Monday, August 31, 2009

How to be successful in an uncertain world.

Post 315 - We live in a “VUCA” world, characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. If you want to transform the anxieties and fears this generates into growth, progress and achievement, here are some ideas about moving your life in that direction.

• Focus on others.
Fear and uncertainty can make you feel isolated and helpless. So, go the other way, expand your connections and help others transform their negatives into positives. The more you do this, the more you become a source of confidence for everyone else, and the less you’ll worry about your own situation. You'll get everything you want out of life when you help enough other people get what they want.

• Become an attractor.
People always want someone or something that will add value to their lives - offerings that eliminate their dangers, capture their opportunities, and reinforce their strengths. When you focus on providing these kinds of offerings, your attractiveness naturally follows.

• Look for new opportunities.
Things you took for granted in the past may be disappearing. If so, get over it, stop replaying those old tapes and move on. Explore an entirely new direction instead – one that exposes you to new ideas, new energies, new tools, and new resources. Treat your current situation as an opportunity to achieve far more than you ever could have before.

• Turn challenges into progress.
New difficulties will either defeat you or uncover new strengths. Your muscles always get stronger from working against resistance. The same is true for your mind, your spirit, and your character. Treat this whole period of challenge as a time when you can make the greatest progress as a person.

• Plan for the present.
The future for most of us is just an abstraction. The only future with reality is the one you create for yourself through each day’s contributions, achievements and results. So focus your energies on what you can get done over the next 24 hours and repeat this every single day of your life.

• Forget your past glories.
Many people define themselves by external events. When these change abruptly, they don’t know who they are, and they keep trying to be who they used to be. Instead, take your cues from your own dreams, ideals, values, and principles. These never need to change, regardless of the circumstances. Take advantage of the external confusion to become more self-directed, self-managed, and self-motivated.

• Learn to see the glass as half full.
When things change for the worse, many desirable resources are missing - information, knowledge, tools, systems, personnel, and capabilities. These deficiencies will paralyze people who believe they can’t make decisions and take action without them. Instead, take advantage of every resource that’s immediately available to achieve as many small results and to make as much daily progress as possible. Work to use every resource and opportunity at hand, and your confidence will continually grow.

• Give thanks for what you have.
Complaining only attracts negative thoughts and negative people. Gratitude creates opportunities for the best thinking, actions and results to emerge. Focus on everything that you have to be grateful for. Share this with others and you’ll open yourself up each day to the best possible consequences.

• Grow your responsiveness.
When things are going well, many people think they’re in control of what’s happening, and so they feel defeated and depressed when things start to go badly. They think they’ve lost some fundamental ability. The most consistently successful people know they can’t control events - but continually work towards developing greater control over their creative responses to events. When times are uncertain, focus all of your attention and energies on finding creative responses.

A final thought: "When we’re no longer able to change a situation, we’re challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor Frankl

Friday, August 28, 2009

Possum Crossing, a poem by Nikki Giovanni.

Post 314 - Today's featured poet is Nikki Giovanni

Yolanda Cornelia Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, and graduated with honors from Fisk University in 1968. After graduating from Fisk, she attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968, and within the next year published a second book, thus launching her career as a writer. Many of Giovanni's books have received honors and awards. Her autobiography, Gemini, was a finalist for the National Book Award; Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes, and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea were all honored with NAACP Image Awards. Blues: For All the Changes reached #4 on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list, a rare achievement for a book of poems. Most recently, her children's picture book Rosa, about the civil rights legend Rosa Parks, became a Caldecott Honors Book, and Bryan Collier, the illustrator, was given the Coretta Scott King award for best illustration. Rosa also reached #3 on The New York Times Bestseller list. She was commissioned by National Public Radio's All Things Considered to create an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama. She's been on the faculty at Virginia Tech since 1987, where she's currently a University Distinguished Professor. For a list of her awards and honors, go to

According to Giovanni, “I really don't think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don't mind the failure but I can't imagine that I'd forgive myself if I didn't try.”

Possum Crossing by Nikki Giovanni

Backing out the driveway
the car lights cast an eerie glow
in the morning fog centering
on movement in the rain slick street

Hitting brakes I anticipate a squirrel or a cat or sometimes
a little raccoon
I once braked for a blind little mole who try though he did
could not escape the cat toying with his life
Mother-to-be possum occasionally lopes home . . . being
naturally . . . slow her condition makes her even more ginger

We need a sign POSSUM CROSSING to warn coffee-gurgling neighbors:
we share the streets with more than trucks and vans and
railroad crossings

All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs
think themselves invincible and pay no heed
to the rolling wheels while they dine
on an unlucky rabbit

I hit brakes for the flutter of the lights hoping it's not a deer
or a skunk or a groundhog
coffee splashes over the cup which I quickly put away from me
and into the empty passenger seat
I look . . .
relieved and exasperated ...
to discover I have just missed a big wet leaf
struggling . . . to lift itself into the wind
and live

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How champions find hidden opportunities.

Post 313 - Everyone can make a wrong career choice from time to time. When that happens to champions, however, they don't stay around and suffer. Instead, they move up and out as quickly as they can. About 75% of the jobs available at any given time aren’t advertised. Most of these jobs are found by word-of-mouth, so that’s where it makes sense to devote the greatest part of your job-search time. When jobs aren’t advertised, being in the right place at the right time is critical.

Make your own opportunities.
Maybe there’s a company you've read about and thought, "I'd like to work there," but you’ve never see them advertising vacancies. Nevertheless, send in your resume. Then try picking up the phone and asking for a job. I got my first job at Mullard Electronics in London that way. I hadn’t heard back after submitting my resume, so I phoned the company, said I was in town for a few days, and asked if I could stop by and submit it again. They said sure. When I went to their offices, they said they’d just received a position requisition that morning that seemed to fit my qualifications. At my request, they arranged an interview for that afternoon. I hit it off really well with the director who interviewed me, was hired on the spot, and started work the following week. In golf and in life, timing is everything.

Many companies rely on employees to bring in new talent. It’s cheaper to recruit this way instead of placing ads or using a recruiting firm. So, your job search isn’t something you want to keep to yourself. Let other people know what you’re looking for and how well you’re qualified. The more people you tell the better. Start by having coffee or lunch with previous coworkers. When you meet - and this is very important - only ask them for information and advice. Don't put anyone on the spot so they think you’re expecting them to find you a job. Ask friends and contacts if they know of any vacancies at their company or at their friends' companies. If so, you may find your name being submitted at a higher level than if you were applying for a job that’s been publicly advertised.

How to get past the gatekeepers.
If you have the hiring manager’s phone number, call early – before 8 am, or late – after 4:30 pm, or at the 10:05 break time, or during lunch, to get around gatekeepers so you can speak to the person directly. Do this every day for several weeks. If you leave messages and the person doesn't know you already, don’t expect them to be returned. Still no luck? Personal assistants and secretaries can help or hinder depending on how you treat them. Be polite, confident, relaxed, friendly and direct. Remember, the less information you give out, the fewer the objections you invite. Try to sound like a champion. Listen to senior managers on the phone and model their pace, tone, pitch, pauses and emphasis. As a general rule senior people speak more s-l-o-w-l-y. For example: "Hello, this is John Cotter. If you could let Scott know that John is on the line for him? Thank you.” Record your approach and listen. If you were a gatekeeper, would you let the person on the recording through? Try practicing with a friend before you start calling.

When you leave a message and your goal is to receive a call back, a successful voice-mail should always:
• Have a professional tone with a direct message,
• Be at least one minute in length,
• Be fun and unique to engage the listener,
• Include your complete name, number and the purpose of your call.
Being professional is important but being fun will get your call returned. When you leave your complete name and number, you're just a number. The longer your message, the less likely it is to be returned. Fun doesn't have to be falling-down funny but leaving a unique message will usually engage the listener. Remember, the purpose of your voice-mail is to get someone to return your call. It's not to make a sale or make an appointment - it's just to get a returned call.

Practice your pitch.
Once your call has been returned or put through, know what you want to say and speak clearly. Your pitch may go something like this. "Hi, Scott, my name is John. I’m calling about vacancies in the marketing department - is this a good time to talk?" If it isn't, suggest another time; "OK, if I call back at 4.30pm, will you be free then?" Speaking with confidence and pinning down a time to talk is important. Ask for a direct extension and call back at the proper time.

Keep your pitch short, sweet and include the right information - your name, where you’re currently working, why you’re calling, and what you want (a job with more opportunities, a meeting to discuss vacancies, etc.) If the answer is yes, then pin down a time that week or next and consider the meeting a job interview. If the answer is no, ask if you can send your resume with a list of your accomplishments and email your contact details in case something comes up in the future. Keep a record of all your calls and the firms’ responses. Make a note if you’re told, "There's nothing now, but call us back in six-months." Then call back at the suggested time.

Watch your self-talk.
Hope is not a state of the world but a state of mind, an orientation of the spirit. Vaclav Havel in an essay, Never Hope Against Hope, writes, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem hopeless.”

So, as you search, make sure your self-talk is about being extraordinary! Focus on your highest and best use. A lot of self-talk is negative – who I want to be that I’m not or what I want that I don’t have. Don’t go there. Our emotions are governed by the stories we tell ourselves.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How champions attain excellence.

Post 312 - Champions attain excellence because:

- they care more than others think is wise,

- they risk more than others think is safe,

- they expect more that others think is possible,

- they dream more than others think is practical.

Muhammad Ali puts it this way: “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision.”

“Champions take chances and pressure is a privilege,” according to tennis great, Billie Jean King. I heard her speak at a fundraiser for tennis camps for underprivileged children in San Diego a few years ago where she shared the following story:

“If I pause and embrace my progress, it's great that I’ve gotten this far. But what's that got to do with today and tomorrow? You know, my dad never let me read my press clippings, and it was the greatest thing he ever did. The first time I made the front of the sports page in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, I’d lost, 6-0, 6-0, and I was just crushed. I’d won all of these other matches and they'd never put me on the front page. And my dad never let me forget that moment. He said, "Billie, I don't want you to ever read a press clipping again." And I said to him, "Well, why not?" And he said, "Because it's about yesterday. It's not about today and tomorrow."

Carl Lewis, the Olympic track champion, cautions: “If you go by other people's opinions or predictions, you'll just end up talking yourself out of something. If you're running down the track of life thinking that it's impossible to break life's records, those thoughts have a funny way of sinking into your feet."

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden repeats what his Dad told him: "Don't compare. Don't try to be better than someone else. But whatever you're doing, try to be the best you can be. Take advantage of every day. Make each day your masterpiece." Wooden adds, "There are other things that are extremely important. Champions must have faith. They must believe. They mustn't complain. Individually, don't compare, just try to make the most of what you have under the conditions that exist for you and try to improve those conditions. No one can do more than that."

"The definition I coined for success is: Peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you're capable. Now, we're all equal there. We're not all equal as far as intelligence is concerned. We're not equal as far as size. We're not all equal as far as appearance. We don't all have the same opportunities. We're not born in the same environments, but we're all absolutely equal in having the opportunity to make the most of what we have and not comparing or worrying about what others have."

Real champions are humble and are always striving to improve. As Tiger Woods said recently, “I’m just pluggin’ along, trying to get better … I still have holes in my game that I need to fix and need to improve on. I just think that what I’ve been working on, I’m headed in the right direction.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Champions believe in themselves.

Post 311 - There's a difference between wishing for something and being ready to receive or acquire it. That difference is all about belief. Until you believe something is possible, it isn’t. This is old wisdom. Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180 AD) wrote, "Our life is what our thoughts make it."

In 1890, when advanced education was often reserved for society's elite, Chicago minister The Reverend Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus wanted to create a new college to improve educational opportunities for students from all kinds of backgrounds. However, he couldn’t figure out how to get the $1M dollars he needed to make this happen. For nearly two years he struggled to come up with a way to get the money. Then one day he realized that all he'd done was think about it, but he hadn't taken any action. Realizing the error of his ways, he made up his mind to get the money within one week. He had no idea how he would do it, but he committed that within one week, he would have his million dollars. So, Dr. Gunsaulus delivered a sermon that day in church that convinced Phillip D. Armour Sr. to give him the money to create The Armour Institute. Today, the institute has evolved into the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), a private national research university with world-renowned programs in engineering, architecture, the sciences, humanities, psychology, business, law, and design.

Many people are held back by the limiting beliefs they acquire growing up, from their parents, friends, religion and schooling. Some examples of limiting beliefs might be:

* Everyone is selfish.
* People are always trying to rip you off.
* There isn’t enough to go around so you have to grab what you can.
* You can be struck down by circumstances (illness, accident) at any time.
* It’s not my fault that my life is like this.

Fr. Anthony de Mello tells the following fable:

An eagle lays an egg but somehow the egg finds its way into a chicken coup. A chicken incubates the egg with all her others and when it hatches, she rears the eaglet as if it were one of her own chicks. It learns to peck the dust for food, to flap its wings and to strut around the farmyard. One day, an eagle flies by overhead. The little eagle looks up and sees this, and says to himself, ‘I wish I were an eagle - how majestic, how free, how beautiful to be like that and have such a life.’ However, the eagle lived like a chicken and died like a chicken, because that’s what he thought he was.

All of our limiting beliefs do something for us; they give us validation or comfort or a feeling of security. But although deeply engrained, they're still only beliefs and as such, they're susceptible to change.

Now for the good news: here are three steps you can use for changing your beliefs:

1. Identify a limiting belief (things just happen to me, I’m not in control of my life)
2. View the belief in a different way (I am in control and I consciously create my experience)
3. Look around for evidence of this new belief. If you do, you'll surely find it! After a while, this will sink in and you'll start to think the new belief is ‘true.’

Champions believe in themselves. They know there's a sleeping giant all of us waiting to be released. As William James said, "Believe and your belief will create the fact."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Championship living in action.

Following up on last week's series about thinking like a champion, post 310 is about Marlon Shirley, a paralympic athlete. One of the fastest amputees in the world, Shirley has not only found a way to become an athletic champion, but he's also become a world-class role model for us all.

Abandoned by his mother at age three, Shirley found a way to survive by living with other kids on the streets of Las Vegas. He eventually found his way into the foster care system, and at age five, he lost his left foot in a lawn mower accident. He was adopted at the age of nine by Kerry and Marlene Shirley who already had three biological children about the same age. A subsequent high school football injury resulted in the further amputation of the lower section of the same leg. Yet, today Shirley owns the paralympic world record in the 100-meter dash, being the only amputee to break the 11-second barrier in that race. Shirley is a member of the USA Track & Field Accommodations Committee and trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He's a recipient of the San Diego Hall of Fame Best Disabled Athlete Award, the United Nations' Role Model of the 21st Century Award, two ESPY Awards (2003, 2005) and the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award.

Marion Shirley sees something unique in Marlon. "He's very resilient. I don't know if it was something he was born with or something he developed in his childhood - he's just so determined! If Marlon is determined to do something, he just doesn't accept that he's not going to be able to do it. We thought we were adopting a kid with a disability, but it's been anything but a disability."

Shirley attributes his remarkable success to his mindset. He explains, "I have a very different way of dealing with trials and tribulations. It involves just focusing on the future." He resolves to push forward no matter what the obstacle. "There's always a way; there's always something that can be done to overcome adversity." Shirley also surrounds himself with experts who support him in reaching his goals. "I know that I can't necessarily do it by myself. So, it's just a matter of finding the right people to help me."

In addition to competing as a world class athlete, Marlon is very involved in helping his community. He founded a program through the charity Athletes for Education called "Champions for Life" that helps underpriviledged and foster youth learn life principles such as dedication, perseverance, teamwork and goal-setting. He says, "I can talk to them convincingly about these things because I've lived it. Your attitude is either the lock on, or the key to the door of success."

It's worth remembering the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe who said; “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you ‘til it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Taught Myself to Live Simply, a poem by Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966) was the pen name of Anna AndreĆ«vna Gorenko, the celebrated Russian poet who bridged Tsarist and Revolutionary Russia. Although she was adored by the public and called "the soul of her time," she suffered greatly under Stalin's disfavor. Born in Odessa, she started writing at the age of 11 inspired by the poetry of Racine and Pushkin. Her father, however, didn't want to see her verses printed under his "respectable" name, so she adopted the surname of her Tatar grandmother as a pseudonym. The growing distaste which the personal and religious elements in her poetry aroused in Soviet officials forced her into long periods of silence before the poetic masterpieces of her later years were published abroad. Between 1921 and 1953, many of those closest to her emigrated or were killed or were imprisoned. In 1965, she was allowed to travel to Sicily and England, where she received the Taormina prize and an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University. Before her death in Leningrad at the age of 76, Akhmatova was elected to the presidium of the Writers' Union, from which she had earlier been expelled in disgrace. Commenting on her troubled life, she said, "Why complain? Poetry is respected here. They kill you for it."

I Taught Myself to Live Simply by Anna Akhmatova

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.

If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Champions are unfailingly positive.

Post 308 - "Even when I went to the playground, I never picked the best players. I picked guys with less talent, but who were willing to work hard, who had the desire to be great." - Magic Johnson

Undoubtedly the most important quality that all champions share is an unwavering belief that they'll succeed. Champions always look for the good in every situation. No matter what obstacles they encounter, they always continue to think positively. Without confidence, faith in your abilities, and a positive mental attitude, you've defeated yourself before you start. Your success depends more on your mindset than on market conditions. Here are some tips on how to stay up when life threatens to bring you down:

• Be proactive.
Set key priorities everyday and set minimum goals everyday. Stay in control of what needs to be done and stay on top of your daily tasks. Focus and concentrate on the things you can control. List your goals on 3 x 5 index cards. Carry these index cards with you and take them out at least daily and review them. Then, ask yourself what you’re doing or planning to do to move closer to each goal. Always be proactive rather than reactive. I’ve found that inspiration comes from within ourselves when we’re motivated to action. Thomas Edison was the epitome of persistence: He conducted 10,000 experiments before finally finding a filament that would burn in the electric light bulb. Champions approach their vocation with the same diligence of an Edison. They know that if they persist long enough, eventually they must succeed.

• Be creative.
If what you're doing is no longer working – just stop – and try something new. Engage in possibility thinking. Brainstorm with others for different ways to achieve your goals. Think of every crisis as an opportunity to grow, to extend beyond your normal limits. When asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times, Thomas Edison replied, "I didn't fail, I learned 9,999 ways that wouldn't work."

• Commit to keep on going, no matter what.
Never give up. Keep trying and stay in motion. Remember The Karate Kid (1984), a movie that captured my imagination because he simply wouldn't quit. It made me realize that you win whenever you get up from a fall. Remember, it takes way more energy to be mad at the world than to roll with the punches. "We're made to persist. That's how we find out who we are." - Tobias Wolff

• Avoid negative people.
If you are having a difficult time and you're trying to get yourself and your business back on track, you don’t need to spend time with negative people. Negative people may mean well, but when they talk to you, they come from a pessimistic place. They constantly point out what's wrong and complain and blame others for their circumstances. If you hear this all of the time, it will have a very negative impact on your performance. Don't think or say, "I hate..." or "I can't." Learn to block out inflexible, rigid statements that only build emotional roadblocks. And turn off the TV. You don’t need to be bombarded with negativity and hype when you're trying to mentally concentrate on improving yourself. Arnold Schwarzenegger put it this way (I guess this was before he became governor of California!): "I have nothing to do with negative relationships. I stay away from negative influences. I have no time for negative thinkers and pessimists. Such people will suck you dry until you have become as pessimistic as they are. Then you'll have not just one but two losers."

• Expect to be successful.
What you focus on will multiply. Always look for the things that you did right as well as learning from the things you did wrong. Whatever you don't want to do or are afraid you can't do, post signs everywhere saying, "I love to ..." Write it 25-times a day and learn to think it. Remember what Marilyn Monroe said, "Everyone's a star and deserves the right to twinkle."

• Enjoy your life.
" Life is about chasing after the things you think are truly worth it, even if they don't happen, I'd rather have nothing but know I didn't settle for something I didn't want!" - Selma Hayek. No matter what's going on with your business, you need to have joy in your everyday life. Work is anything you're doing when you'd rather be doing something else. Champions are doing what they love, so to them it's not work at all, its fun!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Champions know the power of persistence.

Post 307. OK, so you’re now clear about the specific goal you want to achieve and you’ve visioned what it will be like when you get there. The key factor linking these two is persistence. Without this discipline, bad things tend to happen to good people.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” - Calvin Coolidge

Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting. Champions do what needs to be done whether they feel like doing it or not. Persistence of action doesn’t come from stubbornly clinging to the past. Rather it comes from a vision of the future that’s so compelling you would give almost anything to make it real.

Would-be writers, like myself, have to continually grapple with the challenge of persistence. I sit here in my office with no boss breathing down my neck and no paycheck waiting at the end of my week. The same person responsible for accomplishing my goals is the exact same person most likely to renege. In the beginning, writing is a lovely dream, a fantasy where every article effortlessly jumps onto the page. However, once I sit down in front of the monitor, I’m forced to enter the real world and discover not just how exhilarating the action can be but also how tempting it is to procrastinate or to take a day off and go to the beach. The secret is realizing that there’s success at the end of the road as long as I keep my fingers moving steadily forward.

For one of the most dramatic examples in the history of perseverance in the face of repeated defeat, read this biography:

His brother was born and died in 1812. He was saved from drowning by a playmate in 1816. He was kicked in the head by a horse and for a brief time was thought dead in 1818. His mother died of milk poisoning in 1818. His sister died in childbirth in 1828. In 1832, he served in the Black Hawk War as a Captain, but ended up after 3-months as a private. He lost his job in 1832. He also was defeated for State Legislator in 1832. He failed in business in 1833. He was elected to the Legislator in 1834. His former business partner died leaving him deeper in debt in 1835. His sweetheart died in 1835. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836. He proposed marriage and was turned down, ending the courtship in 1837. He was defeated for speaker of the State Legislator in 1838. He broke off his engagement after 6 months in 1841. He had episodes of depression in 1841. He was defeated for nomination for Congress in 1843. He was elected for Congress in 1846. He lost his re-nomination for Congress in 1848. He was rejected for the position of Land Officer in 1849. His son died in 1850. His father died in 1851. He was defeated for the Senate in 1854. He was defeated for the nomination of Vice President of the United States in 1856. He was defeated again for the Senate in 1858. And finally Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860.

Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other … There are no impossible situations, only people who think so. This is the most well known piece of advice that I or anyone else can give to you. Those who succeed, those who have made their millions, one thing that they will all say, is that you have to persist.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Champions set clear goals.

Post 306 will focus on setting goals like a champion.

"A person without a goal is like a ship without a rudder." -- Denis Waitley

Powerful Goals Provide A Specific Target.
“Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.” - Nido Qubein

A goal is a target to shoot at, a result toward which effort is directed, an outcome to be achieved. A powerful goal describes what you’ll be doing when you achieve it. Goals focus your efforts. They tell you where to shoot and which way to go.
Suppose, for example, you want to practice archery but have no target. So you shoot at nothing in particular. Without the target, your learning is likely to be slow and your progress poor. Besides showing you where to shoot, goals provide immediate feedback so you can learn. Suppose while practicing archery, you shoot at the target but can’t see where the arrow hits. Suppose six-months after you shoot, you're told that the arrow hit the second ring. This delayed feedback won’t be of much use in helping to improve your shot.
Powerful goals give immediate feedback. The sooner the feedback, the better, because the information about your miss can be used to correct your next attempt.

Powerful Goals Create A Picture.
"If you want to reach a goal, you must 'see the reaching' in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal." -- Zig Ziglar

Vaguely defined goals such as "improving communications," or "earning more money" make them difficult to achieve because they don't provide a clear picture of exactly what you're aiming for. What does "improved communications" look like? How do you know when you've achieved it? Communications with whom? If you talk about world affairs with your partner over breakfast, have you succeeded in improving communications?
Without a clear picture of the target, it’s easy to miss it. Do this a few times and you’ll feel frustrated, that you’re constantly falling short in your life. To be powerful, the target must be clear enough that you can see yourself achieving the goal.
The clearer the picture, the more magnetic its draw. The more you’re able to see yourself achieving the goal, the greater its power. "Having more fun" can be translated into a specific image, such as laughing with friends while playing volleyball at the beach. Picture yourself in such a scene and try it on, so you can begin to imagine what being there feels like.

Powerful Goals Say When
"When it's obvious that a goal can’t be reached, don't adjust the goal -- adjust the action steps." - Chinese Proverb

Timelines help to bring the pieces together. Goals with no specific completion date make it impossible to set a timeline for planning and completing action steps. Such open-ended goals weaken motivation and encourage procrastination. Timelines must be realistic if the goal is to be powerful. Unrealistically short deadlines can trigger panic, provoking a "Why bother?" attitude, and generally generating a negative perspective. However, a deadline that’s too short is usually better than no deadline at all. Unrealistic deadlines are usually easy to spot thus giving you an opportunity to readjust them to a more realistic time frame.

Victor Borge tells a story about the man who invented a new soft drink. He started with a drink called '1Up' but after meeting with no success he went on to invent '2Up', then '3Up', each time without success. He continued on all the way to '6Up' finally dying in despair, a broken failure. "But", shouts Borge, "He don't know how close he got!"

Brian Tracy cautions that when you first set a new, big goal and begin moving towards it, your progress will often be quite slow. You may be frustrated and think of giving up. The bigger your goal, the further away it will seem. You may have to work on it for a long time before you see any progress at all. But this is all part of the process of achieving your goal. Be guided by the 20/80 rule. . . . For the first 80% of the time that you’re working toward your goal, you’ll only cover about 20% of the distance. However, if you persist and refuse to give up, you’ll accomplish the final 80% of your goal in the last 20% of the time that you spend working on it.

So, set your mind on achieving a definite outcome and see how quickly the world stands aside to let you pass. “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How to think like a champion.

Here we go with post #305 on this blog. Time to think about championship thinking.

“Serena looks deep inside and is just determined not to lose,” said her mother and coach, Oracene Price. “She really hates to lose; it’s just in her, and I think she’s really taking advantage of the situation right now, because you just have so much time in a sports career, so you want to get the best out of it.” Adrift, injured and ranked in the 100s three seasons ago, Williams has regained her former place in the game, and has now won consecutive Grand Slam singles titles for the first time since she won the 2002 United States Open and 2003 Australian Open. “I don’t sense distractions,” Price said. “Not anymore.”

Champions like Serena Williams exhibit a number of impressive psychological characteristics that can assist all of us in improving what we do. Some of the more important ones are highlighted below:

High Motivation and Commitment.
As you might expect, champions are highly motivated, committed and determined. They want to reach their goals and aren’t going to let anything stand in their way. They’re always striving to be better. Champions not only set goals, but they’re good at finding pathways for achieving their goals as well.

Optimistic and Positive.
A striking characteristic of champions is their optimistic and positive nature. Their optimistic personalities cause them to look at the glass as "half-full versus half-empty." They stay positive when faced with difficulties and rebound more quickly when they fail.

Postive Perfectionists.
Psychologists distinguish between adaptive perfectionism and maladaptive perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionism is associated with achievement and success, while maladaptive perfectionism relates negatively to mental health. Adaptive perfectionists set high standards and like to be organized. They’re also not very concerned about mistakes and seldom have doubts about their abilities. Maladaptive perfectionists also hold high standards and like to be organized; however, they’re overly concerned with mistakes, have frequent doubts about their actions and are preoccupied with criticism.

Uncanny Ability to Focus.
The ability to focus and concentrate is one of the defining characteristics of champions. They’re good at concentrating on key performance-related factors while at the same time blocking out distractions. They have the ability to dial in and quiet the mind so that time appears to stand still. “Kobe Bryant is so good because his ability to remain relaxed and focused in the midst of chaos is unsurpassed,” according to the LA Laker's coach, Phil Jackson.

Able to Handle Stress and Cope With Adversity.
This ability to handle stress and cope with adversity gives champions the capacity to deal with the routine setbacks without anxiety. They’re not threatened by evaluations and competition with others and have a high level of emotional control. They’re also able to peak under pressure.

Mentally Tough.
Mental toughness is another important characteristic of outstanding performers. Some of its more common components are resilience and perseverance.

Confidence plays an important part in how champions succeed. If you’re not confident in your abilities or your preparation, you’re likely to have problems with your performance. To be the best at what you want to be, you must believe that you’re the best! To be a champion, you must train like a champion, work like a champion, act as a champion, and think like a champion. When you believe in your ability, you can use this belief to fuel your self-confidence.

Using Affirmations.
How do you develop and keep this best-in-the-world attitude? Many elite performers today use a program of “affirmations.” These are positive self-statements that combat the destructive self-beliefs and negative self-talk that they encounter in everyday life.

Affirmations are statements that build self-confidence and allow you to believe in yourself. Below is a list of general affirmation statements. Read them, select the ones you’d like to use, make up some of your own, then incorporated them into your everyday life. It may take some time to get used to saying the affirmations, but you can train yourself to believe by repeating the statements over and over again. These “I am” statements are nothing more than simply reminders of what you can do.

I am focused on the task at hand.

I work harder that anyone else.

I am ready.

I am in control.

I have a great strategy.

I am mentally tough.

I am prepared.

I am going to win.

I feel better than ever.

I am confident.

I am unbeatable.

I am determined.

I believe in myself.

I feel good.

No one can stop me.

I am totally ready.

My skills are sharp.

I know what to do.

I think clearly.

Write down some of these affirmations and others that specifically relate to you, your job and your life. Read them aloud each day! You can also use them to identify areas that you need to work on. As you read your affirmations to yourself, mark the ones you feel aren’t true. Decide if they need to be true for you to be successful. If they need to be true, then look for ways to improve in that area.

King Solomon writes: "For as a man thinks within himself, so he is." (Proverbs 23:7) This is why our affirmations are so important. What we say, what we think, has a direct bearing on who we are!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sea Fever, a poem by John Masefield.

John Masefield was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, in 1878. His mother Caroline died giving birth to his sister when Masefield was only 6 and he then went to live with his aunt. His father George died soon after. Masefield spent the years 1891 to 1895 at sea and worked in a carpet factory after he came ashore. His first poetry collection, Salt Water Ballads, was published in 1902 when he was 24. In 1912, he was awarded the annual Edmund de Polignac prize for poetry. In 1930, a new Poet Laureate was needed and many felt that Rudyard Kipling was a likely choice. However, upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, King George V appointed Masefield, who remained in office until his death in 1967. The only person to remain in the office for a longer period was Alfred Lord Tennyson. After his appointment, Masefield received many honors, including the Order of Merit. He was also the recipient of many honorary degrees from Universities throughout the United Kingdom, and in 1937 he was elected President of the Society of Authors. He believed that, “Poetry is a mixture of common sense, which not all have, with an uncommon sense, which very few have.”

Sea Fever by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Economic benefits that flow from CSR.

The most recent and comprehensive review of the relationship between financial performance and socially responsible business practices in large companies is by Margolis, Elfenbein, and Walsh (2007). In a meta-analysis of the results from 167 studies, they found that 27% of the analyses show a positive relationship, 58% show a non-significant relationship, and 2% show a negative relationship. They argue that the evidence indicates that CSR, in general, has little effect on profitability, but note that there is stronger evidence to suggest that some causality does operate in the opposite direction: companies that are profitable are more likely to engage in more CSR activities.

Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, believes "there’s an enormous amount of business potential in green technologies, including fuel cells, advanced battery technology and biotechnology. Hopefully, CSR will soon loosen its association to the notion that doing so involves economic sacrifice. A focus on CSR can reduce costs as well as waste. So, it's not just about doing the right thing. It also offers direct business benefits."

Reducing waste and emissions doesn't just help the environment - it saves money too by cutting utility bills and waste disposal costs, thus bringing immediate cash benefits. However, consider these other benefits as well:

* Building a reputation as a responsible business sets a company apart.

* Many consumers prefer to buy from ethical businesses.

* Some customers don't just prefer to deal with responsible companies, but insist on it. For example, sales of 'environmentally friendly' products continues to grow - and these products often sell at a premium price.

* Companies often favor suppliers who demonstrate responsible policies as this helps them to minimize the risk of any damage to their own reputations.

* A good reputation makes it easier to recruit employees.

* Employees stay longer, reducing the costs and disruption of recruitment and retraining.

* Employees are more involved and motivated and, as a result, they're more productive.

* CSR helps ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

* Involvement with the local community creates ideal opportunities to generate positive press coverage.

* Good relationships with local authorities make doing business easier.

* Understanding the wider impact of a business can help in thinking up profitable new products and services.

* CSR can make firms more competitive and reduces the risk of sudden damage to their reputation and sales. Investors are more willing to provide financial resources to such firms as a result.

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to use "Green Committees" to kick-start CSR activities.

Introducing green CSR initiatives has paid financial dividends and has often helped bridge the generation gap at many professional firms. As more firms start to incorporate environmentally friendly practices in the workplace, many have shown noticeable results in terms of reduced expenses and overhead, and younger employees have often been the primary drivers of those greening strategies.

Take Campbell, California-based Mohler, Nixon & Williams. Bill Kelleher, the firm's CEO, was asked repeatedly by entry-level staff members as well as new recruits, about the firm's green initiatives. Though the firm was successful at implementing some eco-friendly strategies, he admitted that they could be doing more. Then the firm hired Vicky Gardner, a young tax accountant, who asked about policies regarding recycling and paper use. "Vicky challenged some of the things we were doing," Kelleher said. "Our entry-level people were asking some really good questions."

In this regard, Steven Ladd, chief executive of Copanion Inc., a tax automation company in Andover, Mass., provides the following statistics:

* The IRS reported that 66 million individual tax returns were filed on paper in 2007, equivalent to 400,000 trees' worth of paper (

* The total energy used to produce one ream of paper is equivalent to two gallons of fuel (

* Using an energy-sipping scanner instead of a wasteful photocopier over the course of tax season could save as much as 280 pounds in greenhouse gases (

* A single new toner cartridge consumes approximately three quarts of oil, and the plastics in it take at least 1,000 years to decompose (

As a result of its increased awareness, Mohler, Nixon & Williams created a "Mean Green Accounting Machine," a green committee made up of employees from all levels in the firm. It applied for certification as a Bay Area Green Business, handed out recyclable tote bags, distributed a monthly newsletter with eco-friendly tips, added more glassware to the kitchen in lieu of paper cups, installed four energy-efficient dishwashers, and hosted e-waste days so staff could get rid of electronic junk.

DiCicco, Gulman & Co. LLP in Woburn, Mass, also formed a green committee to capture and help implement employee ideas, according to Kathy Charles, the firm's scheduling manager and chair of the green committee. The majority of the group's members are under 35. "People coming to look for employment here weren't just asking, 'Is this a good place to work?'" she said. "They wanted to know what we did for the community. How were we trying to fit in better with the environment? These initiatives have been a big selling point with a lot of candidates." One of the first projects the team tackled was finding a more environmentally friendly coffee vendor service. All conference rooms have reminders to turn off lights when not in use and motion detector lights have been installed in common areas that don't have constant traffic.

At other companies, committees have started greening initiatives via simple things such as adjusting printer settings to double-sided, turning off computers at the end of the day, or pulling up blinds when entering meeting rooms instead of switching on lights. Many are also working to create a more paperless environment. For example, Lawhorn & Associates, an 18-person firm in Knoxville, Tenn., has decreased its paper use by 75% through the use of a document management system. In 2001, the firm was spending $12,000 a year on paper. Today, that's down to $3,000. The firm’s Green Action Team has also helped oversee purchasing energy-efficient appliances for a new break room, and acquiring more energy-efficient computers to replace older models.

Big Four accounting firm Deloitte & Touche lists its green programs under the broad category of Corporate Social Responsibility. In early 2008, a green tool kit was put together that included a series of projects that managing partners were charged with implementing across their respective offices. The kits focused on accessing and lowering energy, paper and daily product consumption. This program is monitored through a "Greening the Dot" Web site, which charts the number of tool kit projects that have been completed, thus driving competition between different office locations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Practicing socially responsible leadership.

The first step in helping organizations move toward practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is for each of us to take more personal responsibility for our own lives, and then demand that our employers do the same.

What are some of the prerequisites for accepting personal responsibility?

- Stop claiming that others have determined what we are today.

- Accept that we alone are responsible for our choices in life and that we alone determine the direction our life takes from now on.

- Admit past mistakes and accept the blame.

- Stop feeling sorry for ourselves.

- Let go of any old anger and get on with our lives.

- Learn to depend solely on ourselves for acceptance, affirmation and approval.

At its core, socially responsible leadership requires that we stand for advancing CSR because it truly matters to us, that it reflects our personal vision. But for our vision to have power, we must make it explicit. This requires going public and telling others that we think it’s important and explaining why we think it’s important. However, before we speak up, we need to become more knowledgeable so we’ll be credible and persuasive in our advocacy. Subsequently, our passion and our drive to action will become the prime message that influences others.

Will Marre says, “The American Dream will only be reclaimed one dream at a time. Only when enough of us stand up for our real dreams of a sustainable future will the entire energy of our culture rise up to transform the world. Only our noble vision will save our future. All we have to do is start right where we are. Today."

Vistage speaker Steven Snyder says, “If you don't know what to do, try this on for size. Ask, is this a problem that needs a solution, or a goal to realize. If you don't know what you want, you must ask your self and listen. The answer can't be logical, it must come through intuition. If you do know what you want, go forward in this fashion. Release the fear that's blocking you and take an action step with passion.”

I believe that when employees are empowered to take their own Personal Social Responsibility seriously, doors are opened. As a result, many of the best green initiatives and social innovations have come from employees in the middle or at the bottom of organizations. The key is training all employees to think and act in ways that add value to both their future, the planet’s future, and to the company’s bottom line. When these goals are aligned, workers harness their strengths, interests and creativity to create real value. When that happens, a culture of innovation thrives and people do amazing things no matter what their circumstances.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why we avoid accepting personal responsbility.

Today is my 300th post since I started this blog in June, 2008. While 300 is just another number, it does indicate, if nothing else, that I've been diligent in my task. I've enjoyed sharing my opinions with you and trust that this coming year will see more signed-up readers. I strongly encourage you to sign up by scrolling down to the end of the page and signing in where it says "Follow."

Thinking further about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Will Marre, who lives here in San Diego, and has a new book coming out next month entitled, Save the World and Still be Home for Dinner, points out that the success of CSR is dependent on each of us assuming personal responsibility for our choices and actions. Having passionate feelings about how we might contribute to a better world isn't enough. There are many barriers between noble intentions and effective action. The major barrier to accepting personal responsibility is adopting false stories.

We tell stories about everything - our parents, our high school years, ex-spouses, the economy, etc. These stories are usually based on a few selected facts and a hefty filler of emotional logic. Emotional logic is the glue we use to fill in the gaps between our fears and reality. False stories allow us to mentally connect events that weren't directly connected in reality and to invent causes, motives and reasons why events turned out the way they did. It also lets us generalize an individual incident into a law of life. False stories provide us with elaborate excuses for why we can't act on our desires. They lead us to deny, blame, or rationalize which creates inertia in our lives.

To deny means to pretend a negative situation doesn’t exist. “I have no problem. My life's fine as it is. This situation is normal and I shouldn’t expect more. Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for things to change.” To deny also means telling ourselves that change could create an even worse situation and this then becomes our excuse not to change.

To blame is to say, “I don’t like my situation, but it’s not my fault and I can’t fix it. I can’t do anything to create a sustainable future because my boss would never go for it.” We blame our obligations, responsibilities, and the stubbornness of others for the inertia in our lives. We don’t change because we're waiting for people or situations to change for us.

To rationalize we literally tell ourselves “rational lies" that make superficial sense. Most of the time these lies are constructed around two false ideas:
(1) even though this aspect of my life is less than I want it to be, it doesn’t really matter,
(2) change is impossible. ("We tried that before and it didn't work").

Denial, blame, and rationalization all are well-developed mental games we play to keep us in an unconscious state. But change is only difficult as long as we resist it. In business, small, visible and successful change often ignites a storm of enthusiasm by employees and consumers that gives leaders the courage to support further positive change.

More on accepting personal social responsibility tomorrow.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mandalay, a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling (1865 –1936) was a British author and poet. Born in Bombay, British India, he is best known for his works of fiction The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888); and his poems, including Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), and If— (1910). In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and to date he remains its youngest recipient. He believed that, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
I've always loved this poem for the exotic world it conjures up in my imagination.

Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! "
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat - jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
Bloomin' idol made o' mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
Elephints a-pilin' teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

But that's all shove be'ind me - long ago an' fur away
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an' grubby 'and -
Law! wot do they understand?
I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Combining CSR with leadership development.

Dr. L. Todd Thomas, the founder and president of IMPACT Consulting and Development, advocates that companies combine the needs of their communities with the objectives of their companies' leadership development efforts. By changing the typical design of in-workshop exercises to simulations and activities that benefit existing community organizations, leaders are more engaged in the learning and the outcome has a lasting benefit. Organizations that support this type of leadership development create highly engaged and loyal leaders who see that the values of the organization extend beyond the profit and loss statement. Companies that want to go this route need to identify a purpose that's in alignment with their values and their business, partner with an organization that welcomes their involvement, and then take the time needed to combine their business purpose with their societal purpose.

They can then create some highly innovative ways of combining leadership development and social responsibility. Common skill development examples include:

Leaders can be assigned to a community development project where each individual has a certain amount of information, but no one leader has all the information. The objective is to collaborate together to achieve the desired outcome.

By assigning a leader to an objective in partnership with a non-profit organization where the outcome can't possibly be achieved by the individual themselves, you can demonstrate the problems that arise when leaders try to do everything themselves without depending on their followers. In order to be successful, the leader will have to enlist others and empower them to participate.

Leaders may have to create an internal communication strategy for another organization with the understanding that it's a real strategy - i.e. the organization will likely follow it. By comparing what they know others should do with their own practices, leaders will often identify actions they need to take to increase the effectiveness of their own communication.

Socially responsible leadership development can teach accountability through making the leaders responsible for the commitments of the company to the non-profit organization. If leaders in the activity are sure that the company won't come to their aid in achieving the objective, they'll realize their own accountability in making sure the project is successful.

There are many other leadership characteristics that can be taught in partnership with non-profit and social-responsibility organizations. Many companies routinely do community service projects, but normally miss the opportunity to use the practice as leadership development because they don’t evaluate the process later based on leadership criteria. It's the process of debriefing the learning from the activity that creates the leadership development potential.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Resources for getting started in CSR.

One easy way to start a CSR initiative, according to Sam Pettway, the founding director of BoardWalk Consulting in Atlanta, is to institute a matching program for charitable contributions made by your own employees. By setting aside some of your charitable dollars in support of causes your own people are already supporting, you'll get additional leverage from whatever contributions you do make.

Additionally, you can pick a target area (or two or three, depending on the amount of money you're working with) and focus on that for a specified period of time. It's perfectly fair to pick areas that are strategically important to your business. For example, if architecture and construction are your business targets, then Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, or your area's version of ToolBank represent causes that might resonate. That way, you can make a real difference by making larger donations to a smaller number of organizations. Pettway says, "In short, by thinking strategy, then policy, CSR can be a joy and not a burden!"

Here are some of the growing number of resources that can provide additional ideas:

Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship - - has a developed a five stage hierarchy of corporate citizenship, from reactive (compliant) to fully integrated and proactive (transformative). As you might guess, the real benefits for everyone - businesses and society - lie increasingly along the more proactive stages of that grid.

The Business Civic Leadership Center - - is a nonprofit sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce to support businesses in their initiatives to achieve social goals.

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) - - is a practical resource for those interested in or committed to corporate social responsibility. Members include the brand-name global companies you would expect plus many smaller ones you might not know.

Corporate Social Responsibility - - is an extensive resource and newsletter for those interested in corporate citizenship / social responsibility, both domestically and internationally.

Stanford's Social Innovation Review - - web site is also a source of ideas to help corporate and nonprofit executives think strategically about sustaining communities while building enduring companies. It claims to presents "the best ideas in nonprofit management, philanthropy and corporate citizenship. Find out what works and what doesn't. And how to strengthen your social impact."

The Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State - - is the Southeast's leading organization in ethical leadership and corporate integrity.

Network for Good - - is a web-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people get more involved in their communities by connecting passion and financial support with compelling causes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

MBAs join the CSR movement.

The top business schools in the US have taken a lot of criticism lately for failing to put enough (or indeed any) emphasis on ethics, social values and corporate reponsibility in their study programs. Imagine graduating with a master's degree in business administration and being lumped in the same category as Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, or the executives who ran Enron. The low opinion many people have of MBAs, especially in the wake of the financial crisis was on the minds of a group of 25 students who received their master's degrees from Harvard Business School earlier this year. They've mounted a campaign to have graduating students take what they call the "MBA Oath," modeled after the medical profession's Hippocratic oath. The oath is about their commitments to the good of the community, and how it's not just about individual profit or about their own self-advancement.

They define their Mission as:
Our near-term goal is to get at least 100 graduating Harvard Business School students to sign the oath. We hope this will
a) make a difference in the lives of the students who take the oath
b) challenge other classmates to work with a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not and
c) create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management.

Our long-term goal is to transform the field of management into a true profession, one in which MBAs are respected for their integrity, professionalism, and leadership. We hope to see hundreds of thousands of MBAs take the MBA oath, or something like it, as a step towards realizing this vision.


As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:
* I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
* I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
* I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
* I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
* I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
* I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
* I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
* I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

MBAs from over 280 different programs have signed the oath, and of the 200 most recent signers of the oath, 93% are from schools other than Harvard. In fact, schools with the largest contingents of signers include Kellogg, NYU Stern, Oxford Said, Singapore Management University, Columbia Business School, Fuqua, MIT Sloan, Dominican University, and Wharton.

Enthusiasm for the oath is increasingly international, from coverage by the Shanghai Daily to support from similar initiatives in Argentina. Over half the pioneer MBA class at Singapore Management University has taken the oath, as has 70% of NYU’s Executive MBA class.

For more information, see

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do you work for a B Corporation?

Last week, I tried to illustrate why interest in Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) is spreading. I also provided examples of initiatives in both large and small companies, here in the US and in Europe. I could also have given examples from a host of other countries on all five continents. So, I believe a new model of socially-strategic leadership is already working and gaining wide-spread acceptance.

In physics we know that many seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. Light can be both a particle and a wave. We can be sitting in a chair, sure we’re not moving, yet be on a planet moving through space at 67,000 miles an hour. Once we become open to a “Both + And” world view, we can begin to see problems as opportunities. "Both + And" thinking pushes our imaginations to a higher level and lets us live our whole dream rather than a fraction of it. "Either - Or" thinking boxes us into making small, limiting choices instead of big, liberating ones. The CSR philosophy is grounded in providing "Both + And" leadership which seeks to jointly optimize many requirements at the same time in a complimentary way.

While a company can easily claim to be following CSR practices, rather like what's happening with the current organic food movement, how do you know which are for real and which are just continuing with old practices but calling them by new names? One way in the US is to look for businesses that have been certified as B Corporations (B as in “for benefit” to society). This certifies to a consumer or investor that they’ve chosen a company that's passed a certain threshold of social responsibility. Becoming a B Corporation involves changing a company's bylaws to pledge consideration of wider stakeholder interests. Changes in the company charter however are only part of the story, according to Andrew Kassoy, cofounder of B Lab, the Berwyn, Pa., nonprofit group that certifies B Corporations. That’s because B Corporations must also continually earn high marks on a social responsibility scorecard to qualify for certification.

The three-year-old B Corporation movement began when Mr. Kassoy and two former classmates at Stanford University formed B Lab to encourage alternatives to what they call “short-termism” – a tunnel-vision focus on generating quick returns for shareholders. Currently, there are 200 B corporations from 31 industries with over $900 million in sales. This is expected to grow to more than 300 companies by the end of 2009.

Benefits - brands a company as a business with sustainable values
- links like-minded companies together who have the same practices.
For instance, all B Corporations save as much as 80% on software that helps them manage customer service.

Shareholders might argue that they, as owners, have a right to top stakeholder status under the definition of a corporation and seek damages if a company seems to give preference to another group’s interests. To date, such legal questions remain largely in the realm of speculation since no B Corporation has faced a lawsuit challenging its charter. In California, a working group of corporate lawyers has been developing a bill that would create a new legal structure for companies eager to embrace broad social commitments without fear of recourse from disgruntled shareholders, says Susan Mac Cormac, a partner in the corporate law group at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.