What Books are CEO's Reading?

Their reading lists might surprise (and benefit) you.

By Charles Waldo

“A person who will not read has no advantage over a person who cannot read.”  ( Author Mark Twain) 

“What book(s), both fiction and non-fiction,  are you reading these days?” is the simple question the highly respected,  management consulting giant McKinsey& Company asks a few CEO’s of both U.S. and non-U.S. organizations from time to time.  The results are then shared via e-journals with clients, possible future clients, and other interested persons. These quarterly publications also have several articles on cutting edge topics from leading academics, consultants,  executives, and political figures.  It is of Harvard Business Review quality, in my opinion.   (To no-cost subscribe go to www.mckinsey.org and follow the prompts.) 

Here are the books, both NON-fiction and fiction, that TEN United States CEO’s, from a variety of types and sizes of organizations,  reported reading during mid-2017. Lack of space prevents listing the NON-U.S. executives’ choices but we’ll overview them shortly.  

Note that there are thousands of persons in the U.S. wearing the title “CEO” or something similar. Hearing from just ten does not provide a reliable picture of all, but their choices out of the thousands of titles available can suggest good resources for your professional and personal development. 

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Transparency: It Cuts Both Ways

Transparency in business can be a very good thing. Sharing timely, relevant and accurate information with employees is an ethical and respectful practice that can help steer a business or organization away from failure and toward success.

Employees seek and appreciate leaders and managers who freely share information. A recent study conducted by TINYpulse that analyzed data from approximately 300 companies and more than 40,000 responses found that management transparency was the top factor when determining employee happiness. The more transparent leaders were, the more employees trusted them. 

To cc or to not cc

Sharing information with employees and customers can enable workspace awareness, build trust and help companies achieve goals. Moreover, transparency can enable better decision making. But transparency also has an opposite side – a “blind side” of excessively sharing critical information that can backfire and threaten to cause more business pain than gain for everyone.

The development and utilization of transparency does not guarantee success. For example, managers and leaders who excessively share too much “what” and not enough “why” often create a blaming culture that discourages employees and diminish motivation. Too much transparency of employee errors can also result in people hiding innovative ideas. Elevated levels of visibility of mishaps can reduce creativity as people fear the watchful eye of their superiors.

Furthermore, managers who consistently use transparency in order to punish bad behavior and recognize good work may also communicate moral standards that are impossible to meet. When employees have this impression, they are motivated to resist, resulting in less citizenship behavior. Even the best employees can and will occasionally make mistakes.

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Rising to Your Level of Incompetence

A promotion can be disastrous. Be aware of the Peter Principle.

By Charles Waldo

During 40 years of college teaching and management consulting I built up quite a holding of books of many types. No book got pitched as long as it could be squeezed on a shelf or stacked someplace. Recently, while “weeding” in preparation for moving to a smaller home, I “re-discovered” two excellent books that warranted re-reading: The Peter Principle:  Why Things Always Go Wrong (1969), and The Peter Prescription: How To Make Things Go Right (1972), both by Dr. Laurance J. Peter.*  

Each takes a light-hearted, satirical look at a serious issue that arises in all areas of organization life:  failure after a promotion.  A sales manager gets fired after years of success as an individual contributor.  A professor doesn’t make it as department chair or dean after years of brilliant teaching.  Pastors are cut loose from their latest and largest church after five previous successes.   Professional baseball players start in Little League and for years fight their way up the baseball “food chain,” finally make it to the Big Show, but don’t stick. The phenomenon is everywhere.

Getting “Peterized”

“In a Hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of Incompetence.”

What do you think?  Is The Peter Principle often true?   Does an employee’s competence in the current job lead to promotions into higher level jobs until he gets into a job he cannot perform well (isn't competent), then gets “buried,” terminated, or quits?  Have you seen this phenomenon acted out?  Have you been “Peterized” or know others who have?  I was once.

Back in the early-70’s most of the managers in the company I was with felt The Peter Principle was truer than we wanted to admit. A serious example was the loss rate in our national field sales force, which was about 50% in the first two years of a customer service rep (the usual source for new salesmen) being promoted into the field. We tagged that “getting Peterized.”   If they survived the first two years, they usually lasted many more. This 50% incompetency rate also applied to successful field salesmen promoted to district sales manager. Qualities that made them successful (competent) salesmen were not sufficient or appropriate for successful sales management.

This attrition rate was very costly, in both human and financial terms. So we took Dr. Peters’ Prescriptions seriously, asked lots of questions similar to those shown below, made changes, and cut the failure rate to about 10% in two years.

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Have you a Dream Deferred?

Act on it now, says the creator of “servant leadership”

By Charles Waldo

The title of this article was the title of a talk given by Robert K. Greenleaf in spring, 1967 to a group of soon-to-be sophomores at Ohio University (Athens).   Subtitled “On Opportunity in the Next Three Years,”  these students had applied to be part of the Ohio Fellows Program, a three year venture aimed at helping the selected students realize their potential for service in the public interest….regardless of their particular vocational track.

Although given over fifty years ago in a relatively obscure setting without fanfare, Greenleaf’s talk has been reprinted thousands of times and is still one of the best-selling  publications offered by the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Leader as Servant

Greenleaf, a native Hoosier, was born in 1904 in Terre Haute.    He began college at nearby Rose Polytechnic Institute, now Rose Hulman Institute of Technology.   But, wanting a liberal arts rather than a technical education, he transferred to Carleton College in Minnesota.   After graduating with a math major in 1926, he immediately joined AT&T in its Minnesota “Baby Bell” division. After three years he transferred to AT&T’s Manhattan corporate headquarters where he carved out a long, distinguished career as a top-level, internal consultant in management and organization education and development. Along the way, both before and after retiring in 1964, Greenleaf was a lecturer and guest speaker at such distinguished schools as MIT, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, and many others. A life-long student of how organizations do (or don’t) get things done, Greenleaf eventually distilled his observations and conclusions into a series of essays with the common thread of the “Leader as Servant.” He formed the Center forApplied Ethics in 1964, with the name later changed to the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, which it still is today. 

Initially , Greenleaf  was talking to 18 and 19 year olds in the tumultuous mid-1960s  (Viet Nam, the draft, race riots, the Hippy revolution, the Kennedy assassinations, the Beetles’ “invasion” of the U.S., and so on), before some of the readers of this article were born.

Greenleaf was talking with the early Baby Boomers. Did they have dreams? How did they turn out? Did they defer some never getting the chance to achieve them?

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Why Good People Make Bad Ethical Choices

Empathetic people can stray in pursuit of success at any cost

by Charlotte Westerhaus-Renfrow

For many women, having children and starting a family is an integral part of the vision for their lives. Getting pregnant, however, is not easy for all who seek it. About 6% of married women in the United States are unable to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex, while 12% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a child to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For years, an accomplished and trusted Indianapolis fertility physician, Dr. Donald Cline, provided what seemingly was the miracle of pregnancy to a myriad of desperate women and their families. Over a period of years, he assured his patients that he could help then conceive by using an anonymous medical student or resident. By all accounts he was a benevolent and understanding doctor who sincerely cared for his patients and got fast results for those who yearned to become pregnant.

Yet, this seemingly trust-worthy, intelligent and respectable physician committed countless unethical and illegal acts by impregnating his patients with his own sperm. In 2016, Dr. Cline admitted he felt pressured about 50 times to use his own sperm to inseminate his unwitting patients when he did not have access to donor sperm. Not only by his own admission were these acts egregious misrepresentations, but Dr. Cline’s conduct was unethical because it could lead half-siblings and other related individuals to marry each other without realizing their genetic connections to one another.

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Developing Leaders the Toyota Way

Its commitment to its employees is long-term

By Charles Waldo

Organizations vary widely in their methods of identifying and raising leaders.  Some take the “Learn on the job, sink or swim” approach, where it’s up to  individuals to develop themselves.  At the opposite end of the development spectrum are those organizations which use long-term, elaborate processes that might even include several, fully-paid years off earning a graduate degree.  Generally, the larger the organization the more formalized the development process.

Where do you turn to for guidance on leader identification and development?  Fortunately (or confusingly) there are hundreds of “how to” books and magazines; thousands of independent trainers and coaches; zillions of seminars and training events; scores of universities; and so on. How do you select the leadership development method that is best?

One proven method is to identify organizations which have been highly successful over the long haul, the assumption being that to be successful they have had and do have effective leaders. Then find out what leader development methods they use and evaluate which your organization might adopt or adapt. Identifying long-term, successful organizations is not so hard, but getting “inside” them to discover their leadership development strategies can be another story.

Toyota is either #1 or #2, depending upon how measured, in worldwide car sales.  Toyota is pushing to be #1 in the U.S. with almost 2.5 million unit sales in 2016; directly employs about 136,000 associates in four U.S. final assembly plants and numerous parts supply plants; and is indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of other Americans employed by suppliers. Quality levels, especially as measured by J.D. Powers, are almost always at or very near the top of ratings charts. Toyota is surely doing something (or a lot) right.  But what and how does one find out what that is?

Fortunately, Toyota is very open about how it does The Toyota Way – its operating philosophy, culture, and strategies.  Dr. Jeffrey Liker, professor of management at the University of Michigan, has studied Toyota intensely since the early 1980s and, with co-authors, has published eight very detailed books about various aspects of Toyota, especially Toyota USA.   One such book is The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence Through Leadership Development (2012, co-authored with Gary Convis, former Managing Director of Toyota USA). Here are a few key principles and practices.

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Social Media: Business vs. Personal

by Susan Young

It’s important to keep them separate 

Social media can be a very personal communication medium. And, it can serve as a powerful business-building tool. Yet, there are areas where people blur the lines between business and personal on social media, and this is a dangerous line to cross. If you are a small business owner, you may have both business and personal social media accounts. You may use your personal social media accounts to post on behalf of your business. How is a business owner to know what is appropriate and what is not in the new world of social media? And what are the best ways to keep your business and personal matters separate?

Start with Yourself

To leverage social media from a business standpoint, we must first start by setting up, reviewing and getting comfortable with your personal social media profiles. Most people have set up at least a basic profile on LinkedIn for networking and job searching, and a Facebook or Twitter profile for connecting with others and viewing local, industry or national news and happenings. Social media sites allow you to set up an individual profile in addition to a business profile. By first taking the time to get to know the social media channel you’re planning to use for business, you can better understand how to maximize the channel for your business. Some ways you can do this include joining groups, adding friends or connections, and following other relevant individuals, companies and organizations. Start noticing the information coming across the daily news feed. Pay attention to the advertisers using the social media channel and their messaging. Once you have become familiar with the social media platform, the benefits of using it, and the typical style of posts, you can focus on your business account.

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Take a look at the Toyota Way for your Organization

Can The Toyota Way Become Your Way?

by Charles Waldo

Does the name “Dr. Jeffrey K. Liker” ring a bell with you? Probably not. How about “Toyota Motors?” Just about everyone knows that name and you could be one of the millions of consumers driving one of its brands (Prius, Camry, Lexus, and so on).

The Toyota WayDr. Liker’s “claim to fame” is as one of the world’s foremost researchers, writers, and consultants on The Toyota Way-- the philosophies, culture, and practices that have led Toyota to its position as a premier, mass automobile designer, producer, and seller. In 1982 Dr. Liker joined the University of Michigan’s business school as a junior professor, just when the U.S. automobile industry was in serious turmoil in the midst of a national recession. U.S. automakers pointed their fingers at “Japan, Inc.” as a major cause of their troubles. Dr. Liker was invited to join a team of UM profs beginning to study the relationship between Japanese car makers’ very high quality, especially at Toyota and Honda, and their sales successes. He has been at it ever since, authoring or co-authoring eight books on how – and why – Toyota does things, beginning with The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From The World’s Greatest Manufacturer, published in 2004, which is what this article briefly looks at.

“But, whoa,” you might say. “My organization is not a manufacturer, we don’t do automobiles or auto parts, we’re less than twenty-five employees, and we’re certainly not Japanese.

We’re not anything at all like Toyota. Why should I spend time on this article, much less on the full book?”

Valid questions. But the truth is The Toyota Way can be universally applied since it deals with universal principles of human and organizational life. Many organizations, just as varied as yours, have already done just that. These are management “best practices,” period. They can help make any organization better.

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Sorting Out Social Media

by Susan Young

Which Sites are Right for Your Business?

Sorting out Social MediaYou may have started to or wanted to jump on the social media bandwagon, but are still unsure of whether you're making the right decisions. The good news is that you don't have to participate in all social media sites to make an impact. You just need to find the right social media sites to reach your target market. Here is an overview of your main options.

LinkedIn​: Great for B2B, Hiring

LinkedIn is known to be the social media site for the business-to-business (B2B) audience. It is like an online resume, where individuals can post their career profiles (essentially an online resume), and talk about their personal brand and career goals. The value of a LinkedIn profile is that it’s searchable for companies looking to connect, hire or do business with that person. The more connections you have, the more business opportunities.

Start with building your own profile and adding connections from clients, colleagues, and others you know. If you have sales people, they need to be active on LinkedIn if they sell to other businesses. Individuals can share business-related or industry news and information. They can recommend or ask for recommendations from others, which serve as good reviews for your business. People can also use second-degree connections to get introductions into previously unknown companies or prospects.

You can create a business page and build up a following. Individuals can create custom content articles or blog posts to share on their newsfeed, which is seen by all their connections. Advertising options can help build a following. Since people on LinkedIn are interested in advancing their careers, this social media site is great for job postings and HR-related activities.

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Funding the Gap - Guest Column

by Ann O’Hara

Legacy Fund seeks out and serves the county’s most pressing needs

Since 2007, I have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors of Legacy Fund, Inc., the Hamilton County community foundation. In 2016, the Board awarded more than $500,000 in grants to Hamilton County charitable organizations. While directly impacting Hamilton County, Legacy Fund’s mission and role is not always understood. One of my goals as incoming Chair of the Board of Directors is to raise awareness of Legacy Fund’s strategic focus to the Hamilton County community.

Legacy Fund, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation formed in 1989. It is a “community foundation” meaning it is exclusively dedicated to benefit the individuals and their families living in Hamilton County.

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Management & Motivation Principles

By Charles Waldo

30 One-liners with some smiles

Extraordinary professor, author, and consultant to top leaders Dr. Peter Drucker published  Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices in 1973.   Although Dr. Drucker (died in 2005) authored over sixteen other books and scores of articles that appeared in all the notable business magazines,  Management was his giant…..all 803 pages.  I read this tome from cover to cover but must confess that, while I found it interesting, especially his historical and international perspectives on organization and national business development, not much of it “stuck” – just too much and too deep.

Over the years I’ve found that for me (and many of my business students and consulting clients) the KISS principle (Keep It Short & Simple) works a lot better for imparting management and motivation principles that seem to sink in and stay.And, if a little humor is added, so much the better.   How about you?

For your consideration and use here are thirty quotes from a wide variety of authors, including the infamous “anon” (anonymous), that have been around for years and repeated many times. Despite their briefness – or, perhaps, because of it – they can help anyone become a better manager, employee, spouse, parent, or friend. Why not try a few on “for size?”

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Signs You’re Failing at Social Media

by Susan Young

(And What to Do About It)

There are plenty of columns these days about how to get started in social media. In fact, as I was researching this column, I found that the previous columnists have done a great job of introducing the topic, relaying important trends and providing industry insight into how social media works. By now, most of your businesses have probably created social media pages, and may be regularly posting content. But have you evaluated how successful your social media marketing has fared thus far? Here are the top signs that your company is failing at social media, along with some advice on how to turn the tide:

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The Rule of 100

By Charles Waldo

It’s all in how you frame the deal

Many HCBM readers run “sales promotions” of various kinds for their businesses, often involving pricing issues. Maybe it’s “Buy one, get a second at 50% off.” Perhaps it’s “$5 off the regular price,” or, “10% off the regular price.” Whatever the “formula,” the seller wants to move product. But what pricing strategy will best do that?

Dr. Jonah Berger, Marketing Professor at the Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania) offers some useful insights on this question in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Simon & Schuster Publishing, 2013). The book is chockfull of findings from the behavioral sciences explaining why consumers act as they do – sometimes in ways that appear on the surface as irrational. One strategy Berger describes is the……

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Is The Office Obsolete

by Robby Slaughter

We Need a Remote-Work Revolution

If you work in an office today, there’s a strong possibility that you would get a lot more done if you didn’t have to work in that office. It turns out that, although we think of glass towers containing cubicles and filing cabinets as the places we go to accomplish something, the “office” as most of us know it, is a terrible place to get anything done.

The primary reason, as entrepreneur Jason Fried notes in an editorial for CNN.com, is that “the modern office has become an interruption factory.” Fried is painfully correct. Workplaces aren’t like school libraries, where silence is golden and quiet intellectual pursuit is the foundation of progress.

Instead, our offices are buzzing with conversation, ringing phones, shuffling papers, whirring copy machines, squeaky hinges and clunking footfalls. If you are lucky enough to have your own walls, you can escape some of the chaos by closing your door, however most of us work in cubes and must battle dozens of interruptions per hour.

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Stepping into the New Year: What to Look For in Fitness Devices

Excerise Devices for 2017by Michael Bauman

As the snow begins to fall and the world wraps itself up in a blanket with some hot chocolate by the crackling fire, thoughts begin to turn to Christmas, carols, and presents. With January, and the lines of people with their signed New Years Reso-lutions in hand right around the corner, you might have considered looking at some of the fitness devices that are out there as a stocking stuffer or a gift for a friend. But with all the options to choose from, how do you know what will fit their style and preference? Here are some factors to consider.

All day vs Training

Any tool that can be used for motivation or to help facilitate more movement throughout the day is a “step” in the right direction. But what should you look for in a fitness device? It really depends on what you are using it for and what you want to track.

There are two main types of fitness devices: the all day trackers (for general fit-ness and health) and the training trackers (primarily for training for a specific event or sport). Most fitness devices track steps, stairs, calories, and quality of sleep. The training trackers do all of the above but also typically include your heart rate, and have GPS features to give you data about distance, speed, pace, and your route. They are usually waterproof, and sync with your smartphone to show texts, calls, and emails.

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What Qualities move Employees Up?: These “Common Core” Attributes will Improve your Career Prospects

By Charles Waldo

What are the qualities exhibited by “employees on the move,” especially managers? Those who “make things happen.” Those always in the right place at the right time doing the right things. Your “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” people. Those who get frequent calls from headhunters. Are those qualities – if they can be identified – common to all “shakers and movers” or are only some qualities needed for success in some organizations or under certain conditions but not in others?

This is not an academic question since finding the answer(s) can lead to better hiring practices, better human resource development practices, better placement and promotion decisions, and better individual and group performance. The answers can also serve as your self-development checklist since no one will be more interested in your professional development than yourself. If you don’t take your development seriously, who should – or will?

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What Are Your CSFs?: Are you Measuring what Really Counts?

By Charles Waldo

Years ago, when just out of Saint Louis University’s B-School, I worked for a mid-sized, publicly-traded company in St. Louis. My desk happened to be near the office of the president, an imposing, rather gruff character. He had the habit, when walking through the building, of randomly stopping at an employee’s desk to ask “What was yesterday’s stock price close? Was it up or down from the day before?”

CFS FactorsI don’t believe anyone ever got fired for not knowing the answers but they did get “the look.” Employees (including me!) were terrified of being asked and not knowing so most everyone kept their eyes focused on these two figures. The president even had bulletin boards all over the building with the two figures updated every morning, so there was no excuse for not knowing.

I asked my boss, a division general manager, why the president did that. He said the president felt the most common corporate performance denominator all employees could relate to was the stock’s daily price. He wanted all eyes focused on it all the time. One could argue about the validity of his view but the daily stock price was THE primary Critical Success Factor for him and, therefore, for us. At my initial low level entry position I had almost no effect on the stock’s price but, nevertheless, was focused on it. As time passed and promotions came I saw the potential usefulness of CSFs, came up with several for my units, and tried to get all eyes trained on them. They seemed to work.

How about you? Do you have Critical Success Factors that you focus on constantly? What are the “make it or break it” results for your organization? For your part in it? What about for your personal life? What spells “success?”

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Keeping an Eye on Social Media: Good Trends to Embrace…Bad Trends to Avoid

by Kristen Fettig

Social sharing and personal publishing with blogs and new media have led to a virtual stream of information noise. It’s important to filter out the negative and hone in on the positive. Learning what adds value to your life instead of just wasting your time is best practice. On the other hand, learning about things to be wary of will help you and family avoid falling victim to unscrupulous cyber creeps.

Be wary of these New Trends

There is a new app that is very popular with tweens called Musical.ly and a spinoff, Live.ly (which aims to compete with Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope). It’s a creative venue to post and share music and perform live lip-syncing with other “Musers”, but there is a dark side. It has been criticized for overtly sexual overtones in dress and music, making it a place for sexual predators to find fresh prey. Kids have access to all songs, including inappropriate ones for tweens. There is also a location feature that can pose a safety hazard if it is enabled. To make sure this is safe for your tween, keep tabs on their “friend” list, and only accept other kids they personally know, hide the location settings and make the account Private.

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Dr. Franklin's “Thirteen Virtues:” Timeless advice for business and life

By Charles Waldo

Benjamin Franklin was an American original, a true Renaissance man. Born in Boston in 1706, at age seventeen and with only a rudimentary education, he left his family and headed to the fledgling city of Philadelphia to seek his fortune in the printing and publishing industries. This he did very successfully and, along life’s way, also became a militia commander, a representative from Pennsylvania to the second Continental Congress, was a member of the select committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a long time Ambassador to France, being instrumental in getting French support for the American Revolution, and was a key architect and signer of the initial Constitution.

Franklin was also a noted scientist and inventor– ever hear of the Franklin Stove? Or the lightening rod? He helped found the first Philadelphia Fire Company, the first fire insurance company for the common person, the nation’s first free public library, and what is now the University of Pennsylvania. Plus he became the U.S.’s first Postmaster. He was called “Dr. Franklin” by many although the title was honorary, given to him by several illustrious universities such as Harvard and Yale for his many contributions to American – and world – society.

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