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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leadership Lessons from the U.S. World Cup Campaign

The U.S. soccer team's run in the World Cup came to an agonising conclusion against Ghana on Saturday, but unlike many of the major European nations competing, the team can at least head home with their heads held high. And none more so than coach Bob Bradley, who has offered myriad leadership lessons over the course of the two weeks the U.S. team was involved at the world's most-watched sporting event. Among the key lessons are:

1 Team Spirit trumps individual talent.
2 'It's never too late'
3 Admit your mistakes ....... then fix them.

For more, see - http://www.cnbc.com/id/37978436

Appreciation Works!

Your organisation feels the economic difficulties. Your team knows that you have to make savings. You want to keep spirits up, but budgets are tight and getting even tighter. Everyone feels overworked, tired, and taken for granted. You are tense and irritable yourself.

Now is the time for a magnanimous but totally basic gesture. It is simple and free, and will lift your spirits too. It is so simple but it works.

The gesture: Send notes of appreciation to the people on your team telling them specifically what you value about each of them as colleagues. Surprise them with something they might not know that you notice. No form letters. Preferably handwritten notes, to stand out in the impersonal email clutter.

If you are not the big boss, you could also ask the next level above you to send a letter to your team acknowledging their contributions.

Some of the best CEOs are known for their handwritten notes. When Jeannette Wagner headed Estee Lauder, she always had stationery with her on trips to keep getting out those notes, sometimes sent in the next hour after a meeting. U.S. Presidents have built their goodwill banks of future supporters through handwritten notes (not the ones generated by machines).

In organisations and professions where a show of emotion is rare, recipients might secretly treasure the note because it is unexpected. Your own mood will improve as you think positive thoughts. This is scientifically proven. 


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Top Executives Lack Confidence in Corporate Leadership

Top executives consider their companies poorly prepared to face future challenges in terms of leadership line-up, according to a recent global survey of senior executives.  

Nearly 70 percent of executives do not believe there is sufficient leadership potential in such skills as the ability to drive change, drive customer focus, basic business competencies and innovation skills. Additionally, the survey shows that nearly 70 percent of top executives in global companies do not believe they have a well documented succession plan in place. 

In the US, only 32 percent of executives believe there is a succession plan process in place despite the fact that US public companies face increased SEC and shareholder scrutiny to ensure a CEO succession plan has been established.  New SEC guidelines redefine succession planning responsibilities as a key board function. 

For complete study see: http://www.egonzehnder.com/iep-resilience


Leadership Lessons from the BP Oil Spill

Lesson 1: Crises expose dysfunctional organisational cultures.
Lesson 2: Leaders must recognise when a crisis can't be spun.
Lesson 3: Leaders need to work together rather than scoring points or deflecting blame.
Lesson 4: Leaders are there to serve their companies, people and communities.
Lesson 5: True leadership exists beyond title and office — elected leaders should remember this.


Character v Reputation

'Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.'

Coach John Wooden


How Can Leaders Build Followers?

Great leaders understand that people will not follow you just because you want them to, or because you say they must. Leaders create a following only by being the type of leader that people want to follow. So the question for aspiring leaders becomes, “How can I get people to want to follow me?”

If you’re a leader with this question on your mind, consider these things:

People follow leaders they trust.

No matter how good you may be at your job, regardless of your skills, knowledge or talent, you will not create a following without first being a person that people can come to know and trust. Character goes much farther than brains when attempting to recruit believers to your cause. People will quickly see through a charade if you are trying to be someone you’re not. Great leaders not only talk the talk, they walk the walk!

People follow leaders who care.

When you want to lead so others will follow, you have to care about them as individuals. When a person feels that he matters as a person, that his opinions are valued and his efforts appreciated, he is far more likely to respond in a positive manner. The more a leader or manager proves genuine interest and concern for his employees, the more loyal his believers and followers will become.

People follow leaders they can talk to.

It is impossible to make the kind of connection necessary for strong leadership support if your followers can’t approach you. You must be available and open to discussion, ready to listen sincerely, and willing to acknowledge valuable input and suggestions. This consistency will help build trust and increase the confidence of your team.

People follow leaders they admire.

The most important trait that others will see and value is a leader’s sense of commitment. A great leader must be ready to give everything he has for the cause he believes in. If a leader cannot demonstrate his own true dedication to the company goals and objectives, how can he expect others to follow along?

People follow leaders they respect.

Respect never comes automatically with position or title, it must be earned. Initially, people may follow along with a leader because he is the person in charge, but ultimately they will follow a leader whom they respect. Being able to do the job well increases a leader’s credibility. It is when things get tough and a leader must stand up to his commitments, that he will develop a following of individuals who respect him and his competence.

All of the above actions are built on the principles of influence, not position. 

Everything a leader does, and everything he says plays a critical role in the way he ultimately influences those around him. It is this influence that builds the trust, confidence and loyalty that every good leader strives for. 


Monday, June 28, 2010

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Leadership Gap Between the Public and Private Sectors

David Rubenstein, a founding managing director of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s premiere private-equity firms, has built a career on assessing companies across industries and around the globe. 

In this interview from the McKinsey conversations with global leaders, Rubenstein shares his insights on how to manage a diverse and decentralised organisation, how to identify the markets of greatest potential in a changing world economy, and how to attract leaders who are both intelligent and “have their ego in check.” He also discusses the new ecosystem he sees developing for the private-equity industry as pressures build for some of its largest players go public -



Is Your Leadership Consistent?

Is your leadership consistent, regardless of the setting you are in, the people you’re with or the circumstances you’re facing? 

Consistency in leadership may sound like a recipe for boring sameness or rigid thinking. On the contrary, being a consistent leader means:

  • What is important today is also important tomorrow
  • You don’t chase the latest fad, project or trend
  • Your bad mood doesn’t cause you to act radically different
  • People know what to expect from you.
Being consistent in your leadership means that even under duress, you make the right choices. You steer the ship, make mid-course corrections and align your “crew” around important best practices that will help you reach your destination.

Even the most reliable and unswerving of leaders must be able to adjust to change. Yet, the consistent leader will be grounded, so that unfamiliar and challenging conditions won’t change the quality of interactions, thinking and decision-making.

How do you stay on course and make consistently positive leadership choices?

Start by answering these four questions:

1. What is success? Success is defined first by the impact you want to make – and secondly by the results you need to achieve to have that impact. Think about who and what will be changed by your efforts. That’s your impact.

2. What is sacred? What are your non-negotiables? Make a list of the things you will not compromise, no matter what. For example, you might list ethical standards that are vital and unchanging.

3. What is important? List a few guiding principles for your life and your leadership. Examples might include:
  • Act with integrity
  • Be a good steward of resources
  • Be humble
  • Have fun
4. What works? Know – and grow – best practices that lead to success, help you hold fast to what is sacred and allow you to focus on what is important. Identify the thinking and actions that are requirements for questions 1, 2 and 3.

Consistent, dependable leadership choices provide a solid foundation for your people – enabling them to weather storms and operate at their peak. You shouldn’t be completely predictable. You don’t have to be perfect, and you’re allowed to have bad days. What you cannot do is permit outside conditions to change you fundamentally – causing you to shift whichever way the wind blows. Be the anchor that your organisational ship requires.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Buying and Selling Can Be Good For You

The Mergers and Acquisitions Research Centre (Marc) at Cass Business School in London has just published a paper on the deal-making record of new CEOs. Its analysis challenges some long-held prejudices about the wisdom (or otherwise) of hasty executive action.

Marc’s key findings were as follows. CEOs who carry out a big deal in their first year outperform their peers in the long run. However, attempting more than one major deal in that first year leads to poorer performance. The message? A big strategic change may be a good idea, but do not attempt more than one.

CEOs who choose to sell a part of the business early on outperform those who make an acquisition – but this only holds true in their first two years in the job. This finding reflects the actions of distressed companies that need the cash injection of a sale.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Motivate Your Board

When serving on a board of directors is voluntary, sometimes members can lose focus or doubt that their participation is essential. At your next board meeting, try these three tips for reinvigorating and encouraging board members to devote more time and energy to growing your company:

  1. Pose provocative questions. Spend a significant part of each board meeting wrestling with critical issues and asking your board to think through the toughest challenges facing your company.
  2. Share the stage. Minimise time spent listening to prepared presentations. Be sure the conversation isn't dominated by one or two members.
  3. Spend time one-on-one. Find out about members' individual interests and how they might translate to helping your company in a unique way — for example, by coaching an executive or attending a critical in-house meeting.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Psychology and Business Success

How much do you think the average businessperson needs to know about psychology? 

Some businesspeople have a strange idea about psychology. They think they can forget it and run their business by numbers alone. They believe that if they have a good enough understanding of things like profit and loss, cash flow, economic forecasts, and credit sources, then they know all they need to know.

Their managers have come up through the ranks after coming out of business school, and the psychology of human behaviour has just never seemed important enough for their time and attention. However, if the average businessperson doesn't think psychology is important, the highly successful ones know better.

Malcolm Forbes once said "There are those of us who think that the psychology of man, each and together, has more impact on markets, business, services, construction, and the entire fabric of an economy than all the more measurable statistical indices." 

So if you are serious about succeeding in business, or in any endeavour where the end-result depends on people, you would do well to find out what is happening in the worlds of cognitive, organisational and social psychology.

The best evidence is telling us that quality, productivity, and customer service are the results of beliefs, attitudes and expectations as much, or more, than the good skills and systems.

It is your people who define your organisational culture, and psychology lies at the very foundation of your people.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


Kindness works simply and perseveringly; it produces no strained relations which prejudice its working; strained relations which already exist it relaxes. Mistrust and misunderstanding it puts to flight, and it strengthens itself by calling forth answering kindness. Hence it is the furthest reaching and the most effective of all forces.

Albert Schweitzer


Life Lessons

Robert L. Joss, Professor of Finance, Dean Emeritus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has some advice a few weeks before graduation. In fact, he has 10 life lessons:

10. Life is like cricket
9. Life is too short to deal with "bad" people
8. Run it like you own it
7. Don't forget to manage side-ways
6. Don't take yourself too seriously
5. Without fear -- there is no courage
4. Life is full of "character building experiences"
                                              3. Find the words
                                              2. Use CAT and GSB learning throughout your life
                                              1. Don't forget to renew yourself

To listen to the full lecture (with slides) see - http://www.youtube.com/stanfordbusiness#p/u/2556C102D4467946/0/62rgESCyB2g


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


What does it mean to be authentic in today's world? It doesn't mean just being different or standing out from the crowd.

"Genuineness." "Authenticity." These words are hard to say and, for many people, even harder to be. Here is what we think it means to be authentic. First of all, authentic people are aware of their thoughts and feelings, and they behave in ways that reflect those feelings. They don't see any need to "Put on an act" to impress or control others. They accept their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths, and they know that accepting something isn't necessarily the same thing as liking it. Do you know something else? Because they accept themselves for who they are, they accept other people, too.

Authentic people don't laugh at jokes they don't think are funny. They don't change their identity, like chameleons, depending on who they are with or where they are. So, if you want to grow as a person, take time to really know yourself. If you're not completely happy with what you find, don't worry too much. Work on accepting yourself for what you are, right here, right now, and on being truly authentic.

Carl Rogers, a world famous psychologist, once said that when we accept ourselves exactly as we are, change becomes much easier. 


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Leadership Means Responsibility

In his 'View from the Top' speech, Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean Robert Joss defines what it means to lead: 'It's any position where you take responsibility for a group with a mission to fulfil.' He told students that: 'In order to have the organisation you lead evolve, you have to be the change you want to see in others'.


Monday, June 14, 2010

The Importance of Role Models

Just about everyone knows that good role models are important for a child's development, but have you ever thought about why this is true?

Our work emphasises the importance of visualisation in being able to perform under pressure, because we've learned that our mental images, for the most part, are what determine our reality. In other words, the way we see ourselves and the world is what decides how we will behave, and how we behave determines, to a very great extent, what will happen to us.

Role models serve as living, breathing mental images that help us visualise the way we'd like to live. 

What kinds of role models are best? There is no question about it - people we can actually get to know. You see, while it's helpful to read about an admirable person in a book or magazine, watch an inspiring life story in the movies, or watch successful people on TV, it is much more powerful when we can actually interact with someone who shows us possibilities for ourselves.

When we can do so on a daily or regular basis, as we do with parents, grandparents, teachers and so on, this has the most powerful impact of all. And remember parents, your children will learn far more from what you do than from what you say. The best role models only need to set a good example and let the children find the rest out for themselves. 


Saturday, June 12, 2010

The New 21st Century Leaders

Here is some fascinating insight into a new leadership model for the 21st century from Harvard Professor Bill George:

'During the last half of the 20th century, business leadership became an elite profession, dominated by managers who ruled their enterprises from the top down. Influenced by two World Wars and the Depression, organisational hierarchies were structured along military lines, with multi-layered structures to establish control through rules and processes. People climbed the ranks in search of power, status, money and perquisites.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century the stock market became increasingly short-term, causing corporate leaders to concentrate on quarterly earnings, often to the exclusion of long-term growth. In the past decade it all blew up, from the ethical scandals exposed by Enron and WorldCom to the Wall Street meltdown. As a result, people lost trust in business leaders to build sustainable institutions instead of serving themselves and short-term shareholders.

What happened? The hierarchical model simply doesn't work anymore.

The craftsman-apprentice model has been replaced by learning organisations, filled with knowledge workers who don't respond to "top down" leadership. Seeking opportunities to lead, young people are unwilling to spend ten years waiting in line. Most important, people are searching for genuine satisfaction and meaning from their work, not just money.

In response to these changes, a new generation of leaders is reshaping the best-led global companies. Authentic leaders focused on customers are replacing hierarchical leaders that focus on serving short-term shareholders. Typical of these leaders is Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who recently told the Financial Times, "I don't work for the shareholder. I work for consumers and my customers."

In the 21st century the most successful leaders will focus on sustaining superior performance by aligning people around mission and values and empowering leaders at all levels, while concentrating on serving customers and collaborating throughout the organisation.

Aligning: The leader's most difficult task is to align people around the organisation's mission and shared values, which is far more challenging than making short-term numbers. Gaining alignment is especially difficult in far-flung global organisations where local employees may be more loyal to native cultures than their employers, especially regarding business practices.

Traditional leaders thought they could solve this problem with rulebooks, training programmes and compliance systems, and were shocked when people deviated. Aligned employees commit to the mission and values of the organisation, and want to be part of something greater than themselves. Johnson & Johnson is a classic case of an aligned organisation that uses its famed Credo to guide global employees in their actions.

Empowering: Hierarchical leaders delegate limited amounts of power in order to retain control. In contrast, 21st century leaders empower leaders at all levels, combined with sophisticated accountability systems to ensure commitments are met.

Front-line leaders without direct reports are especially needed. Here's an empowered leader who sets standards of excellence for other employees  in Medtronic's heart valve facility. A Laotian immigrant, she told me, "I make heart valves that save people's life. I do my own quality control, because if one of the valves I make fails, someone will die. At Medtronic 99.9 percent quality is very good, but I couldn't live with causing someone's death. My satisfaction comes from the 5,000 people alive today because of heart valves I made."

Serving: As Polman points out, the leader's first obligation is not to shareholders, but rather to customers. CEOs who spend too much time listening to Wall Street risk ignoring their most important stakeholder — their customers. Any organisation that doesn't provide its customers with superior value relative to competitors will find itself going out of business. Employees are much more motivated by serving customers than they are by getting stock prices up, and that's what leads to innovation and superior customer service. Satisfied customers and motivated employees are key to sustaining revenue growth and, ultimately, shareholder value.

Collaborating: The challenges businesses face these days are too complex to be solved by individuals or even single organisations. Collaboration — within the organisation and with customers, suppliers, and even competitors — is required to achieve lasting solutions. Leaders must foster this collaborative spirit, eliminating internal politics and focusing on internal cooperation. After becoming CEO of IBM, Sam Palmisano transformed IBM's long-standing bureaucracy into an "integrated global network," shifting to "leading by values" and breaking down silos that kept people from collaborating.

The ultimate measure of effectiveness for leaders is the ability to sustain superior results over an extended period of time. Organisations filled with aligned, empowered and collaborative employees focused on serving customers will outperform hierarchical organizations every time. Top-down leaders may achieve near-term results, but only authentic leaders can galvanise the entire organisation to sustain long-term performance.

We need them to rebuild the trust that has been lost in capitalism.'


Friday, June 11, 2010

Becoming a Great Leader

Effective leaders are people who have the skills to create visions, build trust, galvanise people, and get things done. Great leaders are people who can inspire with their attention and presence. They are the people who open the doors to new ways of thinking, doing, and being in an organisation. They are the ones others naturally follow.

Positive Leadership helps organisations build effective executive leaders, and we work with effective leaders to help enable them to be great.

For more information, please contact: graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Going the Extra Inch


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What Every Leader Should Know

Every leader should know their people’s responses to each of these questions:

While working for this organisation…
…what’s your greatest hope?
…what’s your greatest fear?
…what would you most like to learn?

Do you know what your team is saying?


Honesty is the Safest Path to Making Money

Warren Buffett is arguably America's most admired investor. He is ceo of Berkshire Hathaway. Here is what he had to say at the 2010 Berkshire Hathaway AGM, one of the highlights of the US financial calendar:

'What led to the financial crisis was a lack of integrity. Honesty is the safest path to making money.'

He explained that the 'everyone's doing it' culture is tough to fight against, especially when there is an army of accountants, lawyers and consultants all driven by an economic interest to push you to do something. But you must fight the fight, he said; 'the best way to prevent such errors of judgement is to be directly accountable for the decisions you make.'

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


How would you describe your own character? What do we mean when we use that particular word?

If we were to describe someone to you by saying he or she has a fine character, would you know what we mean? Our guess is that you would. You would probably understand that we were talking about moral or ethical strength - what some people call integrity.

But how do you know when someone - even yourself - has good character? Well, for one thing, you can see the evidence. Character is revealed in our actions, in the values that we live by. It begins building in early life, in our family. If we are loved and accepted, if we are consistently treated with respect, we grow up free from the burden of trying to prove our worth, free to develop integrity of character. Schools, churches and workplaces can help build character too - positively or negatively.

We also believe, as do many others, that people also shape their own character. If you would like to do this in a more conscious way, you can start by asking yourself: "What are some qualities I value?" Do they include honesty, compassion, discipline, perseverance, kindness, courage, forgiveness, and enthusiasm? You will think of others, as well. Now, what are some actions you could take which would demonstrate those qualities? What could you do to build these qualities into your own character, so that behaving in these ways becomes second nature?

Character could be defined as, "who you are when no one is looking." 

As you think about these things, remember that there is a great deal of information available to help you. Seek it out - and stick with it. You can do it!


Monday, June 07, 2010

The Difference between Leaders and Others

When leaders make a mistake,
they say, "I was wrong." 
when followers make mistakes,
they say, "It wasn't my fault."

A leader works harder than a follower
and has more time; 
a follower is always "too busy"
to do what is necessary.

A leader goes through a problem;
a follower goes around it and never gets past it.

A leader makes and keeps commitments;
a follower makes and forgets promises.

A leader says, "I'm good, but not as good as I ought to be;"
a follower says, "I'm not as bad as a lot of other people."

Leaders listen;
followers just wait until it's their turn to talk. 

Leaders respect those who are superior to them and tries to learn something from them;
followers resent those who are superior to them and try to find chinks in their armour.

Leaders feel responsible for more than their job;
followers say, "I only work here."

A leader says, "There ought to be a better way to do this;"
followers say, "That's the way it's always been done here." 


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Coach Wooden on Leadership

As a tribute to John Wooden's amazing legacy of leadership, here are some of Coach Wooden's thoughts on leadership:.


I believe leadership itself is largely learned. Certainly not everyone can lead nor is every leader destined for glory, but most of us have a potential far beyond what we think possible.

Those who aspire to be leaders can do it; those who wish to become much better leaders can also do it. I know, because this has been true in my own life. Whatever coaching and leadership skills I possess were learned through listening, observation, study, and then trial and error along the way.

In my opinion, this is how most leaders improve and progress. For me, the process of learning leadership continued for 40 years until the day I walked off the court for the last time as head coach - March 31, 1975 - following UCLA's tenth national championship. In truth, my learning continued even after that. (Pages 4-5)


At some point, later than I'd care to admit, it became clear to me that the most productive model for good leadership is a good parent. A coach, teacher, and leader, in my view, are all basic variations of being a parent. And while parenting is the most important job in the world, leadership isn't far behind. I revere the opportunity and obligation it confers, namely, the power to change lives and make a difference. For me, leadership is a sacred trust.

A leader in sports, business, or any other field of endeavour should possess and provide the same qualities inherent in a good parent: character, consistency, dependability, accountability, knowledge, good judgment, selflessness, respect, courage, discipline, fairness, and structure.

And while all these will make you a good leader, they will not make you a great leader. For that one additional quality - perhaps the most important of all - is necessary. Although it may sound out of place in the rough-and-tumble context of sports or corporate competition, I believe you must have love in your heart for the people under your leadership. I did. (80)


There was no single big thing that made our UCLA basketball teams effective, not the press or the fast break, not size, not condition - no single big thing. Instead, it was hundreds of small things done the right way, and done consistently.

A leader must identify each of the many details that are most pivotal to team success and then establish, and teach, a high standard of behaviour or performance in executing those details. How you - the leader - define "average" is how your team will define it. Some leaders define average as average; some define average as being significantly above average.

It is easy to be lazy when it comes to details. Laziness is a euphemism for sloppiness, and sloppiness precludes any organisation from achieving competitive greatness and success. Your ability as leader to set and achieve high standards in the domain or details - to insist that average will be well above average - is one of the accurate predictors of how effective you will be as a leader, and how productive those under your supervision will be as a team.

Once you recognise the connection between sweat socks and success, you have acquired one of the most valuable assets for effective leadership, namely, that little things, done well, make big things happen for you and your organisation. (147)


You need talent on your team to prevail in the competitive arena. However, many leaders don't know how to win even when they have great talent in their organisation. Furthermore, leaders are frequently forced to compete when the talent matchup isn't in their favour. What do you do then?

While a book can't replace talent, it can provide productive insights on how to get the most out of the talent you have available. And this, in my opinion, is the first goal of leadership - namely, getting the very best out of the people in your organisation, whether they have talent to spare or are spare on talent.

Your ability to bring forth - maximize - the potential and abilities of those under your leadership marks you as a great competitor and leader. Some years, the teams I taught were blessed with significant talent. Other years, this was not the case. But in all years - with all levels of talent - my goal was the same, namely, to get the most out of what we had. (289-290)


Outliers: The Sory of Success

A conversation with Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story Of Success:


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Coach John Wooden (October 14, 1910 – June 4, 2010) - An Appreciation

'It was always startling, never surprising, for the high school coach to look up and see the historic but humble man in the corner of the gym, doing what he loved. That would be watching young people practice basketball.

Tim Wolf found his way to the bench at Martinsville High 23 years ago and soon after discovered that one of the great coaching perks in America came with the job. John Wooden, a Los Angeles institution but an Indiana lifer, loved to come home.

He craved the persimmon pudding at Poe’s Cafeteria in nearby Mooresville and would drop in to check up on his old team, known as the Artesians.

Wooden — who died Friday at 99 — was born near Martinsville on Oct. 14, 1910, and led its public high school to three state tournament finals, and an Indiana championship in 1927. Then he went to college in-state at Purdue, became a three-time all-American and in 1932 was part of an unofficial national title team.

Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, his renowned philosophical construct for basketball and life, was rooted in the proverbial rural gymnasium that in most Indiana burgs would rank second only to church.

In Martinsville, with a population in 2000 of about 11,600, they put Wooden’s name on the 5,400-seat gym 22 years ago, and the locals wondered what took so long.

“It was my second year here, he came for the ceremony and spent four days,” Wolf said in a telephone interview. “He held a clinic for the kids, had dinner with the team. The only thing he asked was that we didn’t tell the press.

“After that, you could pretty much count on him showing up once or twice a year. One of the kids would come up to me during the summer and say, ‘I was shooting in the gym today and Coach Wooden came around.’ Around here, the kids know of John Wooden from the time they bounce a ball.”

Elsewhere, the players receiving a free pass in history class might know him as the name on the most prestigious individual award in the college game. They might also recognize the nickname, the Wizard of Westwood. It was one Wooden was never fond of, given the ostentation he demanded his players leave home before matriculating at U.C.L.A.

Wooden won a record 10 national titles, including seven straight from 1967 through 1973. His teams reached 12 Final Fours, and they won 88 straight games between 1971 and 1974. He had supreme talent, including the most dominant centers of the era, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.

He also had critics, who reason that there was little competition out west and remind us that Sam Gilbert, a U.C.L.A. booster, served as friend and fixer for many a Bruins star, landing the university on probation six years after Wooden retired in 1975.

Who knows what Wooden knew or didn’t want to know? Temptation was not invented with John Calipari or Jim Calhoun, but there was one compromise Wooden absolutely refused to make.

His players never took control of the gym. Great as they were, Pauley Pavilion never became their stage to pose for the pros, and doing it the coach’s way was about more than getting a haircut.

“His skills as a coach are overlooked because everyone focuses on the talent,” Geno Auriemma, the Connecticut women’s coach, whose team currently has a 78-game winning streak, wrote in an e-mail message. “He taught the game as well as anyone ever has or will.”

If there was one thing that Wooden came to loathe about the game he loved, it was how the last stronghold was lost in too many places and the sport became a showcase — for players and coaches.

Henry Bibby, who played for U.C.L.A. in the early 1970s, said in a telephone interview that Wooden used to tell his players he did not want them watching the local professional team — and that was when the Lakers had a few decent fellows named Chamberlain, West and Baylor.

“He thought we would pick up bad habits watching the Lakers,” Bibby said. “As much respect as he had for the talent, he believed the pros played a different game.”

Not so much anymore, in an age of dunks, 3-point shots and handing the ball to freshmen who will learn just enough to declare themselves ready for the next level while the echo of Dick Vitale’s tournament ranting still rings in their ears.

There are notable exceptions — no doubt Wooden enjoyed watching upperclassmen-laden Duke and Butler square off in the last title game of his life — but in recent years, he became a fan of the women’s game, saying he appreciated watching players do old-fashioned things like move without the ball.

More than his titles, Wooden’s legacy is his wisdom, forever available to those still interested in a free-flowing, thinking-man’s game.

“I regard him as the greatest basketball coach of all time,” Jack Ramsay, an 85-year-old broadcaster and former coach, whose 1977 N.B.A. championship team in Portland was anchored by Walton, said by telephone. “His attention to detail created routines that we all learned and adopted. Every day at practice, we did the things that he preached — running, balance, change of direction, ball handling, just about every fundamental facet of the game, about seven, eight minutes every single day.”

Ramsay called Walton “as fundamentally sound as any player I ever coached or saw,” and Walton has said a few thousand times that he owed that to Wooden, who got his point across without bravado or bullying, who preached the same things to him that he did to Tim Wolf’s Martinsville team.

“The last time he came, a few years ago, his daughter brought him over, with a walker,” Wolf said. “As always, he was happy to take a few moments, tell the boys never to get too high or low after a game, value the fundamentals and always remember there’s a life after basketball.”

John Wooden lived a long one that fell a little more than four months short of his 100th birthday and a planned dedication of a renovated Pauley Pavilion. Just a hunch, but the college arena might not have been the gym he cared about most.'

A version of this article appeared in print on June 6, 2010, on page SP1 of the New York edition of The New York Times.


Talent Is Overrated

 A conversation with Geoff Colvin, author of Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:


Friday, June 04, 2010

Teamwork Matters in Business as well as in Sport

At the heart of recent financial service firm failures was a 'me' not 'we' culture and leaders who were not driven by a larger purpose. Take a look at this youth sports initiative from the USA which emphasises that there is no 'I' in 'Team':


See the Opening and 'Go For It'!

"I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time."

— Jack London


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Oops!! - BP chief apologises for 'I'd like my life back' comment

Under-fire BP chief executive Tony Hayward issued an apology yesterday for saying in an interview that he would "like my life back," as a massive oil spill wreaks devastation along the Gulf coast.

"I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment on Sunday when I said that 'I wanted my life back,'" Hayward said in a post to BP America's Facebook page.

"When I read that recently, I was appalled. I apologise, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident," he said.

Eleven rig workers aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling platform were killed when it exploded on April 20, sinking two days later into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, according to US government estimates, at least 20 million gallons have leaked into the waters.

Despite BP's efforts to cap the flow, thick crude continues to ooze into the Gulf of Mexico's fragile wetlands and once-pristine tourist beaches, killing wildlife and their habitats and destroying the local fishing and tourism-based economy.

"Those words don't represent how I feel about this tragedy, and certainly don't represent the hearts of the people of BP -- many of whom live and work in the Gulf -- who are doing everything they can to make things right," Hayward said in the post.

"My first priority is doing all we can to restore the lives of the people of the Gulf region and their families -- to restore their lives, not mine."


The Difference Between Business Champions and Sporting Champions

The way we define the “Champion” level for the clients with whom we work makes it a lot easier to become a “champion” in the business or non-profit world than it is in the sports world.

Becoming a Champion on the sports field requires a team or an individual to come out on top in a physical competition, for example Phil Mickelson, the 2010 Masters Golf Champion had to beat out a field of 95 other golfers over a four-day competition.

However, defining a “Champion” in the business and non-profit world is much easier. It comes down to measuring yourself against the absolutely best you can be.

When we first engage an organisational leader we find many measure themselves extremely low on our 'Champion Organisations scale'. The scale works as follows:

Imagine your organisation is a sports team and today is the first day of pre-season training. Your vision and goal is to get the Cup Final – or whatever is your ‘Championship Game’ equivalent.

On a scale of 1-5, one means you are just starting out and must begin to build your Champion Organisation, and a 5 means you are absolutely guaranteed to make it to your Championship Game.

Try it:

1        2       3       4       5

Next – What are the 3 most important areas of your organisation that, if you were to improve them over the next 3-6 months, you would significantly improve your Champion Organisation score and get greater top line or bottom line results?


Have fun with the exercise. You may even want to pass it around to others in your organisation and learn whether you are all on the same page. If you are not, then you know you have some work to do! 


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Scoreboard Can't Tell You Everything

This interview with Bill Carter, partner in and founder of Fuse, a youth marketing agency, was featured in The New York Times:

‘Q. Talk about early leadership lessons for you.

A. I grew up in Maryland, in an area where lacrosse was the dominant sport. And I happened to go to a high school that was the dominant program in the country, and it was run by a coach named Joe McFadden. I don’t remember losing more than three games in all of high school. I was in this culture of winning, where all the coaches, the players, the kids in that high school and the administrators expected us to win.

I was recruited to play lacrosse in college by a very sort of mediocre team at the time — Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. And again, by sheer luck, the day before I was to go on campus as a freshman, I received a letter in the mail that the lacrosse coach had retired, and a new coach was coming, named Hank Janczyk. He’s still there 20-something years later. And today, he’s one of the top lacrosse coaches of all time.

Again, there was this culture of winning, this expectation that every practice was going to be unbelievably competitive. Every game was judged not only on whether we won or lost and what the score was, but on how we played. And I think that has definitely carried over, not only the expectation of winning and creating a business culture about winning, but also about whether it was the best that we were capable of doing, not just based on the outcome.

I think about that a lot in the context of our business now, about when we go into a new business pitch. If we win, I still evaluate the pitch and whether it was the best portrayal of who we are, or whether we won for some other reason. And I think about that at times when we lose new business pitches or don’t do an exceptionally good job for a client in the client’s eyes. I can still look at that and evaluate it based on factors other than the final result.

Q. Let’s go back to these lacrosse coaches you mentioned. Can you elaborate on how they affected your leadership style at Fuse?

A. My high school coach had a unique style for that age group. He had a very sort of business approach. 

There were very good players, there were mediocre players and there were players who probably were not very good and that were not going to get a lot of playing time. And he was very sort of matter-of-fact about it. The best players played. The mediocre players maybe got a little bit of time, but it wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart. It was because somebody needed a rest. And the players of lesser ability just simply didn’t play.
It was about rewarding the best players, regardless of how they had sort of achieved that. Just because he saw somebody working really hard in practice, that didn’t mean anything when it came time to play in a game.

And I learned something from that. I think working hard is great. You can log a lot of hours in the office. You can do a lot of extra work. But if the partners at our agency and the directors who run our business groups don’t think that someone’s ready to be put in a position to give a client presentation or be in a new business pitch, they’re not going to be there. And it has nothing, really, to do with what we believe about the person or their effort level. It just has to do with choosing the best people in our office to put in those positions.

When my college coach arrived, his job was to change the mediocre culture of the team, and then literally change the makeup of the team. He said very directly: “There are going to be major changes now that I’m here, and those major changes are going to come in the form of the makeup of the team, because I’m out there recruiting. And frankly, I’m recruiting players that are better than the players in this room.”

That was a tough thing to hear, but he was very honest. And the reason he did it — it wasn’t to be spiteful in any way — was to essentially say: “So, if you plan to be here, you’ve got to get better. You’ve got to get better every day in practice. You’ve got to prove in games that you deserve to be here.” And he was right.

And so I watched a culture change over those four years from mediocrity to this expectation of winning. A lot of that had to do with the recruiting practices, which I can directly tie to our own hiring practices. If you want to make the team better, you go get better players. And where were the better players from? They were from high schools that won, from their high school coaches that instilled a culture of winning, from schools that were, frankly, more competitive.

So I think about that when we recruit people. You want to be better? Go get people who are at organisations that are, at least in a particular function, better than what you have now.’


The Importance of linking Job Descriptions to Corporate Strategy

Recent research from the US shows that companies that fail to take action to regularly link jobs to strategy often are more than twice as likely to have flat or declining revenues:

  • 68% of respondents to the survey who strongly agree that there is a clear link between their job and corporate strategy report that their company is growing revenue, while just 39% of those that strongly disagree report revenue growth.
  • Just 27% of respondents who strongly agree that there is a clear link between their job and corporate strategy report that revenues are flat or declining, while 57% of respondents who strongly disagree note that revenues are flat or declining.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jose Mourinho and Leadership

‘Many people work hard, but not well. You must create good leadership with the players, which is an accepted leadership, not leadership by power or status. You must create a positive atmosphere and make everyone feel part of the group.’ Jose Mourinho

Fitness coach Rui Faria, who has worked alongside Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Inter, says: ‘Every other top coach says they work hard and they prepare better than anyone else, but they can't make what Mourinho does. Everything he does is better. He works harder than anyone else. He knows everything about every player and every game.’


Increase your Self-Awareness to become a Better Leader

Too many leaders think they are adept at everything. Self-aware leaders know that they can't possibly have the skills and knowledge to do it all. Instead, they are dynamic, adaptable, and emotionally intelligent.

Here are three ways to build your own self-awareness:

  1. Observe your own performance. Take note of the areas you excel in and those that need improvement. Share these observations with your team.
  2. Know what you don't know. Accept that there are areas you have little expertise in. Seek out a team member who can help you fill in the gaps.
  3. Monitor your impact on others. Because so much of our work is about relationships, knowing how you affect others is a critical leadership skill. Manage your emotional responses and look for cues that you're building relationships, not destroying them.