The Golden Newsletter /  SEPTEMBER 2011

Trust and Respect Trump Management Skills

When are a great education, years of solid management experience, deep expertise in subject matter, strong support from one’s Board, and a long track record of success not enough? A look at two recent cases where individuals who had all these qualities and more failed within months of taking high profile positions reveals that failure to master one of the “Four New Golden Rules of Management” described in my book, All I Know About Management I Learned from My Dog (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011) can trump the combination other management skills, particularly when the Manager in question is tasked with leading a major organizational change.

Consider Jack Griffin who, after a long and successful career at The New York Times Magazine, as President of Parade magazine, and as President of the National Media Group at Meredith (Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal) was hired as CEO of Time Inc’s prestigious publishing unit in August 2010, replacing 32-year veteran Ann Moore. Griffin faced a difficult task. The insular and famously change-averse culture at Time needed a rapid transformation to adapt to the changing publishing marketplace and technologies and Griffin was given lots of maneuvering room by Time’s corporate management and Board to effect this change.

Why then, was he out in less than six months after being ousted and replaced by an ‘interim management committee’ at a critical point in the company’s history? Here are a few quotes from insiders and observers that may shed some light:

““his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner.”
–Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes

“He brought in consultants…to help put into effect elements of his reorganization a move that some employees took as an insult—a sign Griffin felt they were not up to the job.”
–The New York Times

“He annoyed other executives and managers by using consultants to aid in his reorganization of Time Inc. Griffin insisted that all magazines have a masthead, and his name appear on top of it. Some estimates show that his name took up space possibly worth millions in advertising…He apparently made obnoxious, possibly sexist comments
—Time Inc.

“lost its most senior African-American executive...and two of its highest ranking women.” According to, one of Griffin’s several gaffes includes making too many references to being Roman Catholic in the workplace, which included comparing Time Inc. to the Vatican — something Bewkes had to personally speak to Griffin about”
–Business Insider

“The body rejected the transplant.” --Ken Doctor, Outsell

And those are some of the less inflammatory comments.

Griffin denies acting improperly, saying “I was recruited and hired by Time Warner to lead the business transformation of Time Inc., based on my clear record of success and results in the industry. Every action I took over the past six months was made with that ultimate goal in mind. My exit was clearly not about management style or results.”

Another case, this one from the public sector, illustrates similar characteristics. Cathie Black, a magazine executive, was a surprise hire by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to become Chancellor of New York City’s perpetually troubled School System in January of 2011, just when schools there were beginning to show some new life as a result of the strict approach of prior Chancellor, Joel Klein.. While her background in the media business was stellar, (publisher of Holiday magazine, President and CEO of USA Today, President of Hearst Magazines as well as President of the Newspaper Association of America, and serving on such distinguished companies as IBM and The Coca Cola Company) her background included no experience in education or the public sector. A profile in the Financial Times called her “the First Lady of American magazines.” A Bloomberg aide, speaking on background to New York Magazine, quoted the Mayor describing his new hire saying, “Great manager, totally against type. People will think I’m brilliant for thinking outside the box on this—and anybody that doesn’t get it is wrong. ”

Despite the hiring of a Deputy Chancellor to shore up her lack of educational background and the appointment of eight key aides to assist in administering the sprawling system, Black began her new role with a series of major gaffes in mid-January and things deteriorated rapidly from there.

Already portrayed as an Upper East Side elitist, she immediately alienated members of the Teachers Union, parents, and minorities. The line that got her in trouble [first] came in mid-January. Meeting with a group of Tribeca parents upset about school overcrowding, Black quipped, “Could we just have some birth control for a while? It could help us all out a lot.” She followed up shortly with a quip comparing the difficulty of determining priorities within the schools as “a Sophie’s Choice”, a reference to William Styron’s Holocaust novel. Unsurprisingly, New York’s Jewish community was outraged by the reference, further isolating Black from important constituencies. As she continued to travel in the City’s most elevated social circles and dressed like the proverbial ‘million bucks’, four of her eight key staff members quit and several public meetings with parents and teachers ended in jeering and shouting matches.
After 96 days on the job, Mayor Bloomberg asked for her resignation and the experiment with a manager from outside the educational community ended.

What happened to cause these two spectacular failures and falls from grace? It’s a fairly straightforward answer: Neither Griffin nor Black took the time or made the effort to establish trust and respect with their subordinates and other important constituencies before embarking on significant changes in their respective roles. As I emphasize in my book, trust, respect and leadership (and a little love) are the bedrock of both large and small companies. While management skills are a necessary condition of success they are not enough; leadership is the necessary condition for excellence.


Are Leaders Born or Can They Be Made?

A Brief Look at Leadership Training Powerhouse, Wilson Learning

“Leaders are born, not made.” – Anonymous

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” --Vince Lombardi

Well, which is it? The United States Army has certainly believed the latter at least since the establishment of the military academy at West Point at West Point in 1802 (cadets had been trained there beginning in 1794) and the subsequent establishment of the other service academies. More recently, leadership training has become a rapidly-growing global business. We took a look at one, Wilson Learning (Edina, MN), to find out who’s teaching whom and whether their outcomes support Coach Lombardi’s statement.

Wilson, founded in 1965 over founder Larry Wilson’s garage, initially focused on teaching sales effectiveness based on Wilson’s book, The One Minute Salesperson, and has grown from that humble beginning to a worldwide leadership training powerhouse, catering to Global 2000 corporations. The company now has a presence in 45 countries, teaches its courses in over 25 languages and has over 800 corporate customers. While the privately-held company does not disclose specific figures, a spokesperson told us that ‘tens of thousands’ of individuals participate in its programs each year.

From its original product offering, the company’s increasingly sophisticated programs have expanded into Leadership Effectiveness (with progressive courses in Performance Leadership, Growth Leadership, and Strategic Leadership); Sales Effectiveness (including Consultative Sales, Strategic Sales, and Sales Management/Leadership); and Individual Effectiveness (including Purposeful Communication, Inspired Thinking, and Fulfilled Self). Many corporations utilize all three programs for individuals being groomed for leadership positions . Wilson not only trains, but also helps companies establish their own training programs such as Hewlett-Packard’s “Sales University”.  The company has some excellent Thought Pieces and White Papers on their approach posted on their website here:

The overall approach is one of integrating a number of factors driving performance and effectiveness illustrated best by the diagram below:

So does it work? Well, one bit of evidence that someone thinks it does is that over 800 Global 2000 corporations have signed on for Wilson’s programs, many on an ongoing basis. And while objective measurement of Leadership improvements are tricky (and while the Company, again, does not disclose its or its clients measurement methods or results) a couple of case studies provided by Wilson suggest significant improvements.

For Novell (a provider of infrastructure and enterprise software), Wilson worked with Senior Management to improve the Novell’s sales and service support centers’ performance. Novell products require close working relationships between salespeople and customer support to ensure satisfied customers and this had not always been the case. Wilson surveyed Novell’s support engineers and found significant knowledge and leadership skill gaps which were hindering the support function’s capabilities. A custom program — which included all of Wilson Learning’s Signature Service content and selected models from The Consultative Process — was developed for the field support engineers. After intensive training Novell’s service business reported not only a 20% increase in service revenue but also that customer satisfaction in the entire service and support organization rose from 74.39 percent to 82.60 percent during the period of January 2001 to January 2002. What’s more, the gap score (the difference between what customers expect and what they get) improved dramatically. In January 2001 it was .83; by November it was only .41.

In another case, this time working for a global financial services firm, Wilson was charged with improving leadership skills, with an emphasis on people and communication skills) in the Asia Pacific division. The staff seemed to have very little appreciation for others’ communication and work styles. For example, underwriters  found it difficult to work with business development teams because they did not share the same protocol. As a result, work tension among senior staff members was high. Wilson held intensive “Social Styles” workshops including senior, middle and junior management members and, in the process, created a common work language to describe both tasks and people. Participants in the program were then required to carry the language (and the skills they’d learned) back to their businesses and train their respective teams. Management reports a healthy increase in productivity, more forceful and effective leaders, and reduced workforce tension and attributes these directly to Wilson’s work.

Do anecdotes equal hard data in measuring success? Of course not. Did Washington, Lincoln, Churchill (or Lombardi) get their leadership skills from a program? Unlikely. But can programs such as Wilson’s produce positive results and train managers to at least think in leadership mode? Undoubtedly. So while some leaders are certainly born, there’s room for all of us to develop whatever leadership skills that came in the original package.
—Don Linn
(with thanks to Nancy Brenny at Wilson Learning for providing information)

Our Ten Favorite Business Magazines

There’s no doubt that in this rapidly changing environment, successful leaders and managers need not only to stay abreast of developments in their companies and industries, but also of events worldwide. While there’s lots to read on the web, for great digests of top stories and in-depth features, it’s hard to beat magazines, either in print or in their online editions (many of which you can read for free). Of the hundreds that are out there, here are ten favorites, with links to their online version where available. (In coming issues of this newsletter, we’ll feature selected articles and profiles from these magazines.)

1. Bloomberg Business Week
Up to the minute reporting, analysis and perspective on business and economic activity worldwide.

2. The Economist
If you only read one magazine, make it The Economist. Its global perspective provides important insights into business, politics and other key issues of our time and does so in an entertaining way.

3. Entrepreneur
The small business authority helping to manage and grow your business.

4. Fast Company
The how-to magazine that keeps managers abreast of emerging business trends and ideas. Fast Company is the magazine that sets the idea agenda for the future of business.

5. Forbes
Great company and executive profiles along with practical financial advice and smart tips to manage your money.

6. Fortune
Fortune speaks the language of the street: Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue, and everywhere in between, providing innovative business ideas and in-depth strategies and analysis.

7. Harvard Business Review
The Bible for senior executives (and those aspiring to join their ranks), HBR provides thought provoking ideas on managerial excellence from the best in the business.

8. Inc.
The magazine for growing companies, Inc. provides managers with the hands-on tools and information needed to grow small to mid-size companies.

9. McKinsey Quarterly
The business journal of McKinsey & Company, offering new ways of thinking about management in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to help business people run their organizations more productively, more competitively, and more creatively.

10. strategy + business
For decision makers in businesses and organizations around the world. Our purpose is to illuminate the complex choices that leaders face — in strategy, marketing, operations, human capital, public presence, governance, and other domains — and the impact of their decisions. From the international management consulting firm Booz & Company.