Thursday, December 29, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
What was at the core of Mr. Apotheker's failure? Was it a flawed turnaround strategy? After all, his plan to spin-off the $40 billion PC business (hard won by another former CEO, Carly Fiorina, through the controversial acquisition of Compaq) and the deal to buy Autonomy, a software maker, for a hefty $10.3 billion caused a gigantic gasp of concern on Wall Street and among HP's 320,000 employees. No. Ms. Whitman told The Wall Street Journal that she endorsed the strategy. "I think the strategy is right," said Ms. Whitman.*
* Ben Worthen, Justin Scheck, Joann Lublin, H-P Defends Hasty Whitman Hire, The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The news this week that Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz was fired took me back to Mark Hurd's departure from HP last year. I used Mr. Hurd and the HP Board as an example in chapter 13, Passing the Candle: Succession Planning, in my book, Camelot, Inc.: Leadership and Management Insights from King Arthur and the Round Table. While Yahoo! stock rose and HP stock dropped in the immediate aftermath, both actions left a leadership vacuum -- the Boards acted without naming a successor. Indeed, both companies didn't appear to have a succession mechanism nor was a search firm in place. I wrote, "Succession for executives and managers must not be left to chance; evaluation of internal and external talent, along with a predetermined, orderly process for transition, is required to help guarantee the organization's ongoing success."
In the case of Ms. Bartz, though, a number of other book chapters were violated such as chapter 8, Picking Your Battles: Navigating through Your Audience and Environment. It was a less than graceful exit when she sent an e-mail to 14,000 staffers saying, "I am very sad to tell you that I've just been fired over the phone by Yahoo's Chairman of the Board." In an interview with Fortune, she expanded her remarks by saying, "These people f****ed me over."1 Will that help her to create trust in future relationships? Does that embody professionalism? And, in a blow to chapter 14, Destiny and Legacy: Making Your Personal and Professional Mark, is that how she wants to be remembered?
Of course, the Chairman, Roy Bostock, also trampled on chapter 8 as well as chapter 10, Realism and Idealism: Balancing Vision and Execution. The key take-aways are that one can't allow things to boil over and that important issues - no matter how awkward or uncomfortable - must be handled face-to-face. Ms. Bartz said she called him out on the cowardly handling of the termination by asking, "Why don't you have the balls to tell me yourself?"1
2. Maxwell Wessel, HBR Blog Network, Sep. 7, 2011
3. Kara Swisher, All Things Digital, Sep. 6, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Cause and effect are often difficult to prove. This is especially true when there are a lot of "moving parts." When it comes to all of the unrest in the world, we have to examine and weigh the contributions of economics, religion, culture, ego, etc. In health care, the complexities and differences in our genetics and in the way research is conducted leads frequently to conflicting reports on nutrition, drugs, supplements, diagnostic tests, etc.
There are also a lot of moving parts in the political arena and here, too, cause and effect are hard to prove. For example, take a look at the gridlock in Washington, and the expanding and deepening incivility in the capitol and across the nation. Is it worse today than in the past? In fact, there has been plenty of political hate over the centuries. We've seen greed, lies, propaganda, impeachment and attempted impeachment, duels, assassinations and attempted assassinations.
And, yet, this all feels different and not in a good way. Never before has there been such a low level of trust in Government and never before have our leaders trusted each other less. There are many factors, of course, that have conspired to whip-up this historic, stomach-turning divisiveness and cynicism. As I said, it's tough to put one's finger on a single cause and effect but here's one hypothesis: Our endless election cycle is destroying America -- our progress, our ethics, and our empathy and cohesion as a people.
Campaigns used to be episodic -- there was a campaign "season." After a few months of electioneering, the bulk of the name-calling and character assassination would be over; politicians would get back to business. There was plenty of time between election cycles for people to make-up, form relationships, and build some mutual respect and trust. Not today.
With drawn-out primaries, the influence of PACs and SuperPACs, the blurring of reporting and opinion and 24/7 media coverage, presidential contenders (not to mention House members) never stop campaigning. And, they never stop bashing their opposition. It's become more strident, more shocking, in the same way we crave more and more stimulation and outrageous behavior in reality TV shows, radio programs and computer games. The baseline of acceptability, what we're calling normal, has been shifting for some time. In my view, however, the line has been crossed.
Conventional wisdom tells us that politicians are thick-skinned; it's "just politics," no one takes it personally. Wrong. The rhetoric has become more personal and it is, indeed, being taken personally. We can see all the grudges that have formed, with little hope of repair. But the real victims of the constant criticisms are us -- the American people. We're told day in and day out by just about everyone who's out of power that the Government is incompetent. We can't trust the Government to lead. We're told by a great number of companies in highly regulated industries that we can't trust the Government to guide economic development. We're driven to take sides. We're told it's all or nothing.
Sadly, with all the repetition, we're buying-in to the message. Our trust in government has eroded to its lowest point since scientific political polling began. The self-fulfilling prophecy is for real.
Should we have blind faith in government institutions? Of course not! But the side effects of all the political positioning and posturing is that we've become meaner, less tolerant and more uncompromising. With heals dug-in, few are optimistic that our leaders will deliver any meaningful solutions to our enormous challenges. While our Founding Fathers would marvel at our technological advances, they'd be horrified to see the increasing dysfunction and distrust. Their words are quoted often but heeded rarely. The "big picture" is lost while politicians ride the endless merry-go-round of raising and spending campaign cash and undermining the very institution they claim to cherish.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
An Excerpt from the Introduction
What lessons about management and leadership can an ancient king and court bring to us in the 21st century? Can the trials and tribulations of people so removed from us in time and custom truly be relevant in modern corporations, organizations, or governments?
If one thinks of texts and stories even more ancient than those of King Arthur, the answer is obvious. People continue to draw important meaning from the stone tablets, scrolls, and books of the past. Indeed, there are many for whom ancient ways and teachings enhance their well-being and guide their daily lives. The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote (before the time of Arthur, in the second century), “If you have seen the present then you have seen everything—as it has been since the beginning, as it will be forever.”
So it is with the stories of King Arthur. Life’s lessons during the time of Camelot and the Round Table remain relevant because, at the core, they are about the human relationships that connect us, divide us, and drive us forward (or backward) in our various dealings—personal, business, or otherwise. Looking at the past, we can gain the accumulated wisdom from so many people, conflicts, and circumstances. Those enduring qualities and complexities of human nature, told and retold in story, song, and scripture, have given us guidance and assurance in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
In Camelot, Inc. we glean management and leadership insights from Arthur’s evolution from the awkward and out-of-place squire derisively called the Wart to impatient student to compassionate king to tired ruler. We’ll start at a time when Arthur found a mentor (rather, when the mentor found him) and observe how he learned, how he developed his leadership philosophy and his vehicle for communications, what it took to excel, how he created a vision and mission, and then how a failure to confront issues led to his decline.
It’s not just that these royal life-cycle transitions so closely track the rise and fall of modern managers and leaders. Arthur will help us to deal with some of today’s most pressing leadership issues: knowledge retention, developing coherent plans and proposals, building internal and external advocacy, communicating and negotiating, team building, maintaining ethical standards, innovating, ensuring flexibility, moving from vision to execution, and succession planning.
Much of what we hear and what we come to accept as fact or truth has been termed “conventional wisdom.” Here, we have Camelot Wisdom. Camelot, Inc. will not be a history lesson, but I will use history to illustrate the dos and don’ts critical to our success as learners and leaders.
Camelot, Inc., Praeger Publishers. Available February 15, 2011. Please visit www.camelotinc.com for more information.