Saturday, November 27, 2010

No doubt, a management position can teach you a great deal about yourself, but I wouldn't recommend it as an alternative to therapy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Job interviews can be nightmares

Years ago I was applying for a job I really wanted. I had gone through all the tests and interviews with consultants, had several different interviews with HR people and various line managers and had at last been informed that I was "the" candidate they would recommend to the VP who would be my boss. After about three months of interviews and test I was finally sitting in the VPs office and he sat quietly reading my CV. When he had finished reading he arrogantly dropped my CV on the floor, looked at me and asked "Why should I hire you? I can find hundreds of people with a CV like yours!" Needless to say I was amazed at his attitude. The only thing I could think of in answer to his question was “I thought you were only looking for one person for this position”.

When I got home from the interview I told my wife that I didn’t think I was going to be offered the position and even if I were offered the job I wasn’t going to take it because the guy who was going to be my boss was a jerk. The next day the head of HR called and said that they would like to offer me the position and could I please meet him so we could discuss the terms. I explained to him how I had been treated during the interview and how disappointed I was to have to turn down there offer. I really wanted the job but I didn’t want to work with such a horrible boss. The HR director explained that he knew that the VP could be a bit eccentric from time to time and often gave a bit of a “hard ass” first impression but most people who got to know him really liked him and he consistently scored high on employee surveys.

I finally agreed to take the position and got to know my new boss and really liked him. One day I asked him why he had behaved so badly in my job interview. He told me that he had already known from all the tests and interviews that I was qualified for the job. What he wanted to find out was how I could handle myself in tough situations. He said he had been delighted that I was quick on my feet, kept my integrity and used humor to manage the situation.

I do not recommend his methods. Even if his motives were good his behavior was bad and nearly cost them their favorite candidate. In fact, I have stopped using this kind of questions when I interview people. It is fair to discuss with a job candidate about their qualities related to the position. I do not think it is fair to ask people how they measure up against other candidates when they don’t even know who they are competing with. It is my job to judge which candidate is best.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Motivation without compassion is destructive. Motivation with compassion can change the world.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our own destiny. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to give or accept help. We are allowed to cooperate and try to make things easier for each other. I can take complete responsibility for my life and still accept a helping hand from time to time.

Life isn’t about every man for himself and to hell with everyone else. If you and I want to share our good fortune by using tax money to help give unfortunate children a better start in life we can vote for the right politicians and get it done. If we want to pool our resources to make sure that if any of us fall on hard times our children won’t go hungry we can. These common decisions are not abdicating responsibility, they are in fact taking responsibility.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

From the mouths of babes...

My seven year old daughter asked me at the dinner table tonight, "Is the United States a rich country?" I said "yes it is". She said "aren't there lots of people the the USA who are poor?" I said "yes there are". She said "Why are there many poor people in the USA if it is so rich?" I didn't know what to say.

I wrote this text on my Facebook page and one of my American friends who is a died in the wool republican answered “Tell her not everyone in the USA works smart or hard, and some are just unfortunate. . . just like in every other country.” My friend reply is unfortunately all too typical of the kind of poorly thought through and heartless rhetoric prevalent in the USA today. These arguments although effective miss the point. We Americans think we are the brightest, the strongest and the best at everything and find it extremely difficult to learn from other nations.

But not every other wealthy country has the kind of poverty we see in our country, the USA. Some countries address the issue of poverty differently. My American friend gave three explanations for poverty. People are either lazy, dumb or unfortunate (and I assume he would allow for some combinations of these three). These explanations, although common, at best only describe why some succeed better than others. They do not explain why a nation chooses to let some of its people live a dream life while others live in dire poverty. In a functioning democracy it comes down to the choices we as voters make. If we want to provide food, housing, equality in education and quality healthcare to fellow citizens who are less fortunate, we can. Many other western capitalist democratic countries have succeeded. We Americans can succeed as well! It is not about lowering the standard of the wealthy, it is about raising the standard of those who are worse off in society.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Penny wise and dollar foolish...

SAS has taken giant steps in cutting costs. They have replaced real people with "do-it-yourself" machines. You would think that they could at least have engough machines. Everytime I have flown with SAS the last year I have had to stand in long lines at the automatic machines. Then I have to stand in a long line again to "drop" my bagage.

Friday, September 24, 2010

For my Swedish speaking friends you can now have a look at lots of video clips from one of my lectures which I have called "The Ten Commandments for Leaders". You can either what an entire lecture of 50 minutes, a 9 minute trailer or see each commandment seperately as a 1-2 minute mini-clip. I hope you enjoy this. My friends at Astrakan Strategisk Utbildning AB have but it all together very nicely so you can either go to their page and have a look or click on the links below.

Budord nummer 1

Budord nummer 2

Budord nummer 3

Budord nummer 4

Budord nummer 5

Budord nummer 6

Budord nummer 7

Budord nummer 8

Budord nummer 9

Budord nummer 10

9 minuters trailer från föreläsningen ”Tio Budord för Ledare”

50 minuters film av hela föreläsningen finns på

For those who are curious and english speaking I hope to have something similar out in English soon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Burning Korans and other craziness...

The sad thing about a wacko pastor in a tiny church in Florida burning Korans is that his views are shared by many other so called Christians. I find it hard to believe that anyone that really bought-in to the fundamental message of Christianity could carry so much hatred inside them (love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, blessed are the peace makers, forgiveness etc etc). I spent 4 years in college studying religion and theology and I can't remember anywhere in the New Testament where it says blessed are the ass-kickers or god loves intolerance, or revenge is sweet.

If Jesus really did come back from the dead and is sitting there in heaven with god right now I bet this kind of foolishness really pisses him off. If he didn’t come back from the dead I bet he is rolling over in his grave now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Democracy is a terrible system. The only thing worse than people trying to lead themselves is letting somebody else do it!

I am sitting in the shade under one of the apple trees in my garden reading one of Sweden’s daily newspapers. The world championship in football is now over so the papers can’t seem to find much to write about, except of course the upcoming parliamentary elections this fall. Fortunately for the general public there has popped up a juicy sex scandal with one of the ministers who has been forced to jump ship right before the election. Otherwise I think this election and its total lack of issues would be the biggest sleeping pill of the decade.

The TV debate between the leaders of the two main parties was comical. Debate in this case is probably not the right expression since they agree on all the key issues. The height of their “debate” was about who came up with an idea first before the other party stole it. It was sad and funny seeing them try to say the same thing in different ways so that the viewers would think that they actually had different points of view and that the other party would lead the country to a catastrophe. When all was said and done not even the expert commentators could explain how the parties differed significantly on the issues. ( I have always been amazed that “expert commentators” can spend an hour telling you what a politician just said in 30 minutes.)

In the end the Swedish people will have to go to the polls and decide who will lead the country for the next mandate period based on who they think can best execute the plans that all the parties agree upon not who has the best ideas. Maybe that isn’t so bad but I can’t help worrying that with everyone in such agreement we might be missing something. Leading a country in times like these requires diversity of thought and real debate. Many of the challenges facing not only Sweden but the world are so complicated that they should tax the facilities of our brightest and best.

Where is the opposition when politicians agree on all the important issues? Who is representing alternative thoughts and ideas? What professional politician wants to represent marginalized ideas and issues that go against the mainstream?

Politicians want power and power comes from winning elections. From the very beginning of the great experiment known as democracy, politicians have understood that they must be closely aligned with the sentiments of the majority of the people if they want to stay in power. Hordes of PR agencies and research organizations using modern methods for measuring public opinion keep politicians and political parties on track. Politicians are continuously updated on what can be said and done that will appeal to as many as possible? This inevitably leads to a harmonization of the parties towards the center of the mainstream of public thought. Any party that ventures too far from the mainstream will be punished at the polls! In the end, democracy is a terrible system. The only thing worse than people trying to lead themselves is letting somebody else do it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Challenge of Or!

I am riding on the train on the way home from a very interesting speaking engagement at a management conference for a 50 year old company with patented industrial solutions. I can’t help but think about the similarities this company has with so many others.

The company is a powerful global player in their industry. Like many successful companies their success has been built on solid technological foundation based on high quality and innovation.

Today they face new challenges which require them to re-think virtually every aspect of their business. Continued focus on developing better products is an important success factor but it must be based on deeper analysis of “real” customer needs. The winners in industries like this will join strong products with innovative new approaches to sales and distribution. Great products once separated leaders from losers.

Today, great products only open the door to the playing field. Winners combine great products or services with innovative new approaches to sales, service, distribution and marketing. Turning products into services and services into products is something of a mantra across countless industries. As James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras put in in there book Built to Last, great companies must take on the challenge of the “or”. Should we focus on margin or volume? The winners do both! Should we focus on developing great products or be great at sales and marketing? The winners know that success will require both!

The company I met has understood that their outstanding products are a key element of a successful mix but that they must be stronger on all the other elements as well.

Many companies are facing numerous questions like:

How do we redefine sales processes to better support our customers’ buying processes our products are used in such a broad range of industries?

What steps need to be taken to go from selling products to solutions?

How do we develop new and flexible business models that maximize cash flow throughout the value chain?

How can we best use IT systems and telecom services to support our own and our customers’ processes?

Do we need to redefine the scope of our business to consolidate our past success and build a stronger platform for future growth?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Efficiency and productivity in business has always been about getting the most bang for the buck from the resources we pay for directly. The environmental crisis has made us aware that we also have to include resources we don’t pay for directly in our efficiency and productivity models.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Leaders are not born they are developed!

Leadership is not something one is born with. Leadership is a skill set that more than anything is learned. Some very few of us may have been born with a natural talent that makes it easier for us to develop as leaders. Just like some very few are born with good musical talent. These few may be able to intuitively walk into a room and "take charge". Others may sit down at a piano and the music simply flows from their fingers. The problem with these natural born talents is that there just aren't enough of them to go around and many of them never actually bloom into leaders (or musicians).

If you want to man your management with good leaders or fill your orchestra with good musicians you will have to go for the hard working people who have devoted a great deal of time and effort to learning their trade. The majority of us "normally" gifted people have to work hard to develop our leadership skills. If we want to excel we need to study with others, practice and have a high tolerance for failure.

Most of us end up in leadership positions in our companies with no real preparation at all. After spending years at school preparing for a professional discipline, years more practicing that discipline and then one day we become leaders. We go from salesman to sales manager, from engineer to department head, and so on with little or no training. If the average managers formal training for their professional discipline can be measured in years their leadership training can be measured in days or weeks. And yet most managers feel that their leadership role is more demanding than their professional discipline.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The bucket is running dry...

A few weeks ago the weather was bad so I went to the gym and was running on the treadmill. In order to pass the time I was watching a debate program on a Swedish television station. The program dealt with two issues. One was a debate about the fact that apparently Swedes eat more candy than any other people in the world. According to the program a whopping 17 kgs per person are consumed annually by Swedes. This part of the program didn't amount to much since it is hard for anyone to argue that eating that much candy is good for you.

The other debate was much more interesting. It was about how long oil is going to last. In this debate were people who argued that the oil supply would peak within 3 to 5 years and others representing the oil industry that said oil wouldn't peak until 40 years. What struck me in the debate is the realization that sometime between now and 40 years will be the peak! 40 years isn't a long time away! With a wee bit of luck I may still be kicking then and my children will be in the middle of their lives.

We have to crack this nut now because tomorrow we may have to work in the dark...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Teaching vs. Learning

No one can really teach another person anything, they can only inspire them to learn.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Harmony is the balance of tension not the absence of tension.

Have you noticed how more and more often job ads specify personality traits together with competencies required for the job. In fact it wouldn't be to harsh to say that it looks like many companies are trying to recruit the very same person or at least people with very similar personality traits. The truth is that many highly competent people just don't fit the perky, gung-ho image we often look for when recruiting new employees. This stereotyping can limit creativity and lower performance in your organization. A competent sour-puss or a difficult introvert might be just what the doctor ordered to lift us to a higher level of performance. When we say “he fits in”, “he’s a team player” or “we speak the same language” what we are really saying is we get along and there is no real tension. If you ever find yourself thinking like this when recruiting let it be a warning for you. The nice guy who fits in, the guy you would love to play a round of golf with is likely to be the wrong guy for the job.

Most of us have seen the research on how to create high performing teams and if we take a look at this research again we will be reminded that while we may not want to be throwing furniture at each other in management meetings we do want a high level of diversity and even tension. Harmony is the balance of tension not the absence of it.