Volume 7, Issue 9
ã 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.
The mandated scripted response to almost all customer exchanges at Ritz-Carlton is “my pleasure.” Sometimes the line is delivered with such enthusiasm the most cynical customer suspends any disbelief that the line is genuine. Perhaps when repeated often enough, it’s a reminder that work can bring pleasure, even the most mundane tasks. For some of us, work is always pleasurable, because we love what we do. For others, work provides a means to an end, and becomes a necessary evil and rarely brings pleasure. Many workers ricochet between those two extremes. Executives who love what they do are breathing a sigh of relief this month as the typical vacation season ends, and they can finally ratchet up intensity at work. In this issue, we explore some ways in which work can bring pleasure, and how being proud of the job one does and enjoying work can make the time spent working seem minimal. As you think about the situations described here, reflect on your attitudes about your current job. Are you excited to start a new work week? Do those who report to you share your enthusiasm? Does time at work seem to fly by? How proud are you of what you’re accomplishing at work?
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Two books are highly recommended with four-star ratings; seven books are recommended with three stars; three are mildly recommended with two star ratings, two books have a one-star recommendation; and we’ve bestowed our first DNR (Do Not Read) rating for the year. Consistent with the theme of this issue, the DNR review is for a manifesto calling for workers to disengage quietly at the workplace. 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. 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 by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We read a fine description of the pleasure that can come from work in The Wall Street Journal (8/23) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112473011878219678,00.html). Poet Donald Hall came away from his Harvard ’51 reunion “dismayed by the attitude of many of his former classmates, who had become bankers, brokers or lawyers. Describing to them how he had left a secure faculty position to move to his family farm and write for a living, they collectively cried, ‘What self-discipline!’
‘In vain did I protest,’ Mr. Hall writes. ‘For me, I told them, it required no discipline to spend my days writing poems and making books. …The unvarying frequency of the accusation -- that I took the whip to myself every day, while handcuffed to the desk -- upset me because the stereotype suggested a melancholy provenance: Did all my classmates hate their work so much?’ … Mr. Hall doubts it. He suspects that like him, many people find in their work an ‘absorbedness’ that transports them to an interior world where the ego is quieted, the mind (and possibly the body) is wholly engaged, and hours pass like seconds. Work isn't the master of such workers; it's a fountain of contentment. Or as Anna Howard Shaw, a minister, physician and teacher, wrote in her 1915 autobiography, ‘Work has always been my favorite form of recreation.’”
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been
studying a notion he calls “flow” for four decades, but the results of his
work have been slow in entering the business sector, according to articles in
the August issue of Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/97/art-of-work.html.)
While his groundbreaking book, Flow: The
Psychology of Optimal Experience came out in 1990, and caught the
attention of some sports figures (Jimmy
Johnson credited the Cowboys
1993 Super Bowl win to flow), few companies have tried to apply flow in the
workplace. (In our June 2003
issue we gave Csikszentmihalyi’s book Good
Business a two-star review). According to Fast Company, here’s how Csikszentmihalyi describes flow: ‘“It is
what the sailor holding a tight course feels when the wind whips through her
hair....It is what a painter feels when the colors on the canvas begin to set
up a magnetic tension with each other, and a new thing, a living form, takes
shape.’ ... It's a condition of heightened focus, productivity, and happiness
that we all intuitively understand and hunger for. … In the flow state,
Csikszentmihalyi found, people engage so completely in what they are doing
that they lose track of time. Hours pass in minutes. All sense of self
recedes. At the same time, they are pushing beyond their limits and
developing new abilities. Indeed, the best moments usually occur when a
person's body or mind is stretched to capacity. People emerge from each flow
experience more complex, Csikszentmihalyi found. They become more self-confident,
capable, and sensitive. The experience becomes ‘autotelic,’ meaning that the
activity actually becomes its own reward. ‘To improve life, one must improve
the quality of experience,’ he says. One of the chief advantages of flow is
that it enables people to escape the state of ‘psychic entropy,’ the
distraction, depression, and dispiritedness that constantly threaten them.”
When you’re working, is your body or mind stretched to capacity? Do you come away from work “more self-confident, capable and sensitive”? Does work provide you with that “condition of heightened focus, productivity and happiness” you hunger for? How well are you stretching those with whom you work? Are they pushing their limits and developing new abilities? Is work its own reward in your workplace?
What conclusions about your written work can others draw? Does your diligence stand out? Has your precision helped to convey your message? Can you refrain from sending a redlined copy of Executive Times to us pointing out all the grammatical errors in this issue?
How do you recognize signs of workaholism in yourself and others? How can you deploy your energy with a greater balance between work and the rest of your life? If your work feels like recreation to you, how does your work feel to those with whom you are in close relationships? Have you asked them how they feel about your work? Are you prepared to change the way you work to become healthier?
Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
front page of the November 1999
issue of Executive Times noted that State
Farm lost a class action lawsuit concerning the use of non-OEM parts for
auto repairs and faced paying over $1 billion in damages. In August, the
prior issues of Executive Times (most
recently the February 2005
issue) have pondered why Daimler
CEO Jürgen Schrempp wasn’t given
the boot for his performance in leading that company. The Daimler supervisory
board announced that Schrempp will step down at the end of this year. For a
comprehensive look at poor performance and the challenges that are in place
for his successor, Dieter Zetsche,
read the 8/15 Business Week cover
story, “Dark Days at Daimler,” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_33/b3947001_mz001.htm.)
case you were detached from the world during August, and missed the news,
President George W. Bush appointed
John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations despite our labeling
The most successful executive of his generation has retired, especially if one measures success in terms of consistent profitability. For the last dozen of the 42 years he’s spent at Exxon, Lee Raymond has served as CEO, out of the limelight, generating billions of dollars of profits at the world’s largest company whether oil is priced at $10 a barrel or at $70 a barrel. During an era marked by corporate malfeasance and political correctness, the few times that Raymond calls attention to himself, he’s notable for sticking to his positions, whether popular or not. For example, he doesn’t believe in global warming, and has made that clear. Exxon announced in August that Raymond will retire at the end of this year, and will be replaced by his groomed internal successor, Rex W. Tillerson. We read on the Associated Press wire (http://www.forbes.com/associatedpress/feeds/ap/2005/08/04/ap2174088.html) that, ‘“Lee has created a group of executives to lead the company into an era of bigger projects and longer lead times,’ said Daniel Yergin, president of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates. ‘He's imparted a steadiness for Rex to move the company on a disciplined course.’” Raymond’s focus on profitability produced extraordinary rewards for shareholders, and he’s left a legacy at Exxon for his successors to follow. While we’ll hear plenty in his final months about his gruffness, political incorrectness and huge compensation, his legacy has been in remaining diligently focused on profits, and for that, he’ll be long remembered.
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 office at
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.
Hopkins & Company
Ø Coaching: helping individuals or teams find ways to do more of what works for them, and ways to avoid what's ineffective
Ø Consulting: helping executives solve business problems, especially in the areas of strategy, service to market, performance and relationship management
Ø 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.