Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Leadership Lessons from Sidney Crosby of the Penguins

I rarely try to conflate sports stories into business allegories but I’m still euphoric over the Pittsburgh Penguins’ victory a few nights ago (and excited about our WBS Penguins’ currently knotted playoff series with those pesky Binghamton Senators – Impeach ‘em!)  However, Sidney Crosby subtly demonstrated one of the attributes that make him a true team Captain after Monday’s game.

To recap:  Penguins goalie Mark Andre Fleury has a well-chronicled history of mental lapses leading to team collapses in the playoffs.  And the most recent series against Columbus was bringing out the doubters again.  After single-handedly costing the Penguins game 4 with a crazy decision to leave the net open with 25 seconds remaining, Fleury won game 5 and was playing brilliantly in game 6…until the end.  Holding a 4-0 lead with 10 minutes to play (powered by Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick), Fleury let 3 goals slip by in a span of 5 minutes.

After a frantic finish that saw the Pens hold on and win the series, Crosby was quick to grab the game puck and hand-deliver it to Fleury.  When the announcer, who was among many taking jabs at Fleury all series, asked Sidney why he chose Fleury for the honor, he said “There’s a lot of pressure.  It’s a hard job.  And Mark was the best player in the series.” 

And with those few words, the Captain gave an strong endorsement to a player whose confidence could be faltering and who the team desperately needs to stay strong through the rest of the playoffs.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I consider people who need to be reminded of their value and importance even when they may be faltering.  The team needs them and is rooting for them to succeed, even if they don’t know it.  We all have to remember to tell them as much, just like Sidney.  Let’s Go Pens!

What Am I Reading?

Unknown-Pleasures-Inside-Joy-Division-Updated-Cover-Jacket-Aug-2012Regular readers of the blog know that I am a sucker for memoirs about great artists and musicians.  And this book by Peter Hook delivers a thrilling, funny and touching eyewitness account of his seminal band Joy Division.  Hooky starts with a gang of rambunctious kids who want to make music and takes us right through the group’s abrupt demise with the shocking suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.  Like Joy Division’s music, that description sounds bleak but the book is anything but.  Like one of the band’s early ep’s, it’s more an “Ideal for Living.”  Random question:  Why do bass players tell the best stories?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It’s Hard To Dance With Mouse Guts On Your Shoes!

As a CEO, a key part of my job is telling the company’s story, whether it be to our private equity partners, bankers, auditors, dealers, employees or others.  And I have often referred to that story-telling as “dancing” in that it involves artfully putting on a show for the audience.

Among those who have seen me “dance” are GWC’s two ambitious interns from Kings College, Chris and Patricia, who are helping us out for a few months on competitive analysis research.  And in the process, Patricia unwittingly inspired the name of my to-be-written autobiography.

A few weeks ago, Jeannie discovered a baby mouse zipping across the carpet, leading to the requisite office freak out.  Alicia, our brave ex-Navy sailor, handily scooped up the little critter and released it outside.  And for the rest of the day, I occasionally walked through the area pretending to squish mice under my feet.  (Okay, I admit to sometimes having the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy!) 

At one point, Georgiann asked me what I would do if I actually stepped on a mouse and got its “guts” on my shoes.  I jokingly replied that I’d have one of the interns clean it off!  And after a bit of friendly back-and-forth, our intern Patricia (who is soon heading off to a career in public accounting) let me know that in a few years she would be coming back in search of bigger and better things, telling me “Hey, I can do your job:  I can walk up and down the aisles all day, stomping my feet and scaring people too!”

I was stunned by Patricia’s quick wit and “guts” in dishing it right back to me and let her know that her courage will take her far.  But on reflection, I realized that much of my job is pretty basic, un-sexy, operational stuff like chasing down mice.  And that the more bogged down I am in the daily grind, the harder it is to do the big picture, visionary things like imagine, implement and tell the story of a fast-growing, dynamic company.  I will re-dedicate myself to trying to stay above the fray.  But in the meantime, the working title of my autobiography title is the header on today’s blog.

What Am I Reading?

the_hard_thing_about_hard_things__building_a_business_when_there_are_no_easy_answers__ben_horowitz__9780062273208__amazon-com__booksLots of hard things to discuss in this blog, not the least of which is finding the time to read the books stacking up on my credenza and iPad!  Too many great TV shows starting up right now (Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Turn, Bates Motel….)  But I’m overdue for a good leadership book so I’m just starting venture capitalist Ben Horowitz’s new one on the challenges of leading a business.  The quote that sucked me in:  “Ideally, the C.E.O. will be urgent yet not insane.”  THOSE are words I can relate to!