Category Archives: leadership

Harvey Mackay has some great suggestions on learning from dogs. Here is an extract from his recent newsletter (Nov.6/08).

We can learn a lot from dogs. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal anyone has ever made.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Dogs treat us like celebrities when we come home. There's nothing wrong with showing people that we care about them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. On warm days, there's nothing wrong with stopping to lie on your back on the grass. I think of Richard Gere's character in the movie Pretty Woman. He was so busy working—doing big business deals—that he never stopped to enjoy walking barefoot in green grass until Julia Roberts showed him.

Take naps. Many of us are on overload, so in life you have to know when to throttle up and throttle down. If you can't take a nap, at least take a break. It will improve your disposition.

Run, romp, and play daily. If you have a chance to have fun, go for it. Life presents plenty of difficult times, and we all need a break every now and then. My motto: work hard and play hard.

Let people touch you. Don't be aloof. Allow people to get close to you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. Just make sure your bark isn't as bad as your bite. It's okay to warn people that you're upset or even angry, but keep your temper in check.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body. Happiness is the American way. After all, the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed "with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." So we have a right to be happy!

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Exercise is always good. I've been doing it all my life. It just makes me feel better, gives me energy to work more productively and, I hope, live longer. My philosophy is: Exercise doesn't take time; it makes time.

Be loyal. In a recent column about loyalty, I wrote that one of the first qualities that I look for in both employees and friends is loyalty. And my friends know they can expect my loyalty in return.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it. I'm constantly asked what the secret of success is, and persistence is at the top of the list. When you study truly successful people, you'll see that they have made plenty of mistakes, but when they were knocked down, they kept getting up ... and up ... and up.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently. People remember two things in life—who kicked them when they were down, and who helped them on the way up.

Mackay's Moral: My goal is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.

For more from Harvey visit: harveymackay.com.

The start of a new year is a good time to look back and plan ahead. (Sounds dangerous. May explain the pain in my neck.)

However, looking back at 2007 can you conclude on the mistakes you would rather not repeat or the things you would like to do more often? Or maybe the issues and ideas that were completetly neglected? Select your priorities and include them in your plan for 2008.

Is it time for a radical new strategy or simply continuous improvement of a well established formula for success. Don't forget to look outside your business at your personal priorities. Is it time to fix the foundations of family, friends, physical and financial health?

And don't try to do too much. Small successes will usually add up to more than a few big ideas that don't get finished. Good luck.

At a recent McGill alumni breakfast, the guest was Darren Entwhistle, President and CEO of Telus, Canada's newest national telecommunications provider.

A very articulate and focused leader, Entwhistle clearly communicates where he wants to go and his process for getting there. Still "frustrated and bitter" about the federal government's inability to get out of the way for his bid to acquire Bell Canada, he thinks we are handicapping Canadian telecom's from growing into world class competitors. A familiar refrain also from the banking sector and other industries frustrated by regional and provincial barriers.

Entwhistle also described the challenges of ignoring the financial critics and market watchers to stay focused on the internally sound corporate strategy. Short term share prices and industry fads will sway those outside opinions, but a well developed sound strategy will succeed over the long term.

An impressive CEO, Entwhistle obviously inspires confidence in his leadership for the management team, employees and shareholders of Telus. (And he's another McGill MBA - Class of '88.)

I'm currently reading Stephen Covey's latest - "The 8th Habit"; following of course his best selling "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".

On the subject of management and leadership he summarizes the themes and concepts of many other authors. (Give him credit for some humility.) What sticks with me are the stated principles of: 1. Set the direction, 2. set an example, 3. define the values, 4. provide the systems; then let people manage themselves.

My own summary of management has always been simply to communicate the objectives and then remove the obstacles to achieving them. The guiding principles may be simple, it doesn't mean they are easy to follow.

I had lunch yesterday with a client and friend who represents for me the essence of entrepreneurship. (He is too modest and discrete for me to mention his name here.)

In my opinion, the essence is to combine the strength of a marketable expertise with the ability to think and act strategically. In his case, he has a very high level of knowledge and experience in the design, build and maintenance of computer data centres. He initally worked for another a specialist in that field then left to start his own business. Over time he successfully positioned his company as the recommended service centre for the industry's leading manufacturer; grew to a size that exceeded his own management abilities; introduced a new partner and executive management team; accepted a new role in the company that leveraged his unique expertise and skills in developing customer relationships; and managed to re-position the company as a major project contractor to design and build large computer room installations from its origins selling and servicing basic hardware.

Many entrepreneurs I work with are equally competent and dedicated to their area of technical expertise but much less capable of managing their business strategically. Others may have the education and experience to manage and think strategically but have little to offer in unique expertise.

Success flows more easily for those that have both.

As my mother once said "Don't do anything you wouldn't do if I was there."

Now that was a great way to keep me on the straight and narrow while I was looking for trouble as a teenager.

I've often thought of repeating the question as I encounter bad drivers flying by on the highway. "Does your mother know you drive like an idiot?"

Mothers are also an important influence to guide our ethical conduct in business. That was apparently understand by the jeweller in Cranbrook BC who had a conspicuous sign posted by the cash stating "We give instant credit to all our customers ... if they are over 90 and accompanied by their mother." Good credit guideline!

Most entrepreneurs and executives probably don't often think of their mothers on the job, unless she's the boss like Ma Boyle (pictured) at Columbia Sportswear. Maybe they should. We would probably have fewer issues of corporate misconduct if their mothers knew what was going on.

Perhaps instead of all those current management courses on ethics and corporate responsibility we only need to remind decision makers to ask themselves "Would my mother be proud of me, if she knew what I was doing?"

Sometimes mother knows best.

Why do I keep the duck? It's not a live duck, it's a painted plaster duck, so no care and feeding required. But it's old and faded from years in the garden through snow and rain then beside the bathtub or on a bookshelf. It's not attractive but it's a frequent reminder to be humble in my business decisions.

The duck was a Christmas gift exchange from a computer technician who worked for me in my first entrepreneurial venture, TTX Computer Products. He was also the first employee I had to fire. Not because of the duck.

It was a classic business slowdown in the early '90's and forced me to look at downsizing my staff. "Laid off due to economic circumstances" may sound better to the individual and look better on his resumé, but it was still a difficult and painful decision. Especially as I had made the committment to never fire anyone in my own company after having lived through the slow decline and never-ending terminations at AES Data right up to my own "departure" a few years earlier.

But I came to realize that the best way to protect the company and the other jobs was to accept the inevitable and reduce costs by lowering the most significant variable expense - staff levels. As a senior executive from AES assured me, "the only way to avoid ever firing anybody is to make perfect hiring decisions, and nobody is that smart".

And he was right. It was also not the last time for me to have people fired, laid off, or terminated and it never gets easier.

I wonder if those CEOs deciding to cut back by 10,000 or 30,000 people take it as personally. Do they actually sit face-to-face with any of those individuals and worry with them about their futures?

It has to be one of the toughest challenges for any entrepreneur or executive. And still a worthy objective to try and avoid any firings. So hire as "perfectly" as you can, then manage well enough to avoid those "economic circumstances" that lead to downsizing.

It may seem like we are getting more done by multitasking but maybe we would be more productive and deliver better results by focusing on one thing at a time.

I'm guilty of needing to keep all my faculties engaged by doing at least two things at once. Reading the paper, eating breakfast, listening to the radio would be typical. On Sunday night I'm switching between doing my blog, watching the hockey game and talking to my son in Vancouver. Probably not focusing adequately on any one of them but feeling productive by doing several things at once.

Also working on two interesting books at the same time. Jim Collins "Good to Great" and Henry Mintzberg's "Manager's, Not MBA's". Both have quite controversial and and unconventional points of view. Collins' research on companies that have gone from poor to exceptional performance concludes that none of them brought in celebrity CEOs that made big breakthrough strategic moves. Mintzberg makes a strong case against the value of an MBA for future managers and the damage done by the emphasis on analysis and bold strategic decisions by MBA trained executives. They would both suggest the recent history of HP under Carly Fiorina proves their point. She apparently disagrees.

Can we learn anything good from the celebrity CEOs that get so much attention as visionary leaders with exceptional entrepreneurial skills? I would say yes we can extract some useful ideas from their business strategies and tactics, but their are two important things to remember. First, their unique personalities and skill sets have a lot to do with their success (and their notoriety) and cannot be replicated. Second, their industry and company knowledge and experience may not translate into success in another company. That lesson has been very expensive to learn for many Boards of Directors and Shareholders. Think HP or Home Depot.

That's all for tonight. My battery is dying and Calgary-Detroit are in overtime!