organization planned an event that you considered inconsistent with your view of the company’s culture, what would you do?



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


Ø      Not only does the “Chrysler” in DaimlerChrysler remain silent, as last noted in the April 2002 issue of Executive Times, it may be silenced forever, at least according to Barrons (June 16) (http://online.wsj.com/barrons/article/0,,SB105555321516582700,00.html). CEO Jurgen Schrempp’s vision for synergy hasn’t been achieved, and a projected profit of $2 billion for 2003 has been revised to breakeven. “’Schrempp has to be wondering why on earth he did what he did in buying Chrysler,’ says Maryann Keller, a former auto analyst and now a consultant to the industry. ‘This is a merger that just didn't work and, quite frankly, didn't ever have much chance of working. Mercedes and Chrysler are just too different for big synergies ever to be achieved. Till now, Schrempp has been the Teflon chairman, but his days have to be numbered. And then,’ she asks, ‘what happens after that? How do the Germans get out of this mess? Certainly, the cost of making Chrysler a viable enough entity to be spun off on its own in this terrible market would be prohibitively expensive.’” Stay tuned.

Ø      Former American Airlines CEO Don Carty was used an example for readers in various issues of Executive Times, including: the issues of April 1999, November 1999,  March 2000, and May 2003. So long-time readers will want to join us in noting from The Wall Street Journal (June 16) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105572189044577700,00.html) that the American Airlines board gave no severance to the former CEO.

Ø      The spread of variable pricing continues, as predicted since the December 1999 issue of Executive Times. In case you missed it, baseball ticket prices now vary based on which teams are playing, and expected demand for tickets, as reported in The New York Times (June 8) (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/08/business/yourmoney/08BALL.html). Do the fans get what they pay for? Not those who paid to see Sammy Sosa, who sat on the bench for recent games, suspended for using an illegal bat. No refunds.



A Man in Full
We recall Carl E. Reichardt for the spectacular return (1,667%) he achieved for shareholders of Wells Fargo during his CEO leadership from 1983 to 1994, beating the overall market three times over. He spent 24 years at Wells, during which time we also recall his no-nonsense leadership, and overall competence. So did Ford Motor Company CEO William Clay Ford, Jr., when he called on this long-time Ford director to join the company in 2001 as Vice Chairman, responsible for financial operations.


At the recent annual shareholder meeting, Ford announced that Reichardt, age 71, will retire sometime in the next year. By then, Reichardt’s work in restructuring should be done, and he will leave the management of another company much better off for his hard work and competent management. Ford hasn’t heard the last from Reichardt. He’ll remain on the Board, chairing the finance committee. Reichardt’s contributions are a reminder that age limits may prevent organizations from tapping into the skills and talents of seasoned experts.


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


On Top of the World

Barbash, Tom

Good Grief. College-friend gives insider perspective on Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick and what happened before and after the events of 9/11. Whatever readers think of Lutnick now will be amended after reading this book.

The Break-out Principle

Benson, Herbert

Hit the Switch. Departure from factless self-help books presents insights from decades of mind-body research and proposes practical ways to generate a trigger leading to some form of self-transformation.

The Number

Berenson, Alex

Penny Wise. How did Wall Street and corporations become so focused on quarterly earnings? Read this well-paced reflection on events in recent decades that brought us to our current situation of corporate scandals and the low reputations of corporate executives.

Say When

Berg, Elizabeth

Yes, Virginia. Griffen becomes a Santa and finds out what’s important in life. Berg’s dialog is always spot on, and her insights into human nature are rich, let alone her settings in our very own neighborhood.

Who Moved My Soap? The CEO’s Guide to Surviving in Prison

Borowitz, Andy

Snickers. When you pick up this book to read and not buy while snacking at the bookstore, you may chuckle, smile or snicker, but don’t expect to laugh out loud or spit out your latte. 

The DaVinci Code

Brown, Dan

Templars. Fast-paced thriller along the lines of Cussler or Ludlum. Imaginative, yet connected enough to real groups like Opus Dei and the Templars to make readers wonder. Fine vacation reading.

Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War

Gingrich, Newt

Revolting. Former Speaker of the House presents an imaginative, and probably plausible, version of what could have happened at the Battle of Gettysburg, messing with the memories we have of what really happened. Newt may wish this had happened, but readers know what really took place.

The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship

Halberstam, David

Friends Forever. Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dominic DiMaggio didn’t just play baseball on the same team, they became lifelong friends. Read and find out from an award-winning writer why they have no regrets about how they’ve lived their lives.

A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love

Kennedy, Caroline

Salute. Just the right resource book to fill a space on your bookshelf. A comprehensive collection that’s inspiring and thought-provoking, whether you’re happy or depressed about life in these United States.

Shutter Island

Lehane, Dennis

Islands of the Mind. Well-crafted psychological novel that leaves readers wondering about what is appearance and what is reality. Open the shutters of your mind and enjoy.

Liars and Saints

Meloy, Maile

Family Ties and Lies. Rare for a debut novel to win four-stars. This tale of four generations and the lies that unite them should win awards. Meloy’s writing soars, and we come to know her characters for all their human qualities and frailties.

Fly Fishing the 41st: Around the World on the 41st Parallel

Prosek, James

Hooked. Well-written story of author’s journey around the world, fishing, painting, and writing about these adventures. All readers will enjoy the anecdotes, characters and adventure, whether we fish or not.

This Just In: What I Couldn’t Tell You on TV

Schieffer, Bob

Conversational. CBS reporter tells engaging stories about his work and life that will leave readers with many good feelings, and lots of good laughs.

Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed, and the Fall of Arthur Andersen

Toffler, Barbara Ley

Assimilated. Business ethics professor joins Andersen, becomes assimilated by their culture, and compromises her values. Great inside view of Andersen, and thought provoking about whether we share the values of those with whom we work.

Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties from Kansas City to Cuzco

Trillin, Calvin

Yummy. When Trillin writes about food, readers want to both read and eat. When you can’t find a food you love and miss, add it to your own “Register of Frustration and Deprivation” or go to the place where you can feed your yen.


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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