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Over the 4th of July drive this past week I listened to the audiobook of Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of Band of Brothers.

For those of you who have watched the Emmy-award winning HBO Mini-series, Band of Brothers, or read the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, you know Major Winters. His life has been well documented to this point through that story as well as his memoirs, Beyond Band of Brothers

urlFollowing the publication of Beyond Band of Brothers, Conversations was a book Major Winters wanted to have written after spending hundreds of hours with Col. Cole Kingseed. There were lessons through Major Winters’ life that needed to be told.

Watching Band of Brothers is something I recommend any person to do whether they are interested in military history, or not. At least do it for the sake of honoring those who served World War II. The book made Easy Company famous. Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg through the mini-series helped make the company legendary. Thousands of baby boomers and people my age were given a unique view into their epic journey from Airborne training, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, and on to taking Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war.

In the audiobook, Winters’ leadership principles were shared, as in Beyond Band of Brothers, and I think it is worth sharing with you. No matter your role in life, it is important to understand what it takes to lead. The military life can teach us a lot of things perhaps because the pressures seem greatest.

I have appreciated Major Winters  because of his “quiet strength” as a leader. Actor Damian Lewis played this very well on-screen in the mini-series.

I am humbled because as a leader I have far from mastered these lessons but they are principles that I need to be reminded of and develop on a daily basis. These lessons are applicable to any leader and not limited to the battlefield.

In the words of Major Winters, “Hang tough”.

Leadership At The Point Of a Bayonet

1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.

2. Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.

3. Stay in top physical shape–physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.

4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.

5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their job. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.

6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.

7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.

8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.

9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. They key to a successful leader is to earn respect–not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.

10. Hang Tough!–Never, ever, give up.

When I entered the work world thirteen years ago, the world seemed to be full of traditional occupations: Bankers, teachers, lawyers, stock brokers, doctors, and sales people. I was told in college that most likely the jobs we would have in the future weren’t even created yet. It turns out that the professors were true and with the rise of the internet and so many new types of entrepreneurial businesspeople, the value of new positions has changed drastically. Many specialist positions were created to focus on one single thing in a company or organization.

Specialists are wonderful and thank God for them, especially doctors who focus most of their waking hours on one single treatment or disease.

But, I’m also discovering that with the rise of so many specialists, especially in business, it is difficult to find people with a well-rounded knowledge about business in general.

These people are most commonly referred to as ‘renaissance men’, who are proficient in a variety of subjects. The people of history described as this come from the Renaissance era and have evolved since. People like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Branson, or despite the humor, someone like James Franco who tackles acting, writing, directing, and other random things while going to graduate school to learn more.

In baseball, this person is called a “utility player.” These players are a manager’s dream because they can play pretty much every position except pitcher and catcher. Whenever a player gets hurt or is not playing up to their game, the utility player can slide in to make a difference. In the major leagues, these people are well-known players like Michael Young, Ben Zobrist, and Hanley Ramirez. To the extreme, there was an amusing game in the 1980s when St. Louis Cardinals player Jose Oquendo played each position through the nine innings.

In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ character, Professor Keating encouraged his students to broaden themselves by using poetry as the medium. ”

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

deadpoet'ssocietystanding

So where have the Renaissance people gone? 

I think fear of the unknown is one of the biggest issues. I’ve also discovered even in my profession in publishing, you get looks if you are trying to learn about other jobs. The look is often says, “stick to your specialty, bud”. But, in my career the people I’ve admired the most and seem have the best perspective are the ones who have either done other jobs in publishing or have taken the time to learn about them. That was one of the greatest lessons I learned from my mentor and long-time publisher, David Moberg.

Being a Renaissance person doesn’t mean you give up your specialty. It means you become a more well-rounded person to better help others.

We can reclaim the Renaissance spirit by being explorers of the mind.

Here are five helpful challenges to become today’s Renaissance person.

  • Each month, take out someone you work with who does something different from you and learn about it.
  • Learn a new sport that challenges your physical and mental abilities.
  • Read a book that is outside of your comfort zone. Browse your local bookstore or the library and pick something out.
  • Travel. Visit places you never thought you’d visit and learn the culture, the language, the people.
  • Share your experience with others as you learn.

Be a life-long student.

Be a utility player.

Be today’s renaissance person.

 

What about you?

What do you want to learn that is outside of your specialty?

This post is Innovate Like Moneyball Part 2 so try to read that first.

I recently heard a great spot on NPR from Frank DeFord about the fascination with Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American New York Knicks basketball sensation.  Jeremy Lin has become the latest version of Tim Tebow.  Anyone looking at his previous stats would say he was an average backup player to having no chance at an NBA career at all.  Pretty soon, scouts will be saying things about their recruits as having “The Lin Factor”.  It’s that special thing about him that gets fans excited while executing on the court (or field) in an amazing way.

In Moneyball fashion, can a statistician find a Jeremy Lin?

Perhaps, but it would be a long shot and they’d need some divine help. Here is why.

Life and business can be only calculated so much.  I’m asked all the time in marketing from clients how we can have better “quantifiable” results.  It always amuses me because a client definitely wants life to be put together in an organized fashion that they can control like a wizard.  Don’t we all, especially when money and reputation is at stake?

Left photo: Tim Tebow. Credit: Barry Gutierrez / Associated Press Right photo: Jeremy Lin. Credit: Frank Gunn / Associated Press

A statistician would say that people like Doug Flutie, Tim Tebow, or  Jeremy Lin are flukes.  They rose to the occasion when given the chance and delivered but their overall stats might be considered mediocre.

Ultimately life and business should be both about quantifiable and qualitative results.  That is how the best research is done to understand stats and behavior.

Clients say they want the “Lin Factor”,”Apple Factor”, or “Nike Factor” for their brand.

Can you quantify how to get that?  That’s not the point. We should celebrate the statistician and the scout equally.  When working well together, that “Factor” can happen and I’ve seen it time and time again with teams I am a part of.

The result can be “greatness”.  And you know it when you see it.

 

 

 

Innovate like Moneyball

September 28, 2011 — 9 Comments

Confession:

I have a romantic love affair with Baseball.  It may be weird to you but it isn’t to me.

I left my baseball love, St. Louis, seven years ago to move down and be with wife Brooke. I have quite enjoyed Nashville but the physical distance from St. Louis baseball only grew my love for the game.  Nashville unfortunately isn’t known as a baseball town but when I meet another “real” fan of the game, we immediately are friends regardless our favorite team.  These days, I follow box scores like it is my balance sheet.

Brooke and I just watched Moneyball (2011) starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  This is based on MIchael Lewis’ bestselling 2003 book.  Hands down, this is the finest baseball movie since Bull Durham/Field of Dreams.  Critics call Moneyball the baseball movie for nerds but I think it is made for all of us.  It has inspired me to act and here is why.

If you have not see the movie, here is a summary.  Faced with putting together a baseball roster 1/4 the budget of the NY Yankees, General Manager of the Oakland A’s Billy Beane had enough.  Year after year, he would develop amazing players only to be robbed by them in free agency by rich teams like the Yankees or Red Sox.  Instead of drafting players solely by basic stats like batting average, home runs, and RBIs, with assistance,  he employed computer-generated analysis and found a better way to rate players. This idea stressed the greater importance of “on base percentage” (hits plus walks and being hit by pitches), which gives their team a statistical advantage over time.  And it worked albeit with heavy opposition of the idea for his first season in 2002.

Was it easy?  No.

Did the “establishment” scouts cry foul and think he was crazy?  Yes

Moneyball should awaken the “innovative spirit” within all of us.  Whether in business, school, personal life, church, or your little league team, we must pay attention to the dragon that needs to be woken in us.

I lead a marketing team in publishing and there isn’t a day that goes by when I just wish there was a standard to go by.  Marketing Plans I wrote only 6 months ago can seem archaic compared to what is needed in today’s complex publishing environment.  I think in “context” so it is particularly harder for me to stretch to innovate and think through better ways of doing things.  But the past is the past and we can still learn from it.  But…

The world is changing faster than I’m writing these words.

So here is where we go.  Here is where I need to go with you.

When someone says “that’s just the way it it is” or “that’s how it worked before”…

Pause.

Question the status quo.

Focus on the outcome and that will tell you how to play in today’s world. 

If it didn’t work today; research, try, fail, try again, and keep learning.  You will get there.  But you can’t just keep pulling out the “driver” when you need what you really need is to hit a cut 3 iron. (I apologize for the golf lingo, I can’t help myself)

Innovate and swing away.