Tag: Ode to…
on Jan.12, 2011, under make it happen
This is repost from 6 weeks ago
With the risk of coming across boastful….
Yesterday, I was contacted by a leading business media in North America to write an article for them discussing my ideas on what is the best way to become a “thought leader.”
This was in reference to a Harvard Business Review article on “how to become a thought leader in six steps.”
Firstly, I state unequivocally, I am not a “thought leader.”
I don’t pretend to be a “thought leader.”
I am from the old school where there was no such thing as self promoting “thought leaders.”
The world we live in today has become so focused on self promotion, all at the same time craving acceptance from others that selfishness dominates …. pollutes our thought process.
A true “thought leader” does not need to intentionally, market and hustle his/her “thoughts….”
Like a great leader doesn’t need to command people to follow…
Is “leadership” something which can be taught?
Let’s be honest….
Can someone sitting behind a computer in a cushy office at Harvard teach leadership??
No matter how great of a leader the person might be or have been ….can the secrets to their success as a leader be summed up on a blog or in a book?
…Is ”thought leadership” something so simple it can be taught in 6 clear steps on a blog?
In reality …
What works “leading” an American employee does not necessarily work “leading” an employee in China, India, Japan, not to mention, “leading” a woman employee in Saudi Arabia…
Moreover, it can be argued that the abundance of media has created an overflow of information.
We are hammered daily by worthless content trying to sell us short cuts ….
“The secret to becoming the ultimate thought leader in just 6 simple steps…”
In my humble opinion – there are no manuals which one can buy that outline the secrets of how to lead to people….whether leading them in action or in thought.
I’m just searching for John Galt…
on Dec.26, 2010, under other
I recently, saw the movie “Social Network” supposedly, the story about facebook and how it began.
I enjoyed the movie very much.
However, for me …. the real “great story” in the movie and book is Sean Parker’s story.
Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning changed the world as we once knew it — they created the first online music swapping site – Napster.
Napster was instantly popular, but lawsuits from the music industry killed the site, and both Fanning and Sean Parker got sued to oblivion.
Incredible to think: Sean Parker (comparatively speaking), didn’t make any money from developing something which changed the music and movie industry.
Over the years, I have thought of Sean… and always wondered what it would be like to change the world, yet —receive nothing for it,and get sued to the point of ruin.
How many people could come back from this kind of disappointment???
Imagine you and your friend launching the idea for what became itunes… and have to watch others make billions from your idea….
….most people in the same situation would become crippled by negativity, and probably just sit around and moan and complain for the rest of their lives…
For many years after Napster, (from all the interviews I have read) – Sean was nearly broke and had to sleep on his friends couches…but he kept fighting to succeed.
His genius and persistency paid off …
Sean Parker played a crucial role in launching facebook to what it is today.
Once again, he changed the world.
It’s a great story – not because Sean Parker is finally a (well deserved) multi-hundred millionare…
But because he never quit climbing and chasing his summit.
No matter how many times he fell…
He got back up and kept climbing.
on Dec.05, 2010, under make it happen
This blog is motivated by an email I received yesterday from an old staff who worked for me in Shanghai back in 1999 … I havent heard from this person since 2000, but his email and his mention of a couple stories in his mail motivated me to post this blog…..because it blends into the theme I have been recently discussing: “the importance of core values.”
When I first opened an office in Shanghai back in 1999 for the previous company I worked…..
I was in the right place at the right time and recruited a couple great sales leaders to help me build an army of successful operations, production and sales people.
The office took off quickly, and within a few months we had 70 mainland Chinese employees making their success happen – even though we had American, Australian, New Zealand, Chinese and British employees, the office had been built by people who all had similar, or the same “core values.”
Within just a few months, the Shanghai office became one of the most consistent, and best performing offices in the company — so the CEO of Asia (based in Sydney) asked me to watch over the Hong Kong office while the General Manager of that office was on a 3 week vacation.
The Hong Kong office averaged less than US$20,000 a week …. I wanted to be the managing director of Greater China, so controlling the HK office was my goal.
As I type, I remember back to that phone call where Simon (the CEO) called me about watching over the office for 3 weeks….
I explained to the CEO of Asia that if my name was going to be associated with the Hong Kong office for 3 weeks, then I had to be able to run the office my style.
He laughingly called me an “arrogant prick” but agreed.
It’s an easy 3 hour flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong…
on the flight, I reviewed the previous 12 months of sales figures for the HK office which also included staffing, recruitment information (where I noticed massive turnover of staff) There was only one person in the office who seemed to have any consistency, a Hong Kongnese sales woman who was also on vacation for the period I would be in the office.
For the 3 weeks I was in Hong Kong, the company put me up in the Mandarin Oriental hotel – a gorgeous 5 star hotel which I completely took for granted. (issues discussed in “ode to Marcus Evans…”)
The memo I received the day before my trip stated there were 20 staff working in the Hong Kong office, 18 of them were in sales.
My first day in the office wasn’t a big surprise — the office was in a gorgeous part of HK, had a view of the harbor, but was messy.
The CEO of Asia knew how competitive I was so he sent a company memo to all the GMs stating that “Scott Ragsdale was running the Hong Kong office for the next 3 weeks.”
As I was walking into the office, a young, good looking British guy was walking out …
I stopped him, and asked where he was going… he told me he had worked for the company for the month, saw no future so had quit the previous week and was just picking up his pay check.
I remember the way the guy spoke to me – looking me directly in the eyes as he spoke, you could see he had something – a spirit, or a passion, something that not everyone has…
He was dressed very well (I dont mean he was wearing an expensive suit, just very sharp)
I introduced myself, and told him to go back in the office, listen to my morning speech and see if what I had to say was something which might change his mind.
Within a few minutes of the work day beginning, I had a morning meeting with the office to introduce myself.
I also used the meeting to discuss the next 3 weeks…
I explained that we would spend the first few hours cleaning the office up, retraining and getting ready for the next 3 weeks…
I set several ridiculously generous incentives for the 3 weeks (I often gave lavish incentives out of my own pocket to make the job more fun – it was my way of investing)
I told the team that one of the 3 weeks we would break US$100,000 in business for the week (Simon had challenged me to do this because it was something which had never been achieved before in this small office).
As I was speaking, I saw one of the young men roll his eyes to two girls in the office …. and the girls giggled. (all three were Hong Kongnese)
I terminated all three of them on the spot, in the middle of my meeting …. once they were gone, probably 3 minutes later, I continued the meeting…
I knew all the sales figures, thus I knew these nobodies didn’t really exist anyways….two of them had worked for the company for more than 2 years and in those 2 years didn’t do much, definitely, did not add value to the office so I was certain that I had done what was best for both the office and the company.
As I stood there waiting for the 3 to leave the office, the sharp young British man (Adam Fletcher) came up and told me (I can still hear him say) “I am hooked.”After my meeting he immediately, started to clean up the mess, and his actions got the rest of the team to start cleaning up the office (you could see (clearly) this guy was a leader)
We spent the first morning cleaning, making the office sharp – and then I retrained the sales team – all at the same time, judging who I believed wanted what I wanted …
After lunch, I terminated 4 more because they showed up 15 minutes late … surely, just to say “fuck you” to me.
… so by 14:00 on the first Monday, I had terminated 7 out of the 20 staff …. In an office that I was just overseeing for 3 weeks.
My CEO (Simon) called me later that day from Sydney telling me how the General Manager of the office (a man in his early 30s from Mumbai) had called him on his mobile from his vacation to say ‘Scott Ragsdale is destroying my office!!!’
The CEO knew me well … and gave me the trust and support I needed and told me “he looked forward to seeing my results.”
The following day, my 2nd day in the office …. I got rid of a few more.
Now the office was down to 8 staff …. 7 of them sales staff. I was convinced that all 7 had the same “core values.”
The office did US$74,000 that first week; US$48,000 the second week and $108,000 the third week.
(I still have the memo from the Chairman and CEO highlighting the success achieved over those 3 weeks)
Upon reflection – my biggest achievement during those 3 weeks was not the 3 weeks of great sales, but more importantly — I saved the company from losing two exceptional talents – one of them being the young British guy and the other a young American woman who both went on to senior management positions in the company. (both were quiting or had quit the company the day I arrived)
The British guy, Adam Fletcher worked with me for several years, and was directly involved with closing and developing several million euro of business during his time with the company.
How could I get that shitty little office to do 3 weeks of big business so quickly??
Because … during the 3 weeks I was in that office – I ensured everyone who was with me had the same core values, or if they didn’t have the same values … at least, I was convinced they wanted to have the same values as me.
It’s something I learned when I was just a sales executive in Tokyo …
At the time, I had no power because I was just a newly hired sales staff, but I saw firsthand how one negative staff – destroyed, or nearly destroyed the bunch.
It was a brilliant management training course – because I saw firsthand how just one negative employee, destroyed the potential success of many – like cancer.
Three years after my Hong Kong adventure, I was based in Europe and was transferred to run the Barcelona office ….Barcelona was a massive office for the company in the number of staff who were in it, but shit figures when it came to business.
My first day in that office I fired at least 15 people, maybe a few more than that – people who came late, left early, or obviously didn’t want what I wanted.
That week, the office had the biggest week it ever had in the 2 years it was open …
(I am sure there are people who still talk about that first week because it was exceptional, like God came down and touched us)
Every manager falls in the trap of wanting to have as many staff as possible to “manage” … but the secret is not the number of staff a manager oversees, but to ensure everyone on the team has the same “core values.”
Much more can be achieved with a small group of people with the same values than can be achieved by a large group of people who have mixed values.
Maybe the best team I ever worked with was TEAM MONACO…
The team was made up of French, Italian, British, and American, but everyone worked together as a team – with the same goal, to be the best ….
From my experience, I dont believe that one can simply blanket the same management style over employees from France, India or China, etc, however, by ensuring the team/office have the same “core values” … the chance for consistency and success is far greater than simply just employing anyone for the job.
What “core values…” am I talking about….? will be discussed tomorrow.
I intentionally, do not use examples from naseba to discuss my point in this blog … this is not to say that we are perfect, or that everyone at naseba has the same “core values”
Unfortunately, as we have expanded, senior management (me included) have slipped in regards to sticking/ensuring everyone has the same “core values.”
I am certain this has slowed us down; prevented us from climbing faster and more efficiently – something which is being reviewed and addressed.
Omaha, Nebraska in late 1970’s….
I started to swim competitively, when I was 7 years old.
When I was 8 years old until I was around 12, I was one of the top swimmers in America for my age group.
My coach (my first and only coach) was very tough, and even at that young age, I was expected to train hard.
I don’t remember him to be a nice guy; he was very tough on me, but I succeeded, and swam fast. He wasn’t my friend, he was my coach.
I also did well in school, and had an overall good attitude.
My father would tell me years later – that the quality of my teammates on that first team was exceptional — most everyone on the team got good grades, and there were not trouble makers/losers bringing anyone down…at the time, that team succeeded in the pool and in their personal lives as well.
Around the time I was 13 years old, we moved and I changed swim teams.
I can still remember the first day I met my new coach.
The coach was very friendly, and I enjoyed that first swim practice with my new team.
The practice was easy.
many people came to practice late, often the older guys would waste time playing around in the locker room and just show up 5-10 minutes late.
The coach would get angry, but the next day the same thing would happen again.
There was not the same strictness as there was on my previous team I swam.
Once a guy in my lane just decided to stop and get out because he was having a bad day.
I remember the coach jokingly, punch him in the arm, and they both laughed as my teammate walked away in the middle of a tough set.
I must have been about 13 at the time, but I understood the guy was a total pussy; the set was too hard, and the coach allowed him to stop.
This never happened at my previous club.
The coach was tough.
No one missed practice.
No one was ever late because the coach wouldn’t let them practice if they were.
No one ever left early.
The age group team was easily the fastest/best in the state – one of the fastest in the country
But at my new team, there was not the same discipline — and the club/team was not successful; it wasnt even ranked top 10 in the state.
The quality of the team was different – yes, some succeeded, but there were many bad apples who ruined a bunch with their bad attitude.
The team and coach didn’t have the same core values.
After a couple weeks, I went from being the star of my age group to one of the clowns on the team.
Practice was not challenging, it wasn’t difficult at all.
I remember skipping a couple practices just to ass around with my friends ….
The coach never said anything to me.
He was a nice, friendly guy….like a buddy.
At the same time, my grades went to shit.
I had a bad attitude with my teachers and a bad attitude at home.
I went from being a great talented swimmer to just another kid in the pool.
At school, I became a class clown
To be honest, I became a fucking loser…
2-3 years of mediocrity later….
I got kicked out of school for getting bad grades and getting into too many fights – overall I was kicked out for having a bad attitude.
Luckily, my parents never gave up on me. My parents agreed to give me another chance.
They sent me to boarding school which had a strong swim program ….
The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida.
I did not know before I joined, but I quickly learned ….the coaching staff, Coach Troy and Coach Shofe were well known for being (exceptionally) tough.
I lived in the dorm – it was a boarding school, but in the summer the dorm became a swim camp and summer school.
I remember my first day in the dorm … I arrived from Omaha at 9pm.
Although I was just 15 years old, I decided I would skip the morning practice (which started at 5:15) to be ready for my first day at summer school which started at 10:00.
At 5:20 am Coach Troy knocked on my dorm room door …. (I can still remember the big grin on his face and his voice) “we’re waiting for ya….”
Of course, I had to get out of bed and go to practice.
My new team’s practice schedule was very intense – double the practice yardage I had ever done before.
The coach was incredibly tough.
You could not miss practice.
You couldn’t show up late.
There were nearly, no clowns on the team …anyone who was not focused, would not make the cut … not just because the coach would kick him off, but the teammates on the team wouldn’t allow it.
Everyone was focused not just in the pool, but also in their personal lives.
I had a fairly successful first year with the team, but it wasn’t until my last two years in high school that it all click — not just in the pool, but also in school as well as in my personal life.
Practice was hell, but I really got into training hard.
Monday – Friday 5:15 – 7:30 am … school was from 9:00 – 15:00 and then swim practice from 3:30 pm – 6:00 pm every day.
Saturday was just one practice, but always the toughest practice of the week.
We did sets that no other high school team would or could do.
The team thrived on working hard together – and for the most part, no one moaned and complained.
We all had the same goal – to be the best, not just as individuals, but as a team.
Reflecting back – the secret was obvious: we were led by a great coach who ensured we all had or developed the same core values.
Because we trained so hard – the team became very close and there was a possessiveness of “the team.” Clowns, mediocre, half assed teammates did not last.
There was strong pride amongst us … we considered ourselves to be the best high school swim team in America.
No one missed work out – but, no one ever wanted to miss workout.
No one was late, but no one wanted to be late – if anything, some fought to see who would be the first in the pool.
We were an exclusive team, like an exclusive club ….
And we supported each other from letting anyone or anything bring us down.
My senior year, we were the number one high school swim team in America.
Unquestionably, what made us, “the team” so good was the discipline Coach Troy instilled.
His discipline created consistency.
To be continued….