Contest: Harvard Business Review Subscription for Winner

30 Jun


I am hosting a contest. Here’s how it works:

  1. Post a comment detailing your BEST leadership story. This can be a story about something you have done, or something that another leader taught you. Funny or serious stories are welcome. Keep it constructive and clean!
  2. On August 29, I will draw a random name from all comments.
  3. The winner will get a free year’s subscription to the Harvard Business Review.

Seriously, what could be better? You get business leader savvy, just for sharing your stories here at To Know Better.

This is being sponsored by MagsDirect,

Here’s more about Harvard Business Review, if you are not familiar (although I am guessing that most of you are!):

Harvard Business Review is a journal written by renowned business educators and practicing managers. Each issue provides readers with a focus on the issues confronting top managers in today’s complex national and international markets. Harvard Business Review offers subscribers original research and firsthand perspectives from leading business people around the globe. Invest in yourself and your company’s future with a subscription to Harvard Business Review.

Bring on the stories, people! I know you have some to tell….


5 Responses to “Contest: Harvard Business Review Subscription for Winner”

  1. gmonteith July 5, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Leadership is exercised in many ways, and I’ve had an opportunity to work with many great leaders over the years. The leader who sticks out in my mind is the former CEO of Lincoln National Corp. (now Lincoln Financial), Ian Rolland.

    Mr. Rolland was very focused on shareholder return, but that’s not all he focused on. He loved his community, he loved his company, and he loved his employees.

    Mr. Rolland was instrumental in starting Lincoln Life Improved Housing, a program that bought homes in blighted sections of Fort Wayne, Ind., fixed them up and gave low-income families a chance to pay rent in the home before buying it for half the cost to Lincoln.

    He built one of the first company-sponsored daycare centers in Fort Wayne because he understood the demands that two-income couples faced in the 1990s.

    When the company decided to build a new $6- million Lincoln Museum — the company owned the largest private collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia in the world — he fought to put the museum in the company’s hometown of Fort Wayne because he felt the city deserved no less.

    All the while, under his direction, Lincoln National’s stock price grew exponentially and the company became one of the leading life insurance and annuity companies in the United States, a position it still holds.

    His secret? Ian understood that he had to deliver a solid bottom line. But he also understood there was not one stakeholder, but many. He understood that good products, sound financial management, a strong community and happy employees together contributed to Lincoln’s long-term success.

  2. Artie Isaac July 12, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    Years ago, after 15 years of owning and (almost) managing my company, I was wrapping up an enjoyable meeting with a young colleague. I had been pretending to mentor her.

    As we stood up to leave the conference room, Jill asked, “Wait a second. May I ask you a question about management here?”

    “Sure,” I said.

    “When are you going to start?” That was her question about management in my firm! “When are you going to start?”

    It was a great question. We sat down again and I asked her — since she didn’t see management happening at my company — to help me understand what “management” is. Her description was enlightening and true.

    When word of our conversation spread through the firm, an experienced person warned Jill, “Don’t ever say something like that to a boss again. You were lucky this time: you asked the only boss in the world who would find the question more inspiring than insulting. But don’t ever ask another boss. You will be fired on the spot!”

    Far from it being a condition for terminating Jill, her question became a catalyst for my search for professional management for my firm, resulting in the hiring of a professional manager and the eventual merger into a larger, professionally managed firm.

    Jill’s comment was brilliant and a Great Moment In Leadership. If this anecdote wins the subscription, I ask that the HBR issues be sent to Jill’s address. She’s the leader in this story.

  3. Artie Isaac July 12, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Here’s another…

    This is one of my favorite advertisements.

    But first, the back story, as described in Julian Watkins’ 1959 classic, “100 Greatest Advertisements 1852-1958.” Mr. Watkins explains that it wasn’t even written by an advertising copywriter:

    “Brown’s Job,” by the late F.R. Feland, former treasurer of BBDO, is one of those pieces of advertising copy that is legend up and down the industry. It floors me every time I read it — and it must a good many others, too, because requests still come into BBDO for copies or permission to reprint.

    Mr. Feland wrote the text in 1920 for the BBDO house organ, “The Wedge”…and it was used later as a full page advertisement in the New York Times. In both uses, it created tremendous interest, receiving much editorial praise as an outstanding piece of agency propaganda. “Just why,” Mr. Feland once commented, “is a little hard to understand, inasmuch as, beyond our signature, it makes no reference to agency operation.”

    I like “Brown’s Job” because it speaks of leadership rather than features or benefits. The constant use of the masculine gender is a sign of age. The breathless Methodist punch line is eternally great.

    Below is the text. The design of the original ad was very simple: text on a page.

    — Artie Isaac


    Brown’s Job

    Brown is gone, and many men in the trade are wondering who is going to get Brown’s job.

    There has been considerable speculation about this. Brown’s job was reputed to be a good job. Brown’s former employers, wise gray-eyed men, have had to sit still and repress amazement, as they listened to bright, ambitious young men and dignified old ones seriously apply for Brown’s job.

    Brown had a big chair and wide, flat-topped desk covered with a sheet of glass. Under the glass was a map of the United States. Brown had a salary of thirty thousand dollars a year. And twice a year Brown made a “trip to the coast” and called on every one of the firm’s distributors.

    He never tried to sell anything. Brown wasn’t exactly in the sales department. He visited with the distributors, called on a few dealers, once in a while made a little talk to a bunch of salesmen. Back at the office he answered most of the important complaints, although Brown’s job wasn’t to handle complaints.

    Brown wasn’t in the credit department either, but vital questions of credit usually got to Brown, somehow or other, and Brown would smoke and talk and tell a joke, and untwist his telephone cord and tell the credit manager what to do.

    Whenever Mr. Wythe, the impulsive little president, working like a beaver, would pick up a bunch of papers and peer into a particularly troublesome and messy subject, he had a way of saying, “What does Brown say? What does Brown say? What the hell does Brown say? — Well, why don’t you do it, then?”

    And that was disposed.

    Or when there was a difficulty that required quick action and lots of it, together with tact and lots of that, Mr. Wythe would say, “Brown, you handle that.”

    And then one day, the directors met unofficially and decided to fire the superintendent of the No. 2 Mill. Brown didn’t hear of this until the day after the letter had gone. “What do you think of it, Brown?” asked Mr. Wythe. Brown said, “That’s all right. The letter won’t be delivered until tomorrow morning, and I’ll get him on the wire and have him start East tonight. Then I’ll have his stenographer send the letter back here and I’ll destroy it before he sees it.”

    The others agreed, “That’s the thing to do.”

    Brown knew the business he was in. He knew the men he worked with. He had a whole lot of sense, which he apparently used without consciously summoning his judgment to his assistance. He seemed to think good sense.

    Brown is gone, and men are now applying for Brown’s job. Others are asking who is going to get Brown’s job — bright, ambitious young men, dignified older men.

    Men who are not the son of Brown’s mother, nor the husband of Brown’s wife, nor the product of Brown’s childhood — men who never suffered Brown’s sorrows nor felt his joys, men who never loved the things that Brown loved nor feared the things he feared — are asking for Brown’s job.

    Don’t they know that Brown’s chair and his desk, with the map under the glass top, and his pay envelope, are not Brown’s job? Don’t they know that they might as well apply to the Methodist Church for John Wesley’s job?

    Brown’s former employers know it. Brown’s job is where Brown is.

    Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn
    383 Madison Avenue, New York

  4. Kirk Albers July 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Working in a restaurant kitchen, in particular fine dining, is all about executing under pressure.

    Years ago, I had worked my way up the scale of various different restaurants, from a deli, to fast casual, to fine dining, ten or twelve different establishments total. I learned a little at each one, new skills, a different method here and there, and alternative systems of execution, each one had its idiosyncrasies and quirks, everything had to be mastered in the least amount of time.

    When I was finishing my final year of college, I got my foot in the door at Rigsby’s, then and now, one of the best restaurants in Columbus. I had eaten there a few times and definitely intimidated at the prospect at cooking there, but eager to learn from the area’s best.

    Executing under pressure in fine dining requires preparedness, prep work done (dicing, chopping, mincing, etc.) pots/pans/utensils all in their proper places, work area clean, plates stacked, mise en place on ice, at least a dozen other items I can’t recall. Time is a luxury in restaurant, there never seems to be enough, only diners/servers/managers wanting their food “yesterday” and in fine dining, the food has to be perfect.

    In my first few days, I was working hard with a 25 or 30 item prep list with less than two hours to service, when a stainless steel bowl of strawberries goes flying over head – in a kitchen open to the dining room – and smashes into the wall, at least $30 worth (and 20 minutes of work) of strawberries made worthless.

    The chef had made the bowl airborne when he had seen the contents, there were tiny little bits of green strawberry leaves among the cut berries, due to the haste of the cook doing that particular prep work.

    The chef inquired of the cook “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it right?”

    Of course, there is no answer to the question, just a lesson (among many others) from that chef which I employ daily and pass onto others when the “situation” warrants.

  5. John Dygert July 31, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    I have many Leadership posts on my Blog, so I’ll offer my most recent, which is on personal leadership.

    Ghosts of Heroes Present:

    For the past month, the untimely passing of Michael Jackson has dominated the press. I won’t deny that he was a very talented artist, however the cult like worship of him and the fanfare surrounding his funeral is just hard for me to comprehend. My role models are my father, veterans and heroes of American wars past and present, inventors and entrepreneurs, our founding fathers, selfless public servants, you get the idea. Sure there are artists (musicians, actors and actresses) that I enjoy and athletes that I admire, but I see them as people, just like you and me, who happen to have a unique talent. On the other hand, it’s those people who use their talents to change the world, protect our freedoms, and truly make a difference who are the true heroes worthy of fanatical worship ( I am not necessarily suggesting we should worship them, just that they are worthy!). If we held public servants and teachers in higher regard, and publicly supported our soldiers as much as we do our favorite artists and athletes, this world would be a much better place. The overzealous infatuation with the stars of the media is not an intellectually healthy pastime. It is fine to be passionate about an artist or athlete (I know many who are big fans of Michael Jackson), however when this passion comes at the expense of engaging in healthy obsessions, then it becomes counterproductive to society. It is healthy obsessions that have produced this country’s great innovations and companies, artists and athletes, and the reason many still go into public service with a passion to help others. Yes, I included artists and athletes. These are great vocational choices, and they do provide a service to society, but it’s obviously better to aspire to be one rather than excessively idolize one.

    On the subject of star athletes, who have really become larger than life in recent years, there’s been plenty of press lately due to huge off season multimillion dollar contract signings. Now, I believe in free market capitalism and I also understand the supply and demand economics of pro sports. As long as people are willing to shell out big money to watch the games, and support their teams, then the sports leagues can justify the big salaries. The fundamental anomaly I see however, is with the food chain, the circle of life for a pro athlete so to speak. Our school districts across this nation are struggling to fund their budgets and in some cases canceling sports programs, and yet there is a seemingly continuous flow of millions into our pro sports teams. If you think about it, school is basically the initial training ground for pro athletes (both intellectually and physically). It seems a little ironic and self defeating that we would allow our schools to suffer, jeopardizing the very core of youth development, all while applauding the bigger and bigger contracts when we land that star player on our team. Neglecting the very source of today’s treasured sports heroes presents somewhat of a paradox. This would be like fishing a lake dry only to realize that there are no fish left to repopulate the lake. Please note, as a fiscal conservative, I am not suggesting that we over tax pro athletes and owners so we can fund our schools. I am only pointing out the moral conundrum that this presents.

    My goal is to put a little perspective around priorities today and give us something to think about. If you’re reading this, you probably already agree with most of what I’ve said here, but unfortunately, much of society doesn’t quite get it and the media’s untiring coverage of celebrities and athletes only fuels the fire. Not so long ago, our heroes included astronauts, soldiers, scientists and explorers and our values were much more grounded. I’d hate to see this spirit fade away and become mere ghosts to that of the (less deserving) modern day media heroes. That is why it’s vital that we exercise the personal leadership to keep the focus on the right priorities (and maybe the media will follow, someday). Thank a veteran, hug a nurse, teach history, coach a youth team, invent something, drop off cookies at the fire station, volunteer with Junior Achievement, go to the school bake sale, support your PTA, learn an instrument, run for your school board, and of course, call you dad. The bottom line is never lose sight of the people and values that should really be at the top of our list. By keeping our priorities in check and personally investing in each other, we will sow the seeds for a fundamentally better tomorrow.

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