Monday, December 29, 2008

Making a "To Don't" List

As we all know, it is that time of year again when whether we like it or not, thoughts start running through our heads like "this really is going to be the year that I lose those 25 pounds, stop smoking, start seriously exercising, will swear off karaoke or will stop trying to over-think my football picks."

It's an easy list to remember because for most of us it's same list as last year.

So when I got my issue of The Executive Insider today I started to laugh when I read the subject line: Making a "to don't" list. I was chuckling for two reasons; first because knowing the wonderful sense of humor that our Editor-in-Chief Robyn Greenspan has I figured this was only something that would come from her quirky creative mind and second, I couldn't imagine where she was going with it which, of course, like any accomplished writer, was exactly what she wanted my reaction to be. As usual, she scored on both counts.

As I read through her "list" however my smile became more like the kind of look one gets when you read or hear something that resonates within and you say to yourself "wow, I wish I had thought of that because everything that's there applies to me and if I were smart enough and as thoughtful as Robyn, I could have and should have thought about these things myself." It's a heck of a list.

So it is in the spirit of sharing something I found both useful and thought provoking that I pass along Robyn's "to don't" list in case, like me, you had not yet moved beyond the weight loss and exercise stuff.

While everyone is compiling their resolutions and focusing on all the things to do in 2009, I am putting together my "to don’t" list — behaviors and actions I will hopefully stay away from in the new year. So, in 2009 I will NOT:
Set unrealistic or unfair expectations of myself.

Say, "yes" to everything without first assessing the emotional, professional, personal, karmic ROI.

Neglect to quickly give credit to the team.

Solely focus on short-term benefits unless it is a pathway to accomplishing long-term goals.

Get complacent.

Count on anything before it is a reality.

Forget to network because it often benefits someone other than myself.

Stop critically thinking, but refrain from always shooting holes in others’ ideas.

Always eat the goodies in the ExecuNet kitchen without bringing some to share too.

Lose sight of the fact that I can replace my job but not my family.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Global Trends Pressure Innovative Thinking

HSM is an organization which produces more than 60 events a year for senior executive leaders. Their events can and often are described as "must-attend" for CEOs and a gander at the agendas for their World Innovation Forum in May or the World Business Forum in October will quickly demonstrate what I mean.

One of their recent speakers was Andrew Zolli who is the founder of Z + Partners, a futures research and strategy consultancy, and curator of Pop!Tech, an annual conference devoted to thinking, science and technology.

If you are interested to discover how gifted this guy is, check out Global Trends Pressure Innovative Thinking.

With the economy in the shape it's in (if it even has a "shape" at this point, feels more like a blur at the moment)the insights of a thought leader such as Zolli make for very interesting reading.

If you are among those executives who currently find yourself "at liberty" as they used to say and are thinking of heading out on your own, you would do well to read Mr. Zolli's piece in its entirety. It won't take long, but there are some powerful "learnings" presented for those who are thinking they have an idea "whose time has come."

As a small business owner, and one who wanted to head out on my own some 20+ years ago when the notion of ExecuNet was playing out in my mind, Zolli's principles for building organizations that work came as a very impactful reminder in terms of the stars by which you want to guide your enterprise.

His belief is that such organizations must have missions that are "personal, tangible, present-focused and desirable." And he goes on to say:

The personal trumps the impersonal.
The tangible trumps the intangible.
The present trumps the past and future.
Desirability trumps responsibility.
Pretty good track to run on if you ask me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Dad Said

Anyone who reads this blog can guess by the title of this post that yet once again I am "borrowing" someting from GL Hoffman better known as the "Dad" who blogs under the title of What Would Dad Say.

Well, believe it or not, I am not really "borrowing" this time around, but rather trying to add my voice to those of any number of other folks (e.g. Marshall Goldsmith, Penelope Trunk, Nick Corcodilos, et al ) who like myself were asked to review "Dad's" PDF book that officially comes out today.

The title of the book is Dig Your Job: Keep It or Find a New One and if you are a fan of Hoffman as I am, you will know that what he has put into this effort is time-tested wisdom sandwiched within layers of sophisticated wit.

Given the jobs numbers that came out over the weekend, and the forecast for '09, if there was ever a time we needed to be both thinking and doing when it comes to our careers this feels like it.

You can buy the eBook (PDF) for $9.99 or via Amazon for $7.99. Talk about a useful stocking stuffer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lets Say Thanks

If you were looking for a way to do a bit of "giving" during this holiday season, here's something you might want to think about:

Xerox (full disclosure: I am an ex-Xeroid) is sponsoring a site that will print and send a holiday card to servicemen and women. You can just pick out the card that most appeals to you (they are desgined by school kids and are wonderful) and pick one of the draft messages or create your own, and they will print the card and send it.

You have no control over who will get it but then that's not really the point. The idea is to let the kids who are out there know that those of us who go to bed each night in comfort that they can only dream about (a) know they are there and (b) appreciate their service.

This site isn't about the politics, it's about the people.

Just click on and you are on your way.

P.S. And if you like the idea, there is nothing to stop you from sharing it with your network.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Best Email of the Day Award

...Goes to Peter Clayton, producer/host of Total Picture Radio. It needs no further commentary from me as it eloquently speaks for itself. Good on 'ya Peter.

"Capital goes where it's welcome and stays where it's well treated." Walter B. WristonDecember 9, 2008

Dear Dave,

When "The Citi Never Sleeps" ad campaign was first launched in 1978, Walter Wriston was running the place, and the motto had real meaning. Wriston was highly regarded, as was the institution he lead. Citibank / Citicorp was a cherished brand by its employees and a respected competitor in the financial services industry. Citibank had a unique, authentic, brand identity

Cut to today.

Although the current leadership of the company has recycled "The Citi Never Sleeps" slogan, it has completely lost its meaning and aspirational message. The image that comes to mind today of The Citi That Never Sleeps is a demoralized, poorly run behemoth losing billions of dollars chasing subprime riches, cutting thousands of jobs while trying to stay afloat.

In my opinion, the following excerpt from Bloomberg News is a typical move by a company with uninspired leaders disconnected from their employees:Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc., the bank that's eliminating 52,000 jobs after getting a $45 billion government bailout, canceled its sponsorship of a New York holiday toy-train exhibit visited by more than 125,000 people a year. Dunham Studios, the Pottersville, New York-based operator of the 750-square-foot model railroad, was notified of Citigroup's decision last month, co-owner Clarke Dunham said in an interview. That means the free show that first went on display in 1987 at the Citigroup Center lobby may reach the end of the line on Jan. 2 unless another sponsor steps up or the bank reconsiders, he said. It also means Citigroup will save about $240,000.

"The difficult decision to discontinue this sponsorship was part of Citi's ongoing expense-reduction efforts," Citigroup said in an e-mailed statement. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, 51, announced on Nov. 21 that he wants to cut costs by about $2 billion per quarter starting next year." (You can read the complete text of Bradley Keoun's reporting here.)

Blah blah blah, Vikram. I've been engaged in a number of interviews focused on the importance of brands. Two recent examples -- John Gerzema, author of The Brand Bubble; and David Henderson, whose book, The Media Savvy Leader was just released.

According to David, "82% of shareholder value is intangible." According to John, one-third of all shareholder value is attributed to "brand.

"So here's an idea I'd like your help with: If we could find 24,000 Citibank employees willing to donate $10 each into a fund to "keep the trains running," it might give the employees of this beleaguered institution something to be proud of, and smile about. I bet through Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, and Facebook we could mobilize enough Citibankers to take up the cause. Next year, the Holiday Trains at Citigroup Center exhibit could be "In memory of Walter B. Wriston." The fund could be set-up as an old-fashioned "Christmas Savings Account." What do you think

The Holiday Toy Train exhibit is operating this year at Citicorp Center. If you're in the City and have young children, its well worth a visit. Disclosure: From 1984 until 2000 I made a number of marketing, corporate image and employee motivation films for Citi, and produced an internal sales radio show "The Citibanking News Network" for twelve years.

Happy Holidays,

Peter ClaytonProducer/HostTotal Picture Radio

Sunday, December 07, 2008

So What Else Is New?

At some point last year I saw a report on a study that was conducted by Towers Perrin and which was reported by a Canadian newspaper. I thought it was pretty interesting despite the paper's understandable focus on the the study's stats as they related to Canada.

As I sometimes do, I saved the article and put it in what my wife likes to call "a nice safe place" which translated means I forgot about it and when I remembered it, I couldn't find it or remember where I put it.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I stumbled across it again, and while the world economy today is vastly different than when this study was done (over a year ago) the basic "learnings" as they relate to employee retention still I think remain on very solid ground. Indeed, with the layoffs, etc., that we are seeing in the current environment, the retention of "A" players is even more important.

No matter what the environment, there is great truth to the notion that people (read employers) will always be willing to pay a premium for quality.

Here are some headlines in terms of what the study had to say:

Despite people's strong desire to become 'engaged' in their work, meaning they're willing to go the extra mile to help their company succeed, only 23% in Canada (vs 21% globally) are currently engaged at work. Of serious concern for management and investors, 32% of Canadian employees are partly to fully 'disengaged'. This highlights a significant gap - which Towers Perrin has dubbed the "engagement gap" - between the discretionary effort that people actually want to invest and companies' effectiveness at tapping into this effort to enhance business performance.

The study found that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement.

The study clearly demonstrates that the engagement gap poses an array of business risks. For instance, more than 80% of engaged employees believe they can and do contribute to the quality of products and services and to customer satisfaction. But only half as many of the disengaged share that view. Interestingly, the study reveals that Canadians embrace a more optimistic approach to their working life, with a slightly higher learning orientation compared to the global norms. For instance, 69% (versus 58% globally) stated they tend to invest time and effort beyond what is required, and 90% (versus 84% globally) said they enjoy challenging work that allows them to learn new skills.

"You can't hire or buy an engaged workforce - only leadership can build it," concludes Aselstine. "While employees want to invest more of themselves to help their employers, our study clearly concludes the onus to tap into this productivity reservoir lies with management's ability to cultivate an engaged and fully productive workforce. However, there is no 'one size fits all' solution.

So what else is new?

Additional detail about the Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study is available at