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Archive for April, 2009


Fair and Balanced

Good News Network – General.

Just trying to even things out here, gang.  A reviewer once called me "relentessly optimistic."  I know it's true and sometimes it gets me in trouble.  But far more often than not, it's a valuable thing: research shows more and more clearly that optimism supports good health, good relationships, and success at work.

So this is a link to a great website called "the good news network."  I'm a big fan.  Check it out.  We need this, now especially.

Posted in Thinking


Old New York

How Ecologist Eric W. Sanderson Is Creating a New Vision of a Lost Manhattan — New York Magazine.

New York is my favorite city in the world. I once said to someone that it seems to me that the difference between New York and LA is that New York runs on the energy of making things happen and LA runs on the energy of making things seem to be.

I love that NY energy: figure it out, find a new way, make it different, talk about it with dash and insight.  And at the same time, I've often wondered what New York must have been like before the Europeans landed and started building things.

And, voila, now I find that a man named Eric Sanderson has been working on something called the Manahatta Project. "Manahatta" means "island of many hills" in the language of the Lenape Indians, the residents of Manhattan in 1609, when Henry Hudson sailed up the river. 

He's been creating images of what the island of Manhattan looked like 400 years ago. This article in New York magazine tells the story, and the Manahatta Project website also has lots of great info (and the opportunity to sponsor seeing what your own block of the city looked like, pre-city).

Posted in Community


Happy Earth Day

I love that Earth Day seems finally to have come into the mainstream. I’ve always been a big fan, ever since it was mostly just all the other hippies and me talking about saving the planet, while everybody else rolled their eyes. (I put it down to my mom encouraging me to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring when I was a kid.)

Doing a Google news search on “Earth Day” today yields lots of great articles, from a NYT exploration of the Obama administration’s focus on “green jobs,”  to auto manufacturers’ Earth Day initiatives, to a  Disney film meant to get the eco-word out to kids and their parents everywhere.

Now, there’s a new element to all this I really like: all of these things are clearly meant to yield revenue. I always assumed that the “green movement” would start to take off at the moment we started to find the intersection point between the earth’s welfare and our own financial success.

Here’s hoping I’m right.

Posted in News


Courage is Acting in the Face of Fear

Hanging Tough: Financial Page: The New Yorker.

Again, I’m indebted to my partner Jeff.  He sent me this recent article from the New Yorker. those of you who have been here with me for awhile now that I’ve been FDR-ing it for some time now: that is, proposing that fear is the most dangerous thing about this – or any – recession.

The article points out that many companies that do best in recessions are those that – counter-intuitively – invest in acquisition, advertising, R&D.  Those that use whatever resources they have available to them to focus on growth.

Then the author, James Surowiecki,noting that this information is available to anyone who looks for it, asks why most companies are still so quick to cut back as soon as tough times arise:

The answer has something to do with a famous distinction that the economist Frank Knight made between risk and uncertainty. Risk describes a situation where you have a sense of the range and likelihood of possible outcomes. Uncertainty describes a situation where it’s not even clear what might happen, let alone how likely the possible outcomes are. Uncertainty is always a part of business, but in a recession it dominates everything else: no one’s sure how long the downturn will last, how shoppers will react, whether we’ll go back to the way things were before or see permanent changes in consumer behavior.

Uncertainty creates fear.  Fear makes people hunker down and go for the things that seem safest.

I once read (I wish I could remember where – if you know the source, please share it) that “courage is not the absence of fear; courage is acting in the face of fear.”

What courageous steps can you take, personally or professionally, that might create new success for you in these uncertain times?

Posted in Thinking


Jack and Suzy, I’m With You

Welches: How Obama Is Doing – BusinessWeek.

My partner Jeff just sent me this article; it's Jack and Suzy Welch's column from Business Week.  In it, they opine about  Obama's leadership. They give him an A.

I find I agree with them, and for all the reasons they cite.  I especially liked what they had to say about why Obama has the quality of "vision" (what I would call "far-sighted"):

Let's start with vision, the "thing" without which a person simply cannot lead. And look, whether you like his politics or not, Obama's obviously got it. From the economy to the environment, education to health care, the President has articulated his goals to the nation.

Vision, though, is meaningless alone. To be an effective leader, you must communicate consistently, vividly, and so darn frequently that your throat gets sore. You can't, as we've said, communicate too much, especially when you're galvanizing change.

Who could disagree that Obama's nailing this challenge? Every time he speaks, which is often, he's thoughtful, expansive, and candid. And he has also worked assiduously to get heard outside of Washington, even showing up on Jay Leno's set to reach beyond the "usual suspects." Again, we wish that Obama's message was sometimes a different one, but when we heard his NATO press conference last Saturday—explaining America's "exceptionalism"—his lucidity and lack of arrogance rendered any criticism moot. He will surely be the next American President to carry the mantle of The Great Communicator.

If you are a leader, at any level, I encourage you to read the whole article and ask yourself whether you have the qualities the Welches ascribe to Obama.

Whether or not you believe Obama possesses these qualities, in writing about them Jack and Suzy have offered an excellent litmus test for leadership, especially for these challenging times.

Posted in Leading People



Why You Need to Be a Happier Manager – John Baldoni – HarvardBusiness.org.

My friend Mitch Ditkoff turned me on to this article.

I am SO not surprised by this research, showing that happier managers have a strong positive impact on their organizations – improving not only morale, but also engagement, productivity and innovation.

I’ve seen it over and over: a manager meets with her people and shares her authentically optimistic hope for the future: most of them leave the meeting feeling better.  Another manager meets with his people and complains about senior management, and talks about all the problems they’re going to have meeting their goals: most of them leave the meeting feeling worse.

As it says in the article, being happy won’t save your business in tough times, but it can certainly help…

Posted in Leading People


My First Masters’

Golf PGA Leaderboard – FanHouse.

I’ve never watched the Masters tournament before.  It’s down to the last 3 holes, and it’s actually pretty fascinating.  I’ve always been a Tiger Woods fan, and I’m watching him come from behind as this last 18 holes progresses.

The thing that has always impressed me about Woods – and certainly this is true today – is his focus.  It’s as though he’s operating in a kind of bubble of clarity: only seeing his goal, the obstacles before him, and what he needs to do to overcome the obstacles and achieve the goal.

Of course I don’t know what’s going on inside his head, but looking at him, it seems as though he’s not distracted at all by fear, by worry, by anxiety.  He’s simply focused on doing what he needs to do.

Let this be a lesson to us all!   In these times, it’ so easy to get thrown off by all the craziness that surrounds us.  And I’m not saying that we should ignore the difficulties: we just need, like Tiger, to see those difficulties as data, factor them into our planning and keep working to succeed.

Posted in Thinking


Do unto others

Hog Blog.

Here’s a great post from my friend Sally Hogshead, about how to reap good karma in the work place.

Basically, she’s saying “be a good and honorable human being” – but I love how she’s articulated it in 13 principles.  And I love her sense of humor.

I think it’s  more important now than ever before to behave with integrity and clarity.  Someone said to me recently, “Bad times favor the beloved and the trusted” – and I think that’s true.  In uncertain and scary situations, we gravitate toward those people (and enterprises) upon whom we can rely, and who care about our well-being.

So, it’s good advice – personally and professionally – to be one of those people.  It feels better, too.

Posted in Community


So proud of Obama!

The other night I was listening to Keith Olbermann describe how Obama mediated between Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu, who – it seemed – were both about to leave the G-20 Summit in a huff.  Obama took them aside and got them to a compromise.  What a profound and refreshing difference from the past! So great to feel proud of the person who’s representing me on the world stage.

And then, I heard him say at the press conference afterward, in reference to his view of leadership:

“We exercise our leadership best when we are listening; when we recognize that the world is a  complicated place, we are gonna have to act in partnership with other countries; when we lead by example; when we show some element of humility, and recognize that we may not always have the best answer — but we can always encourage the best answer.”

A man after my own heart. Pretty great to have a President who expresses such things — and who truly seems not only to believe them but to be trying to demonstrate them. 

I completely agree that we lead best when we are listening. All the really good and effective – and beloved – leaders I know are skilled listeners, They understand that listening builds mutual respect, is the foundation of good decision-making, supports commitment and enthusiasm, is essential to real influencing.  And they don't just understand those things intellectually, they put them into practice by listening deeply and consistently to all their constituencies, and incorporating what they hear into their vision and action.

Posted in Leading People