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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Benefits of Having a Mentor

Everyone can benefit from the expertise of a mentor. Whether your career is sidetracked, trying to get ahead, or you're looking for a new start in another direction, you might need help from a helpful coach. Specialised support guiding you in the right direction might come from a mentor. Mentors have a desire and willingness to help develop others and to serve in this capacity. How do you find the right role model?

Finding the right mentor takes time, creativity, and a strategic plan. Viable confidantes might include one person or several. You might enlist support from someone familiar in your industry or someone in a completely different field.

Here are some considerations to help you find the right mentor:
  • List desired traits in your potential mentor. Some qualities include solid communication skills, professional accomplishments, or position to which you aspire.
  • Set specific expectations for mentor support such as specific competency, professional insight, or experiences from which you would like to learn.
  • Confirm availability and potential for time commitment to provide support. Can this person be consistently available to provide perspective and respond to correspondence?
  • Does this person show patience, sensitivity, and respect?
  • Does this individual have a track record of helping others?
  • Is this person a good listener with whom you can easily communicate and receive constructive feedback?
  • Is this person knowledgeable? For instance, does he or she maintain professional and external relationships? Is this individual willing and able to provide you with referral contacts?
Once you have completed the above, set up a brief in-person "information interview" to discuss your interests. Share with him or her about your desire for support in this capacity and get feedback. Evaluate the exchange and select a mentor who meets your goals and stated criteria.

Positive Leadership Limited delivers leadership consulting in the areas of coaching, mentoring, executive education and training.

The 'Never Say Die' Attitude of Winners


First Impressions Can Be Wrong

Tomorrow sees the NFL return to London for the third consecutive year as the New England Patriots take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley.

This is also the time of year when managers of football clubs here in the UK come under pressure - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/liverpool/6418869/Liverpool-v-Manchester-United-Rafael-Benitez-is-told-facts-of-life---beat-Manchester-United.html.

Fifty years ago, a first-year NFL head coach was having a tough time. His team had a five-game losing streak. He was shuffling quarterbacks, seemingly unable to decide on a starter. His players did not care for him, and the fans of his team were unsure about him. His name was Vince Lombardi. Today, the Super Bowl trophy bears his name. But he had his share of difficult moments during the 1959 season, his first as the Green Bay Packers’ coach.

That is worth remembering this season because almost half of the NFL's 32 head coaches are in their first or second seasons on the job. Some are faring better than others. The Jets’ Rex Ryan won his first three games this season, but Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris and Kansas City’s Todd Haley lost their first five. As a rookie coach in 2008, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh led his team to the American Football Conference championship game.

But the lesson of Lombardi’s first season - which is equally relevant here in the UK - is that first impressions can be wrong.

Lombardi, who eventually coached the Packers to five N.F.L. championships and victories in the first two Super Bowls, got off to a great start in 1959. The Packers won their first three games at home after a 1-10-1 season under Ray McLean, Lombardi’s overmatched predecessor. Then the Packers stumbled. They lost a home game by 39 points to the Los Angeles Rams, then went on the road, losing to the Baltimore Colts, the Giants and the Chicago Bears by a combined 45 points. Green Bay’s defense could not stop anyone, and the offense looked lost.

The Packers had not had a winning season in a dozen years, and players and fans wondered if Lombardi was the right person to turn them around. A Brooklyn native, he had been an obscure assistant with the Giants before going to Green Bay. He did not possess a commanding national reputation. The Packers tried to hire Forest Evashevski, the University of Iowa’s high-profile coach, before seeking Lombardi. Told who was given the job, one member of the Packers’ board responded, “Vince who?”

Seven games into his first season, Lombardi did not seem to be engineering a remarkable transformation. He had improved the team’s fitness, fundamentals and discipline during a grueling training camp. And he had built a run-oriented offense around Paul Hornung, a college quarterback who had been floundering as a professional, and a young fullback, Jim Taylor. But the team was on a losing streak, and players were weary of Lombardi’s authoritative style.

But Lombardi firmly believed his hard-boiled tactics would eventually pay off. He decided to start Bart Starr, a polite, studious reserve quarterback who had struggled in his first three seasons. Lombardi’s assistants did not think Starr had a future as a starter, and Lombardi also had doubts. He had picked Lamar McHan over Starr out of training camp, and when McHan struggled, he gave the second-year quarterback Joe Francis a shot. But Starr was a quick learner who worked hard, and Lombardi gave him an opportunity.

Starr performed well in his first start for Lombardi, passing for 242 yards as the Packers lost their fifth straight. The next week, with Starr again at quarterback, they defeated the Washington Redskins, 21-0. Then they finished the season with three road victories, each more impressive than the one before. Starr was a starter after all, it seemed, and Lombardi was a coach whom players and fans could believe in.

Returning home from a season-ending victory in San Francisco, Lombardi and his team were met at the Green Bay airport by 8,000 fans on a rainy night. Although the Packers had finished tied for third in their division with a 7-5 record, their future suddenly appeared bright.

The Packers went on to play in the N.F.L. championship game the next year, then collected their first title under Lombardi in 1961. “We realized in his first season that we were going to be a very good team,” Fuzzy Thurston, an All-Pro guard, recalled years later. “Lombardi wasn’t going to stand for anything less.”

Today’s new generation of N.F.L. head coaches can only hope to endure their inevitable difficulties and persuade their players that their way is right, as Lombardi did a half-century ago.

For more on the Vince Lombardi story, see John Eisenberg's new book, That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory.

The Mindset of a Winner

'Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired. You’ve always got to make the mind take over and keep going.'  General George S. Patton

Lessons from Sports

Florida State University football Coach Bobby Bowden was in a tough spot. Charlie Ward was his most talented quarterback, but he was having an off night, throwing two interceptions that had put the Seminoles in a deep hole against conference rival Georgia Tech.

On that evening in 1992, Bowden briefly pulled his team leader from the field, sending the backup quarterback into the game. When Bowden signaled for Ward to return, fans jeered. But Bowden knew this was an opportunity to make a difference, both in the life of his struggling player and for his football team.

Ward, FSU’s first African-American starting quarterback, came back into the game in the fourth quarter, his team trailing by two touchdowns. To take advantage of Ward’s athleticism, Bowden made some mid-game changes in the offense. Buoyed by those changes and his coach’s faith, Ward led FSU to three touchdowns in that last quarter and a dramatic 29-24 win. The victory assured FSU of the conference championship.

“That was one of those moments when you know that your choice will make a difference in a lot of ways. I can’t tell you I thought it would turn out as it did, but it did turn out pretty well. We all have to have a reason to get up each day. Those young men give me mine."

With more than five decades’ experience as a coach, Bowden has sought to build leaders on and off the field. Without question, he says, his commitment to making a difference in the lives of each athlete contributes to his desire to show up each fall as leader of one of America’s preeminent football programs. Even as he turns 80 in November, an age when most of his peers are enjoying retirement, Bowden’s passion for building young leaders burns as strong as his competitive spirit.

Back in 1992, when FSU was losing to Georgia Tech, Bowden says “allowing Charlie to take control of that team even when things weren’t going well really allowed him to grow and it allowed the other players to grow. This game is won on the field, so we needed his growth to make the whole team more successful.”

Charlie Ward went on to win the Heisman Trophy the next season and lead FSU to its first-ever national championship. A point guard on the university’s basketball team, he chose an NBA career over playing in the NFL, and was a first-round pick of the New York Knicks. After retiring from the NBA, he became a high school coach in Houston. Ward has sought to instill lessons he learned from Bowden in his own players.

“When Coach Bowden took that chance at Georgia Tech, it gave me the confidence I needed,” Ward says. “If he had decided to keep me on the bench—and I couldn’t have argued, given how I was playing—I doubt that I would have been the same quarterback I became. Coaches have the chance to shape people in moments like that and he definitely changed my future.”

The Necessity of Open Disagreement

Robert McNamara, the former secretary of defense and an architect of the Vietnam War, said it all could have been different if McGeorge Bundy, President Lyndon Johnson's national security adviser, had not resigned from the White House in early 1966. "I believe if McGeorge Bundy had stayed in the government.....he and I together could have prevented what happened in Vietnam," McNamara said in August 2007, less than two years before his death. "He and I together could have done what I couldn't do alone, which was force the president to an open debate on these critical issues."

As McNamara looked back at the pivotal decisions to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam, he recalled Johnson's resistance to confronting his advisers. "I am absolutely positive that most leaders wish to avoid confrontation among their senior people, particularly in front of them," McNamara said. "And that's a serious weakness. I think every leader should force his senior people to confront major issues in front of him."

For more on this fascinating topic, see - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/15/AR2009101503475.html

Dealing with Difficulties

Here are 10 questions leaders and team members need to ask themselves before taking a difference with a 'difficult' colleague to the next level. Ask yourself:

1. What am I after?
2. Am I part of the problem?
3. Am I trying to cast blame?
4. Is there old stuff that I am using to fuel this fire?
5. How did this all get started?
6. What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future?
7. Am I in the right frame of mind to deal appropriately with this person/situation?
8. What will happen if I just let it be?
9. What will happen if I try to take control?
10. What is the best thing for all concerned (team members, company, client)?

After you or your team member has considered some of the questions above, you then need to take a moment and consider how to present it. Take the time to think before you act, and this means E-mail too.

In terms of preparing to resolve the difference, here are 10 techniques worth considering:

1.   Sleep on an issue, especially if you are angry.
2.   Make sure that if you share the issue you're not demeaning the person with whom you have the problem.
3.   Before you share it, think about who you're talking to and about.
4.   Talk with a friend/spouse after work hours to get a read on your feelings.
5.   Write it out - pros and cons.
6.   Forget about it.
7.   If you think a conversation is going to be painful, remember that you usually feel better after it's over.
8.   Go to the person and deal with it - NOW.
9.   Remember and be kind. It's hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
10. Feel good about yourself and how you handled the issue.

Now, it's time to take action (and, no action is still an action). So, ask yourself the appropriate questions, think first and consider which of the techniques above will be most helpful to you and your team. If an issue is presented to you, there is only one appropriate initial response. For example; 'Thank you for bringing this to my attention.'

These questions are also very helpful when dealing with client and customer problems. Issues happen daily. It's how we receive and resolve them that separate successful companies from the rest.

Being a Boutique is a Badge of Honour

FRANK Quattrone has been advising technology companies since 1981, first at Morgan Stanley, then Deutsche Bank and finally Credit Suisse First Boston. He and his teams are estimated to have advised on more than 400 mergers and acquisitions and more than 350 financings during his nearly 30 years in the business. He took companies such as Cisco and Amazon to the stock market in the 1990s. In the early days, he says, the technology practices of the big banks were relatively small, almost like boutiques.

In 2003, he left Credit Suisse when he faced obstruction of justice charges that were ultimately dropped. When he decided to return to business, he briefly considered starting a private equity company, but decided his main interest was in advising technology companies on mergers and acquisitions and financings. " I wanted to return to my roots as an adviser,” he explains. The idea for his new firm, Qatalyst, came when he was providing informal market advice to a CEO friend . “The synapses started firing, I came up with ideas that the CEO found creative and high-impact. It got me thinking about how to structure a firm that focused on providing advice.”

This recent Financial Times article describes the return of the boutique adviser:

'FRANK Quattrone is conservatively dressed in a suit and tie, and a little nervous. He does not want to talk about himself, not even about his low golf handicap. It is only when discussing technology mergers that he relaxes and becomes animated.

He muses over what companies Dell and Hewlett- Packard should buy to protect themselves from Cisco’s encroachment into their server businesses, and wonders where this will leave IBM. More than golf, this “three-dimensional chess” is his game of choice.

Quattrone, a former star banker at Credit Suisse, returned to Silicon Valley deal-making last year. He left the bank in 2003 and stayed out of the deal business for five years to fight legal charges that were ultimately dropped. Now, he has re-emerged at the helm of Qatalyst, a boutique technology advisory firm, which he started in March last year.

In spite of his long absence from the market and the lack of a big bank on his business card, Quattrone has popped up recently as an adviser on a handful of prominent deals in the technology sector, thanks in part to a “golden Rolodex”. He counselled Google on Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo early last year, and he helped Data Domain, the data storage company, negotiate a tricky bidding battle in which both NetApp and EMC vied for ownership of the company.

More broadly, Qatalyst is part of a trend in the sector of boutique technology advisory firms that is trying to draw business away from the more established players in the technology world.

Quattrone sees it as a return to the early days of technology in the 1990s, when a handful of west coast boutiques handled the bulk of technology initial public offerings. These have now all either been closed or subsumed into larger companies.

In the US, the new wave of technology boutiques includes Allen & Company, which has traditionally focused on media, Greenhill & Co, one of several New York boutiques to set up shop in Silicon Valley, and Moelis & Co, run by the former head of the UBS investment banking arm, Ken Moelis.

In the UK, Arma Partners, a company specialising in technology, media and telecoms advisory work, has handled a big share of European technology deals over the past year, closing 11 deals since last year’s market crash. Qatalyst also opened a London office earlier this year and both Thomas Weisel Partners, the San Francisco- based investment banking firm, and Piper Jaffray, the US mid- market investment bank, have recently bolstered their technology teams in the UK.

Technology teams at many big banks have thinned out in recent years, as stock market debuts and the pace of deals have slowed. For the smaller technology boutiques this has presented an opportunity to build on what they claim is their deep specialist knowledge of the industry.

“When I was taking companies public at Credit Suisse, we were taking only the top 10% of companies,” says Quattrone. “The technology world is underserved at the moment. Existing firms can service the top clients, but 50% to 75% of the market is underserved.”

Arndt Zinnhardt, chief financial officer of German technology company Software , who used Arma Partners during its 680m acquisition of IDS Scheer earlier this year, says specialist understanding is a powerful tool: “You are talking with specialists, with a deep understanding of technology, and when we deal with Arma we can select the individuals working on the assignment.”

Boutique technology banks have always had their place. In the UK, Regent Partners, for example, has been handling a steady stream of small deals for technology customers for 21 years. The difference now is that some boutiques are increasingly trying to challenge the bulge bracket banks for work on bigger deals. Paul Guely, a former technology banker at Goldman Sachs who set up Arma Partners in 2003, says he has seen big banks as his competitors right from the start. Even the company’s first mandate — the 210m sale of Suse Linux to Novell — was won against serious blue-chip competition. “We pitched against Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers and Citigroup,” he says. “Our firm had just opened for business, we were two partners with no announced deals, and our visiting cards had probably been printed the day before. But as individuals, we each had 15 years’ experience and we got the business.”

Many smaller clients like the individual attention that a boutique can give them. “If you think about the big household names in banking, they are interested in doing siz able transactions,” explains Zinnhardt. “The lower end is not their sweet spot, and you would not normally get their ‘A’ team.”

Boutique bankers claim that the willingness to do small deals gives them an advantage. “If you only do the big deals you become just another bulge- bracket firm. If you don’t do the small deals, you are not in the flow,” Guely says.

The new breed of boutique bankers bristles, however, at any suggestion of being a cut-price option. “A boutique is not a corner shop. It is a high-end designer shop, like Prada,” says Guely. “We don’t see not being a financial supermarket as something to be ashamed of. In the last few years, the financial supermarket model has been completely discredited. Being a boutique is a badge of honour.”  © Financial Times


Positive Leadership Limited is a strategic leadership consulting firm, serving clients based mainly in the UK and USA.

Positive Leadership Limited delivers advisory and business consulting services which:

• assist the leaders of organisations facing change, identify, develop and implement strategies designed to maximise the positive financial and human impact of such high pressure events; and

• help organisations develop the leaders of today and tomorrow.

Our advisory and consulting services include: leadership advice in the areas of business strategy, M&A, capital raising, talent development and performing under pressure; and leadership consulting in the areas of coaching, mentoring, executive education and training. We draw extensively on lessons from the elite sporting environment in the work we do.

Positive Leadership Limited shares global best practice and thought leadership with its clients and builds the awareness and reach of its client focused 'game plan for winning' through various channels, including its online presence at http://positiveleadershiplimited.blogspot.com/  and http://www.positiveleadership.co.uk/  and through public speaking and writing.

Wall Street’s Near-Death Experience

With the implosion of Lehman Brothers, in September 2008, the realisation dawned: Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs could be next.

In this excerpt from his new book, Too Big to Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street, Andrew Ross Sorkin reveals the incredible scramble that took place—desperate phone calls, seat-of-the-pants merger proposals, flaring tempers—as Washington got tough and Wall Street titans Lloyd Blankfein and John Mack fought for survival - http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2009/11/too-big-to-fail-excerpt-200911