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It is not easy to find a good tradesman, such as a plumber or an electrician. Really good ones seem to be booked up for months if not years and I was wondering, well, how long exactly does it take to develop that kind of a track record.

There is a roofer operating in the area where I live who I will call David here. When I asked another local tradesman if he could recommend anyone who is the best roofer around, he said that David is by far the best and probably the most expensive, however I’d have to get in line because he is booked solid for many months.

Apparently, he has a dozen guys working for him and they can strip and relay any roof faster and better than anyone around. They have the best tools on the market, some of which are customized. They take on complex and problem roofs that others don’t want to touch. Once the project is finished, the site is left spotless. Roofer

David is widely respected among other tradesmen who readily recommend his services, like it happened in my case.

David is 25 and has been in business for just about 5 years.

In organizations, we need to judge and reward people by the results they produce, not by their age, seniority, certifications, years on the job (doing the same thing all over again) or how carefully they fill out their time sheets or how much time they spend in the office.

In life, results is the only thing that matters. Seriously.

Few (if any) individuals and organizations are successful all of the time. Apple III was a massive flop, while the preceding Apple II (about 6 million sold). Jack Welch’s a remarkable manager but Kidder Peabody acquisition was a serious mistake. Also, GE was implicated in a number of bribing scandals during his time at the helm.

Anyone can make a mistake, suffer a setback, fail. What seems to distinguish a longterm success from all others is the abiilty to shake off the dust and recover, often reinventing completely itself.

If you or your organization is to suffer a setback, will you be able to recover? If you are a leader, will you be able to instigate the rebirth?

Today, after one of the worst financial crises in decades, many organizations find themselves beaten up, exhausted and standing near the abyss. The best will regroup and go on. Others won’t.

Success is not forever.

Do you know what the altitude effect is? I’ve coined this term to signify the misalignment in decision making that exists between the layers in organization. Those standing on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder often make decisions that are misaligned with the priorities, musts and wants of the top leadership.

I am not going to cite any examples because if you think carefully, you should be able to come up with at least a few. But here are the top three recommendations on getting rid of the altitude effect in your organization:

  1. Disabuse yourself from the fallacy that decisions are made entirely at the top, while other layers merely execute them.
  2. Lay a foundation for distributed decision making by adopting a corporate vision and values and ensure they are known and subscribed to at all levels of the organization.
  3. Act as the exemplar by adhering to the set vision and values in all decisions and actions, not merely in words.


I share 30 concrete (and sometimes controversial) ideas on building a winning team that can be implemented right away in this article published by

Link to the article

Here is how: go to as many meetings as possible.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Working with a variety of organizations is a bonus of the consulting profession and I have long ago discovered that there are some common kinds of organizational “unhappiness”, its sheer variety notwithstanding.

Take the issue of the lack of time. Paradoxically (or, perhaps, not at all so), environments where complaints of “no time” are most common, waste time left, right and centre. If you hear this complaint in your organization, take a careful look around.

Meetings seem to be a common waste of time , despite everything that has been said and written about effective meetings in the last 50 years. I see people getting together to disseminate information, to “keep each other in the loop”, to gab. Stop it! Enough!

Get together if a decision needs to be reached. Get to it quickly, capture action items and adjourn on time. Discussion going on a tangent? Interrupt, suggest to take it offline. Invited to a meeting you have no business to be in? Politely decline.

Life is too short for this.

My article on faulty beliefs in IT management has been turned into a video by CBS Techrepublic’s Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner.

Click to watch the video

My latest article written for CBS.

“Visit the nearest bookstore and you will find uncountable volumes on team building, hiring, and personnel management. Browse the Internet and you will discover scores of articles, blog entries, and other content devoted to the topic. There is a good reason for this amount of attention to the topic. A leader cannot act alone and is only as good as his team. When we talk about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Jack Welch, we mustn’t forget that there are people behind them, a team that supports and enables them.

So, given the abundance of writing on the subject out there, why this article?

The answer is simple: on an average, organizations suck at it — all the books and articles and other knowledge notwithstanding. As a consultant, I see a lot of environments, and the sheer number of teams that have a potential to be absolute stars, but are mediocre at present, is astounding. I would like to inspire the reader and provide some ideas for changing things for the better. I cannot be in every organization all the time to fix the problem, so this is simple way of leveraging the reading audience for maximum result.”

Read the rest of the article:

Even today, field work in geology involves a certain amount of old fashioned brawn. It was more so twenty years ago.

Back then, I was an applied math student and, by all accounts, I was expected to spend my summer months writing computer programs in a research lab.

Instead, I spent three summers prospecting and doing geological surveying in the middle of the Siberian (far!) nowhere (even farther!). I cannot tell you how fondly I remember that time in tight-knit groups against the backdrop of the vast and unforgiving, yet breathtakingly beautiful, wilderness.

One of the most physically demanding jobs in geological surveying is trenching. Rock formations are often covered by a thick layer of sediment and to be “read” and categorized, they need to be exposed. A shovel, a pick-axe and a pair of human hands do the job nicely.

Trenchers came in two distinct kinds, with virtually no exception. The first kind were tall, gregarious and rosy-cheeked youths who took a summer gig to make a ton of dough (such was the theory). The second group was comprised of light but wiry men in their late forties and fifties, with graying hair, weathered faces and usually some criminal past.

The two groups approached their work differently. Having nourished themselves with a substantial breakfast, the young giants would start swinging the pick-axe and shoveling the debris at a rate that would put an open-pit excavator to shame. The dirt would fly everywhere for a couple of hours, but too soon, smoke breaks would become more and more frequent, and the work slower and sloppier.

A geologist would be called at some point to inspect the results, only to find that either the trench wasn’t placed properly or its walls weren’t sufficiently straight. One could frequently hear sighs and swearing at the prospect of rework, blistered hands and aching backs.

Some left after a week, many – before the end of the season, and virtually none came back for another tour.

The light wiry men would start the day with a mug of strong black tea and some very light breakfast (no, not a bowl a fruit; a toast, perhaps). They would ready their tools, which they all had adapted and modified to their liking. They would work slowly but steadily, hour after hour, laying immaculate trenches with straight, parallel walls. It was perfection. These people never had blisters, never complained and never bailed. They were invited back, year after year, these slender sinewy men with mottled past.

In organizations, initiatives are often approached with the misguided zeal of the first group. When difficulties transpire, the steam starts to thin until it is exhausted altogether. Since there is rarely anyone to order rework, the initiative is quickly abandoned. This is why silver bullet solutions are so commonly desired: their promise of a quick and “guaranteed” success is incredibly alluring.

But the leaders who succeed consistently are those who have the determination of the light sinewy trenchers, those who can doggedly execute despite setbacks, uncertainty and prospects of hard work. They prepare, equip themselves with the right tools and get going steadily, until all that’s left is to look at the results.

Now, where did I leave that pick-axe?

Walking in uptown Toronto, I spotted a pink van with outlines of scantily (if at all) clad women. It belonged to a strip bar, located nearby. The establishment’s strikingly bland corporate vision appeared in large lettering on the hood of the vehicle: “Leading the way.”

Why a strip bar felt compelled to have a meaningless mission statement is beyond me, but in most organizational settings, vision, mission and values provide a common framework within which decisions across the organization should be made. For start-ups, Guy Kawasaki talks about a notion of a mantra, a succinct statement which relays what the company wants to become and how it would go about it.

Take Maple Leaf Foods for example. Last year, an outbreak of listeriosis was linked to one of its deli plants. The organization subscribes to “doing right things” and acting with transparency, and so it did throughout this ordeal. Michael McCain was there in the front of the cameras, gave frequent updates, worked with health authorities, and did everything necessary to rectify the problem. Upfront, transparent, doing what’s right, he was lauded for his handling of the crisis.

It is no surprise for anyone that corporate statements are often met with cynicism, being viewed as lip service rather than a genuine commitment. This happens because the actions of an organization appear to be in a dissonance with the words it ostensibly tries to live by.

In a way of an example, I know of a worldwide organization which subscribes to a notion of being a trusted partner to its customers – on its website. In the cafeteria, on the other hand, the reality is quite different. Seat next to the people who face customers every day and you will witness the pronounced “us against them” sentiment, far away from the desired spirit of partnership.

A colleague told me about his experience consulting with a hospital which ostensibly had “Respecting our employees” as one of its values. In reality, there was no such thing in place and the management exercised the same “us against them” attitude toward the staff.

If you are a corporate leader and you want to see your corporate statements viewed as genuine, support them with action, not words.

Do what you say. Then, say what you do.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer and pilot


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