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7 Useful Sites I Discovered in 2017

Posted on December 23, 2017 at 4:50 AM


Here are seven websites/apps that I started using in 2017 that have proven quite useful and are not yet universally-known. These sites helped me (1) find non-standard airfares, (2) learn a new language, (3) find someone to film an event, (4) reduce my email inbox clutter, (5) create an animated video for my website, (6) see all my travel options between air, rail, bus, and car, and (7) see all the libraries that have a book available to borrow. Perhaps they can help you.


Kiwi.com (Air travel) - I have been using Kiwi.com almost exclusively this year to find airfares. Kiwi finds good deals because it stitches together flights across airlines in a way that other sites don't. It combines segments between discount airlines that don't code-share, like Southwest, and other airlines. It means you can avoid busy, and expensive, traditional airline hubs to connect. For example, on my last trip to Europe, I flew Southwest Airlines down to Orlando, Florida and then picked up Eurowings to Germany from there. That flight was actually two tickets, meaning I had to go out through security and check in again to connect, but the savings were worth it. 


DuoLingo.com (Language Learning) - If you are trying to learn a new language, I highly recommend Duolingo, which is a phone app. I'm using it and have found it much better and more addictive than other programs I have tried. It's free and is a great example of "gamification" where it motivates users by making it feel like a video game and giving lots of feedback along the way. Find it at duolingo.com or in the app store on your phone.


ProductionHub.com (Event Filming) - I had to find a videographer to film an event this year, so I wanted to find an online marketplace where I could solicit bids. While the paid search results for "event video" were dominated by wedding videographers, I found productionhub.com to be good for my need. I got several bids from local firms and chose one based on the research I was able to do, thanks to the site. I've been happy with the result.


Unroll.me (Email Management) - I signed up for Unroll.me this year to consolidate a lot of emails I get into a daily rollup. It is useful for emails that fall between spam and "must see," such as newsletters you sign up for that occasionally have something quite useful but just come too often.


Fiverr.com (Animated Video) - I needed to create some animated videos for my websites this year and I found Fiverr.com to do them. I have had two animated videos made using them and been quite satisfied with the quality and the value - under $70 for a 90 second video. (See example.) I just had to write the script and they did the rest. They were also good about incorporating my feedback as edits. You can choose from many artists on the site after seeing their work and ratings.


Rome2Rio (Travel) - I travel a lot, and I have come to appreciate Rome2Rio.com as a very useful site in figuring out transportation options between two points. I particularly like that it looks for all options - planes, trains, buses and more - and compares costs and times. It then links you to each option to book tickets, where you can make sure the timing works for your dates.


WorldCat.org (Books) - Did you know there is a website where you can see what is physically on the shelves of libraries around the world? If you are an author like me, WorldCat.org gives you a fascinating view to see where your books are stocked. It doesn't cover the holdings of 100% of public libraries in the world, but it is impressively extensive. You can also click through into a library that has your book to see if it is checked out. I have a new book - The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain - that came out this year, so I created this interactive map on my website to show all the libraries that have it in stock for people who want to borrow it.


By the way, I don't receive any compensation from these sites. I'm just sharing them because I found them helpful and thought others might too.

Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela on Robben Island

Posted on November 26, 2017 at 12:25 AM

Before he was elected as South Africa’s president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela spent 27 years in prison, from his mid-forties to his early seventies. Eighteen of those years were spent on Robben Island, a former island leper colony turned into a brutal prison. Instead of breaking him, that ordeal shaped Mandela into the extraordinary man that emerged when his country needed him to save the peace and deliver democracy. (Mandela is so beloved in South Africa, his image graces not just some, but all of their paper currency.)

Here are 5 of the leadership lessons I learned this month when I toured Robben Island.

Each One Teach One – Mandela realized that the front-line guards at Robben Island were often young and poorly educated, while Mandela and his fellow political prisoners were typically highly educated. Mandela used this advantage to build a more equal relationship with the guards. He focused on a strategy he called “each one teach one” – each prisoner was responsible for teaching a guard basic skills they were lacking. The prisoners executed this strategy in the limestone mine that they had to manually toil in each day. They turned the crevice in the mine intended to be a bathroom into a classroom where they tutored guards in skills like reading. By doing so, Mandela realized that the guards would begin to see the prisoners as humans, not just as prisoners, and give them more respect.

Avoid Divide and Conquer – The management of the prison had a policy to provide different levels of food, supplies and treatment to prisoners based on their race. Mandela and his fellow black political prisoners received the least. The strategy of the prison was to create dissension between the prisoners. Prisoners with advantages would want to curry favor with the guards to keep those privileges, while prisoners with the least would feel envious of those with advantages. Mandela saw through this strategy and it probably strengthened his resolve for equality among all races.

Pick the Weakest Link in Unjustice to Attack First – Robert Sobukwe was another political prisoner on Robben Island. He was considered so dangerous he was held in solitary confinement in a house built especially for him. Sobukwe was feared because he had led the revolt against the Pass Law. Sobukwe had deliberately picked that law to protest because he realized that there was no way to enforce it if masses broke the law at once. If masses of citizens turned themselves in for not carrying their pass, the jails were not big enough to hold them all, meaning police would have to force some change in the implementation in the law. Once the people put a dent into one part of the whole legal system of apartheid, they would get confidence to challenge the rest. (Sadly, the protest Sobukwe led resulted in the Sharpville Massacre, where police killed 69 demonstrators.)

Honor Your Predecessors – Mandela realized that he was just one part of a line of brave leaders who pushed the fight for equality and democracy over the goal line. He continued to pay respect to his fellow leaders, such as Sobukwe and Steve Biko, who had not survived long enough to see his election to the presidency.

Record Your History – Mandela wrote his journal and smuggled it out by hiding it among the trees and tomato plants he tended in the prison yard. Mandela realized that the lessons he was learning needed to be passed on to others. The lessons would not only inspire others in his day to take action, but would also ensure that future generations would not forget the ordeal it took to earn the freedom they enjoy.

The Arc of History Bends to the Good – While the whole experience seeing Robben Island overwhelmed me, one image had a surprisingly big impact on me. It was a picture of the steps leading to the cell block where Mandela and other political prisoners were held. In his 18 years in captivity in that cell block, I wondered how may times Manedela and other prisoners limped up these stairs after a day of manual labor in the limestone pits, headed for the cell without a bed or plumbing. I wonder how those men would feel to see a wheelchair accessible lift installed on those same steps today. How far the future of their prison becoming a World Heritage Site set up to tell their story must have seemed to them as inmates. How remarkable they were to make that future happen.

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5 Leadership Lessons from Manager Mistakes in Baseball's Post-Season

Posted on October 6, 2017 at 12:55 AM

Major League Baseball managers have a demanding job. They can make hundreds of decisions in every game, ranging from setting the lineup and batting order to which types of pitches to make. Their good decisions are rarely noted. Their mistakes, however, are visible to be criticized by every fan and pundit. That is most true in Major League Baseball’s post-season playoffs, where a single mistake can end a season. Here are the seven types of mistakes managers often make in the post-season that are most remembered.

 

1. Letting a Weak Performer Stay on too Long – Pitchers wear down with each pitch they make and typically are not asked to throw much more than 100 pitches in a game. Some mistakes in playoff history center on a manager leaving a pitcher in too long when a new pitcher with a fresh arm would potentially give their team a better chance to win. Perhaps the most famous example of this was in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little left ace Pedro Martinez in pitching in the eighth inning, longer than critics thought wise. Martinez ended up blowing the lead and the Red Sox lost the game, and the series, to the Yankees. The next year, the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, distracting Red Sox fans from dwelling on this decision. They did it under a new manager, however.

 

Have you ever seen a manager in your workplace fail to replace a weak performer in a timely manner?

2. Letting a Strong Performer Leave too Early – On the flip side, some other mistakes are taking effective pitchers out too early. In Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, San Francisco Giants Manager Dusty Baker pulled his pitcher Russ Ortiz in the bottom of the 7th inning. Ortiz had shut out the Anaheim Angels through the first six innings and was sitting on a five run lead. After the change, the Angels rallied to score six runs in the next two innings to win the game and force a Game 7, which they won.

 

Have you seen a manager in your workplace let a star performer leave your team too early?

3. Creating a Distraction through a Reorganization – One of the biggest decisions managers make is the order in which the players will bat. The position in the batting order impacts a hitter in many ways, ranging from how many times they are likely to get a chance to bat, how many outs there will be left in the inning, and whether they will have runners on base to hit in. In the 2006 American League Division Series, Yankee Manager Joe Torre made a remarkable, newsworthy change by dropping his superstar slugger Alex Rodriguez to eighth in the batting order – a spot usually reserved for one of the weakest hitters. Rodriguez had not hit well in the first three games in the series, but he was in the middle of a five year streak of winning the AL MVP award three times in five years. The demotion generated a lot of buzz that may have distracted, or disheartened, Rodriguez and the team. Rodriguez made a rare, and costly, fielding error in the game. The Yankees lost that game, ending their season. The reorganization of the batting order may not have directly caused the loss, but it didn’t seem to help their batting.

 

Have you seen your organization distracted by an arbitrary reorganization?

4. Letting a Team Get Too Comfortable with Past Success – Some of the most dramatic stories in World Series history are about an underdog beating a heavily favored opponent. Upsets can be blamed in part on luck, but preparation and focus usually play a role as well, and that is the manager’s responsibility. One of the biggest shocks in World Series history came in 1990 when the Cincinnati Reds swept the heavily-favored Oakland A’s. The A’s, the reigning World Series champions, seemed to be looking past the underdog Reds. Perhaps the biggest World Series upset before that came in 1960, when the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the legendary New York Yankees on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski. The Yankees had thumped the Pirates 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0 in their three wins during the series, but they had let the Pirates squeak by with 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2 wins to reach Game 7. The Yankees had the Pirates down 7-4 in the bottom of the eight inning of Game 7 but failed to close the door for the win.

 

Have you ever seen a manager let their team get too comfortable with past success and not focus and prepare their team for new challenges?

5. Steering through A Potential Crisis – Bad luck happens to teams in baseball games. In the pressure-filled post-season, bad breaks in luck have even higher stakes. Good leaders steer their teams through those to prevent a bad break turning into a crisis. One of the most famous bad breaks in baseball post-season came during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The Chicago Cubs were at home, leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 and just 5 outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945. Then a fan interfered with a foul ball that potentially could have been caught and put the Cubs one out closer to a win. The resulting confusion and fan furor that play caused rattled the Cubs. When play resumed, the pitcher cratered, throwing a wild pitch and giving up several more hits. The shortstop made a rare fielding error. The Marlins ended up scoring 8 runs in the inning. The Cubs never recovered and lost the game and the series. Critics blamed Cubs Manager Dusty Baker for not making a pitching change and other moves that could have got his team back and focused on closing out the win.

 

Have you ever seen a leader fail to stop a bad break growing into a full-blown crisis?

Baseball managers make many decisions that are subject to intense public scrutiny, especially during the postseason. Perhaps that is why the average baseball manager’s salary – often said to be $1 million a year – is more than the average business manager’s salary.

 

 

The "Icebreaker" Gone Horribly Wrong that Turned Into a Gift

Posted on September 6, 2017 at 1:10 AM


The year was 2002. When the new Vice President (VP) arrived at my Fortune 500 company, we had an “off-site” meeting to introduce him to his new team. He was a big shot partner from a high-powered consulting firm who was going to ‘take us to the next level,’ according to corporate communications. As a mid-level manager, I was one of the 15 or 20 people who made up his ‘skip level reports’ – or fancy corporate language for “my boss’s boss.” We each introduced ourself, described our role, and then answered a few innocuous icebreaker questions to include a personal touch. I forgot what the other questions were, but one got burned in my mind.

 

“What was the last music album you bought?”

 

In a moment of immature bravado, I decided to be funny with my answer. “I know the last album I acquired was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve been to a music store since Napster came out.” Even though I wasn’t a Napster user, I guess I wanted to impress him with how internet-savvy and musically hip I was for a mid-level manager. I also was trying to look cool and funny to my peers.

 

“My brother helped make that album. He was in Wilco.”

 

I am not sure what reply I was hoping for, but that definitely was not it. At first, I thought he was joking right back at me. But he wasn’t smiling. I later found out he was serious. And unauthorized, free downloading of songs via Napster was not a funny joke to musicians in those days.

 

Wilco was famous by 2002, so the odds that Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the newest CD in my collection were not that long. But what were the odds that our new VP was the brother of Wilco guitarist Jay Bennett? If I could remember the exact date and time of that meeting, I would play that number combination in the Mega Lotto every time.

 

I don’t remember what happened in that meeting after that. I was in shock after making a self-inflicted, career wound. If there were a contest for “worst first impression with the new VP ever,” I would have won.

 

After the meeting, the new VP pulled me aside to smile and let me know he was not offended. He was as surprised as I was by the coincidence. From that conversation, we figured out we had similar tastes in music. We later found out we both had a passion for bicycling too.

 

Fast-forward 15 years later, and the VP and I had dinner this week. Our initial awkward connection had blossomed into an enduring friendship, powered by social media and a surprise meeting or two at airports. We reminisced about our time working together. We also talked about the documentary film project about his brother that we were both following on Facebook. (Jay Bennett tragically passed away in 2009.) When he told me his story about being at a Billy Bragg concert and hearing Billy dedicate “California Stars” to his brother Jay, we both got teary-eyed.

 

I learned a lesson from this experience. Whenever I have a conflict with someone at work, the good news is it means we share some common passion. We may not agree on how to address the issue, but we can agree that we both care about the issue. We can go back to that common ground to get the relationship back on track. In this story, our common interest in a music group caused an awkward moment at first, but we ended up building on that shared interest to form a lasting friendship. Looking back, I’m glad I fumbled that icebreaker.

The Story behind my New Book - The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain

Posted on August 22, 2017 at 6:50 PM


I'd like to tell the story about my new book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (AMACOM, July 2017). I hike and bike long trails on vacations as a hobby, so the Camino de Santiago had been on my list for a while. When I finally got on the Camino, however, I realized it was unlike any other trail. My month-long experience walking the Camino taught me values and lessons that have made me a better person and leader. They helped me fix some sharp edges I had developed in my climb up my career ladder. I wrote blogs about those lessons when I got home. Those blogs went viral and snowballed into this book deal. I wrote this book so I could share those lessons with other people, especially those who may not be able to take a month off and walk across Spain. To augment my own Camino stories and lessons, I interviewed over 100 other pilgrims from 16 countries. Dozens of their wonderful stories and lessons made it into this book.

I hope you enjoy the book. Here are reviews from some other readers:

"The camino has spawned a multitude of books and blogs. Victor Prince has taken a novel approach. He has gathered reflections from a cross section of pilgrims and distilled this wisdom to provide lessons in leadership. Whether that leadership is in business or life in general, we could all benefit from the advice it contains.”

— John Brierley, author of A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago and other bestselling travel books

"On the back of the passport, which is used to get stamps as each stage of the walk is completed, (Prince) noticed seven simple reminders of things pilgrims should do while on the Camino, which he used as the framework for his book The Camino Way, since they applied to work as well.... You don't need to walk the Camino to take those lessons into your own life.

— Harvey Schachter, The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest newspaper

"Prince’s is both a highly engaging story and a remarkably effective way to communicate business lessons... In this first-person narrative, Prince recounts his adventure, but unlike the typical travel diary, The Camino Way brilliantly draws continuous connections between the Camino, which started as a religious pilgrimage hundreds of years ago, and contemporary business leadership."

— Foreword Reviews, an independent media company founded in 1998 to serve an audience of librarians, booksellers, book-loving consumers, publishers, agents, and other publishing professionals.

"Victor Prince’s follow up to Lead Inside the Box is a much different, but equally original, book on leadership. In The Camino Way, Victor shares lessons from an extraordinary experience that can help other leaders in their everyday work. I strongly recommend it."

— Robert J. Herbold, Chief Operating Officer (retired), Microsoft Corporation

"A thousand year old hiking trail across Spain is a uniquely interesting setting for a book on leadership. It's a great read with valuable lessons for anyone looking to become a better leader, professionally and personally.”

— Ethan Bernstein, Asst. Professor of Leadership & Organizational Behavior, Harvard Business School

"I'll probably never walk the Camino, but I feel like I did after reading this book. What a fresh take on leadership!"

— David K. Lenhardt, former President and CEO, PetSmart, Inc.

"Victor draws you in with the opportunity to walk the Camino vicariously with him - all the experiences and none of the blisters. This entertaining book is a combination of a travel guide and an invaluable set of lessons for success in life at home and at work."

— Dan Tangherlini, former Administrator of the US General Services Administration

“Rooted in history, yet highly relevant to today, Victor Prince takes readers on a journey of insight that can add value to all of our daily experiences."

— Suzanne Tager, Senior Director, Retail and Consumer Goods Practice, Bain & Company

"When reading this inspirational book, I couldn't help but think about a term I learned in Latin - Manus manum lavat - one hand washes another. As leaders we need to ensure we never forget about the people we rely on, our teams, our employees, our family, friends...our village. The Camino Way reminds us we are all on different journeys and every relationship matters."

— Lisa M. Buckingham, Chief Human Resources Officer of Lincoln Financial Group

"The Camino Way offers universal life and leadership lessons. After finishing, I couldn't decide which I wanted to do first: share the book with my senior team or buy a plane ticket and start my own journey."

— Scott Kubly, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation

"Most people have two stacks of books by their bed: books they read for work, and books they read for pleasure. The Camino Way is the only book you’ll read this year that could make it to both stacks."

— Paul Smith, bestselling author of Lead with a Story and Sell with a Story

"The Camino Way takes you on a journey you will never forget. Awesome story telling that captures and sweeps you in while delivering great life and leadership lessons."

— Brigette Hyacinth, Founder and Director of the MBA Caribbean Organisation

"Through his journey, he guides us to apply his newfound perspective to the most meaningful aspects of our lives. In doing so, we become better leaders, better parents, and better people."

— Sally Tassani, President, The Strategy Forums

"If a 'Buen Camino' is not on your itinerary, this book will bring you as close to the life-changing power of the vaunted walk as possible. It’s like a MBA for the soul."

— Scott Mautz – author of Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again

Learn more about The Camino Way and get your own copy today! 

The 5 Most Successful "Hacker-Hustler" Teams in US Business History

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 12:45 PM

The “hacker-hustler” team is a common recipe for co-founders of successful new businesses. The “hacker” is the partner who has the technical skills to build innovative products or services. The “hustler” is the partner who has the marketing and other business skills to grow a valuable enterprise around those technical innovations. Based on market capitalization, here are the five most successful “hacker-hustler” co-founder teams in history.

 

5) Henry Wells and William G. Fargo (Wells Fargo) – In 1845, Henry Wells and William G. Fargo partnered to form a express freight company that would become American Express. In 1852, the two partnered again to form Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo would launch innovative banking products to finance the booming gold rush economy in California. Both men started their careers as freight agents, so they both had hands-on logistics expertise that would serve as the “hacker” part of this equation. Fargo may have been more of the “hustler,” as shown by his entry into politics as the mayor of Buffalo, NY later in his career. Over the next two centuries, the Wells Fargo partnership grew to be the 10th most valuable public company in the first quarter of 2017, when its market capitalization reached $278 billion.

 

4) Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson, and Edward Mead Johnson (Johnson & Johnson) – Robert Wood Johnson was inspired by a speech at the 1876 World’s Fair about the need for sterilization in medicine. In 1886, Robert joined the firm his brothers James and Edward had already created – Johnson & Johnson – to produce a line of sterilized surgical dressings. Robert and James teamed to play the “hacker” role in the partnership. Robert was trained as an apprentice at an apothecary and used that experience to develop the products. James was an engineer who designed innovative machines to use in the business. Edward was more of the “hustler” in the relationship, as he was trained as a lawyer and his other talents revolved around advertising. (Edward would spin off to launch his own business in 1897, thus getting “Johnson & Johnson” back to a duo of brothers.) Johnson & Johnson has grown to become the 6th most valuable public company in the world, with its market capitalization reaching $357 billion in 2017.

 

3) Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Alphabet/Google) – While a graduate student at Stanford University, Larry Page came up with a thesis that the best way to rank webpages in internet searches was to assess the number and quality of the sites that link to it. Basically, he was applying the concept of the importance of citations in academic papers to the world wide web. His partnered with friend and fellow classmate Sergey Brin to turn that thesis into a working website, and eventually a business. Both Page and Brin brought the technical skills to the partnership, so it is hard to say who was more of the hacker and who was more of the hustler. Either way, they combined to do both hacking and hustling quite well, as Alphabet’s market capitalization rose to #2 in the world by reaching $628 billion in the second quarter of 2017.

 

2) Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple) – The two Steves working in a garage to build the first Apple computers is perhaps the purest, most iconic example of a successful hacker-hustler team. Wozniak (Woz) brought the technical skill and Jobs brought the business skills. They needed each other. They completed each other. The rest of the story is well-known. Apple is now the most valuable public company in the world, reaching a market capitalization of $753 billion in 2017.

 

1) Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft) – When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft together in 1975, it was the second company the two friends, aged 19 and 22, respectively, had launched together. (The first one was to build a machine to count automobile traffic on roads.) The two met in their school’s computer club, so they both had technical skills. Being three years older, Allen had more life and business experience, probably making him more of the “hustler” in the relationship. When Microsoft got its big break in 1980 to supply the disk operating system (DOS) to IBM, for example, Allen led the deal to buy and repackage an existing system from another developer. Allen also came up with the name Microsoft when they incorporated. However they divided up the hacking and hustling tasks, it obviously worked well. Microsoft’s market capitalization hit $618 billion in 1999, which was worth over $1 trillion in today’s dollars on an inflation adjusted basis, the highest market capitalization ever. With a market capitalization of $528 billion in 2017, Microsoft still stands as #3 on the list of most valuable public companies today.

 

Sources: Wikipedia.org and http://www.jnj.com

 

© Copyright Victor Prince, All Rights Reserved.

 

4 Leadership Lessons from Fed Chairs

Posted on June 6, 2017 at 1:20 AM


The Federal Reserve System (“The Fed”;) was created in 1913. Since then, fourteen men and one woman have served as the chair of the board of the Fed. Their century of leadership has produced several lessons in leadership. Here are the top four:


Stick to Your Tough Decisions – Paul Volker’s two terms as the Fed chair (1979-87) started in one of the worst economic periods in US history known for “stagflation” – stagnant economic growth with rampant inflation that reached 14 percent. Volker decided the Fed needed to take a tough approach and increase interest rates to over 20% to strangle inflation. Unemployment soared and Volker received a lot of criticism, even prompting a protest by farmers blockading the Fed headquarters with their tractors. But Volker stayed strong, and inflation fell below 3 percent by 1983.


Don’t Stay on Too Long – Alan Greenspan was Fed Chair for 18 ½ years from 1987 to 2006. Eighteen months after he left office, the financial markets went into their biggest crash since the Great Depression. Greenspan was criticized for not acting to prevent the bursting of the housing market bubble during his tenure as Fed Chair. Had a fresh set of eyes come in one or two four year terms before, perhaps they would have seen and acted on the warning signs. Perhaps they would not have been so invested in continuity with past decisions.


Preparation Matters – Ben Bernanke’s specialty in his academic career was studying the Great Depression. He was in place as the Fed Chair (2006-2014) when the Great Recession happened in 2008. Bernanke used that knowledge to navigate the economy through the Great Recession. Hopefully future Fed Chairs won’t need that same expertise.


Define the Complex in an Easy Way – William Martin was the longest tenured Fed Chair (1951-1970), serving through five presidents, from Truman to Nixon. When asked to describe the role of the Federal Reserve Chair, he defined the complex topic of monetary policy in a very simple way. He said his job was “to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.” In one sentence, he made arcane monetary policy understandable to the masses.


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JFK at 100: The Two Techniques Behind JFK's Best Speeches

Posted on May 29, 2017 at 10:25 AM


May 29, 2017 marks the 100th birthday of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). While his assassination cut his presidency and life tragically short, his legacy lives on in many ways, including his speeches. JFK was able to connect with people by explaining complex issues in an easy-to-understand and memorable way. There were two rhetorical techniques he used frequently to do that. 

Technique #1: "Not This, But That"

JFK's simplest tool to define a complex issue was to first say what it was not. This also allowed him to create some of the most simple argument constructions so they could become memorable. Examples include (with underlines added to identify the technique):

"The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises-- it is a set of challenges." (Nomination Acceptance, 1960)

“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change.” (Inauguration, 1961)

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (Inauguration, 1961)

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” (Inauguration, 1961)

"This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue." (Civil Rights, 1963)

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..." (Rice University 'Moon speech', 1962)

"What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time." (American University 'Nuclear Test Ban' Speech, 1963)

Technique #2 - The Sacrificial Strawman

A more elaborate version of the “Not this but that” tactic had JFK building arguments against his own position just to tear them down so people had to settle for his answer. They key to identifying this technique is when JFK mentioned things like "they say" or "I've heard." Examples include (with underlines added to identify the technique):

“I know that there are those who want to turn everything over to the Government. I don't at all. I want the individuals to meet their responsibilities and I want the States to meet their responsibilities. But I think there is also a national responsibility... I don't believe in big government, but I believe in effective governmental action...” (First Presidential Debate with Nixon, 1960)

I hear it said that West Berlin is militarily untenable. And so was Bastogne. And so, in fact, was Stalingrad. Any dangerous spot is tenable if men--brave men--will make it so.” (Berlin Crisis, 1961)

"Some say that it is useless to speak of peace or world law or world disarmament, and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs." (American University 'Nuclear Test Ban' Speech, 1963)

“First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade; therefore, they can be solved by man.” (American University 'Nuclear Test Ban' Speech, 1963)

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” (Rice University 'Moon Speech', 1962)

There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say -- There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.” (Berlin Wall, 1963)

This speech at the Berlin Wall in June 1963 was JFK's most rousing public speaking performance. He simplified the Cold War conflict by pointing to the Berlin Wall as the clearest example of the difference between the two sides. He also added the "Let them come to Berlin" chorus that sounded like a campaign call to action. JFK was hitting his rhetorical stride as he headed into his reelection year. It is unfortunate that he never got a chance to be reelected.

PS - Some may say that JFK’s success as an orator was due solely to the talent of his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. To them I would say that Sorenson didn’t start working for JFK until 1953 and JFK’s first public speech in 1942 (when JFK was age 25 and Sorensen was age 14 in Nebraska) used these same techniques. Let them go to the JFK Presidential Library website to also review transcripts of his speeches.

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5 Management Lessons from World War 1

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 8:50 AM


The United States formally entered the First World War 100 years ago today. Some of the lessons from that devastating war still offer insights to leaders today.

#1 - Update Strategy with Technology – Machine guns represented a game-changing technology that made the war much deadlier. Strategies and tactics built in the days of calvary charges and muskets failed in the face of withering machine gun fire. Innovation in military equipment – e.g., the armored tank as a weapon against entrenched machine gun defenses – emerged during the war, but could have helped end the bloody stalemate earlier if developed before the war.

Lesson #1 – Monitor emerging technologies and regularly update your strategies and tactics.

#2 - Have a Plan B – The German generals had an attack plan – the Schlieffen Plan- to quickly take Paris to defeat the French and win the war. When the attack stalled before reaching Paris, both sides dug in and the war fell into three years of the horrific stalemate of trench warfare.

Lesson #2 – If you don't have contingency plans, you don’t have a plan.

#3 - Prepare an All Hands Response – During the Battle of the Marne early in the war, the French commanders enlisted help from Paris taxis to transport troops to the front. While the impact of a few thousand taxis was relatively small compared to the massive scale of a battle with over a million soldiers, it did boost French morale, at least as the legend grew over time. (Photo from Wikipedia by El monty CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lesson #3 – Anticipate people who would be helpful to enlist in a crisis so you can mobilize them quickly if needed.

#4 - Understand Your Entanglements – The assassination of the Austrian archduke quickly expanded into a global war because of the alliances between countries. Countries found themselves at war not because they had a conflict with each other, but because their friends of friends did.

Lesson #4 - Understand the dependencies your suppliers, sellers and other partners have because their problems can quickly become your problems.

#5 - Protect Against Hackers - The German government sent a proposal to Mexico to encourage them to wage war against the United States to regain lost territory. After the British intercepted and decoded the message, they shared it with the US Government. The resulting outrage in the US to this intercepted message - called the Zimmerman Note - was one of the final reasons (along with Germany's submarine attacks on US ships) that convinced the US to declare war against Germany.

Lesson #5 - Build strong defenses against getting hacked and have a response plan for when you eventually do.

Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest lesson from 'The War to End All Wars' was said best by the historians Will and Ariel Durant: "War is one of the constants of history ... and has not diminished with civilization or democracy."

Lessons from the Top 5 Ranked Presidents

Posted on March 18, 2017 at 4:15 PM


The Presidents of the United States are ranked from time to time by historians, and four are always at the top - Washington, Lincoln and both Roosevelts. In the latest poll of historians just released by C-SPAN for the President's Day holiday, a newcomer has broken the top five - Eisenhower.


Each of the top-five ranked presidents had different leadership styles that still offer lessons to leaders today. Here is a quote from (or about) each president that captures an element of their leadership style, presented in order of rank by this latest C-SPAN poll.


#1 Abraham Lincoln (1861-65) - According to an 1883 biography of Lincoln: “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity—only a great man can stand prosperity. It is the glory of Abraham Lincoln that he never abused power... When he had power he used it in mercy."* By exerting extraordinary powers in the name of civil wartime needs (e.g., suspending the writ of habeas corpus), Lincoln may have been the closest thing to a dictator the USA has ever had. Thankfully, Lincoln knew that great leaders wield power out of necessity, not out of desire. He was aware of the potential intoxicating and corrupting effects of power. Lincoln reminds us that good leaders view power as a useful, yet dangerous, tool that should be used for the public good, but never for personal gain.


#2 George Washington (1789-97) - Washington wrote in a 1790 letter: "My station is new... I walk on untrodden ground."** - As the first president, Washington was very sensitive to how his actions shaped the office he held. He knew that every time he bent a rule, he weakened it, and that every time he ceded authority, he made it harder for his successors to reclaim that authority. Washington reminds us that all leaders should think about how their actions will impact their successors' ability to do the job.


#3 Franklin Roosevelt - (1933-45) FDR's leadership style was as unique and confusing as it was effective. According to historian James MacGregor Burns, FDR led "by deliberately fostering among his aides a sense of competition and a clash of wills that led to disarray, heartbreak, and anger but also set off pulses of executive energy and sparks of creativity...by handing out one job to several men and several jobs to one man, thus strengthening his own position as a court of appeals, as a depository of information, and as a tool of co-ordination; by ignoring or bypassing collective decision-making agencies, such as the Cabinet...and always by persuading, flattering, juggling, improvising, reshuffling, harmonizing, conciliating, manipulating."*** While FDR's leadership system looked chaotic, he must have been disciplined in fulfilling his duties as the center of the system, keeping it from spinning out of control.


#4 Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) - "I took Panama and let Congress debate that while I went ahead and built the canal."**** - This brag by Roosevelt said much about his leadership style. At age 42, Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest person ever to serve as president. His death at age 60 made him one of the youngest retired presidents to die too. It was almost like he sensed he had a limited time in office and life and wanted to get the most out of that time. As president, that meant Roosevelt sometimes took risks by acting before he had formal authorization and funding when he believed his actions would eventually be judged to be right.


#5 Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61) - Eisenhower shared this quote in a 1957 speech: "I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." ***** - Eisenhower served as a US Army officer for almost 40 years, starting as a West Point cadet and becoming the top Army general before entering politics to run for president. Eisenhower rose slowly through the Army ranks in a series of staff roles focused on planning, not combat. Those roles sharpened his managerial skills while also exposing him to various leadership styles of famous Army generals. When he rose to top leadership jobs himself, Eisenhower emphasized high-quality, behind-the-scenes planning over dramatic, personal leadership theatrics. While criticized as boring, Eisenhower's highly professional management style was also highly effective.


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Sources / Notes:

* http://www.gutenberg.org/files/52073/52073-h/52073-h.htm. This quote is from an 1883 biography of Lincoln by Horatio Alger Jr.. ** From a letter Washington wrote. https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals/inaugura.html *** James MacGregor Burns (1970). The Soldier of Freedom: Roosevelt. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 347–48. - https://www.amazon.com/Roosevelt-Soldier-James-MacGregor-Burns/dp/1597407143 **** Quoted from a speech Roosevelt made in California. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/interview/tr-mccullough/ ***** From a speech to the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C. (November 14, 1957), as cited in the Congressional Record. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2014-03-05/html/CREC-2014-03-05-pt1-PgE308.htm


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