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Today I’m Inspired by: Jeff Hadeed

The Global Financial Crisis

In October 2008, a seasoned accounting professional with eight years of public accounting experience and several years in the hospitality and real estate industry, I found myself out of work — a casualty of the global financial crisis. The five-star resort where I had recently been hired as Financial Controller failed to open after many months of preparation and millions of dollars in refurbishment. The Icelandic bank that funded it had crashed. The demise of my most recent job could not have come at a worse time. I had been through a series of personal challenges including the sudden death of my father and tragic death of my 21-year old brother, a stint in ICU with meningitis, and major surgery. My entire savings had been depleted. And then, I got a call with a job offer from Jeff Hadeed.

Big Banana

This was to be second stint in Jeff’s employment. Fifteen years earlier it was the early nineties, I was in my teens, and Jeff was the co-proprietor of one of the most popular restaurants on Antigua. Jeff hired me to create a computer catalogue of the Big Banana restaurant’s impressive collection of CDs, which lined the wall from bar to the ceiling. I can remember being somewhat shell-shocked by the frenetic environment of the hotspot. Nestled in St. John’s historic Redcliffe Quay, the restaurant itself was beautiful, with its long wooden bar stretching the length of the converted ancient brickwork rum warehouse.  It had a welcoming island-chic decor: terra-cotta tiles, wooden tables and chairs and stunning black and white photos of island life. Huge brick arches led the way to the outdoor area, where patrons laughed heartily with friends and family, enjoying the best pizza on the island, under a canopy of tropical branches. At night, both tourists and residents alike grooved to the live music of local bands, with a steady flow of Wadadli beer and Cavalier rum served up by tight-jeans wearing servers in their iconic Big Banana tee-shirts.

I worked at a computer in the tiny office above the bar which was accessed by climbing a creaky wooden spiral staircase. Sounds and smells wafted upwards all day long. The office pulsated with musical rhythms and the sounds of clinking glasses, orders being taken, delivery boxes packed and of course the ever-present smell of delicious pizza. Jeff was both exacting and well-respected by his staff. It was a fast-paced environment– vibrant and alive, with high standards and an air of excellence. It only took a few days to finish listing the CDs but it was exciting. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was finished, because I knew that somehow I had contributed and been a part of it. I have always been grateful for the much-needed funds, and the short but enriching experience.

The Passionate Perfectionist with a Heart of Gold

And now here was Jeff once again, rescuing me in a time of need. Jeff Hadeed completed a business degree in the United States and studied design in Italy. Returning to Antigua in the mid-1980’s, he started the Big Banana chain of restaurants with two of his siblings. These restaurants have earned the reputation of being Antigua’s chicest, most loved casual dining hotspots for over twenty-five years, thanks largely to Jeff’s managerial oversight, keen marketing insight and relentless relationship-building.

In the eight or so months that I worked with Jeff as a project accountant at Next International and ROLS Limited, I developed a deep respect for Jeff as a person and as an entrepreneur. Armed with sparkling brown eyes, and a finely tuned esthetic instinct, he is a passionate perfectionist. He is stubbornly committed to doing everything he attempts to the highest possible standard. There is a dichotomy about Jeff. He has both talent and heart. Having little patience with mediocrity, his fiery temper is legendary. I’ve seen many wither under Jeff’s fury after having his exacting standards compromised. And yet, forever in his uniform of tee-shirt and jeans, he is both unpretentious and approachable. Loyal to a fault, he quickly cultivates long-lasting friendships, never thinking twice about going out of his way to help a friend.

An Entrepreneurial Success Story

Jeff recently turned 50. His shaved head and slim, youthful physique belie his years. One of the great things about living on an island is that you can leave your mark and change its landscape, if you really want to. In the past 25 years, Jeff’s authenticity, creativity and dedication have had just that kind of impact.  South Point (see photos here), a beautiful waterside development nestled in Antigua’s picturesque Falmouth Harbour, is Jeff’s newest venture. It is a labor of love for him, years in the making. Through his eye for detail, warmth for people and exacting standards, he has created hundreds of thousands of unique experiences for his employees, friends  and patrons over the years. Railing against lax island standards, Jeff has committed himself to building brands that have stood the test of time. In essence, this is what being an entrepreneur is all about. It is about creating something greater than yourself, and truly believing in what you do. This is why I enjoyed working for Jeff, why I respect him, and why I am inspired by him today.

Jeff, I wish you continued success in everything you do and many more happy years to come. Happy birthday, and thank you!

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7 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Hired


As the General Manager of a growing company, I am always on the lookout for good people. Hiring application emails go not only to HR, but get delivered directly to my inbox, as well. I am regularly appalled at the low quality of application submissions and the ill-preparedness of candidates during interviews. If you’ve ever been turned down for a job, or have found yourself unemployed for a lengthy period, here are some possible reasons why.

1. Your Cover Letter is Sloppy

“Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” letters are a waste of time. Make a quick phone call and find out the name of the hiring manager, so that you can make a good first impression by addressing him or her by name in your letter. Photocopied form letters with the company name written in prove that you haven’t invested enough time in the hiring process to make you deserving of a job. Spelling errors, bad grammar, poor punctuation and failing to sign a letter of application are all immediate turnoffs. Be fastidious in presenting your letter. Always spellcheck the document, and have a trusted friend review it. If you make a mistake, correct and reprint, do not correct it by hand. Write a short paragraph explaining to the prospective employer why you are an ideal candidate and deserve to be interviewed. Cover letters usually only get a quick scan, so keep them short and to the point.

2. Your Resume is Boring

Your resume should be like your own personal billboard. It is your first shot at selling yourself to a prospective employer. It should say “I’m the one, hire me!” Most applicants prepare CVs that simply list their work and educational history, without stopping to consider how many similar pieces of paper will be coming across the hiring manager’s desk. You must stand out. Have you documented what makes you unique? Do you have any special skills? What experience did you gain in your last job that makes you ideally suited for the position being applied for? What were your outstanding accomplishments in your last job? If I don’t see these things on a candidate’s CV, then I assume there is nothing outstanding about the candidate being considered.

3. You Have Gaps in Your Employment History

One of the biggest turnoffs when I look at a résumé are significant gaps in employment history. This is something that I have come across more and more. I find it alarming that young people after completing studies wait too long to find the perfect job. Many more experienced job candidates also let too much time pass as they wait for a “suitable position” after being let go. Don’t do it. Stop being so picky! You’re much more likely to find a job when you are in one. Being unemployed for a year or more is a dangerous red flag for a potential employer. It says that you are lazy, inflexible and exacting. Take the best job you can get while actively seeking something better. Staying at home watching TV will do nothing to make you more employable.

4. You Sound Disinterested on the Phone

One of my go-to hiring techniques is the 5-minute phone interview. Whether I am hiring someone straight out of high school or a well-paid senior executive, I won’t feel comfortable about hiring someone who can’t impress me on the telephone. If you have provided a mobile phone contact, you should always be sure to answer your own phone and answer it in a friendly, confident and professional manner. Be decisive in your responses. If you can’t take the call just then, politely offer to take a number and return the call at a convenient time. Be upbeat and enthusiastic. The hiring manager can’t see you; your voice is the only thing he or she has to go on. Sounding disinterested or distracted during the first phone call is a great way be crossed off the interview list.

5. You are Unclear about Your Own Strengths

Every prospective hire who is to be successful must be clear on what makes him or her an ideal candidate for the job. Your outstanding qualities should be a mix of academic or intellectual qualities, character or personality strengths and skills gained through on-the-job experience.  Before going in for an interview, ask yourself what qualities it will take to do well in the position, and how you can confidently demonstrate your ability to do a good job. You should be able to readily give examples of your stellar traits through short, interesting anecdotes. There must also be consistency between what you have described on your résumé and what you will speak comfortably about on an interview. Interviewers can quickly detect when a résumé has been “padded”.

6. You Fail to Make a Connection at Interviews

If you have been selected for an interview, then most likely the hiring committee feels reasonably comfortable with your qualifications. You will now have to prove that your experience is relevant and useful, and that you will be a good fit. Do your homework so that you know what the job entails. Review the job opening ad carefully. Research the position online or speak with the hiring manager about the position that has been advertised. Find out more about the company, and its culture and try to experience its products and services. The interview is your chance to connect with the goals of the organization and show that you have the skills required to do well in the position to be filled. Listen; too often, candidates to not listen carefully to the questions being posed and deliver rambling, irrelevant responses. Connect; look directly at your interviewer, place your body comfortably towards them and maintain a relaxed but confident posture. Try to mirror the tone and language being used by the interviewer, and ask clarifying questions if necessary. Most importantly be bright and alert; you will generally not get hired if you are not liked.

7. You Don’t Follow Up

Many candidates mistakenly see themselves at the center of the interviewer’s universe. They forget that quite often as many as ten or more candidates are selected for interview for a single position. Even if you were not the top choice in the interviews, following up can give you an edge. Send an email thanking the hiring manager for the interview, or offer contact information for your references. A quick phone call to follow-up a week or two afterward can help shift the decision in your favor. Even if you are not hired for the position, you will now have made a connection with the manager, and will likely be considered for future openings. One final way to make a lasting impression is to send a letter thanking the company for considering you even after another candidate has been chosen.

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What’s Your Mindset?

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.” -Benjamin Barber

August 2012: at the company I worked with, it was the time of year when budgets were being set and financial projections established for the fiscal year ahead. My boss, the intrepid entrepreneur had, as usual, set stiff targets for the group. My EBITDA target was sent to me via email. The number jumped right out of my laptop screen, hit me with a blow that almost knocked me senseless and said “hey there, my name is “IMPOSSIBLE” and your name must be “LOSER”. It left me with a black eye, a swollen lip, and what felt like a permanently bruised ego.

After a panicked call to my Finance Manager, I nursed my wounds and got busy with the mountain of other important tasks. Of course, the number wasn’t going anywhere; the more I ignored it, the more disquieted I became. As I racked my brain about how this target could be accomplished, I managed to convince myself that the target was unrealistic. I began to accept that the initial slap in the face would only be the beginning of an abusive relationship between me and my new earnings target for the 2013 financial year.

After days of making myself miserable, I finally realized that it was a fear of failure and not the target itself that was getting the better of me. This evening, I updated my facebook status to reflect my change in attitude:

Trying to turn my “I can’t do that, don’t try to make me” attitude into an “I can do this, I just need to figure out how…” mindset. The human spirit is powerful; it knows it can do the impossible.

My friend Greg immediately responded. I have several awesome friends named Greg, but this one is the multi-talented champion kickboxer with the gorgeous girlfriend and a heart of gold. He sent a link to this blog post.

The words resonated with me. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. The article is based on the work of Carol Dweck, PhD. It turns out that I’ve already read her excellent book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success‘ via Audible. I had to face the fact that my “mindset” about my own abilities was still a lot more fixed than I would have wanted to admit.

According to Dr. Dweck, there are two meanings to ability and we can choose which one we will adopt:

1. Fixed Ability

A fixed ability seeks to be proven as smart, accomplished or talented, and is overly concerned with being validated, and minimizing mistakes. There is a constant fear of failure, because to “fail” means to mess up your own fixed view of yourself. In the fixed mindset, trying really hard is a bad thing; too much effort proves you’re not smart or successful.

2. Changeable Ability

A changeable ability seeks to be developed through learning, and even through “failure”. Growth mindset people constantly seek to stretch themselves, always reaching for a new challenge. They fear not growing and not fulfilling their potential. In the growth mindset, not trying hard enough is the bad thing; effort is the proof that you will become smarter and more successful.

One of the things I admire most about my boss and several of the other entrepreneurs I have been blessed to work with is their overarching drive to keep going—obstacle, after obstacle after obstacle. Most entrepreneurs have a growth mindset; they thrive on challenges and sometimes achieve the impossible.

Here’s the key question: Is success for you about learning and overcoming limitations? Or is success about proving that you’re smart and validating your ability?

As infants, we exhibited an exuberant desire to overcome obstacles. As we learned to walk and talk, we were not self-conscious. We were fearless and ready to take on any challenge. But as we learned to evaluate ourselves, we gradually become more and more afraid of looking foolish, of saying the wrong thing, of failing. Most of us have developed a fixed mindset.

We can all begin to reverse that process and work to develop a growth mindset. We must change our definition of success from something to be protected or maintained, to the idea of success as a bumpy process of constantly becoming better than we were before.

And this why I changed my mindset, and decided not to give up. Yes, 15% VAT was slated to be introduced in St. Lucia on October 1st. Yes, the unemployment rate was estimated to be around 17%. Yes, I was running a small company in a competitive environment. But yes, I made a commitment to conquer myself and work my hardest to meet and exceed that EBITDA target by running the tightest, happiest, most innovative ship I could.

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Leadership Lessons: Remember Everyone is Important


After a busy spate at work which lasted months, followed by a glorious week off in Toronto, I have finally gotten around to re-starting the next book on my leadership list: ‘Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney’ by Lee Cockerell. Lee Cockerell managed Walt Disney World resort operations for over ten years. He has won many leadership awards and crafted Disney’s ‘Great Leader Strategies’. “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.” On a resort the size of San Francisco, with a staff complement of 40,000, Lee achieved one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry and created magic.

I have just finished Chapter 3 where Cockerell explores the first leadership principle – inclusion. Lee’s most important leadership lesson is not about driving for excellence or being a stickler for operational efficiency. He focuses on making people so comfortable that they always do their best. Disney’s concept of inclusion is summed up by the acronym RAVE: Respect, Appreciate and Value Everyone.

Here are the 13 key principles for creating an inclusive environment:

1. Make sure everyone matters and that everyone knows it
2. Know your team
3. Let your team get to know you
4. Greet people sincerely
5. Reach out to everyone on your team
6. Make yourself available
7. Listen to understand
8. Communicate clearly, directly and honestly
9. Stand up for the excluded
10. Forget about the chain of command
11. Don’t micromanage
12. Design your culture
13. Treat your people the way you would want your customers to be treated

In principle 13, Lee goes on to elaborate that customers want four basic things:
– Make me feel special
– Treat me as an individual
– Respect me
– Be knowledgeable

Employees, in turn also want four things:

– Make me feel special
– Treat me as an individual
– Respect me
– Make me knowledgeable

How many of us can name bosses who have routinely done these four things? I can think of leaders who ticked two of the boxes regularly and three occasionally. All four? Only on extremely rare occasions. I know that as a leader, I have failed miserably in accomplishing this. How often do I make my direct reports and line staff feel special? How often do I treat them as individuals and not just department members or someone filling a role? Do I ensure that my team members each feel respected by me? Do I make my people knowledgeable?

I am only on Chapter 3 of this book, but I feel challenged already, and inspired to begin today to become a better leader. I hope you do too!

 

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5 Reasons Why Moving to Yahoo Was the Right Choice for Marissa Mayer

On July 16, 2012, Yahoo announced that Marissa Mayer would take the helm as its new CEO. The news of Marissa’s appointment shook the tech world, raising both eyebrows and hopes.

After finishing high school in the Midwestern town of Wausau, Wisconsin, Marissa headed to Stanford University where she specialized in Artificial Intelligence, and obtained both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. In 1999, Marissa joined Google as its first female software engineer and quickly began her climb through its ranks. By 2001, she had already been promoted to Product Manager, and was promoted again less than two years later to Director of Consumer Web Services. By late 2005, Marissa was appointed VP, Search Products and User Experience, giving her full responsibility for the search engine division. Seven years later and expecting her first child with husband, Zachary Bogue, Marissa has left Google to take on the challenge of bringing Yahoo back to life.

Here are five reasons why the decision she made was the right one:

1. Marissa Mayer Has Built A Stellar Reputation

Having recently celebrated her 13-year anniversary at Google, Marissa Mayer is a talented and accomplished engineer who knows the Internet inside out. With her keen eye for design, she has been credited with championing the search engine’s iconic minimalist layout and was instrumental in developing Google maps as well as Gmail. She is passionate about creating outstanding user experiences and is known for both her laser sharp focus and commitment to innovation. In 2008, at age 33, Marissa became the youngest woman to be listed among Fortune magazine’s America’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and has made the list every year since.

2. Marissa Mayer Had Been Overlooked

In recent years, the pace of Marissa’s advancement at Google has slowed. In late 2010, her responsibilities shifted from heading up search services to VP, Local, Maps and Location Services. While dubbed a promotion, and technically giving her more direct reports, the move signaled that she was being overlooked for more significant roles in the upper echelons of leadership. Since last year’s re-appointment of co-founder, Larry Page, as CEO, she has been further shunned, and was excluded from his newly formed “L-Team” of advisers. Mayer’s past role as the Company’s articulate and enthusiastic primary public face has also been visibly diminished. Rumors, although vehemently denied, had continued to surface intermittently suggesting the possibility of Mayer’s departure.

3. Marissa Mayer Was Hungry for A New Challenge

At age 37, Marissa may well have been longing for the opportunity to claim a bigger stage, giving her the increased sense of satisfaction and personal accomplishment winners crave. Mayer was recently appointed to as a director of Wal-Mart, snagging her first Board seat at a public company. Approached by Yahoo in June, Marissa faced a tough choice: stay with the sure thing or jump at the more interesting chance to become head honcho in a more challenging role. And what a challenge it will be. After being one of the first out of the starting block in 1994, Yahoo quickly leapt to Internet supremacy, before being pummeled by Google. In 2008, Yahoo turned down Microsoft’s purchase offer of $47.5 billion. Since then, it has been adrift, in wake of social upstarts Facebook and Twitter.

4. Marissa Mayer Believes She Has the Chops to Get the Job Done

Marissa isn’t just another engineer who has spent her entire career at a single company. She has been a groundbreaking talent, leading Google in some of its most significant wins, and quietly honing all the skills it takes to be a high-caliber CEO. She knows that her technical knowledge and innovative vision are key strengths required for successful leadership in the fast pace Internet arena.

  • She will need to attract and retain high quality engineering talent. Check. Marissa has finely honed organizational skills, as she is used to leading large teams of talented engineers. She has a proven commitment to strategic leadership and is good at mentoring talent, as evidenced by the programs she developed at Google to shape product managers into skilled executive leaders.
  • She will need to bring a renewed spirit of innovation and create great products. Check. Product is what Marissa is good at, and probably the main reason she was chosen to take the helm at Yahoo. Former boss, Larry Page dubbed her a “tireless champion of our users”. Marissa will no doubt make technology and user experience Yahoo’s new top priorities.

 

5. Marissa Mayer Had Nothing to Lose and Everything to Gain

Mayer was quoted as saying “I wanted to work at Google because I felt utterly unprepared”. Management pundits have observed that once female leaders have broken through the glass ceiling, they are often more likely to take up positions which have a higher built-in risk of failure than their male counterparts. Perhaps we are just thrill-seekers! As one of Google’s first employees, Marissa is already a very wealthy woman with a recently estimated net worth of $300 million. While Yahoo has been flailing for years, it is still a giant with over 12,000 employees and an estimated 700 million users. Even if Marissa, like her recent predecessors, fails to revive the company, it won’t be too much of a black mark on her career. On the other hand, if she succeeds, she will scaled a “glass cliff”.

 

Can Marissa Mayer Turn Around Yahoo?

To bring Yahoo back to its former glory, Marissa will have to get back to basics. She will need to craft a clear and compelling vision, and work to restore a sense of purpose and direction. Yahoo doesn’t know what wants to be anymore; it has lost its relevance, still serving as a portal to content, but creating very little user engagement. She will need to answer the all important question: “why does Yahoo exist?”, and inspire her beleaguered troops with the confidence to become a force of innovation once again. She will be in for a long and hard journey; it will take at least three to five years to see good efforts bear fruit. If she is successful in making Yahoo a champion again, she will have a clear shot at what she possibly craves most: to be Queen of Silicon Valley.

 

Please leave me your comments on whether you think Marissa Mayer will be successful.

 

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14 Leadership Principles from Steve Jobs

© Richard Davies

 

Like hundreds of thousands of Apple fans, I am fascinated by the incendiary brilliance of Steve Jobs and by the revolutionary products he created. I have no fewer than four Steve Jobs biographies in my library. I’ve read the unpleasant stories, and there are many: from Steve’s lack of basic hygiene in his youth, and his initial denial of paternity of his first daughter to the suggestion that he continually duped his long time partner, Steve Wozniak, the real brains behind Apple in its early days, but his luster remains. I am an admitted Steve Jobs junkie. Through his companies, Jobs transformed at least seven industries including animated movies, personal computing and music. I was delighted to find that Jobs has been featured in the April 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review magazine. Six months after his death, his official biographer, Walter Isaacson, has skillfully distilled what is essentially an executive summary of Steve Jobs’ leadership style, in a brilliant 6,000 plus word article titled ‘The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs”.

Isaacson identifies fourteen leadership lessons, surmising that Jobs “belongs in the pantheon of America’s great innovators, along with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney.” Fortune Magazine has also recently named Steve Jobs the greatest entrepreneur of our time. If Isaacson is right, then history is well on its way to remembering Steve Jobs less for his bad behavior and extreme emotionalism and more as an innovator who applied his personality, efforts and energy into transforming technology and business.

Here is a summary of the fourteen leadership principles:

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #1 – Focus

Steve Jobs was famous for his laser-like focus. This natural personality trait was further honed by his study of Zen philosophy; “deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do”. Shortly before his death, Larry Page, Google’s co-founder visited Jobs to ask for advice. Jobs told him to figure out the top five products Google should focus on and “get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down”. Page followed his advice, announcing to Google employees in January 2012 that they would “focus on just a few priorities, and make them “beautiful,” the way Jobs would have done.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #2 – Simplicity

Steve Jobs focused on annihilating complexity when creating products. He lived and breathed the Leonardo da Vinci tenet that appeared in Apple’s first marketing brochure: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Ten years ago, the portable music player industry was ripe for a shake up, and Jobs’ quest for simplification led to the revolutionary iPod followed by the iPhone. When setting their sights on what to do next, today’s emerging business leaders need only find products that are more complicated than they need to be.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #3 – Elegance

Steve Jobs strove to deliver the elegant ideal. “People are busy”, he would say “they have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices.” And so, he took responsibility for the entire user experience, owning what he called “the whole widget”. Hardware, software and peripheral devices had to be seamlessly integrated. The leadership lesson here is to create products and service which reflect a passion for delivering delightful user experiences from start to finish.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #4 – Innovation

Steve Jobs knew that success was not just coming up with new ideas first, but being able to eclipse previous success through innovation. When he realized that original iMac left their users powerless to download, rip and swap music the way PC users could, he famously said “I felt like a dope. I thought we had missed it”. Instead of just playing catch up, he innovated. The result was an integrated system that transformed the music industry through the iPod, iTunes and the iTunes music store. And then, sensing the threat posed by mobile phone makers adding music players, and at the risk of hurting iPod sales, he created the iPhone. “If we don’t cannibalize ourselves, someone else will”.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #5 – Authenticity

During the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs motivated his team to create “insanely great” products. During his ten-year absence, with John Sculley at the helm, the focus shifted to profit maximization, and product design suffered. Steve Jobs theorized that is was one of the reasons companies decline. “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people… make great products… the products, not the profits, were the motivation. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything”. Today’s leaders and entrepreneurs will do well to stay true to the purpose of their businesses and remain authentic.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #6 – Vision

Henry Ford once famously said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!” Steve Jobs believed in being passionately committed to delivering products customers would love, but not in asking them what they want. He relied on his own vision. Jobs felt that finely honed intuitive powers could tap into desires not jut fully formed. Sometimes the only focus group leaders need is themselves: We made the iPod for ourselves,” he said, “and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out.”

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #7 – Certitude

Steve Jobs was known for demanding the impossible, his certitude the only guarantee of success. His infuriatingly effective ‘Reality Distortion Field’ led those he worked with to perform extraordinary feats. From having his partner produce a new game in four days, after saying it would take months, to having an engineer who explained it was impossible to shave 10 seconds off boot time deliver a 28-second time savings just a few weeks later. Jobs would stare at you blankly and say with unwavering conviction while demanding the impossible “Get your mind around it. You can do it”.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #8 – Discernment

Steve Jobs’ early mentor instilled in him the importance of discernment. Mike Markkula knew that people form opinions on companies and products based on presentation and packaging. This became one of Job’s guiding principles. He obsessed over the design of the boxes that held the iPod and iPhone, and insisted on adding a handle when the candy-colored new iMacs were created, adding “unnecessary” expense in order to make the product friendlier.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #9 – Tenacity

Steve Jobs was known to go back to the drawing board even in the advanced stages of product development. If it felt wrong, he had no qualms asking his designers, development teams and engineers to work nights and weekends to get things just right. He did it with Toy Story, even after Disney had insisted on darker, more mature re-writes; he stopped production to make it the family friendly success it eventually became. The iPhone was revamped even after the design was first approved. He never compromised on consistency of beauty and quality, using the lesson he learned doing carpentry with his father  “a great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #10 – Selectivity

Steve Jobs insisted on having only the best talent on his teams.  Jobs refused to indulge in what he referred to as a “Bozo explosion”: the creation of passively polite environments where mediocrity is allowed to flourish. Although his selectivity often manifested as stormy petulance, he reasoned “when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things”. And did he ever.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #11 – Collaboration

Despite working in a high-tech field, Steve Jobs relied heavily on the synergy that often takes place in face-to-face collaboration. He was known to take long walks during intense negotiations. The Apple headquarters was designed to encourage chance meetings and maximize person-to-person encounters. He wanted people to engage, interact and brainstorm informally because he believed that sparked a kind of magic. His advice to leaders on the subject of collaboration very well might have been: “forget the PowerPoint presentations and get people interacting”.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #12 – Detail

In the midst of all his far-reaching plans, Steve Jobs also knew that God is in the details. Even while creating grand concepts for the future of his company, he applied his passion to the small things as well; he was known to fret over the shape and color of screws in the iMac. To leaders, the realization of overarching business strategies might very well depend on never losing sight of the importance of even the tiniest details.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #13 – Imagination

Steve Jobs was fascinated with concept of standing at the intersection of humanities and sciences. Like Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein before him, he used imagination to bridge the gap between arts and technology. Leaders who can bring right-brain imagination to left-brained fields of science, and engineering will be critical to the business success in the 21st century.

Steve Jobs Leadership Lesson #14 – Non-Conformity

Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960’s, Steve Jobs was a product of both the hippie anti-war counterculture and the geek-filled, high-tech world of Silicon Valley. His behavior, passions and business reflected the contradictions and confluence of these divergent elements. The pithy maxim, ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”, reflects the way he lived his life, and the way he positioned Apple, starting it out in his parents’ garage to become the world’s most valuable company at the time of his death. Jobs helped compose the text for Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign. The words speak for themselves: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels… We see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

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5 Reasons Why You Should Want A Tough Boss

Whenever I encounter someone struggling under the weight of new professional demands, I share the story of my very first job.

I was 18 years old and straight out of A-Levels. After re-sitting Chemistry, I took a job for a few months at a boutique before starting University in the fall. My attitude going in was that working in a retail clothing store would be dead easy.

Charmaine was my boss. Every day, she would grill me on the exact way to write up receipts, make sure all the hangers faced the same direction, and how to fold the clothes so that they formed precisely uniform stacks. The racks were to be dusted twice per day, and all the windows had to be double and triple checked when leaving in the afternoon. Smiles were to be bright, greetings always perky, and customers always to be treated like royalty.

Charmaine was tirelessly exacting about everything. Customers should never walk in and find you seated, or with your back turned. Suggestions must always be made for accenting and completing every outfit. Colors were to always be described using yummy names. Every day for my first week, I went home and cried my eyes out. My soon to be off to University self-esteem was taking a beating. I wanted to quit. I hated her. Who makes such a fuss about working in a silly clothing store? But I toughed it out and stayed.

Charmaine taught me what it means to take pride in my work and to be excellent. The experience of working at ‘A Thousand Flowers’ boutique for a few months shaped my work ethic for life. Charmaine is still one of the people I hold most dear today.

My first tough boss, Charmaine, and me in 2008, 15 years after we first worked together.

 

 

People fantasize about their dream bosses, they dream of working for the kind of slacker who lets you get away with murder, go for lunch as long as you want, come in late, and who would never dream of insisting that you actually work hard to perform your duties properly. What you should really be wishing for is a boss who is smart, great at their job and demanding.

In short, you want a tough boss who is better at your job than you, and will notice every single mistake you make and call you out on it. The best bosses I have had are the ones that insisted on the highest standards from me and forced me to see and live up to my true potential. I read a great article yesterday which reminded me of this. The original article has an irreverent style and some strong language, so here’s a cleaned up summarized version of the 5 reasons why you should want a tough boss:

#5. Tough Bosses Don’t Hide Information Due to Insecurity

Many people rise to the top not because they are the smartest or best, but because they are intent on acquiring an unfair advantage. They covet information, and hide details. On the other hand, people who are really smart don’t rely on  controlling information. They’re confident in their abilities, so they are comfortable giving their employees the tools to shine. Smart bosses don’t waste time manufacturing games to make others fail; they spend their hours doing their job well. It might be hard to work for someone possibly smarter than you, but it is better than having to work for someone who maintains power through deceit.

#4. Tough Bosses Don’t Create Fall Guys

Bosses who are hypersensitive about their failings always create distance between their decisions and the project to be accomplished, so that there are more people to blame if something goes wrong. They create fall guys. A truly competent boss got where he or she is by doing the job better than anyone else. That boss won’t want anything substandard under his or her watch. They take the excellent performance of their teams personally. They will want to review projects before they are due, and that will be irritating. You should be grateful for this. If it is wrong, they will tell you in no uncertain terms to get it right, instead of having you fall on your sword to make them look good when it all falls apart.

#3. You Know Where You Stand With Tough Bosses

Many treacherous and incompetent bosses are super nice. Having everyone like them is a trick they used to become the boss in the first place. Nice means nothing. Even when things get really bad, they still act nice! None of the act is true and most people never see the knife in the nice guy’s hand.  Smiles and silence come easier than honesty. Distance grows more from things left unsaid, than things said in anger. Unspoken words and phrases build walls of hurt and insecurity. Those same walls can obscure the wrecking ball that’s coming toward your head. Yelling is not all bad. Raised voices and reprimands don’t have to be the same thing as abuse. It is always better to know exactly where you stand. “Nice” people are just not good at that.

#2. Tough Bosses Can Keep the Company Alive

Sure, a nice boss who doesn’t expect too much sounds great, but how good is he at keeping the company and your job afloat? The skills that rise a half-talent nice guy to power and keep him there are not necessarily the same skills that can keep a business successful. Clients and the public expect real competence and results. Sometimes all the hidden information, charming smiles, slick compliments and tricks cannot compensate for mediocrity. A truly talented boss can help keep the company alive, and keep your bread and butter coming.

#1. Tough Bosses Make You Smarter, So You Can Eventually Become the Boss

Bosses set tones. Even those who aren’t leading still set an example. If you work for a boss who rose to power and maintains it through deceit and guile, you will learn to play your cards close to your chest instinctively. You will learn to be distrustful, but you still won’t be any good at your job. A talented boss will teach you how to actually be good at your job, and not just how to appear successful. Even if you don’t think they care about teaching you, just the exposure to a competent boss will make you a better employee. It will give you a real skill set that you can take with you into the future, and give you the ability to become the boss one day. Your talent and intelligence will then create better employees and better future bosses.

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Taking Your Foot Off the Gas Pedal or Sophie’s Choice

Don’t Leave Before You Leave
A few days ago I wrote a post about Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. I shared a link to her TED speech where she addresses the reasons why there are so few women at the top of their fields and gives advice to women reaching for success. One of her tips is “Don’t leave before you leave”. Sandberg talks about how women take their foot off the gas pedal, contemplating how to manage married lives and families they do not yet have, to the detriment of career advancement. She is right. While at least 50% of University grads are women, there is still a marked absence of women on corporate boards, as CEOs and in the political arena. At some point after graduating, women are leaning back.

Kiss My Tiara
Nine years ago, I read a book which I credit with teaching me my first important lessons in negotiating. ‘Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a Smartmouth Goddess” by Susan Jane Gilman is an extremely irreverent book, and one that some might find offensive. Looking back, I think Ms. Gilman shaped more than just my negotiating skills. The Introduction is titled “Forget Rules for Catching a Husband. How ’bout Rules for Catching a Life?”.

Sophie’s Choice
“Too often, women are confronted with the social equivalent of Sophie’s choice. Which “children” are we willing to sacrifice: our hearts or our minds? our independence or the prospect of intimacy? our careers or our families?”. These are words echoed by Gilman in Part 1 of the book, titled “Mistress of Our Domain”. As a 37 year old woman who has never been married and never been pregnant, I can relate to having to make that choice. Not overtly, just subtly, little by little every day. While I can’t claim that I have driven my career hard, stayed at the table and kept my hand up 100% of the time, my professional pursuits have been a priority for me. I have always looked for opportunities to grow. And while I have been thrown a few career curve balls, I have been fortunate enough to do that. Younger women are often shocked to hear that I have always wanted to have a family. They assume that successful professional women make a cold-hearted decision to close the door on domestic possibilities.

Choose Wisely
It really isn’t fair that, generally speaking, babies need to come within a specified time frame. Reproductive years are limited. The biological clock is not a figment of women’s imaginations. It also isn’t fair that, as Sheryl Sandberg notes, likeability and success are negatively correlated for women, but positively correlated for men. What that means is that as men become more successful, both men and women like them more. However as women reach the top at work, the opposite occurs – both men and women find them less likeable. So what do you think that means for dating prospects? Successful women need love too, but let’s face it, it will be harder for them to find. This is why a woman who holds having a family in high priority may be lead to believe she has to take her foot off the gas pedal just to find a mate.

So who’s right? Gilman or Sandberg? Gilman is successful and single. With her book, she made lots of money encouraging women to be self-sufficient, while sneering at the fantasy most women have about going down the aisle in a frothy white gown. Sandberg on the other hand, is poised to become one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world, and is the twice married mother of two young children. She got to the top making day care runs and changing diapers. The difference is that (at least on her second try) she chose a partner who could be a partner, providing 50/50 support as she pursued her career goals too.

Women Can Have It All
In my opinion, and with the benefit of hindsight, Susan Gilman’s position is wrong. I drank her Kool-Aid almost ten years ago. I went through my late twenties and thirties believing that having a successful career meant “putting off” or even giving up on finding a mate and starting a family. Sandberg, as one of the most successful corporate executives on earth, knows that you can have it all. But you have to choose it.  Whether you want a family, or a successful career, or both — and I suspect most women would choose both if they knew it was a real option — you will need to decide what you’re going after. As with anything else in life, you will then need to actively DO the things that will move you in the direction of your dreams. Sophie’s choice only exists if you let it. Don’t limit yourself to either/or. Choose wisely.

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Today I am Grateful for: Charles Dickens

It is February 7th. Had Charles Dickens miraculously lived, today would have been his 200th birthday. His brilliant literary works have brought joy to millions over the generations. Even 140 years after his death, many of his writings have never gone out of print. I recently re-read ‘David Copperfield’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of his other well-loved books include. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘Great Expectations’. When you do great work, your legacy lives on long after you are gone.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~Steve Jobs.

Be inspired to leave a legacy. Do great work, and live your best life today.

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Today I’m Inspired by: Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg in Vogue

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer at one of the most ubiquitous companies on the planet. Taking home over US$30 million in 2011, Sheryl is the highest paid person at Facebook. Second in command to founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg developed the plan that took the social networking giant from 70 million users and almost no revenue to a user base of 850 million users and annual revenues of $3.7 billion in less than four years.

There aren’t that many role models for women in business. The self-made legends like Oprah and Martha Stewart stand out precisely because there are so few to name. Sheryl Sandberg first caught my interest when I came across an article on her, aptly titled ‘A Woman’s Place’, in The New Yorker last summer. I remember being tickled by her encounters with the not-so-subtle nuances of male domination in Silicon Valley and specifically at Google, where Sandberg once held a Vice President position, before joining Facebook. I could relate.

Poised to be an extremely wealthy woman with an expected windfall of US$1.6 billion when the Facebook IPO goes through, Sheryl Sandberg has not been an overnight success. She was at the top of her class all through high school, before heading to Harvard for an undergraduate degree in Economics. While there, she won the respect of economics professor Lawrence Summers. Summers would become her mentor, employing her as his research assistant when he joined the World Bank. She worked on health projects in India dealing with leprosy, AIDS, and blindness, before going on to attain an MBA from the prestigious Harvard Business School. She then joined Summers once again as his chief of staff, when he became the Deputy Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Administration.

Sheryl Sandberg now occupies the #5 spot on the Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women’s list, while balancing life as a wife and mother of two young children. It is clear that she is not only exceptionally intelligent and highly educated, but has worked hard and attracted at least one powerful mentor. However, these are not the only factors she credits for her success. In a recent TED talk, Sheryl addresses the reasons for the dearth of women in leadership positions saying, “women systematically underestimate their own abilities”. She offers three key pieces of advice for women striving to make it to the top of their professions:

1. Sit at the table – constantly reach for the opportunities out there.
2. Make sure your partner is a real partner – choose a mate who will be in there with you 50/50.
3. Don’t leave before you leave – don’t be so busy planning for when you have a family that you take your foot off the gas pedal long before you actually start.

When accomplished people talk about success, it’s a good idea to listen. I hope you will take the time to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s 15-minute talk which will inspire both men and women.

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Nice Smart People Succeed

In January 2012 at the first weekly team meeting, I sat with my management team to outline plans for the new year ahead. Although this date did not coincide with our fiscal year end, the start of the calendar year always naturally brings with it an opportunity for resolutions and for renewal. I asked them to be brutally honest about the ways in which they felt I could improve my leadership skills. The ten-member management team jumped at the opportunity to offer candid, 360-degree feedback. I asked probing questions, took copious notes, and made a valiant effort to keep my pride under complete submission. Most of the team leaders left that meeting feeling refreshed, I left bloodied, bruised and limping.

Receiving an unfiltered critique from those who worked with me daily got me thinking about the difference between being liked and being respected as a leader, and the age old question of which one is more important. In my quest for answers, I came across and read the book,Love Is the Killer Appby Tim Sanders. While many bosses and managers choose to wield power based on fear, after reading that book, I came to conclude that leaders should actively strive to be both liked and respected.

Published in 2002, this book could have been subtitled “How to Succeed in Business by Being Smarter and Nicer”. Tim Sanders writes that in the new economy people will be valued for their knowledge and their network and not seniority or pedigree. He argues that the only way to advance in today’s experience economy is by being a “love cat”, and intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles.

The intangibles Tim Sanders asks that we share are our knowledge, our network and our compassion:

Share Your Knowledge.

First, we have to put in the work necessary to accumulate enough knowledge to share, and add value to others. Books and audiobooks are the best way to get this knowledge. The author encourages using most of our free time for reading – making a commitment to review as many as one or two books per week. Tim advises that we take notes describing the book’s Big Thought, supporting ideas, and on its overall value.  We can then share the knowledge by prescribing books to our contacts the way a doctor would prescribe medications to patients.

Share Your Network.

Tim advises that we become collectors of people – establishing positive and memorable interactions with as many contacts as possible, to be able to later match them with other contacts. The more positive dealings you have had with people, the more likely you are to be a winner in business. You will have the largest networks, the most powerful connections, and the ability to call in their reserves at to help provide solutions for other connections when they really need it.

Share Your Compassion.

Let people know that you care. By expressing your compassion, you create an experience that people remember. There is a tremendous opportunity for your compassion to make a difference in how people view you, and how they view themselves, because we continue to develop emotionally and spiritually throughout our entire lives. Compassion combined with knowledge and network is the way we win hearts and influence business today.

The advantages of striving to become both liked and respected:

1. You build an outstanding brand as a person.

When you take the time to build a brand, people will trust you, like you and pursue you. Be distinct or become extinct.

2. You create an experience.

The more you read, the more you know and the more fun, interesting and valuable knowledge you have to pass along. Smart companies today are using their services as props and their services as a stage to deliver a compelling experiences.

3. You have access to people’s attention.

Biz-Love helps you give others good return on attention (ROA). It means being able to supply creativity, and help give them a foundation for their business practice.

4. You harness the power of positive presumption.

People tend to presume that a proposal is a bad idea until proven otherwise. Being a love cat arms you with the trust and respect of others, so that they know we have their interests at heart.

5. You receive exceptional feedback.

Love cats have a huge advantage because relationships don’t end when the business transactions end. Biz love partners know you are genuinely interested in their success.

6. You gain personal satisfaction.

People no longer feel secure based on their length of time with a company, and find themselves not living up to their own expectations. Love cats enjoy higher levels of security because there is always genuine reciprocity available by building intangibles.

End note: If you are a developing leader who wants to get a jump-start on building a valuable knowledge base and a wide network of contacts, if you want to learn how share compassion in business, then I urge you to read “Love Is the Killer App“.

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The Ten Commandments for Business Failure

Why is it that some brands fail, while others stand the test of time?

“In the 1980’s alone 230 companies disappeared from the Fortune 500. In fact, only sixteen of the 100 largest companies that were around in the early 1900’s are still with us.”These words are from Donald R. Keough’s 2008 book ‘The Ten Commandments for Business Failure‘.

Coke is one of those brands. Introduced in 1886, Whether you like Coke or not, it’s difficult to deny the brand’s, ubiquity, staying power and success through the years. Coke is recognized at one of today’s most valuable brands.

You may never have heard of Donald Keough, but he is at least partially responsible for the The Coca-Cola Company’s longevity. Mr. Keough was first associated with the company back in 1950, and still sits on its board 65 years later. He has served as the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer and retired from his position as Chairman of the Board of Coca-Cola Enterprises in 1993.

Donald Keough has also served on boards of several other distinguished companies including The Washington Post, H.J. Heinz Company and Berkshire Hathaway. He holds five honorary doctorates, including ones from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and his alma mater the University of Notre Dame.

Legendary investor and one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet, documented his resounding endorsement in the foreword. “It has been an article of faith for me that I should always try to hang out with people who are better than I. There is no question that by doing so, you move yourself up. It worked for me in marriage, and it’s worked for me with Don Keough.” As if any further endorsement were necessary, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch who led GE for 20 years as Chairman and CEO also sanctioned the book on its front cover.

In a charming and often self-deprecating style, the author takes us through the tongue-in-cheek Ten Commandments, for Failure, which are as follows:

1. Quit Taking Risks

Creating profits in the long-term requires innovation in the now. Business leaders are paid to “be discontented”, to take the calculated risks that will ensure the company’s success in the future. “When you’re comfortable, the temptation to quit taking risks is so great, it’s almost irresistible”, but it is the number one way to seal your fate and fail. Mistakes and miscalculations, even very costly ones, are simply the price of staying in business.

2. Be Inflexible 

The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is the second best way to secure the demise of a business. There is no one formula for success that will continue to work always; leaders must constantly challenge themselves to change. “Flexibility is a continual deeply thoughtful process of examining situations and when warranted, quickly adapting to changing circumstances.” Darwin’s concept natural selection is applicable not just to organic species, but to the survival of businesses as well.

3. Isolate Yourself

Staying in touch with customers, distributors, managers and staff is essential to continued growth and success. It is temptingly easy to physically isolate yourself from “distractions” in the comfort of leather sofas and plush carpets in corner offices on high floors guarded by layers of Personal Assistants. Creating your own “executive bubble” is a great way to be the last to know when anything is going wrong. Answer your own phone, make your own coffee, know the names of your people – walk around and find out how they are doing and what the Company needs to be doing better.

4. Assume Infallibility

Another great way to fail successfully is to never ever admit a problem or a mistake. Develop the artful skill of finger-pointing. Blame external forces such as currency fluctuations or the unusually active hurricane season. Cover up mistakes for as long as possible without admitting that anything is going wrong. It’s best to wait until there is a full-blown crisis and then say “mistakes were made…” (but not by me).

5. Play the Game Close to the Foul Line

When you consistently “play it close to the foul line”, your employers will not trust you, and neither will your customers. If you achieve success by destroying your principles in the process, it will not last. Build a reputation for doing the right thing – to be forthright, honest and fair. Build trust. Honor and decency are virtues which never become outdated.

6. Don’t Take Time to Think

“Thought is hard” ~Goethe. In many ways technology often adds to the complexity of life without providing appreciable advantages. With the steady stream of data constantly bombarding us, it is appealing to believe that being busy is the same as being effective. Base decisions on careful evaluation. Objectively analyze mistakes; they are a powerful opportunity to see what went wrong. Making time to think is essential for success.

7. Put All Your Faith in Experts and Outside Consultants

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” -James Thurber. Putting too much faith in outside expertise can lead to disastrous consequences. Quite often, managers insecure in their authority blame restructuring, layoffs and other unpleasant decisions on plans drawn up by outside experts. This is just another cowardly way of passing the buck. Good business leaders take responsibility for the future of their businesses, they don’t farm out important strategy decisions to third parties.

8. Love Your Bureaucracy

If you want fail spectacularly, put administrative concerns ahead of everything else. Chains of command, paper pushing, and general red tape can lead to endemic dysfunction. Bureaucracy within organizations causes responsibility to become so diluted that the managers become incapable of making objective decisions. Action becomes  impossible. In a crisis, the results can be catastrophic.

9. Send Mixed Messages

Communication does not occur unless the message is both heard and understood. For example, rewarding employees who have not met performance targets sends the message that the targets really don’t matter. Be consistent in the message you send. Apply accountability and follow through with the consequences.

10. Be Afraid of the Future

If you want to paralyze your business, start proceeding with caution all the time, allow pessimism to thrive. Unquenchable optimism is the spirit the engenders achievement and success. Move boldly ahead – approach the future with optimism – especially when the circumstances are unfavorable.

11. Lose Your Passion for Work, for Life

To fail, just continue to set low expectations for yourself and everyone around you; keep saying “that’s good enough”, or “that’s not my job”. All achievement requires passion. Work is hard, but it is worth the effort to those who are convinced that they are capable of being better. It is the strong desire to do better and solve problems that should drive your passion to work harder. Successful people perform at a higher level, just for the satisfaction of doing it. Passion can be cultivated; form a strong emotional connection with whatever you are doing, and never stop.

 

In many ways, Donald Keough’s book is a story of failure, with lively anecdotes illustrating each commandment, the author details the perilous mistakes of Xerox, IBM, Ford and especially Coke. Companies don’t fail, people do.

It is also a tale of success.  Great leaders don’t allow themselves to be dragged down by failure, they recognize the mistake, admit their errors and find a way to move on.  This amazing little books gives us a glimpse into how a product established in 1886 is still with us today as one of the strongest and most loved brands in the world. It is as refreshing and stimulating as an ice-cold glass of Coke Zero on a hot summer day. I highly recommend it.