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Eating Humble Pie at 30,000 Feet

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to reinforce the integrity of your corporate culture. Reading time: 3:14.

      The CEO and the president of a multi-billion dollar company headed off to the airport for a business trip.

Virtual Images       No limousine. No private jet. They flew commercial—in coach. No first class treatment for them. They were too focused on treating others first class.

      That’s what leaders do. They don’t regularly spend on themselves for comfort or convenience. They more regularly invest in others for their added comfort or convenience that increases their performance and productivity.

     Of course, the CEO and President could have justified the expense of a private jet for a business trip. But on this occasion, they had planned a larger than normal window in their schedules to accommodate the added travel time. Continue reading

Being the Best Not the Biggest

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to focus on the best not the biggest. Reading time: 3:49

      The soaring 257- foot Sequoia tree planted prominently in the CEO’s office seemed to scream to all visitors: “BEHOLD-All -Ye-Who-Enter. This is Command Central Of The Largest, The Biggest, The Tallest Company in the World in our Industry.”

      sequoia1But this CEO had another idea in mind when he showcased the BIGGEST photograph in the company, of the BIGGEST tree in the world, on the BIGGEST wall in his office.

    That photograph became a meaningful and memorable teaching tool to REFOCUS the company’s leadership position as the BEST in the industry not merely the biggest.

      The CEO argued his best vs. biggest case most significantly –and visually– whenever he met with a candidate for a leadership position in the company.

       Invariably, the candidate would see that soaring Sequoia in the photograph and say something about the thrill of working for the biggest company in the industry. Then the CEO’s teaching moment was off and running. “Our focus is on being the best not the biggest,” the CEO would then intone. Continue reading

Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here is an idea to help you cope with extraordinary demands of a leader. Reading time: 5:18

      The newly promoted CEO is rifling through a stack of congratulatory phone messages.

       phone messageHe’d just returned to his expansive and expensive new office from a press conference announcing his appointment as the leader of a $3 billion company.

     His compensation had just increased 10 fold and now his span of control reached globally into eight other countries and over 18,000 employees.

      But this newly minted milionaire CEO had more meaningful things to think about than dwell on his own success. And in the process he taught us all a keen leadership lesson in authenticity in his first few minutes in the BIG Chair.

     “That’s the most important message of them all,” the CEO says, handing the phone message to his top public relations guy.

Continue reading

Turning the Spotlight on Others

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you reinforce management-employee relations. Reading time: 3:34.

       The Chief Executive Officer is standing on a balcony overlooking the industry’s most comprehensive research facility. A photographer from The New York Times is setting up to take the CEO’s picture commemorating the $111 million facility’s official opening.

Setting up lighting for a photo

Setting up lighting for a photo

      lighting1 reflectorsThe company’s Public Relations guy is thrilled with the national exposure, thrilled to have interested a significant media outlet to come half way across the country to cover this event.

       But suddenly there’s a snag. There’s technical issue with the photographer’s lighting. The photographer asks for time to fix the lighting.

       The PR guy finds himself in an awkward situation: alone with the CEO with no particular meeting agenda, no proposal to be made or decision to be approved. The taciturn CEO was at ease in the silence. However, the PR guy felt the eerie silence as if it were weight on his shoulders.

       But then the PR guy’s own chest began to swell with great pride, thrusting that weight off his shoulders and throwing himself head first into a few minutes of rare face time with the CEO.

       Here was his chance to impress the CEO with some gambit of pithy conversation, some insight into his expertise as the company’s spokesperson, or at least some other side of his personality that would crack the CEO’s wall of silence. But instead the CEO unveiled a more revealing side of his own personality. And in the process Continue reading

Relationship Building: Dare to be Humble

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you check your ego at the door and build stronger relationships.

        General Colin Powell, then the nation’s former top military officer, always kept a special phone line in his office that only he would personally answer. He gave the phone number to people he trusted would call him to keep his ego in check, to make sure he was staying connected to the real world in his decision making.

Colin Powell as Secretary of State

        I  think of that personal Hotline as his “Snotline.”

      All leaders have their version of a Hotline to act quickly to divert a crisis, but how many leaders like General Powell have a “Snotline” –a dedicated phone line– to help them avert a personal crisis? How many leaders trust their friends enough to ask them to call him and alert him to what he can’t see in himself: like the proverbial snot hanging from his nose. Installing that “Snotline” takes humility, discipline and fortitude. Installing that “Snotline” takes leadership. Maybe that’s why the Romans gave their rulers a golden shield inscribed with the words: piety, clemency, justice and valor. Leaders dare to be humble.

     With humility comes wisdom as T.S. Eliot noted: “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” With humility comes revelation as Henry David Thoreau noted: “Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.”With humility comes character as Norman Vincent Peale noted: “People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less.”

    Maybe that’s why Albert Schweitzer always traveled third class. He never wrote a letter on a clean sheet of paper– the back of any scrap paper was fine. Maybe that’s why Albert Einstein once received a package from the post office labeled only Professor Einstein, Europe. He marveled at the excellent postal service without noting his own fame. And maybe that’s why Mohandas Gandhi did not like to be called Mahatma meaning “Great Soul” because it implied there were little souls. Leaders dare to be humble. Continue reading

Fatherhood: Jack Nicklaus Tees Up a Winner

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea on getting in touch with your humanity. Reading time: 6:11

            You may know Jack Nicklaus – the famed Golden Bear– as the greatest professional golfer of all time.

Jack Nicklaus in 1978

Jack Nicklaus in 1978

       But I got to know a very personal side of Jack Nicklaus –light years away from the golf course.

       And in the process he taught me a lesson in personal leadership that I never forgot:  Get in touch with your feelings –especially off the job– so that you can better focus your performance on the job.

Peter Jeff interviews Jack Nicklaus in Juy 1973

         It was 1973 and at 33 Jack Nicklaus was at the top of his game.

        The Golden Bear so dominated the professional golf world that three weeks later he would break Bobby Jones’ 43-year record for winning the most major golf championships. That’s a record Nicklaus still holds today 40 years later, a record that Tiger Woods still needs five majors to break.

          Back then,  I was a newspaper reporter for The Miami Herald in Florida. I worked out of the newspaper’s West Palm Beach, just 9 miles from Jack Nicklaus’ home in North Palm Beach.

 I Balked

        On Tuesday afternoon, July 24, 1973 The Miami Herald got a news tip from Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach that Jack Nicklaus would be visiting the nursery ward to see his fifth born child (Michael) for the first time.

        My editor assigned me to interview Jack Nicklaus at the hospital. I balked.  Continue reading