Friday, December 30, 2011

My New Years Resolutions for 2012 - Maybe they will work for you?

  1. Don't Look Back - 2011 was a challenging year both personally and professionally but dealing with both circumstances have allowed me to focus on the positive and the future - Shouldn't we all do that!
  2. Enjoy Today - It's cliche but it is also good advice. There are surprises around every corner and many are good but some are not so make today count - you don't want to have regrets.
  3. Look Forward to Tomorrow - Change creates opportunity and life is a journey - use change to gain new experiences, visit new places and meet new people - how could that be a bad thing?
  4. Continue to Learn - New people, experiences and places all provide an opportunity to learn. Read, listen and observe...
  5. Smile and Laugh - Every Day, Make Someone Else Smile
  6. Call Mom and Dad often - 88 and 82 - I hope I have their genes!
  7. Make 2012 A Year Long Celebrate of 30 Years with Susan - No explanation needed!
  8. Say Thank You - Pay It Forward - especially to those that helped with my 2011 change!
  9. Maintain my Blog  and Website - This started for a practical reason but has also been an education and driven some personal reflection - no reason to stop!
  10. Maintain My Health and Fitness - Yes I know this is on every ones list but my time off has given me a good start. I also want to do another Century Ride.

My First Lesson from Jack Welch - Do You have the Courage to Lead?

  1. Results are the #1 responsibility of business leaders
  2. To accomplish those results you must have a vision and the courage to lead
  3. Change is a business reality and necessity 
My first experience with Jack was a classic and memorable moment. Early in my GE career I had the coincidental good fortune to be at its Executive Development Insitute in Crotonville, NY during a Sr. Managers event. During a Q&A session a twenty year veteran at GE asked Jack a question. It was actually more of a statement but Jack's response was simple and powerful - a revealing response that showed his clarity of vision and purpose.

This manger suggested to Jack that GE was changing. He went on to clarify that he felt GE used to be a company that if you worked hard and were dependable you would have a job for life. The manger continued with specific examples of the changes including plant closings, reorganizations, sale of traditional GE businesses, etc.

Jack's response was swift, direct and incredibly illuminating for a twenty seven year old new hire. What I remember is the following..."I need you and everyone in this room and this company to understand that GE needs to change and change quickly! I expect change to be a constant at GE as it is still far from what it needs to be to compete in a global market (this was 1985). GE needs leaders that embrace change and thrive on it because the Koreans, Japanese and Chinese all want our business." After these remarks he followed up with this punch line. “Starting today every manager at GE signs a 24 hour contract. If you don't feel you are getting paid fairly don't come back tomorrow, if we determine we did not get our moneys’ worth from you today we will tell you not to come back tomorrow.”

That was the beginning of what turned out to be ten terrific years at GE. My initial reaction was shock but I quickly got past the words to understand and embrace his message and intent. It was a different time and place in the late 1980's and much has changed in the world but the sentiment and thinking is relevant today...again; Results, Vision, Courage & Change...the fundamentals don't change!

APB - Major Changes Coming for Web Domains

If you have not heard about this you need to investigate immediately! Starting in January 2012 ICANN the organization that control domain names for the Internet (.com, .org, .net, etc) are taking applications for new "Top Level Domains" (TLD).

This has HUGE implications for companies and brands. This has not been widely publicized but has far reaching implications both positive and negative. A few examples to clarify what could and will likely happen. Big brands and industries will begin having their own TLD's in late 2012. For example you might see .Coke, .IBM, .Ford as example for companies. Other organizations might want to create categories and then "market" them to potential interested companies. .Car, .Music, .Sports, etc. A few facts to be aware of...
Time line:
  • Application period: 1/2012 - 3/2012
  • Applications published: 4/2012
  • Application evaluations: 4/2012 - 12/2012
  • Application approval/rejection notice: 1/2013
  • ~$250,000 - Application Fee
  • 90 Page Application that will likely require outside consultants to assist
  • Application fee unlikely to be refunded if application rejected
The Implications are staggering and inactivity is not an option...a few things to consider. If you think you can't afford this I ask you what it would cost if you were Apple and someone else applies and is awarded the .Apple TLD. Maybe a competitor or unethical company that would like to knock-off Apple or simply force Apple to find a way to pay them for the Apple domain for a much higher price? The positive is once a company owns its own domain it than owns everything to the left of the domain and that provides unlimited marketing opportunities.

The one thing we know is that Google algorithms use the info to the right of the "." as the first check currently. We are also certain that Google is preparing for this in their search algorithms for the future and this has the potential to be very complicated and expensive if you don't have a plan.

Good luck...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Seven Attributes of A Leader

I believe the ideal leader uses a Democratic or participative leadership style where the leader offers guidance/coaching to the team, but also participates in the group, and promotes feedback from other members. This style is not inconsistent with the view of everyone in a group acting as a leader! The democratic style is also suitable for the flat organizational structures of companies today. It allows for dealing with fast-changing circumstances and an entrepreneurial spirit needed in an increasingly competitive world. Speed, Creativity is needed to win in a competitive world but accountability and strong fiscal responsibility are critical and entrepreneurs understand this better the bureaucrats. The authoritarian or delegative leaderships styles common in the past and unfortunately still are very harmful and obsolete in constantly changing world.

The central theme of my personal leadership style is based on the requirements of: Integrity – the golden rule is always a good guide.  Teamwork – cooperation and playing nice. And Loyalty – both to the organization and leadership.  With those requirements as the foundation I propose the following seven Leadership attributes required to succeed.

1. Fellowship: A leader breathes through their team. A true leader knows how to work in groups, and should try to understand the problems of other workers. In solid performing groups, solidarity among members is a symmetrical relation. Solidarity is the first step a leader should take in order to gain the respect and attention of her teammates. Leaders exhibit strong confidence in the ability of the other members of the group to meet the work’s expectations. Listen ----

2. Humility: A leader exerts leadership almost unconsciously, without giving importance to the whole leading concept. Leaders don’t show as leaders… they act as leaders. Leaders keep the participative environment of the group, and always do their work with the idea of participating in a collective project. Group and collective are keywords for leaders. The idea of isolated leaders is an obnoxious fallacy. Any person appointed to a managerial position acquires the power to command and enforce obedience by virtue of the authority of her position. Nevertheless, leaders don’t enforce obedience… they earn it. Modesty keeps the leader from exerting the very tenuous “position” leadership coming from a title. The true leadership is NOT associated with positions of authority (but obviously the converse has to be true if the organization is to succeed.)

3. Courage: Leaders know themselves, and exhibit a complete domain over their behavior. Moreover, leaders know which tasks are at their reach, and don’t set unrealistic goals. This way, leaders know what their virtues and limits are, and they don’t hide them. Self-confidence gives the force to be persistent to attain the task and vision. Remember that more often than not, leadership implies defying the established order, the status quo. Therefore, self-confidence is vital to success.

4. Initiative: Leaders are proactive, not reactive. I had a manager that only waited and acted upon receiving orders from his superiors, strictly following the (frequently wrong) boss’ guidelines. Not only this behavior is inefficient for the business, but it harms the role-modeling aspect of leaders. Workers and teammates tend to identify with the values of their superiors, and no company wants this kind of passive attitude to be learned by its workers.

5. Creativity: A true leader is always looking for ways to develop their creativity to its maximum. Here, the vision of the leader is very important. Outstanding leaders articulate: a working framework congruent with the values of the other members of the group, efficient and effective ways to completing the assigned task, and ways to match the sub-activities with the members’ interests and experience.

6. Passion: The leader never stops learning, and displays a high level of consciousness. Leaders’ actions signal the way for their teammates. Leaders take responsibility for each of their choices and decisions without blaming others or looking for lame excuses. Leaders exhibit a passion for their work, and are faithful to their visions and beliefs. They engage in excellent behavior and make outstanding self-sacrifices in the interest of their group, if necessary.

Summarizing these 6 attributes, we will reference Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, which clearly distinguishes between managers (a typical position of authority, but not necessarily occupied by a leader) and real leaders:
  • Managers administer - Leaders innovate
  • Managers ask how and when - Leaders ask what and why
  • Managers focus on systems - Leaders focus on people
  • Managers do things right - Leaders do the right things
  • Managers maintain - Leaders develop
  • Managers rely on control - Leaders inspire trust
  • Managers have a short-term perspective - Leaders have a longer-term perspective
  • Managers accept the status-quo - Leaders challenge the status-quo
  • Managers have an eye on the bottom line - Leaders have an eye on the horizon
  • Managers imitate - Leaders originate
  • Managers emulate the classic good soldier - Leaders are their own person
  • Managers copy - Leaders show originality

 7. Symbolism: For me, this is the most important trait, which projects and summarizes all the other attributes. The leader is a symbol. Leaders are oriented to their work (and not to their self-exaltation), they are a symbol of the group, which may easily mean that they are a symbol of your company. This way, leaders constitute an external (and internal!) representation of your business. And, as we all should want the best representation and the best results for our company. I like to work with leaders – the kind that people want to follow not have to follow - True leaders!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Five Reasons Why Companies & Leaders Fail or Underperform

Whether it’s a high-profile company like GE or Mid Cap Privately owned company, companies often are their own worst enemies. Whether their challenge is declining sales or stagnant earnings companies are often their own worst enemies – it’s not the competition that create the problem it’s the strategy and leadership.
Here’s my Top Five list of why Leadership & Companies lose their way:

1. The Vision Thing (or The Lack of):  This might sound obvious, but is the future of your organization exciting? What strategy are you executing? What is the vision and does the organization understand it but more importantly do they believe in it? Did the organization contribute to the vision/strategy and is there a process to keep them updated and get their input on a regular basis. If the answer is no, there’s work to do — and fast.

2. Shifting Whims/Strategic Priorities : You often see this in weak leadership that embraces every new management program. An example is investing in that are trendy in the business media and books but your customers don’t care about. ISO or Lean Black Belts may be philosophically the right thing to do but if you are a small business and your customers won’t pay for it you must be smart about where you invest your limited resources.  I applaud companies trying to improve and evolve but the challenge for most organizations is not establishing a strategic priority. Do these new programs align with our strategy? A common flaw of weak leadership is to not stick with new programs in a strategic way and shift from one program to the next because you think the bankers, investors or stockholders will be impressed. This whipsaws the organization and wastes resources ultimately creating frustration.

3. Big Company Bureaucracy: This is often also found in small companies that think they are big. It’s no fun to work in an environment where you have to always do what you’re told. The best companies hire great people and cut them loose. No one likes rules that make no sense. But, when good people are complaining it’s usually a sign that leadership is failing. Yes large organizations need rules, structure and procedures but good leaders find a balance and include their top talent in creating these procedures not just making them follow them. A leader must of the ability and confidence to surround themselves with smart and talented people and courage to listen and learn from them. This does not however preclude the need for leaders to make the tough decisions and lead - its all about balance.

4. Lack of Open-Mindedness:  Sometimes referred to as Collaborative Leadership or Teamwork, Good people want to share their ideas and have them considered but more importantly a good leader wants and needs their ideas! However, a lot of companies have a vision/strategy which they are trying to execute against — and, often find opposing voices to this strategy as an annoyance and a sign that someone’s not a “team player.” If the best people are leaving or are under achieving because they disagree with the strategy, you’re left with a bunch of “yes” people saying the same things to each other. You’ve got to be able to listen to others’ points of view — always incorporating the best parts of these new suggestions.

5. Is the Boss A Leader? At the end of the day it starts with leadership and creating an environment where people feel like they are contributing and belong to something. It is my fundamental belief and experience that humans want to belong to something that is successful. Think about it – sports teams, clubs, schools, church, families, etc…we all want to be part of a winning team that we are an integral part of. A leader’s job is to create an environment where this can happen. It’s certainly not a one-way street but a leader must assume the responsibility and create the framework for people to be part of the solution.

Leadership is one of the most debated and misunderstood concepts in business and life. The one thing what we can surely agree on is that all successful organizations have leaders that have a vision, believe in people and they have the moral compass to do what's right not the right thing!

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Makes People Successful?

Ever wonder what makes people successful? What is so different for successful people? How did they get where they are? Why are you where you are in your life? It’s easier and more comfortable to believe that success just happens to some people. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Is it Strategy, Vision, Luck, Money, Hard Work...?

They all have taken the six steps according to Mike Michalowicz @ The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. Are you ready to try these six things that all successful people do?

1. Set goals
Successful people set goals that have a specific completion date. I will lose 10 pounds within 60 days. Not, I will lose weight sometime this year. Set concrete goals with a time frame for when you want to achieve those goals.

2. Get started
Successful people start immediately. They don’t drag their feet or put it off. They act on a goal right away, because they understand the power of momentum. They may not do the whole thing at once, but they do take a big step to get started. Maybe they fill out the calendar and reserve critical dates and times. Maybe they call others and get delivery commitments from them for those dates. No matter what it is, they take action right away.

3. Think positive
This is the half-empty, half-full syndrome. Successful people are optimists and believe the cup is always half full. They aren’t pie-in-the-sky types, but they see the positive side of an opportunity, and they believe in their ability to achieve their goals.

4. Take action
Those who are successful take action, even on partial information. Too many people wait around until they think they have all the answers. But if you do that, you may wait forever. It is called “analysis paralysis,” and a lot of people experience it. Successful people don’t proceed blindly, but they know that, once they have the critical details, they can make a decision and act accordingly.

5. Be determined
They say that in war, the plans go out the window as soon as the first bullet flies. There are so many variables that it is impossible to determine how things will proceed. The same holds true for most life decisions. You don’t know what will happen once you take the first step, so the only constants are the end vision and your determination to get there, even if the path doesn't unfold exactly as you envisioned.

6. Attract it
Many people use the law of attraction to become successful. This means having a clear vision of what you want. Your thoughts can draw success to you. I am not talking voodoo magic here. But I am suggesting that what we think about most, we notice most. When you buy that new blue car you’ve been coveting, you suddenly notice that everyone has the same car.

Buddha once said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” Success doesn’t just happen to people. You have to do something to make it happen. Following these steps will put you on the path to success. Heck, you will probably be the next success story. You soup nazi, you.

Year In Review & Thank You - 2011 Ebook from Getty Images

Getty Images Ebook:

Around the world 2011 has seen all types of change...good and bad from natural disasters, governments failings, wars ending, evil people meeting their maker and people around the globe speaking up. We have also seen great examples of leadership and human nature. 2012 is sure to offer another round of unexpected events, experiences and opportunities for all of us!

It has been quite a year for me personally . There have been significant accomplishments in both my professional and personal life including by son Matthew becoming a Dr. and my Mother winning round one in a flight with cancer! There were many lessons learned and the beginning of something new professionally. In this process I continue grow and most of all continue to be inspired by human nature. Friends and supporters come in many forms and have come out of the woodwork to help when they saw an injustice. I am unbelievably blessed to have many more friends than I realized and the incredible support of my wife, Susan and especially the friends that I thought were simply business acquaintances.

Thank you all! 2012 will surly be another experience with more surprises but I am looking forward to being the one helping my friends next year.

Enjoy the attached Ebook from Getty Images with a great photo journey through 2011!

Happy New Year - Charlie

Monday, December 12, 2011

Leadership: Perspectives from Famous Leaders

Top 10 Leadership Quotes

  1. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –  John C. Maxwell
  2. “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Anonymous
  3. “All Leadership is influence.” — John C. Maxwell
  4. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton
  6. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis
  7. “Managers help people see themselves as they are; Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.” — Jim Rohn
  8. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair
  9. “The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill
  10. “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.” — Lao Tzu

A Leader Is …

  • “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” — John C. Maxwell
  • “A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” — Robert Townsend
  • “A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” — David R. Gergen
  • “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu
  • “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” — Leroy Eimes
Borrowed from

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brick & Mortar vs. Internet Retailing

This has been a hot topic for several years and a recent debate in a plumbing industry LinkedIn Group has inspired me to share my thoughts. Attached is a link to a MENG (Marketing Executive Networking Group) blog post on this topic to add to the debate.

The reality is there is room for both the Internet and Brick & Mortar in retailing. The key is Strategy and Different ion. Independent retailers often get so caught up in the here and now associated with the challenges of running a business they don't stop to think about  how to differentiate themselves for the "evil" websites!

When I was leading the revitalization of the Franke brand in the USA I wrote a blog post that speaks to how we decided to differentiate ourselves as a manufacturer vs. our competitors. Below is that blog post as an example of finding that differentiation. A manufacturer’s challenge is different than a retailer but the strategy concepts are the same:
1.      Why would someone want to do business with me?
2.      What do I offer that my competition doesn’t?
·         Service, selection, location, convenience, etc.
3.      Is this differentiation something the customer wants and is willing to pay for?
4.      Am I investing in the things that my customers want?
·         Training, displays, delivering, advice, etc.

Remember it's called Selling NOT order taking! 
Click below to

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Optimal Brain Function Techniques

Dr Scott Halford shared how the brain works and how it affects leadership and executive performance in a recent MENG Webinar. This is high level Nero science but he boiled it down to five simple scientific facts that can help us all. We have heard many of these before but he was able to show the science behind these tips.
  1. Exercise: 15 minutes a day at a minimum
  2. Meditate: This does not have to be 60's stuff just turn off the phone, no iPod, no computer, TV, etc. A 50/10 Rule was 50 minutes - turn off 10 minutes every hour.
  3. Sleep: 8 Hours is the average need
  4. Laugh: No need to explain this
  5. Cry: Release - don't hold it in - if doing this in public is a problem do it privately

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is Leadership?

Leadership is a difficult concept to define and what is good leadership in one situation may not be effective in another. Fernández-Aráoz explained that emotional intelligence (EQ) is a better predictor of management performance. Do you agree? I believe that simple things like the Golden Rule are the foundation of good leaders. The foundation of my leadership philosophy is: Integrity, Loyalty and Team Work. These must exist than we can begin to assess technical skills for the task at hand. 
The following
  1. Self-concept: Does the leader have a concept of self? Is it healthy and strong enough to navigate treacherous waters intuitively, as well as develop and motivate staff as though the staff developed the ideas themselves?
  2. Persistence: Is the leader assertive? Do they drive programs to successful fruition? Are they highly self-motivated or an order-taker in disguise?
  3. Empathy: Does the leader have the ability to connect with employees and customers?
  4. Commitment: Is there a demonstrated willingness to make a substantial personal commitment of time to the people in the business?
  5. Dependable values: Does the leader have a personal style and experience that reflects a core philosophy of operation (a value set)?
As any leader recognizes, putting the right candidate in the right seat is just one stop on the talent management bus. I often refer to this as putting square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. The goal is to get fish to swim and tree-climbers to climb.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Brand Strategy is Everyone's Responsibility

The following is a reprint taken in part from AYTM Blogs and Susan Gunelius. The topic of organizational alignment and commitment has been part of my previous postings and white papers. Susan's blog post is another good example of this point.


A brand strategy affects far more people than the marketing department. It touches all aspects of your business both internally and externally. Therefore, it’s essential that you take time early in the brand strategy development process to identify all the stakeholders and ensure each is addressed within the brand strategy.
Your brand is far-reaching, and that means there are many stakeholders to consider in your strategy development process. Some of the most common stakeholders are described below:

1. Employees
Your employees are your most important brand advocates. If they don’t believe your brand promise, and if they’re not on board with driving your brand forward, you’re in big trouble.
2. Competitors
Your brand must be positioned against your competitors and add value to the market where it will be sold. Therefore, you need to understand what your competitors are doing at all times, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can attack them or defend your brand against them in a proactive manner.
3. Startups
The marketplace where you do business today and your current competitors won’t necessarily be the same tomorrow. Markets and competitors evolve and change. A tiny startup might launch a product or service in the near future that could turn your market upside-down. Your brand strategy needs to be developed to prepare for these types of changes.
4. Consumers
You need to understand both existing and prospective consumers that your brand could appeal to. Research and understand their emotions and feelings. Create surveys with questions that ask them to describe their feelings about brands like yours and explain what they want that brands aren’t delivering. Create a brand strategy that meets and exceeds these expectations.
5. Investors
Your brand strategy needs to be solid and detailed enough that investors believe in it. What do investors want from brands and businesses in your market? Your strategy must address those needs.
6. Vendors and Business Partners
Your brand strategy affects vendors and business partners, too. From how vendors work with your business and think about your brand to the types of business partners that your brand attracts, your brand strategy must take these stakeholders into account.
7. Community
Social responsibility is hot these days, which means you need to define how your brand will be received by the communities where you do business. For many brands, adding a cause-related element (for example, supporting the green movement) is a core component of their strategies.
8. Media
How will the media respond to your brand? Keep in mind, the media today includes not just newspapers, magazines, and television news organizations. It also includes millions of online publishers and even more voices in growing online conversations on blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and so on. You need to identify how you’ll monitor and manage your brand reputation across a wide variety of traditional and new media outlets.