Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hit Songs and Great Leadership

Guest post by Brant Menswar and Jim Trick:

While on the surface, you would think the goal of any songwriter is to write a song that  dominates the airwaves, flies up the charts, sells millions of records and wins a coveted Grammy Award. In reality, any successful songwriter is only trying to do one thing…connect heads and hearts. By doing so, we encourage the listener to become emotionally involved and internalize the song in a way that is unique to them. It even enables listeners to better remember the lyrics and melody by tapping into their limbic brain. If a song can inspire that level of connection, the awards and end results will take care of themselves.

So what does this have to do leadership?

A great leader shouldn’t be solely focused on driving record profits or earning that year-end bonus. A great leader must also connect heads and hearts. More specifically, an inspired leader is constantly trying to align organizational values with employee feelings. When we are successful in aligning values and feelings, our teams become more agile and adept at handling any change they may face. Your business is changing on a daily basis. In fact, that change brings with it an enormous amount of uncertainty. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to view uncertainty as a threat, so aligning values and feelings and connecting heads and hearts is no simple task.
Leadership guru and author, Simon Sinek recently said, “To affect change inside an organization we must remember why people resist change. People don't fear change, people like comfort. The status quo is more comfortable than the unknown.” 

With all due respect, Simon is partially correct but doesn’t tell the whole story. People do like things to be comfortable, however, people in fact do fear change. To be more specific, people fear the uncertainty that change always travels with. Surprisingly, fear is not the biggest obstacle to navigating change. 

In a recent Rock ‘N’ Roll With It survey we conducted about change, we found that while nearly 90% of respondents said they desired meaningful change in their lives, the number one obstacle stopping people from achieving that change was discipline (30%).  

How does this impact great leadership? It means that we need to help those we lead stay disciplined while working towards personal and organizational goals. We do that by first understanding that discipline can be broken into two parts.  


Being disciplined begins with commitment. Gathering a strong commitment from those we lead will have the greatest impact on achieving the positive results we are responsible for producing. So how do we inspire a level of commitment that will move the needle within our organizations? 

In order for anyone to consistently stay committed to something, they must define their core values. Core values are developed over a lifetime and are what guide our decision-making process. Unfortunately, most people have never taken the time to discern what their four or five core values actually are. This can lead to decisions driven heavily on “feelings” and that is a recipe for unstable, volatile, and potentially dangerous results.   

Have you ever been faced with a decision that was incredibly difficult and kept you up at night worrying? We all have been in that position at one point in our lives. But those of us who have taken the time to define what truly matters to us can reach a decision much faster knowing that the decision made was in alignment with our core values. No matter what the outcome.  

A great leader helps those around them define their core values to enable more efficient and burden-free decision-making. Bringing these core values into the light actually makes it easier to stay committed. It allows us to connect on a much deeper level to the work at hand so when an obstacle arises, we can find the proper motivation to push through and stay focused on achieving our goals. 


The second part of discipline is forgiveness. It begins with forgiving ourselves for past failures and lack of commitment. Staying 100% committed to anything is incredibly difficult at best and damn near impossible at worst. As humans, we love to punish ourselves for not being committed enough to reach our goals and aspirations. By not forgiving ourselves, we bring that baggage to the start of every new project and before you know it, there is no room left to make mistakes.  

Performing with the sole expectation of perfection is a soul-crushing, anxiety-ridden, creativity-killing endeavor -- one that can lead to failure, which will require more forgiveness and the cycle starts again.  

A great leader helps their people accept forgiveness and encourages the high level of commitment needed to positively affect change. Some days that level is greater than others. Making people aware that you understand that commitment level provides them with the freedom to make mistakes and take risks.  

It’s not just the individuals that need help forgiving themselves, but an effective leader can also help them forgive the organization for falling short of expectations and breaking past promises. Managing veteran employees who have been around long enough to witness disappointments can have a profound effect on employee morale. Helping them establish their core values and keeping them focused on the current work at hand will make it easier to align values and feelings.  

At the end of the day, being a great leader means making things personal and taking an interest in helping those you lead to become better individuals. When you help someone define their core values, you are providing them with shelter to weather life’s storms that go far beyond “work.” By encouraging and guiding their commitment, you allow them to achieve things they once thought impossible.  
As a leader, you have a choice as to the type of song you can write. We believe everyone has a hit song inside of them. What’s yours?

About the Authors:

Brant Menswar is the co-author of Rock ‘N’ Roll With It: Overcoming the Challenge of Change, a sought after keynote speaker, author and award-winning musician. Through his work as Managing Partner with Banding People Together, he has helped clients navigate change and influenced the collaborative culture of companies like NASA, Netflix, Verizon, Sony Pictures, Hard Rock and dozens of others. As the front man for the critically acclaimed blues/soul band, Big Kettle Drum, Menswar's voice has been described as “gritty and magnificent” by industry titans like Billboard and Sirius/XM Radio. Brant’s private fundraising concerts have raised over a million dollars for the non-profit organizations he supports. He serves on the Board of Directors for Children’s Home Society of Florida and is a graduate of Florida Southern College.

Jim Trick is the co-author of Rock ‘N’ Roll With It: Overcoming the Challenge of Change, a certified life coach, author, speaker and acclaimed folk musician. Trained by the prestigious Coach Training Institute and certified by the International Coach Federation, Jim has built a highly successful coaching practice in Marblehead, MA. Through his work with Banding People Together, Jim has helped organizations like Focus Brands, Hampton, SunTrust, NASA, ESPN and Cisco build a culture of effective collaboration. He is a regular guest lecturer at Berklee College of Music. Jim has founded two inner city food outreach programs for the homeless and continues to live his passion of working with people who want to personally and professionally live with greater freedom, fulfillment and success.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The 9 (or 99?) Ps of Leadership

Guest post from Sander Flaum:

Back in 2001, when I was asked to lead a forum in leadership at what is now the Fordham Gabelli Graduate School of Business, the concept was to bring noted leaders (business and otherwise) into a classroom where they could share their experiences and insights with MBA students. I believed that if students could meet successful leaders in a setting that encouraged open dialogue, we could transcend rote instruction and create life-learning experiences.

However, as a succession of leaders, including William Toppeta, CEO of MetLife, Myrtle Potter, COO at Genentech, Howard Safir, New York City Police Commissioner, and many others spoke at the Forum, it became clear that the concepts we were uncovering were in need of an organizing tool.

Then, as now, business writing was replete with alliterative formulas. A little Internet research will turn up “the 7 Ps of Marketing,” “the 7 Cs of Success,” “the 4 Ls of Retirement Planning,” and so on. To anyone who thinks these lists are a bit corny, consider that Jack Welch swore by his 3 Es: energy, energize, and edge. If an alliterative list was good enough for Welch, it’s good enough for me.

At the Forum, we decided to structure our insights about Leadership into Ps – and we didn’t stop with 7 – we eventually agreed upon 9! Were we the first to propose Leadership Ps? All I can say is that I haven’t found any Leadership list that antedates ours.

1. People – One of our early guest speakers, William Toppeta, put it this way: “Focus on the people and the numbers will come. Focus on the numbers and the people will go.”

2. Purpose – Obviously, you shouldn’t be leading if you don’t know where you’re going.

3. Passion – It’s not enough to be passionate about the job yourself, it’s also your responsibility to cultivate passion within the organization – not to rain on anyone’s parade.

4. Performance – Be as obsessed with your own performance as the performance of those who report to you.

5. Persistence – Jeff Rich, former CEO of Affiliated Computer Systems, told the Forum: “Persistence is about loving something so much that you refuse to ever abandon it.”

6. Perspective – Remember the role you and your organization are in the big picture.

7. Paranoia – It’s not worrying about oneself, but fear that your organization may be in jeopardy or missing opportunities. “Hypervigilance” is probably more accurate, but it doesn’t begin with P and it doesn’t have the same punch.

8. Principles – Christine Poon, a top executive at Johnson & Johnson, put it this way to the Forum: “A company’s values can provide a powerful inspiration and ultimately shape everything about the company.”

9. Practice – It’s essential to keep working at being a leader constantly – once you accept the responsibility of leading, there’s no holding back.

But wait, there’s more!

In the course of teaching these 9 Ps, I’ve noticed something peculiar. Most students carefully record each “P” in their notebooks (classroom habits are hard to break) and ask if they will be on the final. But a few more curious souls will grasp the process behind the 9 Ps and use them a springboard to inspire their own thinking about leadership. These people typically accost me outside the classroom, perhaps in an elevator or hallway, and after a moment, say something like: “Sander, I had an idea for a 10th P.”

Remembering P3 – Passion (and not raining on parades), I’ll say: “Great, tell me about it!”

And then I hear the suggestions: Probity, Process, Progressive, Poise, Productivity, Pursuit, Perfection – and more.

Do any – or all -- belong in our list? Who knows how many Ps could be used to describe Leadership? For me, I’m satisfied with the 9 we developed at the Forum. But if someone wants to explore further, I’ll never try to hold them back.

As a leader, when you teach people in your organization, you’re not bestowing a gift. You’re planting a seed. A list like the 9 Ps is a trellis that can help their own ideas grow.

Sander Flaum, M.B.A., co-author of Boost Your Career: How To Make An Impact, Get

Recognized, and Build The Career You Want, is CEO of Flaum Navigators, a consulting firm that helps companies accelerate business growth through transformational ideas that galvanize leadership, brand building, and innovation. He is chair of the Fordham Leadership Forum at the Fordham University Gabelli Graduate School of Business, Executive-in-Residence at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, and is the author of several books including The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find The Essence of Leadership.
For more information, please visit:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The $15 Billion Leadership Mistake

Guest post by Ken Pasch:

Roughly $15 billion is spent every year on training leaders in the U.S. Are those paying the bills getting their money’s worth? A number of C-suite executives have begun to wonder.
To get more out of training employees—and to keep it from being a serious financial mistake—executives need to change the focus from “training” to “development.” Training is a great tool that helps people deal with objective decisions. For example, let’s say you have a friend who’s a skilled mechanic. He’s been trained and has the experience to diagnose and resolve mechanical issues on just about any vehicle.

But a mechanic, though skilled, probably isn’t trained to lead other mechanics in the shop or to oversee a garage’s crew. There are stark differences and required skill sets when you’re tasked with leading people. To start, leadership decisions are much more subjective because there are few absolutes. There may be some standards to rely on (such as, don’t mess with people’s money, honey, or family) but people are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. Leaders must adjust their leadership styles accordingly.
Recent surveys show that lack of development in this area has been devastating. According to one survey, only 21 percent of employees feel motivated to do outstanding work. Another survey reveals that 85 percent of employees aren’t engaged, or are actively disengaged. These unhappy employees have cost organizations nearly $7 trillion dollars in lost productivity. So there’s a bit of room for improvement here, wouldn’t you agree?

To be effective, leader development must be a process, not an event. Yet most programs for leaders are geared to fit within the standard one- to three-day conference. There must be a commitment to ongoing development if we are to make a serious dent in helping good people become great leaders who unlock, engage, and optimize the potential in their respective organizations.
We must also recognize that leader development cannot be one-size-fits-all. Think of the situations the CEO of Johnson and Johnson deals with compared to those of a young leader right out of college. How should leader development address varying levels of experience? I’ve found the solution is to stack development into three levels: from Emerging Leaders, to Leaders with History, and, finally, to Leaders of Leaders. 

These leaders all need tools that will work from the most basic to advanced levels. One of these tools is the Make Your M.A.R.K.! CycleTM. The cycle begins by adopting a mindset that ensures you’re always aware of how you impact others. You’ll become more mindful of your decisions and of the needs of those around you. The cycle continues with taking actions that unleash potential in those you lead, which will help you achieve great results. And the cycle completes as you become what I call a knowledge leader—a person who passes on hard-earned lessons as they mentor others, so the cycle can repeat and knowledge is continually passed on.
Developing leaders in this way—into people who lead and positively impact others—will benefit your organization, its staff, and everyone within a leader’s reach, which is surely worth every one of those 15 billion dollars.
Ken Pasch brings over 30 years’ experience in revolutionizing leader development within a broad range of organizations, including the U.S. Military, Johnson & Johnson, the American
College of Healthcare Executives, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. He is the founder of KiVisions, Inc., which advises good people on how to become great leaders, and serves as faculty in executive education at the Smeal College of Business at
Penn State University. Pasch is a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, where he served proudly and with distinction. His new book is On Course: Become a Great Leader and Soar. Learn more at

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Active Listening: the Key to Leadership Success

Guest post by Richard Lindenmuth:

Leaders are often thought of as the individual undertaking the most personal risk. Even the military has morphed their ideals on leadership roles, shifting away from the highest ranked official and instead citing the individual or group who knows the mission and territory the best.

Today, the key step for being a true leader is active listening. Active listening is the act of repeating back, in your own words, what you believe was said.  Active listening focuses on more than just hearing the words, it is about understanding them to make sure that you are on the same page with others in the discussion. If you start with active listening as leader you can determine who understands the mission the best, who is most capable of success and what kind of support is required for a positive outcome.

Effective listening skills, make it possible to select leadership and those responsible for success. Many of us have heard that a good leader surrounds themselves with brighter and stronger individuals. However, how do you assess leadership potential when a predetermined hierarchical organization already exists?

This concept is combated by leadership that is visible and communicative at all levels. The In Search of Excellence author, Tom Peters utilizes the term “management by walking around”. If those in charge do not not have direct contact with all levels involved, how can they really lead?

I often tell upper management that they have earned their stripes and that I view them as “the Elder council”. No serious strategic moves will be made without them being part of the decision-making; however, markets, customers, supply chains, manufacturing processes and everything else in the age of “digital connectivity” changes too fast for a traditional organization to react in a timely fashion. Meaning constant communication needs to flow in both directions. 

John P. Kotter wrote the book XLR8, which takes this concept on leading and describes a dual system organization meant to keep traditional hierarchy in place but facilitates direct and timely moves via a second organization that does not follow the former.

Active listening and fluid communication takes time and cannot be accomplished overnight. After absorbing a new operation, I visited the factory floor. I could see people looking at the floor or walking the other way. When I actively listened to these employees I found that the consistent understanding was that management only comes out onto the floor if there was a problem, or someone was being fired. Simple communication on why I was on the floor, paired with their conveyed worries, allowed for better understanding and encouraged a greater team environment.

Instant recognition by the leader should be added as one of the key steps in today’s world. Take away the fear, show people that you are willing to listen and take positive action based on the messages of those around you. Show them you appreciate their daily contributions. It has been shown that a yearly bonus or a salary increase do not have the impact of instant recognition, a thank you, a photo, a small gift card, or dinner with a spouse paid for by the company for their contribution.

A leader does not have to ask for or make strategic decisions every day, effective leadership can be found in the small details. A manufacturing worker suggested quality would improve if the factory was better lit. One week later, LED lighting was installed. You could feel the change in atmosphere that a leader was actually listening.

Customers have a direct impact on the direction and success of a business. Pareto’s Rule suggests that 20% of your customers represent 80% of your profit margin. A leader should pay particular attention and listen to those customers.

Active listening, instant recognition, being visible at all levels of the corporation, good communications. This is leadership!

About the author:
Richard Lindenmuth has more than 30 years of general management experience in
domestic and international operations. He is noted for his comprehensive execution skills in both high-growth and distressed environments. He was president of ITT’s Business and Consumer Communications Group, where he led 12,000 employees through rapid deregulation, grew revenues and profits to set records. He has also acted as interim CEO for a number of companies, including Styrotek Inc., where he returned the company to solid profits in just a few months. Richard is also the author of “The Outside the Box Executive” and “The International Executive.”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ethics Is Serious Business

Guest post by John Hooker:

Everyone knows that an organization can’t function without physical infrastructure---communications, transportation, computer technology, and the rest.  Yet we rely equally on social infrastructure.  It consists of the social practices that allow us to relate successfully to coworkers, customers, investors, and the community at large. 
Building and maintaining physical infrastructure requires a certain kind of know-how, which we call engineering.  Maintaining our social infrastructure also requires know-how, because we must develop ground rules that make our social practices sustainable.  The field that provides this kind of know-how is called ethics.

This means that ethics is serious business.  Ethical dilemmas are at least as hard to resolve as engineering problems, and at least as urgent, particularly in our complex and fast-moving world.  They require careful analysis, not gut feeling or simplistic platitudes.  When does online data harvesting become invasion of privacy?  When does pharmaceutical pricing become price gouging?  When does cost saving become worker exploitation?  When does product promotion become false advertising?  When does socializing become sexual harassment?
When organizations go astray ethically, it is usually due to a lack of ethical competence, not bad people.  Naturally, there are plenty of scoundrels out there.  The media loves to tell us about the Bernie Madoffs and Martin Shkrelis of the world.  But most of us are basically good people who are unsure how to navigate the treacherous ethical waters of modern work life.  Even when there are bad people around, we often lack the concepts and vocabulary to explain why they are wrong.

To illustrate this, we need look no further than one of the most famous case studies in professional ethics.  In the 1970s, the Ford Motor Company discovered that its budget car, the Pinto, was prone to burst into flames after low-speed rear-end collisions.  The company could have corrected the problem for $11 per car but decided against the fix – until the problem mushroomed into a public relations disaster, and Federal regulators mandated a recall.  One of the managers involved in the affair was an idealistic young man named Dennis Gioia, who went into the auto industry to make a contribution to society.  He wrote an honest article about his experience years later, after he became a business school professor.  Gioia supported Ford’s decision at the time, based on a plausible cost-benefit analysis.  Yet the flaws in Ford’s analysis are immediately evident to someone properly trained in ethical reasoning.  The problem was not bad people, but bad thinking.
It is a relatively straightforward matter to hire staff with engineering competence.  But how does one recognize ethical competence?  How does one motivate staff to acquire this competence and apply it?

The first step is to understand how people grow ethically.  Beginning with Lawrence Kohlberg, developmental psychologists have discovered that ethical competence tends to develop in stages that parallel social and cognitive development.  There are various accounts of what the stages are, but I find it helpful to identify three broad stages that one can recognize in the staff of almost any organization.
The first stage is heteronomy, in which people take their beliefs and values from others.  In youth, norms are typically supplied by family and school, and in adulthood, by the organizations to which one belongs.  The second stage is ideology, in which people begin to do their own thinking but buy into a thought system that claims to have an answer for everything.  One often finds this perspective among teens and young adults, but it can persist into later years.  The third stage is autonomy, in which people acknowledge the validity of different points of view but strive toward a rational consensus.  It arrives in mature adulthood, if at all.

Employees and managers in the autonomy stage are ready for mature leadership.  They will respond to ethical reasoning and can learn to apply it themselves.  Those in the ideological stage may have charisma but are best avoided when top leadership responsibilities are assigned.  Those in the heteronomy stage will absorb the values of the organization, particularly when it advances their careers.  It is for them that the organization’s ethical norms must be made as clear as possible.
Training in ethical analysis can play a key role in developing ethical leadership.  It gives those with autonomy the intellectual tools they need to make responsible decisions and build consensus around them.  It can help nudge others toward ethical maturity.

Ethics training can take at least three forms.  One is an ethics course in business or professional school.  One can look for this on the resume, although many such courses do not teach ethical reasoning skills.  A second form is ethical training on the job, which can be effective if it goes beyond simply sitting around and exchanging opinions.  Participants must be asked to analyze dilemmas, and their analysis critiqued.  Perhaps the most effective form, however, is a practice of ethical discourse within the organization.  Beginning with top management, ethical analysis should be consistently used in meetings and memos.  It should play a central role in explaining and justifying company policy.  People tend to absorb the thought patterns to which they are exposed on a regular basis.
An organization that takes ethics seriously, and develops ethical competence in its emerging leaders, is well on the way to building a sustainable social infrastructure.

John Hooker is a T. Jerome Holleran Professor of Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, and Professor of Operations Research, at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and author of the new book TAKING ETHICS SERIOUSLY:  Why Ethics Is An Essential Tool For The Modern Workplace.  He has also held visiting posts at several universities, most recently the London School of Economics and the State University of Campinas, Brazil. He brings his extensive background in philosophy and logic to the rigorous analysis of ethical dilemmas, and his background in management science to making sure the dilemmas are realistic. He has published over 170 research articles, eight books, and five edited volumes on ethics, philosophy, operations research, and cross-cultural issues, including Business Ethics as Rational Choice and Working across Cultures. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the world’s only academic journal dedicated to teaching business ethics, and he developed the ethics program in the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

High Touch/Personalization

Guest post from Phyllis Weiss Haserot:
Leaders and human resources executives can learn a great deal from baseball’s top executives at the Chicago Cubs. They have success in signing stellar recruits, and have made their strategy of recruiting “the whole person” into the envy of other major league teams. 

In an age when so much business is transacted electronically at a distance, the Cubs push hard for in-person meetings in order to identify what is important to each recruiting target and establish a personal connection. Also, the high touch culture approach produces valuable word-of-mouth when solicited players ask current players how well their families are treated. They hear about neighborhoods players reside in, local attractions, and the kids’ room at the stadium. 

The formerly lowly Cubs team has snagged the most desirable free agents since Theo Epstein arrived as president of baseball operations, and he and the general manager, Jed Hoyer, applied the competitive strategy of selling the whole life approach: You are more than a baseball player. 

For example, pitcher Tyler Chatwood, whose wife was pregnant when the Cubs targeted him was presented, unsolicited, with a list of recommended physicians and hospitals in the area at their first meeting. Appealing to the most important influencers in the players’ lives is working, as they have signed all the free agents at the top of their list – and almost all of them for less money than other teams offered. Senior leaders -- take notice! 

Monetary compensation is not the Cubs’ most important tool or incentive offered. They don’t enter a salary bidding war. So the players regard team executives as straight-shooters.  

One agent quoted by the Wall Street Journal said the Cubs “sell the crap out of we value you as a person.” This is a very appealing factor for the mostly Millennial players baseball covets now. They see themselves as multi-faceted and family focused. Granted during the season they put in more hours than most highly paid professional service and other knowledge workers, constantly honing their skills, both physical and mental. They value and demand their form of work/life balance, and the Cubs management leads with buying into that. 

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, a successful recruit, told the Wall Street Journal that players are rushing to join an organization they expect to make them holistically happy. The personalized, high touch approach to recruiting and retention has made a huge difference in the overall team success. 

I regard the perception of personalization and high touch, as one of the crucial skills for success at work for marketing, recruiting, talent development and retention.  

While I am an avid baseball fan and love this example, which resonates with most individuals and is relevant to all industries, most of my work has been with professional services and knowledge workers. From my experience, I advise you to consider:

- In-person visits with clients/customers at least a few times a year, even if there is no ongoing business at the time. It’s even more valuable than for sustaining business development opportunities and identifying needs you can address.

- Providing education on specific issues external stakeholders already or likely will face.

- Training them on organizational culture, processes, and continually improving the working relationship, keeping intergenerational concerns in mind.

- Tracking the changing demographics and generational preferences of both external and internal constituencies to be sure you can mesh their needs with your business demands and be flexible.

- Within the capacity of your company, allowing for individualized career paths.

Challenge your assumptions about what employees, clients, alliance partners and referral sources consider most important and how they want to interact -- by asking regularly. Get to know them and what they truly value. Deepen relationships. Keep the conversation going. Remember the Cubs and their high touch culture.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps organizations solve inter-generational challenges among work colleagues and with clients to achieve better productivity and knowledge transfer, retention, succession planning and business development results.  She is president of Practice Development Counsel, and author of “You Can’t Google It!! – The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.” For more information, please visit

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ten Years After Ford’s Spectacular Turnaround, What Alan Mulally Reveals About Brand-Inspired Cultural Revolution

Guest post from Denise Lee Yohn:

It's been 10 years since Alan Mulally pulled off what has been considered one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in U.S. history.  HIs leadership of the venerable Ford Motor Company's recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 has been celebrated and analyzed from many perspectives -- the development of industry-leading products and partnerships with technology and consumer electronics companies, the revival of the Taurus brand, the consolidation of global operations into a single business unit, etc.  But one angle that hasn't yet been covered is the brand-inspired cultural revolution he led inside the organization.

When Mulally arrived at the struggling company, he set his sights on dismantling the toxic culture that had metastasized within it. In the excellent book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, Bryce Hoffman wrote about the lack of transparency, fractious business units, and a preoccupation with self-preservation that had come to define Ford’s culture. Meetings resembled mortal combat, Hoffman described, with executives regularly looking for vulnerabilities among their peers to exploit.

Given the state of internal affairs at the company, it’s no wonder the Ford brand was struggling on the outside. With its leaders distracted by playing politics and defending turfs, the Ford brand had become listless and unfocused. Ford’s product lineup hadn't kept up with changing consumer tastes and different regions pursued different automobile configurations which diluted the brand identity around the world.

Mulally challenged this dysfunction head on and championed a single, clear vision for the organization:  “One Ford,”  With One Ford, the company set about reviving what Mulally called the "phenomenally powerful" Ford brand, promoting “the critical ingredients that made a Ford a Ford.” and then working as one team to deliver on those, as a Fortune article explains.

One Ford was grounded in the original purpose that prompted Henry Ford to start the company—to “build a car for the great multitude.”  The resurrection of this vision conveyed to everyone inside the company and out that Ford was back in the business of “serving all around the world a complete family of cars that are best-in-class,” Mulally explained. With One Ford, he put the purpose and values of the Ford brand at the center of the organization and unified the company’s people, plans, operations, and products to restore the brand to automotive leadership.

He instituted weekly business performance review (BPR) meetings that required a new level of rigor, scrutiny, and detailed analysis from the company’s leaders. According to Hoffman, these executives initially bristled at Mulally’s demands and resisted the changes, but over time they began to see that the transparency Mulally enforced effectively united them to work together on the company’s business and brand goals and that the commitment he expected was not in service to himself but to the brand he had so much passion for.

Mulally also drove Ford's engineers to define Ford’s “DNA,” as Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global product chief, called it—the “genome that was designed to and engineered to convey quality, innovation, and style.” By identifying “300 different characteristics—from the chirps on the electronic key fob to the clunk of a closing door—that define the personality of its vehicles,” Ford developed a common design language that made it easier to develop single products to sell in all markets.  Moreover, it helped build the Ford brand by making a Ford recognizable around the world and eliciting a strong, visceral, emotional reaction to its vehicles.

All of these efforts worked to transform Ford -- the company was restored to profitability and the brand, to preeminence.. Within a year, the entire organization's energy toward the Ford brand had been reinvigorated and executives throughout the company had begun to adopt Mulally’s focused and data- driven approach. In 2010, Motor Trend named one of Ford’s newest cars, the Ford Fusion, “Car of the Year.” And the company posted annual profits of $6.6 billion, making it the most profitable automobile company in the world at the time.

Ford’s turnaround demonstrates the transformative power of an organizational culture steeped in an overarching purpose and integrated with the brand. But more than that, it shows how leaders set the tone and pace of cultural transformation.


Denise Lee Yohn is a leading authority on positioning great brands and building exceptional organizations, and has 25 years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay. Denise is a consultant, speaker, and author of What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest and the new book FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World's Greatest Companies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Leadership Lesson from D-Day: Foresight

Guest post by John Antal:

Foresight is one of the most critical skills of a leader. Foresight is the capacity to accurately focus on the key factors of a rapidly changing and chaotic situation without losing sight of the big picture. The best leaders anticipate and develop an ability to see beyond the immediate and are able to visualize and plan several moves ahead of their opponent. Foresight helps leaders act in a manner that addresses problems in the short term and solves them in the long run. In war, foresight is as valuable as it is rare.
In December 1940, Adolf Hitler was considered by many to be a leader with exceptional foresight. In 1938, he had bluffed the Allies at Munich and annexed portions of Czechoslovakia and eventually took the entire country without a fight. In 1939, Hitler’s forces attacked Poland while the French and British, who had pledged to fight if Poland was attacked, did little to help. The Poles fought and died alone and Hitler won another victory for the Reich. In 1940, Hitler unleashed a lightening war against Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. All these countries surrendered to Hitler’s armies. In 1941 Hitler’s legions seized Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete. In Africa, Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps, was nearing the Suez Canal. By late 1941, Hitler’s empire stretched from the shores of France to the Parthenon in Greece and from the sands of Libya to the gates of Moscow.
On December 7, 1941, Nazi Germany’s ally, the Empire of Japan, executed a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese attack badly damaged the US Pacific Naval Fleet, sinking, among others, four battleships. American naval and aircraft losses were heavy. All eight American battleships anchored at Pearl Harbor, the pride of the US Navy, were damaged, with four being sunk, along with the loss of three cruisers and three destroyers. Although the US Navy’s aircraft carriers escaped the attack, 188 Army and Navy aircraft were destroyed. Most tragically, 2,403 Americans were killed, with another 1,178 wounded. That same day, the Japanese attacked US forces in the Philippines, and Guam, while simultaneously attacking British and Dutch forces across the Pacific.
The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled America’s fighting forces in the Pacific and shocked the American people. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his address to Congress on December 8, 1941, stated: “Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”
Those were brave words, but in 1941, the United States was not ready for war. The US Army was ranked 19th in the world and was smaller than the army of Romania. Only three divisions in the US Army were considered combat ready and these lacked the modern equipment—especially tanks—that was the key ingredient of the German Army’s (the Wehrmacht’s) success. The Army Air Corps (the United States Air Force did not become a separate service until 1947, after World War II) was struggling to train pilots on mostly obsolete aircraft. Only the United States Navy was truly a force to be reckoned with and now the Japanese had delivered a devastating blow to the American fleet.
Hitler watched as Japan conducted its Pacific blitzkrieg. The Japanese seemed poised to knock the US out of the war. Hitler expected America to cower and beg the Japanese for terms, just as the British and French had done at Munich. He waited a few days after the Japanese attack, searching for an opportune time to maximize the propaganda effect and announce his support for Imperial Japan. Then, on December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler gave a speech at the Reichstag and, to the surprise of his generals, declared war on the United States.

When Hitler’s Generals heard their Fü
hrer declare war on the United States their jaws dropped. Japan had not informed Germany of its plan to attack Pearl Harbor. Hitler had not consulted the Wehrmacht high command that Germany would take on the Americans. The German Army was fully committed to the titanic struggle in Russia. It was true that the United States had inadequate military forces and was unprepared for war, but it seemed unnecessary to add another enemy to an ever-increasing list of enemies. Germany was not bound by the Axis Tripartite Pact to declare war on the United States. Nevertheless, victory for the Axis was in the air. Hitler’s forces were expected to take Moscow in the spring. Japan had just smashed the American Navy. Hitler was sure that the “decadent bourgeois Americans” could not fight.

On December 11, 1941, the Führer’s foresight still seemed infallible and America’s ability to fight a global war against the Axis powers of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany looked impossible. Impossible, however, was not a word in the American dictionary and America rose to the challenge. Almost immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, Americans shook of isolationism, rolled up their sleeves, and decided on courage. They decided to lead. It took tremendous effort, organizational skills, and sacrifice by a united America to raise the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marines and Coast Guardsmen required to turn the tide against this vicious totalitarian onslaught, but that is what they were determined to do. Remember Pearl Harbor was their rallying cry.
One thousand, two hundred and seventy-seven days later, on June 6, 1944, the Allies under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, landed on the beached of Normandy, France, in the greatest amphibious operation ever attempted. The Allies cracked open Hitler’s Fortress Europe and started the march toward Germany. D-Day was a vital step in the destruction and surrender of Nazi Germany, and it started at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. For the ancient Greeks, the name Prometheus means “foresight.” Adolf Hitler’s hubris and lack of foresight on December 11, 1941, when he declared war on the United States, was, thankfully, one of biggest strategic blunders of WWII.
John Antal is a Soldier, historian, author, leadership expert and master storyteller . He has published thirteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on his historical and leadership subjects. His latest book, 7 Leadership Lessons of D-Day: Lessons from the Longest Day, June 6, 1944, was published in October 2017 and is available at You can learn more about John Antal and his books at