Monthly Archives: May 2013


Aye, that is the question.  Do you, as the chief executive, want love or respect?  Some people want to do both, but the chances of accomplishing either one under those circumstances will be greatly diminished.

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times a while back, revived a series of studies about the characteristics of successful CEOs that shed a lot of light on the modus operandi that executive bring to their jobs.

A study by Kaplan, Klebanor and Sorenson, according to Brooks, relied on detailed personality assessments of 316 CEOs and measured their companies’ performances.  They found that strong people skills correlate loosely or, even, not at all with being a good CEO.  Traits like being a good listener, a good team builder, an enthusiastic colleague and a great communicator do not seem to be very important when it comes to leading successful companies.

What mattered, it turned out, were execution and organizational skills.  The traits that correlated most peacefully with success were attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness and the ability to work long hours.

In other words, warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as CEOs.  Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive.

“These results are consistent with a lot of work that’s been done over the past few decades,” Brooks said.   Jim Collins published a best-selling study called Good to Great.  He found that the best CEOs were not the flamboyant visionaries.  They were humble, self-effacing, diligent and resolute souls who found one thing they were really good at and did it over and over again.

That same year, Barrick, Mount and Judge surveyed a century’s worth of research into business leadership.  They, too, found that extroversion, agreeableness and openness to new experience did not correlate well with CEO success.  Instead, what mattered was emotional stability and, most of all, conscientiousness—being dependable, making plans and following through on them.

All this work is a reminder that, while it’s important to be a sensitive, well-rounded person for the sake of your inner fulfillment, the business world doesn’t really care.  Your world wants you to fill an organizational role.

The market seems to want CEOs to offer a clear direction for their companies.  There’s a tension between being resolute and being flexible.  The research suggests it’s more important to be resolute, even at the cost of some flexibility.

What these traits do add up to is a certain ideal personality type.  The CEOs that are most likely to succeed are humble, diffident, relentless, and a bit uni-dimensional.  They are often not the most exciting people to be around.

You, of course, can model yourself in any direction you choose.  The eventual molding of your style will evolve mainly through trial and error.  A little self-directed guidance could certainly help.


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They weren’t all in one trip, of course.  Here is the list of the most impressive sights and locations I’ve seen.  They came from travels in about 80 countries and all seven continents.

They were impressive enough, I’d go back and see them all again.

  1. Victoria Falls in Africa
  2. Red Sand Dunes in Namibia
  3. Cape Grace Hotel in Capetown
  4. 30 stilt dancers in Mali, Africa
  5. Recycle market in Bamako, Mali
  6. Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara
  7. Standing in Red Square in Moscow
  8. Rafting through the Grand Canyon
  9. Hiking in the Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona
  10. Biking in the San Juan Islands
  11. Taking a sea plane from Victoria to Vancouver
  12. Bushart Gardens in Victoria, Canada
  13. Biking in Vermont in the fall
  14. Hoover Dam Arizona/Nevada
  15. The animal migration in Tanzania
  16. Safaris in Botswana
  17. Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa
  18. Sunsets in Maui
  19. The penguins and ice sculpture in Antarctica
  20. Helicopter over the volcano in Hawaii with lava flowing into the sea
  21. The Laundry in Delhi, India
  22. Taj Mahal in Agra, India
  23. All day trip from Chile to Bariloche, Argentina
  24. Amazon River – the people, the vegetation
  25. Lake Inle in Burma
  26. Luang Probang in Laos
  27. Canadian Rockies and Fairmont Hotels in Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper
  28. Spectacular scenery of Alaska
  29. South Island of New Zealand
  30. Igasu Falls in Argentina and Brazil
  31. Safaris in Kenya, different than Botswana
  32. The Nile River and thousand year old temples
  33. 2,500 pagodas in Began, Burma
  34. Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom in Cambodia
  35. Outstanding dinners in Lyons, France
  36. Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
  37. The setting of Capetown with Table Mountain as a backdrop
  38. Energy of New  York City
  39. Cathedral in Chartre, France
  40. The setting and energy of Hong Kong Harbor
  41. Great Wall of Beijing
  42. Terra Cotta soldiers in Xian, China
  43. The dam on the Yangtze River
  44. The pride I felt in Washington, D.C.
  45. The beach at the McKenna surf in Maui
  46. Visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
  47. The Fjords in Norway
  48. The charm of Bergen, Norway, Amsterdam, and Sydney, Australia
  49. The history and charm of London
  50. Hiking in Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

Not sure if I can find 50 more as impressive, but I’ll keep trying.



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Somebody, please explain why it’s so important for President Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  I don’t understand.  I’m baffled.  Does it matter where the prison is located?

The president campaigned on this subject in 2008.   He got nowhere with the than Democratic-controlled Congress.  Now he’s trying to resurrect this issue again.  I guess he wants to bolster his dwindling legacy.

Writing about his press conference in early May, Maureen Dowd, the equal opportunity skewer columnist for the N.Y. Times, said:

“Obama discussed another issue where he came across like a frustrated witness to history, rather than shaper of it.  After putting the moral quandary aside for political reasons, he finally began urging once more that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be closed.  A hundred prisoners there, held for a decade without trial, are on a hunger strike, some being force-fed Ensure through tubes in their noses, despite opprobrium from the American Medical Association.

“Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence  Committee, sent a letter to the White House Thursday urging the administration to review the status of 86 low-level detainees who were designated for potential transfer more than three years ago but remain in Cuba.

“Asked about the hunger strike, the former constitutional law professor in the White House expressed the proper moral outrage at holding so many men “in no-man’s land in perpetuity.”  But it sounded as though he didn’t fully understand his own policy.

“Closing Guantanamo doesn’t address the fundamental problem of rights.  Obama’s solution, blocked by Congress, is to move the hornet’s nest to a Supermax prison in Illinois—dabbed “Gitmo North”—and keep holding men as POWs in a war that has no end.  They’re not hunger-striking for a change in scenery.

“It’s true that Congress put restrictions on transfers of individuals to other countries with bad security situations.  But, since 2012, Congress has granted authority to the Secretary of Defense to waive those restrictions on a case-by-case basis.  The administration hasn’t made use of that power once.  So it’s a little stale to blame Congress at this point.

“The senior senator from Kentucky has been a leader in Keep-Terrorists-Offshore. Maybe, if the president really wants to close Gitmo, he should have a drink with Mitch McConnell.  Really.”

I completely understand no one wants to be in prison even though their living, dietary, health and medical conditions are better than they have ever had in their lives.  Their confinement is an outcome of their actions as enemy combatants.

They aggressively participated in actions to try and kill us.  So be it.  And if they die in Guantanamo from hunger or old age, why do we need to care.  The prisons in their countries are despicable, inhumane pits.  We have nothing to be ashamed of.

Have any of them renounced their past activities?  Are so many still there because their home countries are unwilling to take them back?  Is it because they’re still trouble makers?

I think we can move on to a number of other more real problems that need presidential leadership.



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I’m not sure how I learned these things.  It wasn’t in college or at a special seminar.  Maybe it was from bosses early on or colleagues and friends.  From what I see happening now, I’m not sure the new generation hasn’t gradually lost out on some of these guidelines.

Yeah, I know each older generation thinks the ones that follow don’t seem to employ the same considerations and protocols.

So, here’s a recap of those things you can follow or pass on to be seen as a “professional.”  It doesn’t matter what field of endeavor you pursue.  Doctor, lawyer, candlestick maker (very old expression), a professional is a professional.

1.  Show up on time—legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who made one of the very first motivational films called “Second Effort,” included this in his advice:  “To be on time, set your schedule to be at least 10 minutes early.”  If you’re late, you have collectively wasted the time of everyone you’re meeting with.

2.  Send “thank you” notes (or emails) for anything and everything you can think of—for an interview, a meeting, a conversation.3.

3.  When you send a letter, whether it’s a form or personal letter, make sure you sign it.  I can’t tell you how many unsigned letters I get.

4.  When someone you know calls or emails, either respond immediately or let them know when you will.  By the way, it takes less time to return a call than initiate one.

5.  When you produce a memo or a document of any kind, make sure there is a date at the beginning or the end.  If it’s multiple pages, make sure they’re numbered.

6.  Meet deadlines—it’s the same as being on time.  When you agree to do something or be somewhere, DO IT.  Meet the deadline, or advise that you can’t and when you will.

7.  If you’re swamped or in over your head, ask for help.  Do not sit on the problem hoping you can hatch a miracle to resolve your dilemma.  Seek assistance early.  Don’t wait until the deadline is on top of you or past.

8.  Set priorities each day, each week, so you can manage your time.  Don’t let your tasks overwhelm you.

9.  Don’t leave “widows” at the bottom of columns or pages; i.e., if you have a list of names and addresses, be sure it’s all in one column or on one page.

10.  Whether meetings are by phone or in person, plan for them.  Have an agenda that is short and to the point.  Meetings generously are shorter when held in the morning.

11.  Get organized.  Have a clean desk at least once a day.  Use file folders (or on the computer) use a master book (8-1/2” x 11” 3-ring binders) to track all elements of a big project, with dividers of course.

12.  Have a calendar on your computer, ipad or iphone, and always have a pen handy.

13.  When you leave a phone message, be brief, talk slowly and try to annunciate clearly.

14.  Do not chew gum when talking to customers, clients or colleagues—NEVER!

Your image will come across as a professional when you follow these guidelines and you will accomplish more.


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Our blog on April 3rd about the Oreo/Hydrox debate generated a number of comments, all passionate and biased on both sides.  Now we have an added wrinkle.

Check this out OREO fans.  I just found a blog by Michael Armstrong called “Strong Blogs” and his post on the “OREO SEPERATOR MACHINE.”

According to Michael, there is nothing more important than inventing this brilliant machine.  He opines that it’s a basic human desire to separate an Oreo cookie.  I personally never separated them, but my humanity is questionable.

Back to Michael, he says Oreo lovers mostly like the cookies or the cream inside, but trying to twist them apart can have some unintended consequences.

Along comes David Neevel, a physicist and cookie separator who created a mousetrap-looking machine that separates the cookies perfectly.

Sometimes a man just needs to invent a machine to do the exacting hard work in life.  Why take a chance of breaking the cookies when trying to separate them by hand?

Now if only David’s creation went one step further by separating the cookies and then dipping them right into the milk.  That would be awesome.

If you want to see the Oreo Separator Machine in action, check out David’s website at

I’m sure you old crybaby Hydrox fans are moaning that this could have been the salvation of the Hydrox brand.

Nate to old friend, 35-year employee of Nabisco, Andy Anderson, here’s a chance to enhance your retirement by selling this contraption to your old firm for more stock options.


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