Sunday, October 4th 2015

Chalk Talk: New Managers Must Learn To Let Go

Will LucasWilfred J. “Will” Lucas is President of the W. Lucas Group, Inc., a leadership development and executive coaching firm based in the Chicago area.  Previously, he spent nearly 25 years working in various corporate executive positions, including leadership positions as divisional general manager of Allegiance Healthcare, a unit of Cardinal Health, and also corporate staff leadership roles at Baxter Healthcare.  As a business coach, Lucas works with high potential middle managers and senior leaders in a cross section of industries.  He has engaged with numerous clients — at companies from BMO Harris Bank to Blue Cross Blue Shield — to help them leverage their individual gifts to achieve personal and company goals.  The strategic “chalk talks” Lucas will present here are designed to help readers develop the leadership skills which can propel them to the next level.

By Will Lucas

What happens when you have just been promoted from individual contributor to your first job as a manager? Suddenly, you are not just responsible for your own contributions to the organization, but you are responsible for the contributions of others too.

So, now what? Typically, no one offers inside information on how to work with and manage others. In fact, much of what leaders learn is learned on the job. People are not born with every skill needed to lead others. It is a learned process, a journey.

As new managers embark on their leadership journey there are a few important lessons to take into account. Consider the example of a very successful individual contributor at a financial institution, who was promoted to her first supervisor role during a time of crisis. (more…)

The Charleston Reality: Perspective From A Native

Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, S.C.

Mother Emanuel AME

There are moments in American history so unspeakably tragic they crush our hearts, crater our souls. Certainly, “9/11” was such a time for all Americans. But “6/17” was yet another heartbreaking day for most African Americans. Wednesday, June 17, 2015, to be exact. On that day, racist Dylann Roof gunned down nine innocent, unsuspecting people – all black – inside historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who had waged a hard and patient battle against the Confederate flag’s presence in South Carolina.

For many of us, that day brought a mix of mournful and enraged tears, not unlike those that welled up on September 15, 1963, when dynamite planted by the Ku Klux Klan blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young, black girls. Or, frankly, on August 9, 2014 when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Or earlier this summer, when unarmed African-American, Spencer Lee McCain, was gunned down by police in Baltimore.

I am reminded of James Baldwin’s exceptional essays in his best-selling 1963 book, The Fire Next Time, a response to America’s social and racial injustices of the time. He wrote then, that “we, black [people] and white [people], deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation.” In the face of racism’s evil, blacks and whites have a history of supporting one another. In that spirit, Baldwin’s plea applies still today, more than 50 years later.

As many of us wrestle with America’s protracted problem of racism and the need to unite, I asked my friend, a native Charlestonian, to help by relating his experiences and knowledge of South Carolina, and his feelings in the aftermath of that state’s divisive events. My hope, and his, is that they provide a bit of perspective and peace so that we land upon a rainbow and not a fire next time. His essay follows.

By Damian Joseph

Damian Joseph

Damian Joseph

After that day, June 17th, the nation’s eyes focused on Charleston, S.C. There was shock, panic, outrage, grief, finger pointing, sadness and abhorrent celebration.

Immediately, the country unleashed a frenzy of communications. In what has become the closest our society comes to having a conversation, citizens shouted at each other from their computers, phones and studios.

Welcome to Charleston.

The nation got a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up in a place like South Carolina, where the conversation on race is vivid, alive and evolving. Yes, it is true that generally speaking, more racists live in the South. But what is also true is that the South, in many ways, is the frontline of the battle against racism. (more…)

Talentism: Unlocking the Power of the New Ecosystem

Ashford_HollandPres By Orlando Ashford

Mr. Ashford is President of Holland America, an award-winning cruise line with a fleet of 15 premium vessels carrying approximately 850,000 guests annually to all seven of the globe’s continents. The Holland America line is a division of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise ship enterprise. Ashford is an executive on a meteoric rise, who has become an expert on talent. Prior to joining Holland America, he served as Coca-Cola’s Group Director of Human Resources for Eurasia and Africa, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer for Marsh & McLennan Cos., and President of Mercer consulting’s Talent Business Segment. The following is an excerpt from Ashford’s book expressing the urgent need to close the talent gap by embracing what he calls a “new human ecosystem.”

“Talentism” is a term I first heard used by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic forum; it refers to the notion that human capital fundamentally drives growth for both business and societies. The old model of capitalism, in which capital was the most valued and necessary resource for businesses, is being replaced with talentism, with talent being the critical factor driving growth for both business and societies.

In the past, the most critical resource for businesses was financial capital. An entrepreneur could not start a factory or a steel mill without large amounts of capital to buy the equipment and pay for the facility. But in today’s economy, human capital — not equipment or the money to buy it — is the critical resource. Talentism therefore can be viewed as supplanting capitalism. People and the skills that they bring are the critical resources, and critical talent is getting harder and harder to come by.

Today, more than one-third of employers worldwide cannot fill all available jobs. Yet, an estimated 202 million eligible workers are unemployed across the globe. (more…)

The Corner Office: Profit By Paying Off Student Loans

MartySinger2Martin “Marty” H. Singer is Chairman and CEO of PCTEL, which develops antenna, scanning and other solutions for wireless networks. Before PCTEL, Singer served as President and CEO of SAFCO Technologies, another wireless communications company. He was also a Vice President and General Manager at Motorola and held senior management and technical positions at Tellabs, AT&T and Bell Labs. With a Vanderbilt Ph.D in experimental psychology, Singer is a trained thinker. He shares this space with other distinguished executive thinkers, who offer occasional musings from “the corner office.”

By Marty Singer

About 18 years ago, a young Venezuelan-born engineer – let’s call him Fred – approached me. He had been working for our Chicago-based company for about a year and he had bad news. His college bachelor’s degree from Penn State had been funded by the Venezuelan government; and, unless he returned to Venezuela he needed to repay $40,000. He wanted to stay in the U.S., but he had no choice but to give me notice that he would be resigning his position.

After a brief discussion with our parent company and my CFO, we offered to pay off the loan in return for a commitment that Fred would work for us for four years and reimburse us if he left early. Indeed, I left the company before Fred. After his four years, though, he joined the team at my current company, PCTEL, where he is one of our most highly-valued associates.

Our policy now is to approach the top, young performers at the company and inquire about their college loans and continuing debt. (more…)

A Grocery CEO Talks Growth and New Consumer Habits


Robert “Bob” Mariano is Chairman and CEO of Roundy’s, a $4 billion grocery retailer with more than 165 stores throughout the Midwest – including brands such as Pick ’n Save, Copps, and most recently, Mariano’s.  The Mariano’s brand, a compelling hybrid that is part Euro Café and part specialty foods grocer, has been taking the Chicago market by storm. It’s a big bet, intended to add a much needed spark to a struggling Roundy’s group of stores. While big-box grocers such as Safeway’s Dominick’s have exited Chicago’s ultra competitive market, Mariano has been growing his new concept at a swift pace. The plan is to defy the odds and grow Mariano’s stores beyond Chicago to other states across the nation.

Over the summer, the straight-talking native Chicagoan paused from his busy rounds to share some impressively candid answers to questions about his growth plan, his approach to customer service and technology. Here are excerpts from our conversation at the Metropolitan Club of Chicago:

1. You are pursuing a rather aggressive growth plan with Mariano’s at a time when a lot of food retailers aren’t growing. So why are you being so aggressive?

Mariano: Well, carpe diem, you have to seize the day. There’s an opportunity in the Chicago market now, and we are working very hard to accomplish all that we want to accomplish. We added 13 stores this year, it’s about 6,000 employees. You have to turn your hearing aid off to Wall Street. The Street wants results in 13 weeks. But you build a business over a long period of time. I submit that if somebody came up with the idea of the 3M Corporation today, it would never be what it is today. Corporations from years ago took time, they had patience, they even made mistakes. You have to have a level of understanding of what the Street is looking for, but at the same time you have to keep your eye on the long-term value. I’ll admit, it does take a bullet-proof vest sometimes.

2. As a leader you have to be able to look out into the horizon. What is your vision for your stores?

Mariano: We’ve got to be totally differentiated from other retailers. I don’t want to look like Walmart, taste like Walmart, feel like Walmart.  Do I want to be aware of what they do? Yes. But I don’t want to do anything like them. (more…)

HP Charts A New Course As Two Separate Companies

HP picture1

By Kacper Szumiec

Recently, the hard drive on my HP Envy DV6 crashed during what should have been a routine HP software update. But after less than two years of ownership, the computer simply froze up entirely. Every piece of data stored on the hard drive got erased. Customer service was sympathetic and pleasant, but the best they could do was mail me a disk to refresh the drive to its original store-bought status. Any personal data that I didn’t save to the Google cloud was lost forever!

That frustrating experience is why I think HP’s decision to spin off the PC business into a separate company is a good thing. The Silicon Valley computer conglomerate is joining a growing list of companies splitting up in order to produce better products for their customers and to adapt to an evolving marketplace. On October 6, 2014, HP Chairman and CEO Meg Whitman announced a plan to divide the company into what she expects will be two separate Fortune 50 companies. The Printing and Personal Systems division (PCs and tablets) is set to become HP Inc, and the server, storage, networking, services and software units will combine into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE).

This move will allow HP–whose sales slumped 2.5% from the year prior to $28.4 billion in the fourth quarter reported Nov. 25th–to become more flexible and keep up with competitors such as Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba on the PC side and with the likes of IBM on the enterprise services side. HP has been losing ground to all of those players in recent quarters. The spin-off process is estimated to take until next October, when Whitman would become CEO of HPE and non-executive chairman at HP Inc. (more…)

Golf and Business: The Value of Networking on the Green


By Billy Dexter

billy-dexterThe old adage, “My worst day on the golf course still beats my best day in the office,” adorns many a wall in business centers around the country. The opportunity to spend four to five hours outdoors on a beautiful and well-manicured golf course enjoying the great weather, your favorite beverage and a group of friends, colleagues or clients is something many executives daydream about and try to make happen weekly during the golf season. For others, hitting the green is something to be dreaded, because they fear embarrassing themselves with their lack of golf skills and lack of knowledge about the language or etiquette of the game.

Playing a round of golf is often a better setting than a power lunch or boardroom meeting to make great connections. Executives play golf for professional and personal advancement. Golf is more than just a game; it is a skill that any professional person looking to advance his or her career should learn. Golf provides you with an opportunity to get to know people and business associates in a more leisurely way. (more…)

NFL Players Chief Talks Race and Economics in Sports


DeMaurice (“De”) Smith is the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the union for professional players in the National Football League (NFL). Under Smith’s leadership, the NFL players negotiated a historic 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with NFL owners in August 2011. The new CBA achieves unprecedented benefits for players, including new health and safety protocols in effect throughout the season and into retirement. Prior to his work with the NFLPA, Smith was a trial lawyer and litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. offices of Latham & Watkins and Patton Boggs. Before his tenure in the private sector, Smith served as Counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder (now United States Attorney General) in the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Monday, June 9, 2014, Smith made time for a special visit to participate in a luncheon executive chat at the Chicago law offices of Winston & Strawn. The conversation, which benefited the youth educational programs of LINK Unlimited, was essentially Part II in our discussion on the business of professional football (click NFLPA @ Met Club Chicago to read Part I). After a light lunch, an estimated 75 executive guests enjoyed our ongoing discussion about doing business with the world’s richest sports league, race relations in sports and issues of player health and safety. Here is an edited transcript of Smith’s responses to five major topics of inquiry:

1.) Crockett: Pro basketball has been praised for its no-tolerance policy in the Donald Sterling case. The NFL seems prepared to ban racial slurs on the filed but has been more tolerant of racially insensitivity off the field. How do you feel about how the NFL handles race?

Smith: Yes, the NFL is a $10 billion a year business. It’s commoditized, and sold and packaged. But the essence of why our fans love our sport is for the beauty of sport. When it comes to race relations and tolerance of ideas, it seems to me that what we want to accomplish is that nobody should be in the business of trying to intentionally hurt, harm or slur anyone. (more…)

The Future of Healthcare: How Industry Leaders See It


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was touted as a bill for the better—legislative CPR that would breath new life into the American healthcare system for the good of all. The new policy is supposed to extend coverage to those previously without it, increase access to coverage, boost competition among payors, and limit restrictions from insurance companies. However, the rollout has been undermined by computer glitches, missed deadlines, underwhelming enrollment, and intense Congressional opposition. So, is healthcare reform working? How is it impacting business and patients? What innovations in the delivery of care can we anticipate?

I sat with three top industry executives during a panel discussion April, 23rd at the Metropolitan Club of Chicago: Michelle Gaskill, President of Advocate Trinity Hospital on Chicago’s southeast side; Ken Olson, President of Horton Benefit Solutions, which advises large and small employers on healthcare and insurance matters; and Dan Yunker, CEO of Land of Lincoln Health, the first non-profit health insurance company in Illinois governed by its consumers. In the lively discussion, co-sponsored by Heidrick & Strugggles, we dissected the shifting sands of healthcare. Here are edited excerpts:

On whether the ACA is working?

Gaskill: It’s working for some but there are a lot of challenges for some also. From the provider (hospital) perspective there are a number of pressures that we are still trying to figure out. (more…)

Healthcare’s Next Stand: Patients Must Become Consumers


By J. Todd Phillips

 J. Todd PhillipsYears ago a colleague of mine had a desk plaque that read, “The buck stops…over there.” For too long, this has been the mantra of the unwitting American healthcare consumer. Many Americans do not recognize themselves as consumers when utilizing the healthcare system. We are “patients” – often impatient, of course, but “patients,” nonetheless. We are people who, according to the definition of patients, “receive or are registered to receive medical treatment.” Therein lies the problem: patients “receive”, we are acted upon, we are passive participants in the healthcare process. We pass the buck.

Given all the changes now sweeping across the American healthcare system, this has to change. With the era of healthcare now superimposed on the age of immediate access to information, patients must become consumers. Consumers “purchase goods and services for personal use.” Consumers are active participants, they seek options, they arm themselves with data and they make informed decisions – most often based on value. It seems the U.S. healthcare system has been designed to discourage this typical consumer behavior often seen in other industries. Why don’t Americans purchase healthcare the same way we purchase vacations, vehicles and household appliances? New innovations brought about by both rising healthcare costs and healthcare reform should move the needle on this metric.

Insurance companies are creating innovations aimed at lowering cost, expanding coverage and shifting accountability. In addition to offering plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies now (or will soon) offer solutions to increase healthy behaviors among consumers. Many also offer web-based tools to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. For example, logging in to the member portals of some of the national insurance carriers gives consumers access to price comparison tools, provider directories featuring Zagat-style doctor ratings and education on how to prevent illness. These tools truly make it easier for patients to become consumers. (more…)