In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides points out that piracy preceded commerce as the first economic activity in ancient Greece. Poor agricultural conditions led down-on-their luck villagers to turn their knowledge of their cragged shores and oft-used fishing routes to their advantage to rob. Not only were these practices tolerated, they also seem to have been condoned in places like Cilicia and Lycia, the most notorious pirate havens of the ancient world.
Q: I lead an operations team in a fast-paced, often high-stress environment. I am comfortable managing the leader–follower dynamic and with what is expected of me as a leader. But I am having trouble helping some on my team prepare to be leaders themselves. Most times, these good people make bad decisions by biting off more than they can chew. How can I develop subordinates to exercise authority correctly, especially when their ambition exceeds their ability to act?
Q: Pete, I am frustrated by the apparent inability of one employee on my team to understand what needs to be done on a project even after I provide careful explanations. On previous occasions, I have run through an example, doing the work myself to show that what I was asking of him was doable and reasonable. This employee would then tell me that he understood, and he would commit to completing the project. A week goes by. When we meet again to review his [...]
Thirty-five Memorial Days ago, President Ronald Reagan gave a moving speech at Arlington National Cemetery. He remarked, I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.
Q: Pete, one of our best long-time customers recently asked us for pricing on their next two-year contract. At the time, our backorders were high against our production capacity so I sent them a high price, assuming they would try to negotiate it down. But they shocked me by simply accepting it. Among our company’s core values are integrity and honesty, so I went to my boss for help in developing a solution. He was somewhat amused and counseled vaguely that I “let my conscience [...]
Around the globe, hundreds of millions have been celebrating Holy Week and Easter, a time each year that Christians commemorate the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of the season, it is fitting to explore an excellent habit exemplified by this most perfect of all leaders: humility. Real humility enables people to see real limits and accept others as their equal, or even their superior, in any given situation. Humility is needed to lead because it helps us to trust — [...]
As a CEO, how many times have you scanned the room and asked, “Who is going to be accountable for this problem?” After an intense lingering silence, no one responds, and no one steps forward. Accountability means accepting responsibility for one’s choices and actions. When things go wrong, this necessary quality of teamwork is often in short supply. Strengthening accountability in an organization’s culture is like baking bread, and you are the leader — the chief baker. To get the right results, you must use the proper [...]
President Trump has ignited an intense debate about the impact of trade on our nation’s health. The crux of Trump’s argument is: “I want free trade, but it's got to be fair trade.” Decades of failure by political leaders to protect the nation’s citizens from unfair competition has amplified our inequalities. Tariffs can make free trade fair again and help heal the impoverished and insecure state of many American workers. Though the January 2016 unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent, measures such as the Employment-Population [...]
Q: Peter, my team lacks a sense of urgency. Even though we mutually agree on the tasks to be done and the timeline, we don’t execute on time, often taking twice as long to finish. When I challenge the team, I get excuses. What can I do to build up a sense of urgency? A: A “sense of urgency” is made up of two parts: 1) the extent to which our sense powers (like sight, sound, touch, etc.) perceive a situation or problem is important; [...]
Q: My sales team has a poor closing ratio on the leads or prospects that we give to them. I know that there are plenty of books out there on how to improve sales, but what advice can you give me as a leader about how to improve the performance of my sales team? A: Several years ago, a senior executive I coached invited me to observe a conference for about 700 of her sales representatives. The keynote speaker was a sales guru whose name [...]