Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

The Anti-motivational Speech – A Top 10 List

December 10, 2012 5 comments

When I was 11 years old, I saw a speech by 80’s-era motivational speaker Joe Charbonneau. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and from that day forward wanted to be a public speaker of some kind.

That star faded a little bit as I got older, and I could peek behind the curtain of the tropes and platitudes that seemed so brilliant at the time (no disrespect to the late Mr. Charbonneau). This kind of speaking is now (rightly) considered more self-parody than serious boost to personal development. I wish I could say that the genre is no longer taken seriously, but speakers like Tony Robbins are now giving mega-concerts to thousands of their faithful. There is, when you think about it, no substantive difference between Tony Robbins and Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. They deal in the trade of temporary ecstasy.

I was looking through YouTube for examples of good modern motivational speakers, just to see if there was anyone out there with some substance. The exercise was depressing. The field has not changed much from the 80’s; the most successful speakers are still blow-dried white guys talking about getting you to change your state of mind. Many are hired by their fellow blow-dried, white corporate managers who believe that their workforce is unmotivated because of some attitudinal flaw that only affects the middle class.

What’s worse, the content is mostly schlock. Many famous systems are based on Neuro-linguistic Programming, a controversial, unproven form of hypnosis. Recently, on an international flight, I saw a BBC documentary called  “Money” about the proliferation of wealth creation seminars in England. It was about how poor and middle-income people would pay thousands of pounds for materials about attitude transformation. They would be instructed to meditate in strange ways several times a day, visualizing themselves with tons of cash. It was sickening, like an Amway seminar had slept with a Baptist revival.

I still want to be a speaker, and after having listened to a lot of modern motivational speeches, I think I have a useful trial theme. I call it, “The Anti-motivational Speech: How To Motivate Yourself and Those Around You By No Longer Being a Fucking Idiot.” I think it’s really going to save the world. It turns out, even smart people get themselves into really stupid habits, and transform into idiots slowly over time. You might be behaving like a total idiot and not even know it! I have ten points so far that I’m thinking about including, and I invite you to submit suggestions if I’ve missed anything important. Read more…


Michael J. Muldoon, Teacher and Coach, 1948-2012

July 20, 2012 8 comments

Michael J. Muldoon

Anyone can talk a good game about emotional intelligence. But when they pass away, and the line for their wake goes out the door and around the building, it’s a sign that they knew a little something about the subject.

Mike Muldoon was a marketer, corporate leadership coach and one of my professors at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He died this past Saturday, aged 63. He was an insightful and demanding instructor, with an irrepressible sense of humor drier than the Mojave. He famously talked through a set of clenched teeth about the things that fashinated him. His students performed loving imitations of his mannerisms. He signed his emails with the tag line: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when I know there are footprints on the moon.” Confidentially, I always thought it was a touch cheesy until now.

He talked about his family constantly, and I met them for the first time at the service. They instantly gave the impression of a warm, close-knit, church-going midwestern family. His son, a tall man with a strong presence, was just married the previous weekend. His daughters, both lovely people, were bearing the receiving line duties with poise. One of them is to be married in less than a month. They had the support of an endless host of friends, family, and well-wishers. Read more…

Why Corporations Undervalue Your Contribution

Capital managers have always viewed companies as collections of assets rather than employees, but over the last 30 years this mentality has become an unfortunate, unquestioned part of our mainstream culture. The viewpoint didn’t really become real for me until I took my MBA finance class, a class which teaches decision-making based on a company’s financial status. I was amazed how different the world looks when you only care about the books.

For those people who are unfamiliar, there are a few basic financial statements that all public companies release quarterly. One is the balance sheet, which shows a snapshot of everything the company owns and how much of those assets can be claimed by creditors versus stockholders. The other major one is the income statement, which matches a company’s revenues to the expenses that generated those revenues.

Here’s what I finally understood from taking this class: if you evaluate a company only by these statements, you have different inclinations than if you work for that company and know the employees personally.

Read more…

A Message to Data Analysts, Our Future Overlords

October 6, 2011 2 comments

[Editor’s Note] This entry is written as part of the Analytics Blogarama hosted by SmartData Collective. The subject prompt was: “The Emerging Role of the Analyst.”


As the post-apocalyptic civilization of 2017 (yes, it’s not too far off) sifts through banks of computer data searching for remnants of our contemporary culture, I hope they happen upon this post. I want them to note my foresight and prescience at having accurately predicted the new ruling class of the Next World Order.

As of this writing, very few of my colleagues join me in my supposition that data analysts – those seemingly quiet, thoughtful employees who “mostly kept to themselves” – are a mere six years away from all-out world takeover. My wife and I, no doubt, will not have survived the Great Quantitative Wars, but in return for paying homage to you “before it was cool,” I ask consideration for any household pets that may have survived us. If they survived, they’re probably hungry by now. There’s food in the bottom corner cabinet in the kitchen.

I understand why you felt you had to finally assert dominance over the world, and I sympathize. The madness simply had to be stopped.

It’s hard to believe that people wouldn’t see the signs leading up to this eventuality. After amassing many years of university education and several hundred thousand dollars worth of student loans, we rewarded you by putting you to work for managers that didn’t have the faintest idea what the hell you were talking about.

  • “What do you mean, there’s no significant relationship? Make one!!”
  • “Random, schmandom…who gives a damn?”
  • “What the hell is a mean? I just asked you for the average!”

And God help you if you worked for an MBA. The beneficiaries of one intro stats course fifteen years before, they would proceed to tell you exactly how you must have miscalculated your c-value…and it’s not like you could tell them that there is no such thing as a c-value. You were very patient as you explained that, no, we can’t just throw in more bar and pie charts to pretty it up. But alas, there was that one accidental moment when you corrected your boss’s interpretation that the data showed his decisions were 95% certain to be accurate, and they kicked you over to the IT department and called you a “Business Analyst,” and you were never heard from again.


By the time the financial sector melted down in 2008, you clearly all had enough. You watched in horror as the market minted AAA-rated junk CDOs, and insisted that it had quantitative models that proved absolutely no risk. How could there be no risk?! A first-year quant student from University of Phoenix could have told you that there was risk! Yet off we went, because our banks had to make more money than all the other banks. The risk analysts were moved into closet offices.

We figured out too late that those people who we assumed to be quantitatively-driven traders were actually hormone-addled narcissists. Oops.

So, now you’re ruling the world, and I can’t really say that’s unjust. We kind of had it coming. Our mistake was that we didn’t respect analysis enough to learn about it. We had a statistics class once, and then said, “That’s hard. I’m just going to hire someone to do this.”

That’s a pretty arrogant stance. We assumed that we could be leaders while still maintaining our own ignorance. You can’t be a leader while turning whole subject matter areas unquestioningly over to others because we simply can’t be bothered to make an effort at understanding. While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, George W. Bush was asked several times about his lack of military experience, and he replied that he would “listen to his generals and take their advice.” Having witnessed how that plan turned out, we collectively made the same mistakes in the area of data analysis.

What we should have done was embrace the emerging role of analysts in business by educating ourselves to a level of basic competence, and placing some trust in the relatively objective perspectives they afforded us. The last ten years have put more useful data at business’s disposal than the preceding hundred years, and its to our benefit that you, our new leaders, became more prominent in business as a result. Your work gives us a picture of our enterprise that circumvents our internal biases and predilections. Respect for analysis and objectivity would have spared us both The Great Depression and The Great Recession, and God knows how many unnecessary bankruptcies and bad decisions. But, it also would have denied us the opportunity to remain ignorant and make uninformed gut decisions. So we said, screw it.

So, as you’re reading this, oh Great Overlords, you have consolidated your power as the new ruling class of earth. Praise be to you. The good news is that social programs will now be fully funded, the military fully provisioned, the national debt fully paid down, and lawyers abolished. The bad news, of course, is that salons, barber shops, and upscale style boutiques will have fallen into dilapidation from lack of use, and college parties will now be very measured, thoughtful affairs. I’m truly sorry we didn’t respect your value until it was too late for us, and I wish you well. And seriously, please, look in on the pets. The short, stumpy little fuzzy one likes cheese.


If you’re new to this blog, it has lots of information on what motivates our behavior and interactions. It may therefore provide some insight into the downfall of our civilization and the rise of the Analyst Ruling Class. Here are some articles that might be of interest:

Social Validation and the Drive for Success

The Six Weapons of Influence: Reciprocity

The Six Weapons of Influence: Commitment and Consistency

The Six Weapons of Influence: Social Proof

The Six Weapons of Influence: Liking

The Six Weapons of Influence: Authority

The Six Weapons of Influence: Scarcity

The Halo Effect

Why We Want What We Can’t Have, and Can’t Have What We Want

Motivation in the Workplace: Surprising New Science

How Pressure and Stress Are Affecting Your Performance

Jon Stewart, Gen-Y, and Brand-centrism

February 10, 2011 6 comments

In my most recent MBA class on leadership, we covered generational differences. We learned that there are certain workplace-related traits that can be ascribed to Baby Boomers, for example, that is not a part of the Gen-X or Gen-Y experience. As a leader, one may therefore relate differently to employees of one generation as opposed to how they relate to members of other generations.

For example, regarding relationship to authority (taken from the Lake Forest leadership presentation on generational relations):

  • Those of the “Veteran” generation (born 1935-45) will generally respect authority and hierarchy. They generally want to be told what to do, and will deliver on explicit direction.
  • Those of the “Boomer” generation (born 1946-59) will generally challenge authority. This is the Vietnam/disenchantment generation, and therefore want a more democratic organization.
  • Those of the “Gen-X” generation (born 1960-79) are generally unimpressed by authority. This is the latchkey generation that had to figure things out on their own, and they are the first generation to want to know what people in authority can do for them.
  • Those of the “Gen-Y” generation, or Millennials (born 1980-2001) are capable of respect for authority, but only such authority as can demonstrate competence in their eyes. This is the generation of immediate gratification, and wants those in authority to show them what they can do for them right now!
Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "Th...

Jon Stewart

With this background, I’d like to introduce a fascinating video clip featuring Jon Stewart on a youth vote panel in 2000. You’ll notice that the clip seems dated, and Stewart’s persona is a little more raw and unguarded from what we see in current times. Watch the clip, and then join me back for a discussion on some of the points…

This clip is a great example of a Gen-Xer (Stewart) talking to a Millennial (the woman to his immediate right). Stewart displays a condescending attitude to that entire generation which may or may not be deserved, but in terms of how one the generational attitudes that both people express, it fits right in with the model on how these generations regard one another.

Here are a couple of points:

1) The point about Gen-Y’s brand agnosticism is perfectly valid. People born after 1980 do wield a disproportionate amount of consumer power simply because they are the generation most open to dumping their current brand in favor of another. They feel the same way about the places they work, and will change companies on a whim.

2) The presentation from which I got this information has a slide called “Connecting with Y-ers,” which suggests things like “be encouraging,” “coach instead of tell,” “give them attention,” “give them recognition,” “use irony and humor,” etc. I’m going to diverge from the presentation at this point and say that this is bullshit. I’m more in line with Stewart’s line of thinking: just show competence. Make good stuff. He enjoys a particularly young demographic without necessarily trying to “speak the Gen-Y language.” Although, to be fair, Stewart is a fan of the more-than-occasional dick joke, and that’s going to have a slightly younger draw.

Let me know what you think. And please share the discussion using the links below. Although, if you’re from Gen-Y, I’m apparently going to have to say pretty, pretty please…

9 Strategies for Influencing Others

December 18, 2010 2 comments

The Hay GroupThe Hay Group is a management consulting firm that does its own research into motivation strategies and produces self-assessment materials for students and clients. I recently took one of their assessments for an MBA class on leadership strategies. The assessment was called the “Influence Strategies Exercise,” and told me how much I rely on each of nine separate influence strategies. Their workbook then went into detail on each strategy, and the context under which it would work. Here are the nine strategies: Read more…

Motivation in the Workplace: Surprising New Science

November 11, 2010 7 comments

Daniel Pink is the author of a phenomenal business book called Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He has given several talks about his conclusions, including one at TED, and another at the RSA. The RSA talk has been re-edited into this very cool animation:

Pink’s book takes a look at the relative effectiveness of extrinsic motivators (e.g. monetary rewards, title bumps, recognition, etc.) versus intrinsic rewards (i.e. factors that make a job fulfilling for its own sake).

His conclusions are counterintuitive, which in my experience usually means that they contain a lot of wisdom.

Through Pink’s analysis on several studies on motivation – most notably from Dr. Dan Ariely of MIT and Dr. Bernd Irlenbush from the London School of Economics – Pink extrapolates the following:

Read more…