Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exective Warfare - By David D'Alessandro

I just finished reading a very exciting book on leadership by David D'Alessandro. It's not enough anymore to be smart, hard-working, and able to show results – because nowadays everybody is smart, hard-working, and able to show results. What really sets you apart are the relationships you build with people of influence. These people can include your peers, your employees, your organization's directors, reporters, vendors, and regulators – as well as the people directly above you in the organizational hierarchy. In senior management, you no longer answer to just one boss. This book will tell you how to lead all your many bosses to the inevitable conclusion that you and you alone have what it takes to run the show. In his bestsellers “Brand Warfare” and “Career Warfare”, author David D'Alessandro offered sharp advice for building a brand and building a career. Now “Executive Warfare” is the advanced class for the truly ambitious. It will teach you what it takes to rise to the top – and to do the even harder thing, which is to survive there.There is now a hazy matrix of hundreds of bosses both inside and outside the office, any one of whom can stop you cold or give you a tremendous push forward.

Attitude, Risk, and Luck: To rise, you may have to broaden your horizons, and you may have to look for an employer who will allow you to broaden them. You’ll also need three things to make the most of the chances you are given: the right attitude, a willingness to take calculated risks, and dumb luck.

Attitude: It’s incredibly important to get your own head in the game if you intend to rise. If you are bossed around by your own greed, arrogance, or childish lack of discipline, you will give people reason to doubt you, and you will undermine yourself.

Risk: One of the most significant attitude adjustments you will have to make as you move into higher management is your attitude toward risks. Higher management is all about handling risks intelligently and in a calculated fashion.

Luck: There is no such thing in this world as a pure meritocracy. Nobody gets to the top without being lucky. Luck happens to the most deserving of people and some of the most undeserving.Not even the most powerful or ambitious person can force lighting to strike. But you can maneuver yourself into a position where it’s more likely you strike. Figure out how to stand tall in an open field as soon as you can.

Bosses: The first rule of your relationship with your boss is to understand that it’s a business transaction. Most of the time, they are merely the major obstacle standing between you and the prize. Love them or hate them, what you really want is to get beyond them. If you are willing to give the boss the truth, you’re probably going to engage in some spirited debate with your boss as part of the decision-making process. This leads to the second thing you need to do to be a valuable instrument: Understand that once the decision is made, even if you don’t agree with it and have argued against it, you must drop your opposition and execute it to the best of your abilities. It also is helpful to understand something beyond the immediate goal. Be eager to always want to know what your boss’ next move is going to be. The fourth thing you have to do is to assure the boss that you are both loyal and discreet. No matter how incompetent or unpleasant he may be, never tell stories about your boss. Never make the boss feel betrayed – unless, of course, you are ready to grab the boss’ job.

The new world is more analytical, more numbers-focused, more aggressive, more skeptical, and more unforgiving than ever before. You have to be effective in this world to make it to the top – but the real stand-out candidates will be the amateur psychologists, the humanists, and the humorists. If you want to rise, you have to demonstrate leadership to many different audiences. These include the people above and below you in the organizational hierarchy, the people who are competing with you for the next job and those resentful because they cannot compete for it, the outsiders and insiders and shareholders and donors and disinterested observers only looking for a juicy story to alleviate the tedium.

You will never convince all these different audiences to trust you if you don’t have a very strong sense of yourself and a good idea of what integrity is. But you also have to listen to all these bosses, think about them, and try to understand their agendas. In today’s world, you have to be alert to win.

This book is a must have in your library. To your sucess!!!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jack Welch - Winning

I have just finished reading a book authored none other than the don of leadership himself Mr Jack Welch formerly CEO of General Electric.Welch has written several books since he stepped down from the CEO position at GE. Most of his books have focused on leadership, management and CEOing one of the biggest and most complex corporations in the world. In Winning, Welch talks about his formula for successful management on all it’s aspects: hiring, firing, prioritization, mergers and acquisitions, dealing with change, work life balance, budgeting, six sigma, and dealing with a bad boss. I have sumarised the book in 7 key topics for easy reading.

Making Managers Lead

Welch had a seven-point program for management: (1) Develop a vision for the business; (2) Change the culture to achieve the vision; (3) Flatten the organization; (4) Eliminate bureaucracy; (5) Empower individuals; (6) Raise quality; and (7) Eliminate boundaries. The difference between a leader and a manager is likened to that of a general and an officer down the line. A leader’s job is to allocate resources available (people and money) rigorously in order to generate optimum results. The results, in turn, will be gained under the “management” of the “officers”. The role of a manager is not to spread resources out evenly (to Welch, this is bureaucracy) but to make dynamic choices.

Controlling Bureaucracy. Welch waged a war on bureaucracy. He removed layers upon layers of heads who were, according to him, harmful and whose roles where vague, who slowed decision-making, blurred responsibility, and created undoable jobs. 

Sharing Information. Welch believed in the power of sharing information. He uses meetings and committees not as a form of control but as his most powerful management tool. The critical sessions are what he called Corporate Executive Council (CEC) which is attended by the company’s top executives and where he checks on progress, and exchanges ideas and information. The leaders in these sessions shared their lessons of successes and failures, transferred new ideas. 

Pursuing Best Practices. The principle of “best practices” is also deeply rooted in Welch’s philosophy. Welch uses these regular meetings to share and publicize achievements of other groups and the methodology behind them. The decision to adopt these practices, however, is left to the individual businesses and their leaders.

Delegating Responsibility. Welch’s leadership theory depends heavily on the power of delegation. Welch, however, does not just relinquish all power to good people. He balances hands-off management – giving his business heads full autonomy and the power of decision – with hands-on leadership. He keeps his “direct reports” on their toes by the unpredictability of his interventions in sometimes, lesser matters. 

Exceeding Commitments. Welch leads by having clearly setout goals for productivity, inventory turns, quality, working capital, customer satisfaction, and so on. These goals are treated as rock-solid commitments. As Welch believes in the survival of the fittest, the meetings become jungles where the combatant who comes out top in exceeding commitments wins.

Winning Hearts and Minds. Welch saw the liberation and empowerment of middle managers as the key to productivity gains. In order to win them over, Welch recipe was as follows: (1) Free managers to manage – and to rise; (2) Defeat bureaucracy and rigidity; (3) Generate and use new ideas; (4) Empower workers to flourish and grow. In addition, Welch believes leadership must be personal. Nobody at GE gets a formal letter from him – it comes in his own handwriting and rewards are always accompanied by frank, face-to-face evaluations. The rewards were tremendous as long as performance matched and exceeded expectations. 

Knowing the People. Welch’s greatest pride is in his ability to find and nurture highly able managers. To Welch, these people must possess what he describes as “E to the fourth power” where the “E” stands for Energy, Energizing others, competitive Edge and Execution. A leader should really get to know the top people in the organization.

 Looking to the Future. Toughness is an essential element in the leadership that Welch practices and admires. The demands include the stipulation that senior executives should strive to develop their own excellent replacements. The ultimate test of a leader is not what happens during his or her leadership – but what follows after he or she has departed. Welch’s ideas about his own successor, therefore, sounded much like a self-portrait. Among the characteristics are: Incredible energy, Ability to excite others, Ability to define a vision, Finding change fun and not paralyzing, Feeling comfortable in Delhi or Denver, Ability to talk to all kinds of people.

To your Success

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Key Lessons from Sam Walton's Made in America Part 2

This is my final review of Sam Walton's biography 'Made in America'. It is my sincere hope you have learned something from this great American who dified odds to establish what is today the world's largest retail store chain emplying over 3 million people worldwide.


Learn From Books and Publiations

During a stint in the army, Sam was posted in Salt Lake City. He checked out every book on retailing in their library, and studied a nearby department store. He would read every retail publication he could find, and would later refer to himself as an "avid student of management theory

Learn from Your Workers

Walton learned from everyone in his stores, regardless of status."Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea."  He especially loved to talk to the truck drivers. According to Lee Scott, "For a long, long time, Sam would show up regularly in the drivers’ break room at 4 A.M. with a bunch of doughnuts and just sit there for a couple of hours talking to them." According to Sam, “It’s amazing to me how many ideas they always have for fine-tuning the system." He'd grill them, asking, ‘What are you seeing at the stores?’ ‘Have you been to that store lately?’ ‘How do the people act there?’ ‘Is it getting better?’ "…I’d still say that visiting the stores and listening to our folks was one of the most valuable uses of my time as an executive. But really, our best ideas usually do come from the folks in the stores. Period." 

Innovate, Swim Upstream; Constantly Experiment With New Ideas

Many people are good at learning, but have a hard time applying what they learn. After Walton learned something new, he’d experiment with the best ideas in his own store.  According to Walton, "I think my constant fiddling and meddling with the status quo may have been one of my biggest contributions to the later success of Wal-Mart. "A pattern emerges in Walton’s biography. First, grab ideas from anybody you can. Second, shake things up in your stores by innovating. Learn something else. Innovate. It became a lifelong obsession. According to Walton, "…after a lifetime of swimming upstream, I am convinced that one of the real secrets to Wal-mart’s phenomenal success has been that very tendency." 

Learn from Your Mistakes

Not all of his ideas worked. The minnow buckets didn’t sell. People in Wisconsin didn’t go for his Moon Pies. But when he saw he was wrong, he admitted his mistake and went on to try something else. And he wanted his associates to be the same way. He’d get them together on Saturday mornings to share their success and admit their failures. That culture of candor produced a great environment to capture ideas. It helped that he had "very little capacity for embarrassment." 

Travel Far and Wide for Great Ideas

He’d travel the world to get an idea. In his early career, he read an article about how two stores in Minnesota had gone to self-service, which nobody else was doing. Customers picked out their own stuff and checked out at the cash registers at the front of the store. So he rode the bus all night to visit the stores, liked what they were doing, and changed his store to self service. He was always out looking for new merchandise. Once he came back from New York with some unique sandals which some called flip-flops, or thongs. The clerk said, "No way will those things sell. They’ll just blister your toes." They sold like crazy. Before Walton, very few stores concentrated on buying low, selling cheap, and making their profit by selling such huge quantities. When Walton heard of a few discounters, he ran around the country from the East to California, studying the concept. Everywhere he went; he visited stores and scribbled ideas in his yellow legal pad.  According to his brother Bud, "There’s not an individual in these whole United States who has been in more retail stores…than Sam Walton. Make that all over the world. He’s been in stores in Australia and South America, Europe and Asia and South Africa. His mind is just so inquisitive when it comes to this business. And there may not be anything he enjoys more than going into a competitor’s store trying to learn something from it."  

For more inforamtion about Wal-mart visit walmartstores.com

Happy reading!!!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Key Lessons from Sam Walton's Made in America (Part 1)

Build on Your Strengths

Sam Walton had strengths, which he developed tirelessly. He was a great leader and team builder. He set extremely high personal goals, which he accomplished with his team through his competitive spirit and intense drive. His entire life, much of that drive was focused on learning.

Learn by Doing

He learned a lot about hard work and sales from doing it in his early years. At ages 7 or 8 he sold magazine subscriptions. Later, he raised and sold rabbits and pigeons. From seventh grade through high school, he ran paper routes. In college, he added more routes and hired helpers, making some serious money. He needed it, since he was paying his own way. He did whatever it took to make ends meet, waiting tables in exchange for meals and life guarding on the side.

Besides learning hard work, he learned people skills. In college, he aspired to become the student body president. Here’s a trick he learned that he’d use the rest of his life:

I learned early on that one of the secrets to campus leadership was the simplest thing of all: speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they speak to you. I did that in college. I did it when I carried my papers. I would always look ahead and speak to the person coming toward me. If I knew them, I would call them by name, but even if I didn’t I would still speak to them. Before long, I probably knew more students than anybody in the university, and they recognized me and considered me their friend." 

Get Formal Education

In his formal education, he majored in business at the University of Missouri.Later in life he’d take formal classes as needed. But the most striking thing to me about Sam was that he never stopped learning. In fact, he became a learning machine. Way before personal computers came along, he felt that Wal-Mart needed to move toward computerization.

"…I was curious. I made up my mind I was going to learn something about IBM computers. So I enrolled in an IBM school for retailers in Poughkeepsie, New York." 

Learn From Mentors

Just out of college, he went to work for J.C. Penney, finding a mentor in Duncan Majors, his very successful store manager. He’d learn from Duncan at the store six days a week, then go to Duncan’s house on Sundays with his associates to play ping-pong, cards, and talk about retailing.

Learn From Books and Publications

During a stint in the army, he was posted in Salt Lake City. He checked out every book on retailing in their library, and studied a nearby department store. He would read every retail publication he could find, and would later refer to himself as an "avid student of management theory." 

Learn from Company Training Classes

After the army, he bought a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The company put him through a two week training class, which taught him the basics of running a store. He would use their accounting system well into his Wal-mart years. 

Learn from Your Competition

Once he started working at his first store, his unique spin on education came into play. He soon discovered that the store he’d just bought was "a real dog." His competition across the street had an excellent manager and was doing twice the business in sales. According to Walton,

"…I learned a lesson which has stuck with me all through the years: you can learn from everybody. I didn’t just learn from reading every retail publication I could get my hands on, I probably learned the most from studying what John Dunham was doing across the street."

So Walton became a student of his competitor, always hanging out across the street, checking out Dunham’s prices, how he displayed his merchandise, learning everything about why he was successful. According to associate Charlie Cate: "I remember him saying over and over again: go in and check our competition. Check everyone who is our competition. And don’t look for the bad. Look for the good. …everyone is doing something right."

He especially checked out Kmarts, which were far ahead of them in those early years. He was even so bold as to visit the headquarters of other retailers. He could get away with it, since they were small at the time and they didn’t consider him to be serious competition. "I probably visited more headquarters offices of more discounters than anybody else – ever." 

Sam Walton is the greatest retailer of all time. These simple lessons made what Wa-Mart is today - the world's largest retailer. I will do a follow up post (part 2) next week.  

Happy reading!!!!