Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - David Wike

My Friend of Simplicity interview today is with David Wike who lives in Worcestershire here in the English Midlands. I met David a couple of years ago through various Web based connections. I am delighted to say David is the first person from the UK in my Friend of Simplicity series.

David and I regularly exchange opinions and thoughts about business, leadership and management (and football). We have worked together in one of David’s ‘Towards the Perfect Business’ workshops aimed at small and medium sized businesses.

Although we don’t always agree, we always respect each other’s opinion and that’s what it is all about surely.

In fact the only real down side to David is that he supports Liverpool Football Club! … Just joking.

TREVOR: Hi David – tell us a bit about your career.

DAVID: Firstly Trevor, thank you for inviting me to participate, and to join in with the exalted company you keep, including US presidential candidates, UK ex-cabinet ministers and other luminaries. In case anyone is wondering why Trevor’s friends mostly live abroad and have never actually met him, I can reassure you that he is relatively normal - well, apart from … shh!

My working life started in the mid-sixties when I joined the Austin Motor Company, then part of the British Motor Corporation. I trained as an engineer although I spent most of my subsequent motor industry career in product and business planning and even had a couple of years based in the marketing department.

I was the last ever product planning manager for the original, classic Mini and was also product strategy manager for MG sports cars. I am immensely proud to have been involved with two of the most iconic British automotive brands.

Of course, the mid-sixties was a time when Mini Coopers dominated rallying and saloon car racing, so it was inevitable that many of us should get hooked by the motorsports bug. After a year or two of rallying I decided to try my hand at racing and bought a single-seater. This venture was entirely unsuccessful. We took the car to Silverstone for a couple of test sessions. Each time the engine blew up. Undaunted I entered my first race and the same thing happened, so I sold the car and went back to rallying.

On several occasions during my time as Mini product planning manager I got to talk to the legendary John Cooper of Mini Cooper and Formula One fame, and then a few years back I met Paddy Hopkirk whose 1964 Monte Carlo Rally victory was the first big win for a Mini Cooper. Paddy introduced himself thus, “I’m Paddy Hopkirk and I’m very old, but I’m still alive.”!

I have been enormously privileged to meet, and indeed work with, some amazing people over the years. I have also had the luck to drive a great many wonderful (and some not so wonderful) cars … and get paid for it!

TREVOR: I remember from when I was a kid and through to my late 20’s, car production was an enormous part of our UK economy. My Dad worked in the business. Nowadays by comparison we make very few cars in the UK. What went wrong and where do you place the blame?

DAVID: I don’t think that we have enough space here for a complete analysis of the failure of the UK motor industry. Of course, it is not just the car industry; many other large employers have disappeared from the UK economy, whether it be car manufacturing, shipbuilding, steel making, coal mining, they have all gone.

I am not convinced that the majority of people in the UK have woken up to the fact that the mass employers of unskilled or semi-skilled labour have disappeared and that new attitudes and skills are required for the 21st century. As you and I have discussed in the past Trevor, attitude is more important than qualifications. With the right attitude people can re-train and develop the skills required to be successful in a changing environment.

The government is aware of this and is trying to address it, but I am not sure that all of the civil servants involved in implementing new strategies have the flexibility of thinking or grasp of the urgency required to carry them through effectively.

Recently I read a comment that by the time the ‘authorities’ had accepted a new way of doing things and included it in the school curriculum, it was already out of date. I guess it goes back to John O’Leary’s thoughts on managers working from obsolete user manuals.

TREVOR: What were the greatest changes for you in the transition from working in a large organisation to becoming self-employed?

DAVID: I had to do everything myself, there was nobody to talk to and I didn’t get paid as much!

I think that probably reflects the experience of most people making the transition from being one of several thousand to being chairman and chief executive of themselves.

I recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece called ‘Bin the Business Plan’. It’s not that I don’t think it important to have a plan, it’s just that a row of numbers in a projected cashflow doesn’t often equate to reality. From what I can see of early stage businesses, they generally run 12 to 24 months behind plan. Part of this is because most of us are eternally optimistic about how quickly things can be made to happen. When you are all departments rolled into one there are never enough hours in the day. But at least the decision making process is simpler!

TREVOR: I know you are a great fan of Ricardo Semler and his fantastic success resulting from having complete faith in front line staff determining their own futures. Why then do so many organisations work in the opposite way to Semler’s ideas?

DAVID: Semler says that senior people from many organisations visit Semco to understand how they work, and then leave with the comment that it is very interesting but would never work in their business. I can well understand why they think that because his approach does seem bonkers at first sight!

I think that some of the things that Semler has done with Semco would be difficult to incorporate into a UK operation. Unfortunately the ever increasing legislative burden faced by UK business makes it much more risky to let the front line or anyone else sort things out for themselves. In addition, quality standards such as ISO 9001 like to see strict adoption of policies and procedures. All of which probably limits the appetite for Semler’s totally democratic (anarchic?) approach.

However, I imagine that the real problem is that it would require a great deal of hard work over many years to change attitudes throughout an organisation and to implement fully a Semco like structure. Having said that, I have come across companies that operate elements of Semler’s philosophy, although I think it is because it makes sense to them rather than because they have read his books.

TREVOR: Tell us about how you are developing your speaking skills, and do you have a few easy tips for those who struggle with public speaking?

DAVID: As you know Trevor, I am a member of a speakers’ club. Our aim is to help people to improve their speaking skills in a supportive environment. Over time members complete assignments covering different aspect of speaking. Each speech is assessed by another club member against set criteria. Although the emphasis is on what one does well, aspects that could be improved are pointed out.

I had made many presentations during my corporate life; nevertheless I have learned a great deal and hopefully improved as a result.


1) Practise, practise, practise, even if it is only giving a speech to the dog.
2) Don’t worry too much about the words, they are only 10% of the message, the rest is down to delivery.
3) Engage the audience by making eye contact (briefly) with every one of them – and keep doing it. To do this swing from the hips – if you swivel your head you’ll look as though you are watching a tennis match and if you just move your eyes you’ll look manic!

TREVOR: What plans do you have to develop your consulting and coaching business?

DAVID: As you have discovered Trevor, you have to get the message ‘out there’, so more writing (maybe I’ll eventually finish the book, which has been stalled around page 70 for rather a long time) and speaking whenever I get the opportunity. And if anyone would like my free monthly business newsletter emailed to them, just let me know.

TREVOR: Finally David – how does it pain you to know that for the 20th consecutive season your beloved Liverpool football team will finish below Manchester United in the Premiership League Table? … Sorry couldn’t resist that one.

DAVID: It would be less painful if you didn’t keep crowing about Manchester United! But then I remind myself that United still haven’t won the English or European championships as many times as Liverpool, and that maybe next season we will come out on top once again!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Whistle Blowers - Brave or Trouble Makers?

I’ve just been reading a harrowing story in the Daily Mail about abuse of elderly patients in a nursing home. That is a terrible indictment of staff supposedly offering care for these vulnerable people.

Here is an extract from the Daily Mail story:

‘Elderly patients were tied to beds to stop them moving around and others were lying in their own filth. The frail and vulnerable were being bullied by more aggressive residents and there was food rotting on dirty work surfaces. All this in a home staffed by trained nurses.’

What is arguably even worse is that the Nurse (Philip Brown) who ‘blew the whistle’ on this abuse to the appropriate authorities had to wait 7 years to see action taken against those he named as responsible for the abuse.

Although the care business is a very emotive area the act of ‘whistle blowing’ is important in all businesses. Those who ‘blow the whistle’ are described in my experience as either brave or trouble makers. I prefer the word 'brave.'

Happily I’ve never had to be the whistle blower in any situation in my career which probably means that I have been fortunate enough to work with and around people who have integrity and professionalism. I am very pleased about that.

If ever I am faced by unethical practices I hope and believe I would have no hesitation in blowing the whistle. My feeling is most of us would do that and accept the consequences, however personally damaging those consequences can be - like being ostracised by colleagues and being labelled a trouble maker thus restricting future employment opportunities.

What is your view on whistle blowing?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's an almighty 'screw-up' Gordon.

Sometimes speaking the 4 words ‘I told you so’ can give one pleasure because we can feel smug when we are proved right. On this occasion, as a life-long Labour Party supporter I take absolutely no pleasure in saying ‘I told you so’

More than 7 months ago, I wrote on this Blog that I thought it was a huge tactical error on Gordon Brown’s part not to call a General Election immediately after he became leader of the Labour Party and our Prime Minister, succeeding Tony Blair.

At that time Gordon was still on his ‘honeymoon’ as PM. Everything in the garden appeared rosy. He was miles ahead of his rival David Cameron, the leader of the Tory Party in the opinion polls as the most suitable person to be Prime Minister. The Labour Party was way ahead of the Tories in the polls as the most electable party. How times change.

I believe if he had gone for a snap election last Autumn he would have won a comfortable majority. He would have had the comfort of knowing he had 5 years to stabilise things and build a Government that had his stamp on it.

Instead, he dithered and dallied and decided in the end not to go for the election – presumably advised by people closest to him. How come, if someone like me can see something as obvious as the nose on Gordon Brown's face, the massive machinery of the Labour party cannot see it?

I am not some sort of ‘expert’ on such things. It just goes to prove my long held view that the word ‘expert’ must always be challenged.

We are now faced with the certain defeat – probably obliteration - of the Labour Party at the next General Election in approximately 18 months from now. If that happens, Gordon Brown will be remembered as a dithering, indecisive, incompetent leader who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

And yet ….. It could have been so different.

Four more words spring to mind - ‘I hope I’m wrong’ - Sorry Gordon – I think you've screwed up big time - we will see.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - John O'Leary

My Simplicity interview today is another US based friend John O'Leary. I first came across John when commenting on Tom Peters Blog and we have struck up a friendship through email and Blogging that continues to develop. John and I share some similar music tastes and we share many similar ideas about how organisations should value people working at the front line. John is based in the US.

TREVOR: Hi John – I know you have had a fascinating and interesting career. I would love to hear a quick summary of some of the stuff you have done.

JOHN: Thanks for the opportunity, Trevor! Well, I always feel my career is just beginning, but I guess that’s because of all the twists and turns and course corrections I’ve made. In 1968, after several years of college—and 6 years of studying Ancient Greek—I abruptly left academia (and a promising future teaching dead languages) to play rock & roll full-time. My campus rock band in New Haven had been picking up some prestige bookings in Greenwich Village, New York—opening for acts like the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Sly & the Family Stone, and Joni Mitchell—and we were invited to play the Berkeley Folk Festival that summer. So the band and I didn’t need much convincing to take the leap. We never got the recording contract we wanted but we had a great ride for the next year as did my subsequent “almost famous” bands. It was a real kick to be a part of the NY and LA rock scene in the late 60s and 70s, hanging or jamming with the greats—Blood Sweat & Tears, the Byrds, Tina Turner, Jackson Browne. 15 years later I changed course again and landed in the training & development world. I lucked out again and got to study or work with luminaries such as Werner Erhard, Peter Senge, and Fernando Flores. 15 years later I started consulting under the Tom Peters umbrella. Oh, and in the early 1980s I took some time off to run for US President as an independent—though that was mostly for the fun of it and to write a book about, which is mercifully out of print. A lot of folks who saw me on TV in 1980 still haven’t made the connection to me now, which allows me to keep working.

TREVOR: I was born in 1952 and so I was brought up in England as a teenager in the 1960’s on The Beatles and the music revolution. We rightly remember with great nostalgia the 1960’s. Was it really such an influential decade or do we just have rose tinted spectacles when looking back?

JOHN: Every decade is influential in different ways of course. What interests me is the contribution the 60s made to popular culture, especially in the area of pop music. If rock & roll was born in the 50s, it got a license to drive in the mid-60s. Rock wasn’t taken seriously at first—despite the genius of songwriters like Chuck Berry. But after the Beatles & Dylan showed up, the universe changed. Someday I may write about the summer of 1965, the tipping point. Everybody was trying to outdo everybody else then—the Stones, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Kinks. All at once you were hearing songs like “Satisfaction,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Help,” “Mr Tambourine Man,” “Help Me Rhonda.” Not to mention some great Motown hits.

TREVOR: You do work for Tom Peters who is one of my management icons. Tell us something about working as part of the Tom Peters Company.

JOHN: Actually in the States we’re all independent contractors—in the spirit of “Free Agent Nation” (Daniel Pink’s book and Tom’s credo)—who come together to work on specific projects for clients who want to implement Tom’s ideas. We all share Tom’s iconoclasm and have a lot of fun contributing to the blog, which is a terrific worldwide forum.

TREVOR: What do you see as the greatest challenges for leaders in the future John?.

JOHN: In business, government, education, healthcare, even religion I see leaders trying to make sense of a world turned upside down. Leaders trying to get their organizations to work with user manuals that are obsolete. What’s desperately needed is some independent thinking, and some courage to improvise. This is not a good time to rely on traditional management wisdom, economics orthodoxy, or political dogma. Clinging to ideology can destroy everything. The wise men in robes don’t have the answer. That, in part, is what my book is about.

TREVOR: Tell us about the book.

JOHN: Well, it’s turning into my life work, given how long I’ve been hacking away at it. My focus is on business lessons we can learn from rock & roll bands. The book identifies 6 ways in which the great rock & roll bands are exceptional business teams: (1) they’re radical innovators and risk-takers; (2) they’re passionate and inspired about their work—and they have fun; (3) they manage differences and capitalize on conflict; (4) they create a distinct identity and brand; (5) they’re ambitious, focused, and result-driven, despite stereotypes to the contrary; and (6) they’re highly autonomous and independent-minded. Then I show how to instill—or liberate—these abilities in our organizational teams. And I argue that without an infusion of these qualities many of our beleaguered organizations and institutions, ill equipped to compete in this crazy economy, are headed for obsolescence or irrelevance. To keep it interesting I illustrate my points with lots of stories and anecdotes from boardrooms, bars, and recording studios. It will be a business book you can dance to. Hopefully I’ll finish it this year. I’m a slow writer, but maybe it will appeal to all the slow readers out there.

TREVOR: Have you any plans to come back to England?

JOHN: I’d like to go tonight, but I’m knee-deep in other projects. And to stay healthy I’m trying to trim back on air travel for awhile. I don’t think living on planes is particularly good for any of us. But London is one of my favorite cities. The last time I was there in 2002 I played guitar at an entrance to the Tube just for the fun of it, and I happened to leave my guitar case open. A homeless woman came along and threw in a few pence. Something told me I should just accept it with gratitude, so I did. For one hour I was part of that street community and they took care of me. I'll always remember that snapshot of London. After that I made my pilgrimage to Liverpool to pay tribute to the Beatle gods.

TREVOR: And finally John you know I can’t possibly interview you without asking what you honestly think about The Eagles – Just how iconic are they and how will they be remembered when they finally hang up the instruments?

JOHN: I believe the Eagles, who came out of the same LA folk-rock crowd I used to get in trouble with in the early 1970s, will be forever honored for their alchemy of rock & country. The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers got that started but the Eagles took it to a new level, with a little Don Henley soul mixed in. And from the beginning they were a triple-threat band, which is a hallmark of the top bands. They could sing, play, and write. Don Henley and Glenn Frey were among the best songwriters that came of age in the 70s. When I first heard “Best of My Love” on the radio in 1974 I had to pull over to the side of the road, it hit me so hard. And of course “Hotel California” belongs on a short list of perfect rock songs. It should be launched in a time capsule documenting the whole era. The Eagles are also a wonderful illustration of a business team that learned how to harness their conflict—interpersonal and creative—to put out strong product for a fanatic customer base. And they’re back at it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

For love or money?

A wonderful example of the entirely different priorities and cultures of two teams in football on Wednesday as Manchester United won the European Champions League.

The organisers decreed that a non player representing each club should lead the team up the steps to receive their winners and losers medals.

The losers, Chelsea decided that their club ‘icon’ was Peter Kenyon the Chief Executive – a pen pusher – the man who controls all the business interests at Chelsea on behalf of the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club.

The winners, Manchester United decided to give the honour of leading then team up the steps to Sir Bobby Charlton – one of United’s all time great players.


The Chelsea view of the world of football is all about business, money and profit and they choose a pen pusher as the most appropriate person to represent them to the watching audience of millions of football fans worldwide on TV.

Manchester United believe that a front liner – one of the greatest ever players to wear the red shirt - is the best possible role model to represent the club. Of course United have pen pushers too but they are in the background - where they should be - doing vital work.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Best Team in Europe - Again!

Cometh the Hour Cometh the Man

Someone will be a hero or a villian in a few hours time!

My beloved Manchester United play Chelsea in Moscow in the Final of the European Champions League later today - Wednesday.

I've been a passionate fan of Manchester United since 1963 when I was 11 and this is without a doubt the biggest match for United since I began supporting them. This match also makes history as the first all English European Champions League Final.

I am nervous but I have faith in my team and in our unique and immortal manager - Sir Alex Ferguson - a living legend.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Sriram Kannan

My Friend of Simplicity today is Sriram Kannan who lives in Hong Kong

Sriram is a young man going places in the corporate world of finance. I am currently co-authoring a book with Sriram that we hope to publish by the end of 2008. Sriram has important things to say about why both hard and soft aspects of leadership and management are required as much today as ever in the competitive business world.

TREVOR: Hi Sriram – can you tell us a little bit about your background, your career and how you came to working in Hong Kong please?

SRIRAM : Hey Trevor, Firstly, I’d like to thank you for interviewing me in your Friend of Simplicity series. To introduce myself - I was born & raised in Chennai (erstwhile Madras) and come from a middle-class South-Indian family with strong southern values (like emphasis on good education, decent career, firm family bonding, deep-rooted commitment to excel and remain contended). I graduated first-class with a degree in Commerce & Accounting from the University of Madras in ’98 and decided to pursue my Chartered Accountancy - guess I was just numerically inclined. I enrolled with a leading firm of Chartered Accountants in Chennai & completed my articled training alongside my ACCA exams. Having successfully qualified in ’02, I was fortunate enough to join PricewaterhouseCoopers, Chennai as a Jr.Officer in their Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS) Division and was engaged in various risk-assessment / audit & business consulting engagements for almost two-and-half years. I also qualified as a Chartered Secretary & later moved on to join a leading banking & financial services technology company ‘Polaris Software Labs Limited’ in the role of a Business Analyst and was instrumental in developing the functional requirements & specifications for ’Intellect Online’ – an online internet banking product. To gain international exposure & as providence (and timing) would have it, I had the opportunity of joining a diversified retailing / trading group in Hong Kong as their Group Finance & Administration Manager in Sep’05 and have since enjoyed both my life & work in Hong Kong, an exceptionally exciting place.

TREVOR: You are a highly qualified accountant and I know how hard you guys have to work to achieve your qualifications. How do you feel as a qualified accountant about recent high profile financial scandals like Enron / WorldCom etc?

: Well, sadly the reputation of accountants was tarnished & tested during those difficult times and ever since. Basically, accountants are trained to lay emphasis on substance over form when it comes to financial reporting & disclosure but I guess the contrary happened resulting in 'creative accounting' and such high-profile scandals. Actually, you may find the book ‘Conspiracy of Fools’ by Kurt Eichenwald interesting – a book that tells the Enron tale with a cinematic narrative style. I personally feel 'miserable' when such scandals surface primarily because of the bad publicity it brings to the accounting fraternity, which was always respected for its diligence & conservatism – its like people looking at you like a con man instead of custodian, which is really sad.

TREVOR: What do you see as the key financial issues for small businesses?

SRIRAM : Key financial issues for small businesses according to me are:

*Managing working capital for growth / expansion
*Funding (including identifying / evaluating method of funding) new projects
*Managing inventory i.e. ensure optimal inventory levels
*Managing foreign exchange exposure
*Ensuring an optimal capital structure i.e. right mix of debt & equity.
*Prudently investing excess cash & cash-equivalents in income-yielding assets / projects.
*Having a strong balance-sheet & ensuring steady future cash flows (not necessarily profits!) – as the saying goes ‘Sales is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is REALITY’

TREVOR: You and I are co-authoring a book about the hard and soft sides of management. Do you think there is enough emphasis on the softer skills of management in the formal training of accountants?

SRIRAM: Yes, I am really excited about our project & the co-creation experience. It’s been fun, so far. I guess, accountants have been both taught & trained to use their ‘left brain’ more than the ‘‘right brain’ and get too analytical / judgemental about almost everything. Well, you must understand that the professional demands are also such – especially in a controllership / trusteeship function where business accountants & finance managers act as ‘custodians’ of money / wealth for their owners / shareholders & therefore have to wear their ‘prudent-hat’ before a financial / business decision is taken – where the focus is more on the *hard* skills. That being said, anything in excess is not good i.e. an accountant / controller should not ‘stall’ a decision by getting over-critical.
Typically, accountants are a conservative flock but things are changing, hopefully for the good. Emphasis (during training) is laid on being a team-player, grooming ones’ interpersonal skills, engaging in dialogue (rather than debate), being proactive (rather than reactive) and honing the softer skills to succeed both personally & professionally.

TREVOR: Compared to me you are a young man in the early stages of what I am sure will be very successful career. What qualities do you look for in leaders in 2008?

SRIRAM: Thanks for reminding me my age Trevor! I believe ‘Age is in the mind’. Having said that, one cannot just sit back & watch time pass by. As Geoffrey Chaucer once remarked “Time & tide wait for no man”. So, there must be a 'purpose' for our existence & that’s where the challenge is – in finding YOUR PURPOSE. Leaders should lead by example and set the ‘tone at the top’. The qualities I look for in leaders are Integrity, Excellence, Enthusiasm, Commitment, Execution, Confidence & Empathy.

TREVOR: Are you excited about the potential for the Indian economy?

SRIRAM: Ofcourse Yes! The whole world is excited and so am I. Despite the fact that there are now a whole host of global issues like the sub-prime credit crisis and mortgage melt-down, soaring inflation, rising oil/gold prices etc…I believe India & China could stay insulated for a while (to a certain degree) due to increasing foreign exchange reserves and a large domestic market / consumption. I therefore think it’s the best time to lure the locals. Nevertheless, there are a few concerns like crawling infrastructure, food & power shortage, low welfare expenditure & lack of political will that could pose a problem for the growth of Indian economy in the short-to-medium term .It would be really interesting to watch the elephant & the dragon dance together in the future – there’s already a new word for that ’CHINDIA’ i.e. China & India!

TREVOR: Do you have plans to visit England in the near future?

SRIRAM: Definitely! I’ve heard so much about England and that makes me want to get there sooner rather than later.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Pain of Learning

I am an eternal optimist. I always see the glass half full.

But today I’m feeling low.

Yesterday Annie and I delivered the 30th Trust Me I’m a Patient workshop. We have seen 1500 participants through our workshops and the evaluations – apart from the very occasional negative comment - have always been very good.

The workshop yesterday didn’t go well and some delegates said it just didn’t work for them.

We were devastated last night. We are probably wrong to take it so seriously when I look at current events in Burma and China!

Because we take our work seriously - and want to deliver a professional product that’s well received - is probably the reason we both still feel somewhat gutted 24 hours later.

Of course I want to learn from my customers. I often write on this Blog and in articles about the importance of responding to customer feedback and I must walk my own talk.

If our customer is not happy then I must look at the workshop and think about the message I am hearing from the customer.

Learning can be painful because it means we have not met our own standards.

My great life guru Professor George Giarchi always tell me ‘This Too Will Pass’ so I know we will be feeling ok tomorrow. For the moment we are using the weekend to reflect.

Already we have begun to think about changing the workshop with some new creative ideas.

The biggest lesson for me is that the best learning is often the most painful.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Global Village

I am hoping that my ‘Friend of Simplicity’ series of interviews is being well received by regular and new readers.

I've lined up quite a few of my friends from various parts of the world and will be publishing interviews with them over the next few weeks.

It's amazing for me – being of a certain age – that I have so many people around the world who I call friends. I think I now have more friends that I have never met than those I have met.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan – 'The times they are a changing’

We all must make up our minds if the age of digital communication is a good or bad thing. For me there simply is no argument.

I think it is wonderful.

The world is now a small village and I think it is fantastic.

Thank you to all my friends who have agreed to be the subject of an interview – I value it greatly.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Dave Wheeler

My Friend of Simplicity interview today is with a good friend and fellow simplifier Dave Wheeler who lives in Little Rock Arkansas in the United States. I met Dave a few months ago through the Tom Peters Blog. He and I immediately hit it off as two people sharing similar opinions about leadership, front line employees and simplicity.

TREVOR: Hi Dave – Tell me a little about your career.

DAVE: Well, the majority of my professional life was spent in the U.S. Air Force. The first 12 of my 24 years were spent as an Aircrew Life Support/Survival Training specialist. We inspected and maintained a wide variety of aircrew survival equipment from oxygen gear, life rafts, survival kits, and parachutes for example. We loaded tons of equipment on aircraft. But the best part of this field was training. We trained them how to use the equipment, how to escape and evade and how to survive in five different biomes. I essentially got paid to go camping in places like Guam, Thailand, the Philippines, and got to duct tape officers to trees when they screwed up in evasion scenarios. It gets no better than that.

My last 12 years were spent as the military equivalent of a Business Consultant. The title was Director of Quality, Performance, and Productivity Management. I worked directly with Group and Squadron Commanders to "design and deploy" a complete performance management systems for their each organizations in the part of the wing. We started at senior leader level worked down to the lowest frontline group they had. I also trained and certified an “in house” consultant to keep them on track and moving forward. I facilitated strategic and human resource plans, built balanced scorecards of key performance metrics, customer and supplier identification and relationship management strategies, survey design, semi-annual audits of their systems to find strengths and areas for improvement, and training, training, training were the basics. It was the best job on the planet and an invaluable "hands on" education on the challenges and barriers to "doing” effective leadership on the job from the Boardroom to the Floor. I sometimes will pick up a book on leadership and management and wonder "Buddy, have you ever seen a workplace or spoken to a frontliner in your life?” Many can tell you a bunch about "what" to do, but they often don't have a great deal to say about the specifics of execution, the “why’s" or the “hows". I think that's the one thing the "Boardroom to Floor" scope of the consultant's role gave me. After leaving the military I went to back to school, was the Warehouse and Delivery Manager for a furniture store for a time, and have spent the past 6 years progressively as a customer service representative/technical support specialist/Manager/Training Manager in the Telecommunications industry. Decades of leadership and management experience to be sure. Blue collar and frontline to the core.... that would be me!

TREVOR: What stirred your initial interest in leadership?

DAVE: I think the one thing that unites everyone who has had a job is that at some point we have said to ourselves "if I ever get to be in charge here, things would be different". We had a list of things in mind we would change if we had the chance. . Funny thing is those lists were usually 1000% on point as to what the real issues were or what needed to be done to work smarter, more productively, and more efficiently. This is why I went straight to the folks on the frontline when I was told to figure out a way to work around a 25% reduction in staffing and 18% less funding. I always told myself if I ever got to a supervisor position, I would not forget what it was like to sit in that chair on the frontline and I would be the leader that I wanted to work for. I’ve managed to keep that attitude in every job I’ve had and it has served me well. I worked for some terrific leaders early in my career who kind of went against the "rank=knowledge" paradigm of the military and gave me a opportunity to “get out of the chair” and do some low level leading on some project teams. My interest in leadership was simple. First, I wanted to make sure I didn’t disappoint the folks who showed trust and confidence in me. Second, I didn’t want to go back to that frontline chair. The Air Force is unique in the fact that although, I was a relatively senior enlisted person the position I had essentially made me the V.P. of Quality. I had a seat at the conference table with “the big guys” and was a regular backbencher in meetings with the even bigger guys. I was able to listen, watch and learn. There are few folks I respect more than the Air Force officer corps from the lowest ranking Lieutenant to the most senior General Officer. The competition for advancement begins day one and the slightest mis-step can effectively keep a person from getting a position of command. They were generally assigned to a unit for 2-3 years and then move on. In that period that get constant assessments of their units performance, a degree of accountability not seen in the corporate world today. I was definitely lucky to work for and learn from some terrific leaders and I got to observe up close some terrific bad examples as well.

TREVOR: I know you are a great advocate of the Baldrige Quality Framework – can you briefly outline why you think this is important in a business?

DAVE: Well, to put it “Simplicity” I hope, if you have read a book about management or business practices over the past 30 or 40 years you will notice a few recurring themes. They talk about the need of involved and engaged leadership, customer focus and relationship management, data driven decision making, strategic planning, employee well being and satisfaction, managing the processes that produce your products and services, and using a balanced scorecard of metrics to continuously monitor and improve performance. These are the seven core things that an organization “manages”; it’s the stuff that we do on a daily basis. Most management books tell you what to do. They offer little as to why it is important and even less on how to go about doing it. That’s why The National Malcom Baldrige Quality Award’s Criteria for Performance Excellence is such a “value added” tool.

What exactly is the Baldrige Quality Framework? The Criteria for Performance Excellence is a framework that any organization, in any industry, of any size can use to design, “deploy”, and continuously improve a “world class” closed loop performance management system. Oh, and it’s free as well. Each of those seven core items listed above is addressed as a part of the system. The system has two pieces. There is a Leadership Triad that is the leadership, strategic planning, and customer and market focus categories make up. This is the piece of the puzzle that Senior Leadership is responsible and accountable for in any organization anyway. The “Results Triad” are the things that Senior Leadership and the rest of the organization “do” to produce the products and services the company is in business to produce. The categories in the this part are employee focus, process management and the actual data of the “balanced scorecard” of key customer, operational, financial, work force, and process/supplier data. The Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management category is the data driven decision-making piece. It gives the management system the agility and continuous improvement capacity to react and adjust quickly to changes in customer needs and expectations or the competitive environment. Nothing difficult about the basics to be sure, just a better way of organizing the stuff we need to be doing anyway.

Why is a systems based approach a better way of doing business? In many organizations stuff often gets done in isolation. How often do key initiatives not get funded, or folks don’t get the training or other tools needed to produce good results? How many people look at a vision statement or mission statement and not see where their job links to the big picture? “That would be all the time Dave” you reply? The major benefit of a systems based approach is it enables all levels to link and align with company strategy. The Senior Leadership of air mobility might say departure reliability is a strategic imperative. If my army customer is waiting at “Base A” and needs to be in place at “Base B” with x number of troops and equipment at x hour, we had best be launching our planes on time from my base to be at Base A on time to get them moved. My piece of the puzzle in Life Support to make sure planes left on time was to make sure they were properly configured with all the survival equipment required for that type of mission and insuring all aircrew members were certified and current in their training. The Wing Leaders strategic imperative became one of mine so I could plan, train, and allocate resources to make sure that a late departure wasn’t because we didn’t do our job. Aircraft provisioning and aircrew training became key processes that we monitored and continuously tried to improve. Knowing the CRITICAL processes enabled me to identify the customers and suppliers for each. I knew their requirements and limitations, who to talk to for feedback or get involved in trying to do it better. A great snowball effect and possible only because we could align and link to what was really critical rather than spend time on the worthless many. Systems rule!

How does it work? Go out to and you’ll see the link to the National Quality Award site. Next, just download a copy of the Criteria for Performance Excellence and read the overview and core values. The Criteria doesn’t tell you what to do because it’s not prescriptive. For example, the Strategic Planning Category has two Areas to Address. One is Strategy Development. The other is Strategy Deployment. The Criteria just asks questions and asks you define what process you use to align with that item. For example, Strategy Development will ask you to describe the processes you use for strategic planning, who are the participants, or how do you determine what your strategic advantages and challenges. How can you produce an effective plan if you don’t know those for goodness sakes? In Strategy Deployment, it asks you to describe how you translate goals and objectives into action plans and how do you insure that these items translate into resource allocations company wide or what human resource plans do you have to insure you can meet your key goals and objectives. If you have a process to meet that item…great. If you don’t, develop one. You will easily recognize many of the “questions” as concepts the books you have read pointed out you need to be doing. The Criteria take it a step better by giving you a framework to align with that helps show you how to make it work in your company.

Simple, free, and a process that leads to improving performance, productivity, and results. It gets no better than that.

TREVOR: Like me you have great faith in front line employees. How can managers get the best out of front line folks?

DAVE: You build a relationship with them. You become a team. You share accountability for producing results with them so you have a choice. The folks you lead can be your allies or your enemies and your actions help them decide which category they will place themselves in. I have found that making sure they know what the performance expectations are, understand how their performance is going to be measured, and getting the hell out of their way works great. We create an environment that promotes trust, teamwork, and continuous learning and improvement. My job is making their job as easy as possible. I give feedback, coach and develop, and get them the stuff they need to excel. It actually is easy, I’m just the kind of “boss” I wanted to work for when I was sitting in that chair on the frontline.

TREVOR: What do you see as the three greatest qualities of an effective leader?

DAVE: Number One is credibility. Second, would have to be credibility. Finally, yeah, credibility for sure.

My credibility is my leadership capital. Credibility + Consistency = Trust. Trust + Collaboration = Teamwork. If I’m not credible, we won’t be able to work in an environment of trust, teamwork, and continuous improvement. I can have allies or enemies. The best piece of leadership advice I received was from a General I worked for who said he would rather have everyone inside the tent “pee-ing” out than on the outside “pee-ing” in…paraphrasing the Lyndon Johnson quote about J. Edgar Hoover. Crowded but dry immediately became my goal for both the condition of my tent and my leadership ability!

TREVOR: Do you think the leadership model that you knew so well in the military is interchangeable in business or not?

DAVE: Absolutely. I just finished a great book “Leading from the Front, No Excuses Leadership Tactics for Women” that was written by former Marine Corps Captains Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch. They take their “lessons learned” from their time in the Corps and describe ten key practices to become a great leader. One that struck a chord with me and reminded me of a cornerstone of my leadership style was the “True Leaders Dedicate Themselves to Service~Take Care of Those You Lead” concept. My Father was also in the Air Force and he was a disciplinarian and stickler for detail. I recall he would show up in at his troops barracks early Saturday morning and escort them to the barbershop for a haircut or to inspect the cleanliness of their quarters. He was accountable for their appearance and condition of their quarters and he was doing his job. But he also knew them. He was forever in his pocket when folks needed something, if he had troops deployed somewhere he was always making sure their families were cared for and ok. I grew up thinking I had 20 brothers because there were always extra folks at the table on holidays that couldn’t be with their families. As Captains Morgan and Lynch point out “Be it on the battle field or off, I made sure the needs of my troops, both personal and professional, were met.” Take care of those to the right of you and the left of you and they will take care of you. I just shake my head when folks say that being a leader means you can’t discipline someone or hold them accountable for their performance and their actions. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Let one person slide or not pull their weight on a high performance team and see what that does to the team’s attitude and your credibility. “Leaders constantly recognize and demonstrate how important those under their command are to them and their mission,” observe the Captains. That captures it perfectly because it is the absolute truth.

TREVOR: What do you see as the main challenges for modern leaders?

DAVE: I think leaders will be fine. I think Managers however are in trouble. I really found your friend Brian’s observation that leadership is a decision, not a position to be most profound. Some would argue that the difference between being a manager and a leader is semantics. I would disagree. You don’t have to be a manager to assume a leadership position on a team or in the workplace. You also shared some research from your dissertation with me Trevor that pointed out the differences between the two were in their attitudes and actions… proactive versus reactive. Issues like employee retention, service quality, and an ever-changing competitive environment will place a premium on maximizing the skills, talent, and knowledge of the front liners. Credible leadership can make that happen. A manager who only has positional authority will most likely fail because their folks will bail. The costs of turnover are incalculable on damaging a company’s reputation with their external customers and in their community as being an employer of choice for those seeking career opportunities

TREVOR: Finally Dave – I know you have connections with England - tell us about that – and are we likely to see you over here in the UK at any time in the future?

DAVE: My Dad was stationed at RAF Northolt and I lived in Ruislip from 1958-1962. It is strange but I can’t remember stuff from three days ago but I do recall a great deal from the days in England. I think my screams are still echoing in the halls of the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussard’s, I recall rides on the tube to London, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. I recall a Pan American 707 sitting on the ramp at Northolt on flat tires when the pilot mistakenly thought he was landing at Heathrow. I lived at 12 Cranley Drive and recall a nice couple up the street that always had a kind word and a tin of sweets for the kids in the neighbourhood. I knew them as the Krogers. It turns out however that the folks at 45 Cranley Drive were actually named the Cohen’s and in 1961 they were arrested and charged with espionage as Soviet spies. Those were interesting days indeed and a great time for sure. A trip to the U.K. is a possibility; one that I would say is more distinct than remote. Trevor, I promise you will know when it happens. I’ll be knocking on your door to pry you away from the keyboard long enough to go play a round or two (or twenty) of golf!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Manchester United and Sir Alex - CHAMPIONS!

I am on cloud nine on this glorious Sunday

Manchester United won the Premiership Title this afternoon for the 10th time in the 16 seasons of the existence of the Premiership. An unparalleled record in English football. The Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is 66 years young and still has the enthusiasm and passion of a teenager! I would say if you really want to study leadership – look no further than Sir Alex.
Click here for the BBC Report of this afternoon's wonderful historic events.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Roger (Rocky) Noe

Recently I was lucky enough to hear my hero 83 year old former Labour MP, Tony Benn speak. Tony said something that has stuck with me.

‘‘If you are looking for a leader don’t look up to a platform – look next door’

This definition fits perfectly today’s Friend of Simplicity
Roger (Rocky) Noe who lives in Mt. Washington, Kentucky, US.

I’ve been a friend of Rocky since we first hooked up on Brian Ward’s discussion board (a pre curser to Blogging) some 7 years ago. Rocky is one of the most genuine, humble and down to earth people I have met through the internet. He is also one of the best role models for leadership.

You can catch up with more Rocky wisdom at this link

TREVOR: Hi Rocky – Why Rocky?

ROCKY: I am not sure how the moniker “Rocky” came about. I have answered to that name for as long as I can remember. I have always been known as Rocky until recently in my professional career. Most of my friends do not even know me as Roger. In fact, when I was in my senior year in high school a girl I had been in school with for several asked me if I was any relation to Rocky when the teacher called roll and I answered to Roger.

TREVOR: I know you’ve spent a large part of your career working with young people who are troubled – tell us a bit about that Rocky

ROCKY: Working with at risk youth has been my passion. I really like having the opportunity to give back in that way. Young people are at risk for so many reasons. The drug culture is racing out of control and so many fall victim to being second and third generation victims of drugs, violence, and gang affiliation. Taking these kids and helping them to become “generation breakers” is the ultimate satisfaction. When you have the opportunity to change one person you are affecting whole generations. I have been in the business long enough to see many of the young people I worked with years ago grow up and start their own families. I love it when I meet their children and they are honour students and participating in meaningful social activities. There is no payday like it. There is nothing like having to be a part of positive change.

TREVOR: With such challenging situations how do you make sure you don’t take the stresses home with you?

ROCKY: It is a very challenging job. There are so many hidden stressors. Not only do I have the pressure of working with young people who often don’t want my help, they usually don’t think they need it. That is a huge burden in itself. Young people heading for disaster and not only thinking they do not have any problems, they often think that I am their problem. Trying to stay focused can sometimes be difficult. More than that, I have the added burden of the youth’s family members that will sometimes work against the system. I also have the staff and their problems along with outside forces such as attorneys and various outside workers. The major problem is that I am never right. As the lead administrator in my program I often walk in the door and I have over 100 hundred people that are not very happy with me and that is just in my building alone. That is not including the outside personnel. The biggest problem is that everyone wants to tell me how to do my job and how they would do it differently.

I have learned to deal with that. I do this by relying on my wonderful family and constantly revisiting the thought of what my passion is. I recently had a discussion with a colleague about the importance of passion and its role in staying focused. My colleague asked "what happens if you begin to lose your sense of passion?" She stated that she often feels overwhelmed and thinks that maybe she has lost her passion. Then she took it a step further and asked that if you lose your passion could it really have been a passion all along?

My take on it is that maybe how she is carrying out her passion is not the right avenue. More importantly, I asked her to really think about what she is passionate about. What led her to be in the business that she is in? Is it for the passion or did she settle into a business while trying to meet other needs? What is the end result she is looking for, Is it for riches or for something else? I think the true test of a passion is that it has a relentless drive to it. It is not tied to any business or bank. It is attached to your heart and will drive you regardless of the circumstances. Your passion does not get overwhelmed. Your passion tends to be overwhelming. The avenues by which you pursue your passions may get worn and become overwhelmed, but the passion tends to keep burning. Your passion may lead you to different avenues to pursue it, but it tends to keep burning.

My passion is to help others and it continues to burn. I have changed the avenue of how I pursue my passion from time to time, but my passion remains the same- helping others to grow and overcome their life obstacles.

TREVOR: You award Hillbilly PhD’s – can you explain what the Hillbilly PhD is all about?

ROCKY: The Hillbilly PhD is about not letting the circumstances of life dictate the outcome. Many of the most successful people I know do not have high academic qualifications. What they do have is a relentless drive to overcome their circumstances. We have often talked about Sir Richard Branson and how he achieved a great deal in life although he struggled with academics. He is a perfect example. He is far from a Hillbilly in the traditional sense. He is wealthy and lives very well. (He owns his own island) So I think it is important that I define what I mean by the term Hillbilly. The Hillbilly part comes from the idea of living by good solid values and character traits and not letting things or circumstances rule your life. The PhD stands for putting in a hard days work. I believe that those are the main ingredients to be successful. It is by no means a knock or put down of education, but a statement that everyone can be successful regardless of their circumstances

TREVOR: I love your TERRIFIC leadership model – can you tell us more about that too.

ROCKY: The TERRIFIC model is actually the values and character traits I think that are important to be successful. It stands for Trustworthiness, Effort, Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Forgiveness, Initiative, and Caring. Those are by no means exhaustive to success principles, but I believe that if you can live a life governed by them you will have a good start on success.

TREVOR: We co-authored ‘Three Amigos with one Message.’ Do you have plans to write more books?

ROCKY: I would really like to write a book based on ‘Not letting circumstances dictate your Destiny’ I think there are 5 steps to overcoming life’s circumstances

a. Defining your life passion or purpose
b. Being persistent in the pursuit of that purpose
c. Taking an honest inventory of your talent and weaknesses. Capitalizing on your talents and leveraging the talents of others. (I think it is important to note that I think that your talents must be used to help others and to give back)
d. Being resilient and continuing to focus on your life purpose during failures and set backs
e. Finally, exercising the golden rule of all successful people- Taking action in line with your life’s purpose.

TREVOR: I know you and both your sons support Manchester United - and as far as I am concerned that just proves how well you guys have been brought up. Soccer as you call it in the States is becoming much more popular over there – do you plan to come over here to watch Manchester United one day?

ROCKY: That would be an absolute dream. Both my sons are doing well in soccer and we are huge Man U. fans. We don’t get to see a lot of live game broadcast, but we do watch a lot of the replays. Seeing a live performance would be surreal.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Make Us Citizens and Watch Us Grow

One of the most joyful periods of my career in healthcare management was when I was working alongside adults with a learning disability and their families. This period from about 1979 to 1988 was the most satisfying time of my entire career.

People with a learning disability are often misunderstood by society and at that time, I and two other colleagues formed a team that was charged with the responsibility to close a large hospital that housed 140 patients and re-housing those people into smaller homes in the local community.

I've lost count of the number of public meetings I had to attend as fears in the local neighbourhood resulted in negative publicity about these people. Many local people believed the 'patients’ were dangerous. The most oft voiced opinion was something on the lines – ‘I agree with the principle of these people leaving hospital but I think they would be better situated somewhere else in the town rather than in our locality.’

I am delighted to know things have changed somewhat in the last 20 years because of the battles fought by many parents who refused to accept that their child should be locked away in some isolated asylum away from society.

I remember reading a report many years ago about the fight for people with a learning disability to have the right to vote. The title of that report was ‘Make us Citizens and Watch us Grow’ – I love that title and unfortunately I have never been able to find the report anywhere despite numerous Google searches!

Some of the nicest people I ever met in my life had a label placed on them by society that read ‘learning disability.’

That period of my life was without doubt the most influential in forming my views about disability and stereotyping. I like to think I keep an open mind about these things.

The best advice I had on the subject was from a wonderful Doctor I had the pleasure of working with for 4 years. He said to me the first time I met him;

‘Just spend time with the patients and their families and keep an open mind – that is all I ask of you as a manager.’

What brilliant advice.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Where are our world Icons?

I‘ve been thinking about the great world icons of the last 100 years who are best remembered for their integrity, their caring, their humility, their compassion, their selflessness and their desire to improve the lives of millions through peace.

Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are the five that spring to my mind immediately. These people have an aura and an authenticity that makes them outstanding leaders.

I look around and wonder where our icons of today are?

One place I will certainly not look to is politics. With the notable exception of my hero Tony Benn I see politicians who are opportunists, blatant self-promoters, all looking and sounding the same and they show no evidence whatsoever of selflessness, compassion or humility.

Maybe I look in the wrong places (I don’t think so).

Can you identify anyone on the world stage in 2008 that will be remembered with the same affection and respect of a Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther-King?

I can’t.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Tom Asacker

It is my great pleasure to introduce another 'Friend of Simplicity' - Tom Asacker who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire in the US.

Tom and I first came across each other ‘virtually’ about 6 years ago when Tom kindly sent me copies of his first two books ‘Sandbox Wisdom’ and ‘The Four sides of Sandbox Wisdom.’ Tom subsequently published the equally successful book
‘A Clear Eye for Branding.’

We have kept in touch ever since those early days of virtual communication and Tom is one of my first 'virtual' friends. Tom has often provided me with the wisdom of his advice.

In his ground breaking book 'Re-Imagine!' Tom Peters described Tom Asacker as a ‘Marketing Guru.’ You can see more about Tom here

TREVOR: Tom, I really appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule Tom to pass on the benefit of your wisdom to me and the readers of my Simplicity Blog. Tell us a bit about your career to date.

TOM: Thanks for inviting me Trevor. So, how much time do you have? It’s been quite a twisted and bumpy road. :) Upon graduating with a degree in Economics, I began my career with Burger King Corporation in their children’s marketing division. After a few years of clowning around, I left to join a high tech division of General Electric. I spent ten years there, during which time Jack Welch became CEO. He began to rapidly discard businesses that weren’t going to be number 1 or 2 in their industries which was our business unit so I participated in a management buyout of that company from G.E.

I eventually left that business to join a start-up medical device company as President and Director of Marketing. While there, I received a few patents and awards for innovation and design. The business was also eventually recognized by Inc. Magazine, MIT and YEO as a fast growth, innovative company. Any way, I ultimately had a vision collision with my non-operating partners, and so, I left. Are you beginning to see a pattern emerge? :)

I then started a strategic brand consultancy; wrote and published a book; wrote and published three more books; was increasingly asked to speak to organizations about my concepts; and . . . here we are today. I guess I followed the advice of the great 20th century philosopher, Yogi Berra: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

TREVOR: Many people in the UK work as single handers and struggle with how to effectively ‘market’ their work. Can you provide a couple of pieces of golden nugget advice on self marketing?

TOM: There’s really no difference between successful product and service marketing and self marketing. The key is to be other-focused and provide compelling value to ones audience. It requires a shift in mindset away from worrying what people think about you and your business, to being obsessed with how you make others feel about themselves and their decisions in your presence.

I don't know why so many people and organizations get this wrong, but I have a guess. I think it's because being genuinely interested in others, and working to understand their feelings and motivations, is tough: it's imprecise, messy, and time consuming. It's much easier and faster to talk about something that we know a lot about . . . us and our stuff.

It's also easier to simply bury our heads and focus on getting things done, isn't it? "Five sales calls to make . . . better get hustling!" "Two ads to create, as well as a capability brochure and a direct mail piece. No time to think." But guess what? That's great news for single handers who get it! Because by being other-focused and truly interested in their audience, they’ll stand out. Simply because no one else is doing it.

TREVOR: What companies do you rate highly as role models in effective marketing and why?

TOM: There are a handful doing it right, but none as effectively as Apple. Their products, retail outlets and marketing communication are all culturally relevant, aesthetically appealing and entertaining, and they do a great job of focusing on the customer’s identity and experience and bringing it to life instead of focusing on their products.

TREVOR: You are also an internationally renowned business speaker Tom – what makes an effective speaker?

TOM: An “effective” speaker in what way? In ones ability to make a lot of money as a speaker? That’s simple: become a celebrity. :) On the other hand, if you’re asking me how to effectively convey ones ideas to an audience through the spoken word, it’s pretty much the same as it has always been: ethos, pathos and logos. Establish your moral character and credibility, appeal to people’s emotions by connecting to their beliefs and values, and back up your appeal with facts and data. The main difference today is that you have to be much more entertaining and engaging to hold an audience’s attention.

TREVOR: You have received great recognition for your entrepreneurial and innovator skills. What advice do you have for those who feel there is an entrepreneur inside them ready to change the world?

TOM: They don’t need my advice, because if they truly have a passion for improving people’s lives, nothing can stop them. Passion sells! It’s not what you know or who you know that determines breakthrough success. It’s how much you care about others, how much you believe in your idea, and how stubborn you are. As Goethe wrote, “In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm . . . in the real world all rests on perseverance.”

TREVOR: What do you see as the main challenges for leaders and managers in large organisations in the next few years?

TOM: The main challenge is the mental shift that’s required when thinking about the marketplace for products, services, causes, ideas, etc. The fundamental notion that customers are rational actors, who are simply trying to optimize their individual marketplace choices, is defunct. Value can no longer be reduced to a simple relationship between benefits and price.

Today’s modern marketplace is about subjective well-being, as opposed to material gain. People are not only trading their time and money for products and services, they are also expecting happiness as an integral part of their experiences. As such, customers are constantly on the lookout for better “value.” They not only want the brands they choose to be reliable and fair, they also want them to look good, be good, and do good. Yes, they want to save time and money, but they also want to be uniquely acknowledged, involved and engaged.

So to stay relevant, organizations must evolve with customers’ evolving concept of value. They must frequently reinvent themselves to stay fresh and uniquely add value to the brand experience. It requires vision, belief in collaborative innovation, empathy for the customer, and a passion for experimentation.

TREVOR: Finally Tom do you have any plans to come to England so that I can buy you that pint of real English beer I owe you?

TOM: I don’t have any near term plans to visit, so why don’t you come over to my side of the pond. I’ll buy you a pint of real New England maple syrup. :)

TREVOR: It's a deal my friend! - Thanks again for your time.