Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Romney vs. Obama: Leadership and the enemies list

Being very good at one job (like delivering well-written speeches from a teleprompter) doesn't necessarily make you very good at the next (like leading the free world).

By Jack and Suzy Welch, contributors
FORTUNE -- Remember that incompetent boss you used to have? He was a good guy and all, but he just couldn't make decisions or prioritize. Perhaps worst of all, he tried to make everyone happy, resulting in almost everyone being angry or confused or both. And remember how long it took management to move him out -- and how aggravating that was?

Of course, at the time, you sort of understood why the Bigs had promoted the guy in the first place, and why they held out hope for so long. He'd been a superstar salesman. Best the company had seen in ages. But in the end, it turned out that all the things that made him great as an individual performer made him lousy as a people manager. It happens all the time at work. A brilliant engineer promoted to run R&D. A gifted reporter elevated to editor. A cutting-edge scientist made head of the lab. First cheers. Then, after a bit, confusion about organizational direction, mixed signals about values, hurt feelings left and right and, eventually, chaos.

Look, in business, some people can really knock it out of the park in their current jobs. They just can't lead. Smart companies get that reality. In fact, most have learned the hard way that actually being a great leader involves unique skills that even the most promising candidate for a leadership job simply may not possess.

But do the American people get that reality, too?You have to wonder. Because there's an awful lot of noise out there right now about campaign styles. President Obama has a reputation built on his soaring oratory, while Mitt Romney, clearly no fan of crowd scenes, can't seem to get through a week without an awkward (or worse, foot-in-mouth) moment. The president really knows how to run for office, the pundits note. Romney -- not so much. As if it matters. It doesn't, of course. Just as in business, in politics, being very good at one job (like delivering well-written speeches from a teleprompter) doesn't necessarily make you very good at the next (like leading the free world).

What voters need to do right now is stop focusing on stump skills, or lack thereof, and start fixating on which candidate will be the better president once the campaign is long over. They need to stop asking, "Who's more appealing on TV?" and start asking, "Who's got the right stuff to get America working again?" Yes, in some part, every person's answer to that question will be driven by the issues -- from healthcare to taxes to energy policy. And in this election, the ideological divide is stark indeed, with Obama supporting government centralization that borders on European-type socialism and Romney in favor of decentralization, state and individual rights and free-market capitalism.
Stark, too, is the difference between the candidates' leadership styles.

Over the past three years, Obama has taken a sort of divide-and-conquer approach, amassing a list of enemies that would make Richard Nixon proud -- bankers, healthcare insurance providers, oil companies, wealthy taxpayers, Congress and, most recently, the Supreme Court. Surely, his supporters must think this particular tactic is effective, but there can be no denying that the country is more polarized than when Obama took office.

Without doubt, Romney is not the model leader (his apparent lack of authenticity can be jarring), but he has a quality that would serve him well as president -- good old American pragmatism. Perhaps that's the businessman in him. Or perhaps you just learn to do what you've got to do when you're a GOP governor in the People's Republic of Massachusetts or the man charged with salvaging the scandal-ridden Salt Lake City Olympics. If Romney's long record suggests anything, it's that he knows how to manage people and organizations to get things accomplished without a lot of internecine warfare.

Look, Obama may be a great campaigner and Romney (to date) somewhat the opposite. But neither man is running to be Campaigner-in-Chief. In politics, as in business, the leader's job needs to be filled by a leader, and no effective leader, regardless of ideology, keeps an enemies list.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10 things to make Your Team Smile

  1. Give them a voice. Listen to them. Implement their ideas. Give them all the credit.
  2. Pay them fairly. To build a great culture, you have to have the basics in place. That means reasonable compensation and benefits. You don’t have to be at the top of the market. But if you try to create a culture of fun and miss the money part, it will appear disingenuous.
  3. Recognize and reward. Don’t just give them more cash. People just want to feel valued. Ask them how they want to be recognized; you’ll be surprised at some of the answers.
  4. Offer opportunities for advancement. Most of your employees want to feel there is room to grow. Do they know the path? Have you written it down for them? Show them the way.
  5. Support out-of-the-box semantics. Stop with the fancy titles. All that does is build silos and internal competition. Our receptionist’s official title is the “director of first impressions” and my assistant is the “director of executive wrangling.”
  6. Infiltrate the workplace with fun. Decorate the place, put up photos, host dress-up days, plan fun events, and bring families to the party.
  7. Walk the talk. You are the leader, so act like it. Don’t expect others to execute on this one. You have to let your hair down, set the example, and join the party. Get out of your office.
  8. Send a handwritten note. And send it home. The way to make a real connection is not through email, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Put pen to paper, put card in envelope, add a real stamp, and put it in the mailbox.
  9. Create traditions. Buying a keg of beer this Friday night won’t change the culture. It takes commitment and long-term resolve. When you find something that works, keep doing it.
  10. Open your heart. Let everyone know that we are in this together. Be vulnerable. Share your successes and failures. In turn, they’ll fall on a sword for you.

Paul Spiegelman is founder and CEO of The Beryl Companies, which manages patient interactions for hospitals, and co-founded the Small Giants Community, a global entrepreneur group, with Inc. magazine editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. @paulspiegelman

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers

Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:


Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:
  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions


Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:
  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously


Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:
  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views


Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to:
  • Understand what drives other people's agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it's uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support


As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure--especially failure--are valuable sources of organizational learning. Here's what you need to do:
  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you're off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Do you have what it takes?

Paul J. H. Schoemaker: Founder and Chairman, Decision Strategies Intl. Speaker, professor, and entrepreneur. Research Director, Mack Ctr for Technological Innovation at Wharton, where he teaches strategic decision-making. Latest book: Brilliant Mistakes

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three steps to becoming a better leader

Ritch K. Eich, owner of Eich Associated, a California-based leadership, marketing and communications firm has a few tips designed to help you become a better leader. Eich's book, "Real Leaders Don't Boss," (Career Press, 2012), is out this month.
Eich's three steps to becoming a better leader are:

Pick the right people. Real leaders, especially executives of small businesses and startups, are wise to surround themselves with people who are smarter, have more versatility, are more talented and are less bound by conformity. You should choose people who can rally around your vision.

Have a clear message. Having a clear, easily understood and oft-repeated vision is essential to being a real leader. As the great former president of the University of Notre Dame said: "The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."

Be humble. Real leaders are humble, aren't afraid to show their humanity, their genuine concern for their employees. Real leaders create a culture of "belonging" — one where associates feel important, desired and valued.

Dr. Ritch K. Eich has spent the last four decades studying the philosophies and fundamentals of true leaders. Eich has held leadership positions at Stanford University Medical Center, Blue Shield of California, the University of Michigan and many other institutions. He’s worked with or for a "who's who" of world leaders, from Howard Holmes ("Jiffy" Mixes) to Tom Monaghan (Domino's Pizza founder) to Charles Walgreen, Jr. (Walgreen Drug Stores). Eich achieved the rank of Captain, U.S. Naval Reserve, and has served in the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO (South), the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets (Commands), as well as other joint commands.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Exciting New Opportunity!


PETALUMA, CA. April 9, 2012 – In a move aimed at accelerating growth and investment for its industry leading ergonomic business, Workrite Ergonomics has named Charles F. Lawrence, President. Lawrence will report to parent company, Knape & Vogt CEO, Peter Martin and have full operational responsibility for the ergonomics business globally. 

At a time when workplace ergonomics is gaining popularity and importance, Lawrence suggested, “This is an ideal time to build on the great reputation of Workrite and its expertise in ergonomics. Its heritage of innovation, quality and customer centric culture are at the heart of Workrite and the ones we are determined to preserve and strengthen.”

Commenting on the new appointment, Peter Martin, CEO said, “Charlie’s mission is to build on Workrite’s position as an established leader in the ergonomics segment. The growing importance of ergonomics positions Workrite very well to address this growing need.” The ongoing development of new products tailored to the existing and developing markets emerging from Workrite’s innovation-driven approach will be a priority for the new leader.

The company also plans to continue to invest and focus on its culture of continuous improvement in speed to market and service excellence. Committing himself to this ambitious agenda, Lawrence describes his master plan for the company. “My priorities and focus are simple. The first is to maintain and enhance the brand’s deserved reputation for creating products that define the best in ergonomics in terms of quality, innovation, style and design. At the same time, we will strive to strengthen our commitments with our network of dealer partners that share our focus on superb design supported by excellent service.”

Before joining Workrite, Lawrence held general management, marketing, product development, brand management and sales leadership roles at fortune 500 and private equity backed companies including GE, Masco, Brunswick and Cerberus Capital Management. For the past six years he led the turnaround of the US division of Switzerland based Franke Kitchen Systems, the global leader and largest manufacturer of stainless steel products including kitchen sinks, foodservice systems, and washroom and beverage systems. He is a member of the Board of the North American Advisory Board of the global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, the organization of senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers from a wide-range of global industries.

Workrite Ergonomics, Inc. ( develops, manufactures and distributes high-quality, innovative ergonomic products for the office workplace. The company’s products are flexible, high-quality ergonomic solutions that can be tailored to any work environment and help create a healthy workplace. Workrite product offerings include an extensive line of height adjustable workcenters, adjustable keyboard systems, monitor display supports, and other accessory products. Workrite is owned by Knape & Vogt, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The parent company designs, manufactures and distributes functional hardware, storage-related components and ergonomic products. Additional information about KV is available at

For more information visit or call 1.800.959.9675.

Media Contact: Dana Perkins, 707.780.6493 or