Sometimes I Wonder...Arconic and Grenfell Tower

Culture and Impact, Branding and VisibilityLeslie L KossoffComment

A few years ago, then-US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney glibly told a man in his audience that “Corporations are people, too.” (If I recall correctly, he even referred to the questioner as “my friend” - which only makes it worse.)

So, since the law (at least in the United States) says that corporations have the same rights as individuals, I think it’s past time that corporations also accept the same responsibilities as individuals are expected to have in support of building and maintaining society. 

Specifically, just as individuals who harm others are held accountable by the law, so should corporations have to pay their debt to society.

Even more, just as most people - personally and professionally - try to avoid harming others, even if just to maintain civility, so should corporations take on that same commitment to a civil society.

All of which points to the leaders of those corporations.

And that brings me to Arconic and Grenfell Tower.

If you’re not familiar with Grenfell Tower, it’s the 24-story building in central London that went up in flames, killing at least 79 people, as a result of the exterior cladding that acted like a chimney. That cladding caused the fire to move so far, so fast and so hot that neither the residents inside nor the over 200 firefighters outside had a chance to save or be saved.

So, who’s Arconic? It’s the company that makes the cladding. And even though they’ve announced that they’re no longer going to sell that cladding for use in high-rise towers, I have to wonder:

Why would the leaders of a company that has documented the dangers of the product it’s producing - and which has been banned in countries around the world…including in the majority of the United States - continue to produce and sell that product? At all?

Why is it that the company’s decision-making leaders believe, think or feel that it’s somehow right to produce and sell something that they know already have and will continue to cause harm?

As you read the horrifyingly descriptive news coverage of the fire and its aftermath, you get lots of run-around explanations from Arconic (that clearly come from some combination of marketing, legal and a crisis management PR firm) that deftly (or so they hope) avoid taking responsibility…even as they express their condolences to those who have lost their homes. Or their loved ones. 

It’s simply not enough. Profits are fine. In fact, they’re great. But at what cost? 

And, most importantly, when, as an organization’s leader, you know that you’re putting people or society in harm’s way, what does that say about you? Or the organization you’re leading?

Organizations of all sizes play a previously unimagined role in society today. That means that their leaders, under the guise of leading their enterprises, are also leading society.

Whether you’re the local dry cleaner using harmful chemicals because they’re cheaper than the ‘good stuff’ or you’re the CEO of Arconic, you’re left with the same question:

Do you want your legacy to be known as the person who led an organization that caused harm…for money?

Put in that context, probably not. Hopefully not. No matter how high the profits.

From Bath Towel to Bonanza (Part Two)...or How Companies Put Themselves Out of Business Every Day

Innovation, Culture and Impact, Executive DevelopmentLeslie L KossoffComment

Whenever I think about innovation, I also think about how much innovation potential and opportunity is lost. That’s when I get sad:

  • Sad for the people who had and have great ideas.
  • Sad for the people who want to make a difference in their jobs, their companies, their lives and the lives of others.
  • Sad for the organizations that miss out on the momentous opportunities being handed to them…at no cost…every day.
  • Sad for the customers who have to wait for - or never experience - the benefit of the beautiful thinking that someone did.

Where does all this sadness come from?

It comes from the fact that organizations - institutionally and in individual management - aren’t geared to listening, learning and then acting on what they’ve learned. Their orientation is to show results. Now.

Even more specifically, they’re expected to show results for what they’re being measured on now. Not on some possibility in the future - no matter how great an idea it may be.

Unfortunately, listening and learning don’t show immediate results - which makes innovative ideas that are brought forward interesting but not compelling. A ‘nice to have,’ but not a ‘need to have.’ Something for another day. If ever.

This, by the way, is also why most executives don’t give themselves time to simply think. Not do. Just think. Unfortunately, very few organizations have KPI or other measures for thinking time. 

But I digress. (We’ll talk about this later.)

Let’s get back to bath towels and our friend, Joe.

As you may recall, I presented my version of the innovation story of the bathmat. (That’s where Joe comes in.) You’ll also recall that, in today’s market, there is a minimum 800% premium on the cost of a bathmat over the cost of a bath towel…both of which can be used for the same purpose - but aren’t.

When we left off, Joe had just told his manager about his great idea. So, let’s pick up the story from there. And, fair warning, we’re following the far more common, far sadder version - because it’s also far more true….

After hearing Joe out, his manager said, “That’s great, Joe, but I have a meeting right now. Let’s get together later and talk about it.”

The days went by and Joe kept thinking that his manager would come to him at a convenient time for them to talk. Then, when that didn’t happen, Joe decided to take advantage of his boss’ “Open Door” policy…something he’d never done before.

He knocked, stuck his head in, saw his boss looking over stacks of papers on his desk and said, “I hope I’m not interrupting, boss. I wanted to take you up on talking more about my idea for bathmats.”

“Sure, Joe” his boss said. “Come on in.”

After all, what could the boss do? The Open Door policy was a mandate from the C-Suite. (Something to do with ‘culture….’) 

In preparation for when they would meet, Joe had used the time since they first talked to come up with some figures on costs and ROI as well as ideas for how to implement his idea. He gave his boss his overview sheet and then took him through the idea in greater detail.

The manager was quiet throughout and, to Joe’s thinking, listened politely…while, in fact, he was running production numbers through his head, trying to figure out how he was going to present a not-as-good budget picture as his boss would like at the next staff meeting and what he could do to make it up to his wife that he forgot their anniversary.

When Joe was finished, his boss said, “You know, Joe, that really is an interesting idea. Let me review your numbers, do some more thinking about it and ask a few people some questions and I’ll get back to you. This was great. Really. Thanks!”

And that, dear reader, is the end of the story…at least for Joe’s company. Because, as was to be expected, the manager never did any more thinking about it, never asked any others any questions about it and, definitely, never got back to Joe.

So what happened to the idea? And Joe?

That’s the happy part of the story…at least for the idea and Joe. Because Joe was so frustrated with the lack of response that he told the story to some friends of his outside of work, who talked with some other folks they knew about this really great idea Joe had had…and Joe got a new job with a company that was VERY interested in what Joe had to say - about bathmats and any other ideas that occurred to him.

That’s why they gave him a position in R&D.

As for Joe’s old company? Oh, they went out of business. You see, they missed out on the 800%  profit differential bonanza that the bathmat brought to their competitor and lost their market altogether.

Exactly as they deserved.

Were this today, Joe would have gotten together a few friends, crowdfunded some seed money, figured out the best place to offshore production, set up a website and, eventually, been acquired by Amazon.

And his old employer would still have gone out of business.

Get my drift?

Unless and until your organization…and, particularly, your management group…is designed to listen, learn - and act - you’re putting your business at risk every day.

The higher up in the organization you are, the broader your vision for what your company can do. Chances are, there are people throughout your enterprise - no matter how large or small - who see what you do and want to make it work…almost as much as you.

I think we can all agree it’s past-time to find out what they have to say.


The Steve Jobs Series: Innovation

Make a Visible Difference: New Idea Development and Deployment in Three Steps

Deploying Vision

Coaching Your Organization to a Culture of Success

From Bath Towel to Bonanza (Part One)

Innovation, Executive Development, Culture and Impact, ProductivityLeslie L KossoffComment

I think a lot about innovation - but, much as I love what technologists do and dream of doing, I don’t think about it their way...mostly because I'm not wired that way.

Instead, I think about it the way (for want of a better word) a ‘normal’ person thinks about it. I think about the things in my day-to-day life that lead me to wonder:

  • “How did someone come up with that idea?” and 
  • “Isn’t it interesting that they did!” and 
  • “What was the first company to introduce it?” and, most important of all,
  • “How much pushback (for which, read hell) did the innovator go through getting anyone to pay attention to their brilliant idea?”

All of which brings us to bathmats.

Did you know that if you compare a hand towel that you throw on the floor because it’s convenientto step on after a shower or bath to a bathmat that you buy specifically for that purpose, you’re paying an 800% differential? At minimum?

Yes, it’s true. Eight hundred percent. Minimally.

Which is why I started wondering about bathmats and the person who first brought the idea to their management.

To be honest, I don’t know how the story really goes, so allow me to tell you Part One of my version - which is what most employees and most businesses experience every day.

Once upon a time (because every story should begin with “once upon a time”) there was an employee who worked in a towel factory. We’ll call him Joe.

Joe was a good guy. Everybody liked him. Management trusted him. He came in. Did his job. Didn’t make waves. Took home his paycheck and all was right with the world.

Over the years, Joe got married and had kids. Now, everyone knows with kids you can never have enough towels (or so I’m told) and keep in mind this was before the explosion of the baby-care paper products industry. There probably weren’t even paper towels. 

Day after day, bath time required multiple towels - for drying the kids and for drying the floor. Joe and his wife (whom, you’ll notice, doesn’t have a name - which is sociologically correct for the time, but says quite a lot…which is an issue for another day) got to the point that they would simply lay down a small stack of towels on the floor to sop up the excess.

And that’s when the lightbulb went off in Joe’s head. Rather than wasting a stack of towels when stepping out of the bath, why not create a dedicated towel - a mat!! - for that specific purpose.

Even better, because it would be thicker, the company could charge more money for it!

Well, the next day, Joe went to his manager and said, “I have a GREAT idea for the company!”

…and told him.

Which is where we’re ending this story today - because there’s a really important lesson in here for you, whether you’re a solo-preneur, business owner, manager or executive...and it’s this:

There are more ideas than you can count presenting themselves to you every day. Yes, every day. And the only thing keeping them from becoming reality is your willingness to try.

Innovation isn’t limited to geniuses or techies. Or techie geniuses. Innovation has no limits - except the ones we put on ourselves.

So don’t. Recognize the ideas you have and the ones that are brought to you every day - from small incremental ideas to world-changers - and then wonder…

Hmmm. Is it this idea? The one that’ll make all the difference?

You’ll only know when you try.


The Steve Jobs Series: Innovation (For All Levels)

Building Continuous Innovation: Four Key Strategies (For Managers, Executives and Business Owners)

No Limits.

Innovation, Culture and Impact, Productivity, Executive DevelopmentLeslie L KossoffComment

I work with lots of companies in lots of industries around the world. So I get asked - a lot - why I use so many examples from tech…especially given that comparatively few of my clients are pure-play technology companies.

Well, I explain, there are three reasons:

First: Success comes from bringing alternative thinking and solutions to the same problems that have been effecting you and/or your organization to that point. 

Technology companies love to promote themselves. So do technology people. They tell lots of stories about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, what they’re thinking about doing and what they’ve stopped doing because it doesn’t make sense anymore. 

With that amount of disclosure available as a learning tool, it makes sense to pay attention and bring that thinking to my clients…who, to that point, aren’t thinking that way.

Second: The tech industry is not only built on failure, it celebrates it. 

As far as everyone who’s anyone in tech is concerned, if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried - which means the only way to succeed is to build on your failures and turn them into successes.

As Fred Wilson, the Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures, said in a recent presentation at the MIT Sloan School of Management:

“Fucking up royally is good for you if you take the time to learn from it.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Third: Among technology types, there are no limits. 

It may sound hokey or even pretentious to the rest of us when tech-types say they’re going to “change the world” - but it’s not. Especially not to them.

In the world of technology - a science-based world, when all is said and done - the only limits that exist are the ones that exist now. The goal is to find out where those limits lie and, using vision, dissatisfaction with what is and intrepid perseverance, saying “nuh-uh” to those limits continuing to exist.

No internet availability across an entire continent? Put balloons in the air that provide connectivity…and then improve from there. (Google/Facebook)

Rural area deliveries too expensive and too slow to fulfill the customers’ needs? Create drone delivery services. (Amazon/Walmart/Alibaba/JD.com)

Want to change traffic patterns, space utilization, environmental impact…and give customers the opportunity to go out partying without worrying about traffic violations or drink-drive accidents? Develop a car-hailing service app that costs customers about a third less than taking a taxi. (Uber/Lyft/Didi Chuxing)

Okay, my clients say. I get it - but I’m still not in tech…so what does this have to do with me?

Here’s what I tell them:

Silicon Valley is as much a mindset as it is a geographic location and industry ecosystem.

I also tell them:

Unless and until you develop and bring that “Valley” mindset to everything you do - particularly on failure and limits - you will never succeed to the extent that you want or are able.

Can you? Of course you can. 

Will you? That’s up to you.


The Steve Jobs Series: Innovation (For All Levels)

Building Continuous Innovation: Four Key Strategies (For Managers, Executives and Business Owners)

Be One of the Few.

Productivity, Executive Development, Branding and VisibilityLeslie L KossoffComment

I'm a personable sort of person. Understanding. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Sympathetic (when it's warranted).

I'm also impatient and a lot tougher than I look.

And one of the things I'm most impatient about - and a lot tougher - is people who whine.

Inside or outside of my client organizations. Personal or professional. It doesn't matter the level or the reason. I have absolutely no patience or tolerance for whining or whiners.

But where does whining come from? What causes it?

Whiners are people who are more than happy to complain about their dissatisfaction with what is but have no intention of doing anything about it.

You know the types. They talk about writing a book. Or talking to their boss about a promotion. Or looking for another job. Or moving to a different country.

They talk. But they don’t act. They never start.

Then there’s the group that starts but doesn’t finish. They lose interest. It gets “too hard.” They have “more important things to do.”

They’re the ones who leave a littered landscape of ideas - from whimsical to great - that never see execution.

Or the other group that starts but doesn’t finish. They’re the ones who simply overload themselves with things that really aren’t as important and get in the way of the important work. For them, it gets to the point that can barely see their great idea any longer.

To me, they're the saddest group of all - because they tried. Really tried. And the reason they didn’t finish isn’t because they couldn’t. In fact, they were probably the closest to seeing their ideas come to life.

Instead, they got caught in the noise. 

Too many ideas piled upon the originating idea. 

Too many voices saying things - good and bad - for all sorts of reasons - good and bad - that muddied the waters so much that there was no clear blue water to be found. 

Too many tasks upon tasks upon tasks - each of which took them away from what they wanted to do.

Until someone else did it or, just as bad, they can’t find the excitement or the focus any longer to finish.

That's why when I read...

“Lots of people start. Very few finish.”    Mark Suster

...it resonated so deeply for me.

That statement is truer than any of us want to imagine - especially about ourselves. As important, though, is that lots of people talk about starting and even fewer of them finish.

Don’t be one of those.

How? The answer is easy: Don’t allow yourself to get distracted.

Executing on that answer? That’s the hard part.

But if you want it - whatever it is - then you have to finish. It’s that simple.

Don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. 

Execute. Deploy. Manifest your vision into reality.

Be one of the few. Finish.


Value Your Time: Manage Your Online Information in Under One Hour a Day (For All Levels)

Deploying Vision (For Managers, Executives and Business Owners)

Welcome to the Lead/Quant Blog.

Women in Business, Productivity, Innovation, Executive Development, Culture and Impact, Branding and VisibilityLeslie L KossoffComment

Okay. Let's start with some facts:

  • You already have a full plate of resources that you know and trust..
  • You don't have time to read, read, read...no matter how much you want to know about how you can create success...faster, smarter, cheaper and in perpetuity.
  • You don't know Leadership Quantified or our Experts...or me, for that matter.

I agree with every one of those statements. And yet, as Founder of Leadership Quantified, I still decided that it was in everyone's best interests - customers and non-customers - to give you access to our knowledge, skill and experience.

After all, we've already succeeded. Now it's your turn.

So, with that in mind, let me tell you a little bit about us...as well as what you can expect from this blog.

Leadership Quantified provides proven, targeted solutions in an online Resource format that are immediately implementable, self-managed, self-directed, measurable and repeatable.

We believe - in fact, we know - that the majority of the answers you need are either already known to you or known to others in your organization. What you haven't known how to do is access them and execute on them using a step-wise process that provides progress measures each step of the way.

That's what we're providing. In five to seven steps. Every time.

Whether we're giving you targeted solutions on productivity improvement, bringing innovation to your organization or clients, culture, customer interaction and conversion, branding, marketing, social, executive development, promoting women in your organization...or more...the Leadership Quantified Experts bring the solutions they've implemented in organizations as executives and/or consultants that have brought us - and our clients and organizations success.

Now it's your turn.

Independent. Micro. Boutique. Entrepreneur. Solo-preneur. Omni-preneur. Small or Medium Sized Enterprise. Multi-National. Local or Global. Across industries and sectors.

We've worked with - and continue to work with - them all. To succeed.

Now it's your turn.

Part of how we'll help you get there is this blog - and that puts the onus on you. Read - but comment, too. Add your thoughts. As important, add your questions.

We're paying attention. Because - and yes, it bears repeating - now it's your turn.


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