Leadership Libations

August 31, 2009

A Reunion of Different Sorts

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:05 pm

Ok, here I go aging myself again. I keep trying to convince myself I am young, then I proceed to write about all these things that show my age. But, what the heck, the topic is on my mind and maybe I am old and just need to deal with it!

Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a “reunion” of sorts. Reunions seem like much less of a big deal in these days of Facebook, Classmates, and Linkedin. New ways to connect are cropping up by the day, heck, I am probably more connected to many former classmates than I was when we were classmates – be it in High School or at UGA.

This was a different type of reunion. This golf outing brought together generations of P&G Customer pg_logo_ilBusiness Development (Sales to those of you keeping score at home) professionals. In attendance were current Proctoids, retiree’s, and those of us who after many years working at P&G went onto pursue a career outside the mother ship.

After spending 20 years of my life working around the globe with P&Ger’s, you forget the number of great people that you have had the privilege of working with over those years. Monday’s event gave us an opportunity to get reunited with these great people, share stories, reconnect, and even make a few new friends whose path we might never have crossed, but who shared similar values, stories, and friendships. There were many things that invigorated, inspired, and surprised me. I share them with you here as a reminder to me and perhaps inspiration to those who happen to read my thoughts.

1. It’s the PEOPLE that make work fun – This event was more family reunion than business reunion. The high-fives, man-hugs, and friendly ribbing broke out the minute everyone arrived. This very competitive group of folks was more interested in connecting than practicing on the driving range and putting greens. Funny seeing the die-hard golfers never quite making it to the range because they found someone who they hadn’t seen and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to connect.
Rivers Bend
2. It’s easy to work and enjoy people who share VALUES and PASSION – As we mingled after the round of golf, the stories and common experiences brought back great memories and renewed friendships. Be it war stories from China, coffee peddler tales, or leadership lessons, all of these stories were built on shared values and experiences.

3. ENERGY is contagious – The Buzz around the golf carts before the event started (they couldn’t quiet the group for the announcements), the cheering and jeering on the course, and the frenetic hum at the 19th hole had a special feeling. The energy was contagious. This group had a cross section of people whom had often shared heated debates, battled over choices, and yes competed for promotions carried on a energizing interaction. At the end of the day, those shared values and respect for one another created an energy that is hard to describe, but one that every organization would be envious of and should aspire to duplicate.

PEOPLE, VALUES, PASSION, and ENERGY these four words sum up my experience on that Monday and remind me how blessed I was to have this group surround me in my formative years, challenge me as I developed as a leader, and support me as I pursued the next phases of my life – marriage, expatriate life, children, and leaving the P&G nest to pursue the future.

What a special group I have had the good fortune to call my friends! What a special event! And last but likely least….I actually played a decent round of golf! I can’t wait until next year!

Special Thanks to Marty Monserez for setting this up and creating an annual can’t miss event!

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August 23, 2009

GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:01 pm

Seriously, how can there be so much energy in wanting a 39 year old man to not pursue his vocation? Someone who has skills that are in the top 1%, has the mental make-up, the passion, the desire to be at the top of their profession. Laughing as I watch the sports world go all ga-ga over Brett Farve signing with the Vikings. All the pundits bashing Brett Farve over his legacy, his loyalty, his indecision, and his passion, it’s easy to attack those who can do what we can’t. questions1219

I laugh as I watch all this. Who amongst us, at the top of our game, wouldn’t want to keep playing.

I mean seriously, if you’re the leader of an organization, just retired. And you get approached by a group who needs your insights and talents to take them to the next step. Are you seriously going to say, “No, sorry, the pundits think I should retire” Seriously?

Or maybe, you’re the sales manager at the top of your game. You’ve delivered breakthrough sales results for years. You decide to take a break. Rest for awhile. Retire. But, then the proposition comes along selling a breakout software proposition. Are you telling me that you are going to walk away?

Perhaps, you’re the CFO with the mostest, doing whatever CFO’s do. You retire your abacus and your calculator. But all of a sudden a global billion dollar business needs your wisdom. A challenge you have never faced before. Your answer is going to be…I retired??? Seriously?

Granted, the man has wrestled with his future, but you are telling me that none of us has asked questions?

I guess the questions I would ask the man….and ask you as you consider your future.

1. Are you passionate about your pursuit?
Passion and energy has created more success….or caused more failure than any of us will ever understand. We’ve all seen that kid, with amazing talent, who hates the sport they excel in. As much as we all want them to succeed, if they just don’t love it, if it becomes a pain, not a passion, it just doesn’t matter. Farve, love or hate him, accuse him of ego and self-centeredness, bottom line, he is passionate. He loves the game. Loves to play it. Make sure you have that passion about your pursuits!
2. Are you doing this for the right reason?
I am doing this for…..____ You fill in the blank. My kids, my wife, my family, or my friends. Are you doing it for the right reason. If you are trying to answer the sports critics, the papers, your friends, or even your family….you are missing the key player. Are you doing this for you? Your passion? Yourself? If you are worried about others and not you, then you will likely fail. Be like Farve, do it for you and tune out the voices out there who are fighting it.
3. Are you willing to deal with the worst thing that can happen?
Ok, So Brett comes back out of retirement. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Sully his legacy? Get injured? Streak of continuous games stops? Here we have an all-pro, heck a Hall of Fame QB who believes he has it. Has the ability to win it all. That’s what he’s playing for. It’s his legacy. Are you balancing your choices and risks?

We all have our opinions….but shouldn’t we be the owner of our risks, choices, and chances. Don’t we all have something to learn from Brett’s desire to take a risk????

#4 Succeed or FailBrettFavreVikings

GO FOR IT!

August 17, 2009

Home From Camp

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 4:01 pm

The cat’s out of my office, the house phone has started to ring incessantly, and chaos has taken over the house again!

For those who I torture with my personal life, you know that Friday marked the return of my two daughters (Ellie & Addie) from summer camp. On Sunday, July 19th, I took both of my little princesses to the airport at 5am to put them on a plane to Minneapolis to head off to summer camp. This four week excursion to the wild’s of Wisconsin has become an annual ritual for the girls. Four weeks of crafts, skiing, and chocolate fights – more activities than one can imagine – all squeezed into acres and acres of woods complete with dogs, lakes, ducks, games and baby chicks. Did I mention it is an all girls camp – YEAH!!!! – over 200 girls spending their summers together.

While we miss them dearly, I can tell you with the internet and digital photo’s it’s easy to keep up with them, even if they aren’t the best about writing! My oldest actually used all her stamps this year, while her younger sister wasn’t quite as diligent – about writing or even opening the letters she received!

So, today, I picked the girls up from the airport. The silence and quiet that had filled the drive to the airport and the time in the Crown Room waiting for them to arrive was shattered by a cacophony of stories of camp, new friends made, explanations of different things seen in pictures, and a pair of excited and very tired girls who were up late the night before. The energy and enthusiasm is engulfing and pretty overwhelming, so much fun to be the one who meets them at the airport.

So, tonight I sit back and reflect on the reunion. Each year when they return, the girls have grown. They are different– for the better – from their experience. Things I noticed this year:

    Overcoming fear and trying something new


Addie Climb 5My youngest – to say she is a bit of a chicken is an insult to chicken everywhere! – is not known for her spirit of adventure. She avoids roller coaster’s at all cost and actively avoids anything that is even close to being adventurous. So, imagine the shock when opening the camp’s webpage halfway thru camp, seeing her with rock climbing outfit on and actually climbing up the wall? This was followed by a letter talking about her skiing experience. The smile on her face in the pictures said a lot. The glow on her face as she told me about it on our walk to baggage claim was incredible. Not only had she tackled her fear, but she found that something that had scared her so much had been fun and she looked forward to doing it again!

    Networking and getting to really know people


This is Ellie’s third year at camp and Addie’s 2nd. But new girls come into camp every year. As we started the drive from the airport, I heard of about Addie’s new friend from California and the sister’s from Colorado. Ellie told me about her new house mate from St Louis and her family. The camp does a wonderful job of emphasizing the importance of getting to know people for who they are not what they have. They teach the girls to be supportive and how to handle peer pressure and bullying. They learn this from girls they can relate too vs. parents and teachers who might not have the same impact with them.

    Learning the importance of practice in improving yourself

Ellie Skiing
My oldest, has become quite the water skier at camp. This year she mastered skiing on one ski and almost pulled off her 360’. She’s latched onto that as her favorite camp activity and has gotten very good. The pride as she told me about the ski show the last day at camp was awesome. But more awesome that that was as she shared it, she told me about her practice – how she learned new things – how that practice was what made her good. In Gladwell’s latest book, he talked about how it takes 10000 hours to become an expert in any endeavor. I don’t know that Ellie will do that with skiing, but I do know she has new found respect for the importance of practice that leads up to your actual performance.

    Sisters and friendship


Add-Elle3
I’m blessed that both the girls love to go there and grow together. When they’re home together, they do what any siblings do – the older bosses and the younger rebels against that bossiness. Drop them into a camp 500 miles from home and a transformation happens. During one session, they share with the other girls at camp what it means to have your sister in camp with you. Remembering why that person who you live with is special pays huge dividends long after camp wears out and brings them closer together — something I really noticed when they returned this year.

Yes, UGA (our cat) is following the girls around and out of my office. Yes, The phone is ringing as the girls friends are all calling to get them to go to the pool, or Kings Island, or come to our house. Yes, chaos is reigning supreme as the girls explore their remodeled bedrooms, have friends over, and do what girls do talk-talk-talk! Yes, camp is over and the girls are home! YES! It’s nice that things are back to normal! YES!!!!!!!

August 10, 2009

Sudoku and Business, More in Common Than You Think!

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:05 pm

All right. I’m ready to admit it. I am addicted to Sudoku’s. As I sat working on my Blog posting this week, the temptation of the Friday Sudoku is too much for my will. Don’t get me wrong, I can easily walk away from Sudoku’s on Monday, Tuesday, and even usually Wednesday. But, once Thursday and Friday’s roll around the Sudoku starts calling106599_f260 out to me. Calling my name!
Interesting news, presentations, and even the keyboard is set down for a pen and the puzzle.

(And yes I said pen, one should only put their “final answer” down when they are ready to deal with the consequences of a wrong answer.)


So, as I wrestled with the puzzle, I started to reflect on this obsession. Ok, also was wondering whether there wasn’t a blog post in this obsession.

When did it all begin – that is the easy part. I’ve taken flights around the globe, set foot on the ground in over 30 countries and more airports than I can imagine. I’ve flown with Delta, Northwest, United, American, US Air, Southwest, Cathay Pacific, Atalia, Aeroflot, Malaysia, Thai, Dragon, China (All Directions –Southern, Northern, Eastern, Southwest), Shanghai, and Singapore Airlines (the best) to name a few. But the obsession finds its roots in Omaha Nebraska. You see, when I was leading the division of a mid-cap company, there was a monthly ritual where  we traveled in for monthly financials. These financials usually occurred on Thursday and led to a late-Thursday/early-Friday departure from Omaha. The Omaha airport has a few redeeming traits, can’t really come up with them off the top of my head, but the beer is cold. But one thing you can count on in Omaha, be it spring, summer, winter, and fall are flight delays. Mix in a little brain damage from the meetings and a USA Today….and abracadabra you have a Sudoku addiction!

So, does this addiction do anything to make me a better leader? I like to think it does and here is why:

Abstract thinking vs. Linear Progression!

You can do the early week Sudoku’s using a very linear approach. But as the end of the week arrives, straight line strategies will leave you frustrated. Instead of using the brute force method, to solve these you have to let the puzzle develop. You have to be willing to set aside one set of numbers and explore in a different arena. Dead ends aren’t always dead – problems aren’t unsolvable – you just need to look at it differently and stop trying to force a solution.

Sudoku’s are lost just like sales are lost!

By the time you realize that you have made a mistake and “lost” the battle with the puzzle it is too late. You rarely see the mistake you made within putting another number or two into the puzzle. If you do, you can often salvage the problem. No, with tough Sudoku’s by the time you realize there is an issue the puzzle is too far gone. I would tell you that this parallel’s a sale. You almost never lose the sale when the NO comes down. In fact, you lost it somewhere along the way. A wrong step, not hearing a need, misunderstanding the value of your product and service, or missing a critical player in the decision process, like Sudoku’s if you’re lucky you might see the error near when it happens. If not, the foundation for the loss was laid a long time ago.

Post-Mortem’s when we fail!

On the rare occasion (Slight attempt at humor) that I am unable to successfully complete a Sudoku, the first thing I do is figure out where I went wrong. What assumption did I make? What did I think I saw? What leap of faith did I make? Of course the 2nd thing I do is scribble the whole page up in anger, but not until I have reviewed. In business, we need to make sure we do the same thing. Somewhere our proposition didn’t meet the need of our target. It’s rarely what we hear when we lose the business, but some mis-match earlier in the decision process.

Post-Mortem’s when we succeed!

Sudoku’s have patterns. Thursday’s in the USA Today have some flows and patterns that are different than Fridays. Local papers have their own little nuances. When I travel, I love to pick up those papers and learn new patterns as there might be reapplication in other puzzles. This is true in business. We often do post-mortems on why someone didn’t buy our proposition. I would suggest that you can learn as much from someone who does buy your proposition. Why did they buy you, your company, and your product or service? If you know that, think of the application to other potential customers who might have similar needs. We usually High-Five the deal, but do we understand – truly understand – why the deal was done!

In case you wondering, the Sudoku was a success. Finished in just under 30 minutes over lunch. The 2’s and 9’s were rare, but if you were patient they came too you.

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Today’s puzzle Learning – Patience truly is a virtue, let it come to you!

August 3, 2009

IGNORE THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:02 pm

“We need to be a retailer” screamed the Great Wizard CEO from the great Screen above. “Our retailers are taking advantage of us. They are making all the money! They are stealing from us, stealing our brand, stealing our profits.  We will only be successful if we take our own fate into our own hands!” The Wizard exclaimed in full Dolby Stereo and surround sound. The nodding heads of his citizenry bobbing up and down. Oz

Dorothy, a young intern, surely no more than 22 or 23 raised her hand. The seasoned citizens of oz all looked on in horrified fear, many trying to step in front of the young intern before the Wizard saw her hand. But to no avail. The Great Wizard CEO looked at this young lady, and with a wry smile “What is on your mind young lady?”

The intern – reflecting back to her orientation day and remembering the Great Wizard asking for honest feedback – looked at the wizard and said “But doesn’t retailing require different skills than being a branded manufacturer?” She went on “Don’t you need skilled sales people, a great location, a compelling proposition, and a superb presentation just too name a few? In business school, we learned that more than 70% of retailers fail in their first year, so isn’t this outside of our core competencies?”

The crowd was aghast. No one talked to the Wizard this way. Well, no one talked to him that way and made it to the next day.

Before the wizard could speak, Mike – the head of Manufacturing – spoke up – “Miss, we make the finest product. The Wizard requires that we have make the finest product with no defects. We will definitely succeed”. The head of Human Resources, Alexa, spoke up right behind, “We hire only the best. The Wizard requires that we be the best at hiring! We will definitely succeed!” Tim the Trainer screamed out before Alexa even finished her final thought!  “And we have taught those retailers everything they need to know. We’ll beat them at their own game! The Wizard expects our training to be better. We will definitely succeed!” And so it went with all of the Wizard’s team chanting the mantra “We will definitely succeed!” By now, the Wizard’s underlings were frothing and closing in around the young lady.

oz2As the crowd closed in Dorothy thought to herself…..I knew I should have brought Toto to work with me today!

Leadership Learning:

  1. Youth’s Good Eyesight – make sure you and your team aren’t silencing dissent, sometimes the most junior in your organization – the ones with the freshest eyes – see things more clearly!
  2. Read Your Customers Emails, Not Your Press Clippings – There is a fine line between pride in workmanship and insular delusion. A slogan, wall sign, or chant don’t make it true!
  3. Require Vision and Reward Dissent From Your Functional Leaders – Mistakes, if you learn from them, are a part of business. Often the biggest mistake is key players not challenging the basic the idea, innovation, or  initiative while it is on the drawing board. Demand dissent from those around you, embrace the challenge, if the idea is valid, it will survive!

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