Category Archives: Thoughts

The 10 Highest-Paid CMOs

Forbes – Leadership

Escalators, elevators and the ferry

Escalators make people happy. They’re ready when you are, there is almost never a line, and you can see progress happening the entire time.

Elevators are faster, particularly for long distances, but we get frustrated when we just miss one, and we often wonder when the next one is coming, even after a few seconds. (That’s why lobbies have mirrors, to give you something to do when you’re waiting).

The ferry schedule, invented by Cornelius Vanderbilt, is a third way to deal with transport. Instead of having each boat turn around the minute it arrived, he guaranteed when it would leave. We can build our day around a schedule…

[Or you could point them to the stairs.]

Articles of Faith: Leadership, Legacy and Grasping the Wind

This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.” We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible. See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23, NLT A month ago I finally began to appreciate this proverb. […]
Linked 2 Leadership

Just Take a Vacation Already

Trouble Letting Go

Companies Deal With Employees Who Refuse to Take Time Off by Requiring Vacations, Paying Them to Go

Wall Street Journal

5 Leadership Lessons: Opportunity and Risk are Soul Mates

5 Leadership Lessons

The Risk Advantage by Tom Panaggio is designed as a guide for those who are contemplating an entrepreneurial pursuit, are already engaged in building a business, or are currently working for someone else and want to inject their entrepreneurial ideas and attitude. “Those who understand where risk belongs in their lives,” says Panaggio, “will ultimately be successful.”

1  When failure occurs, it’s natural to say, “We made a bad decision.” But what you need to do is ask yourself this question: Was it a bad decision or simply a bad outcome? A decision is a choice you make. Without the benefit of clairvoyance, you base that choice on timely information. It would be unfortunate to measure the decision’s value based solely on outcomes. If we only accept the value of favorable outcomes, then we limit our ability to take risks, and forward progress stops.

The reality is that important decisions made by intelligent people having the best information and intentions could still result in an undesirable outcome. Leaders make decisions to determine the company’s direction. Promoting the proactive nature of decision making is the objective because in an environment where there is decision paralysis, forward motion ceases, and that is bad outcome.

Skinny, sad and pale

On the first 100 pages of the new, thick issue of Vanity Fair, there are about 95 full page ads. Those ads feature, best I can count, 108 people. Of these, 24 of the people are some combination of not-sad and not-ghostly and not-skinny. The other 84 send precisely the same signal: Brands like ours feature people like this.

Here’s the thing: green lights aren’t green because there’s something inherently go-ful about the color green. A long time ago, green got assigned to go, red to stop, and that’s the semiotics of traffic.

The same is true for this class of luxury goods. There’s nothing about too thin, too pale and really sad that implies that people will want to buy an expensive good, and in fact, there is probably data that shows that happy people actually lead to more sales. But these ads are about labeling and fitting in and sending a coherent signal. “Brands like ours advertise in places like this with ads like this.”

Sales Still Matters More than Social Media

It’s become commonplace for observers to tout the transformative potential of digital technologies and bemoan the allegedly slow pace at which companies support these initiatives. Two recent blogs published by HBR.org are representative and, I believe, wrong.

Walter Frick, an HBR editor, contrasts the enthusiasm of executives for spending money on digital initiatives versus their relatively unsupportive boards. “Digital growth is appropriately a priority for a diverse swath of organizations, and boards need to get with the program,” he writes. Didier Bonnet of Capgemini agrees, and is refreshingly direct in suggesting the cause: the average age of independent directors in S&P 500 companies is almost 63, they did not grow up with online technology, and many should be replaced for their lack of “digital awareness.”

Both cite a McKinsey survey which, ironically, found that “Organizations’ efforts to go digital . . . are picking up steam.” But look at what that survey also found: “Less than 40% of executives say their companies have accountability measures in place, either through targets, incentives, or ‘owners’ of digital programs, while only 7% say their organizations understand the exact value at stake from digital.” In other words, the current de facto digital business case in most companies goes something like this: “We’re not sure what the objectives are or how to calculate the ROI or who has responsibility here for clarifying those things and driving accountable execution. But invest in this digital project and ignore the opportunity costs—i.e., what else we could be doing with that money, time and people to drive customer acquisition and profitable growth.”