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Superheroes and Philosophy: How the Book was Put Together

Link: Superheroes and Philosophy: How the Book was Put Together.

My friend, Tom Morris and his son Matt have put together a very intriguing book looking at the relationship between superheroes from the comic book world and philosphy.  It is a compilation of essays that covers a wide diversity of ideas about this important segment of popular culture.

GADZOOKS!!! What a great idea!

This is a book that is easily a book on leadership.  The questions that superhero stories raise are not so different from those that most of us face in leading our businesses, organizations and communities.

Look at the Table of Contents. 

The essays deal with image, identity, morality, power, good vs evil, and duty.

I can't wait to get my hands on this book.

Attention to the right things

I received an announcement in the mail today of the relocation of Milton Grenfell's architectural firm from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.  That sort of thing happens all the time.

What doesn't happen is the inclusion of a reaffirmation of the companies commitment to clients.
It reads,

"Our commitment to close project attention, client communication, and passionate enagement iwth the creative process will remain the cornerstone of this practice."

Those are not throw-way lines of p.r. boilerplate.  It is obvious that this is a set of well thoughtout phrases that describe actually what this firm is committed to.

Grenfell is an architect that works in the classical and New Urbanist traditional neighborhod development arenas. 

He can be reached at 202/296-0412.

The Decline of Customer Service

Link: LILEKS (James) :: The Bleat.

James Lileks has a wry insightful sense of humor.  He publishes a daily blog called The Bleat that is a mixture of here's my day, my kid (the wunderkin Gnat), and my celebrations and rants of life. 

Today, Monday, April 25, he rants on his customer service experience at two large retailers- Best Buy and Marshall Field.

Read what he says.

Continue reading "The Decline of Customer Service" »

Internal Marketing

Link: tompeters! management consulting leadership training development project management.

Steve Yastrow at makes this comment to a client.

"We need to start marketing to ourselves with as much care as we market to our outside customers."

It raised quite a series of comments at the site.

Steve's comment does raise the importance of internal communication.  This is one of the most undeveloped, or, poorly developed aspects of many of the organizations that I know. 

What does good internal communication require?

A clear vision for impact...what do you want to result from your communication methods?  What changes or improvements do you expect?  Do you know?

What I find is that people are so wrapped up in their own responsibilities and tasks that internal communication becomes a secondary priority.  It isn't that it is viewed as unimportant.  Rather it is not viewed with immediacy that some tasks are.  Internal communication is an investment in the future, not the present.

If you have no future, only present, fine. Don't communicate. But if there is any sense of possibility or opportunity related to the future, then someone needs to elevate the place of internal communicate to a higher level.

Once it becomes a priority,  developing a plan and executing it is relatively simple.  Setting priorities is always the most difficult aspect of any developmental process.  And Internal Communication is no different.

2005 The Year of Excellence Update

At the end of 2004, I wrote a column for the Asheville Citizen-Times called Honest Answers to Simple Questions can aid you in 2005.

The link is has changed, so you can find the text of the column here.

Now that we are just over a quarter through the year, I thought it would be a good thing to review how we are doing in makign this a Year of Excellence. 

I asked the following questions.

1. Where has my impact been during the past year? 

2. Who have I impacted?

3. What new opportunities came my way this year?

4. What new problems am I encountering?

Take a few minutes today and answer these questions.

If it is difficult to answer the questions, or, if it is difficult to accept the performance you've had, then make a decision to change.

Turn the questions into goals.

Say to yourself,

During the next three months,

1.  My impact  will be focused on this situation or context?

2. I will impact the following people in a positive way?

3. What new opportunities have arisen during the last three months that require my focused attention during the next 90 days?

4. What new problems have appeared during the first quarter of 2005 that I need to find a resolution today or at least very soon?

Make your lists and go to work.

Let me know how things go. - Business - News Corp.'s Murdoch: Newspapers Must Embrace Internet

Link: - Business - News Corp.'s Murdoch: Newspapers Must Embrace Internet.

Rupert Murdoch, a little late to the dance, told the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "


"The trends are against us. Unless we awaken to these changes which are quite different than those five or six years ago, we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans ..."We've been slow to react. We've sat by and watched."

What he has to understand is that newspapers are not commodities, but conduits for the exchange of information between people.  The Internet is the supreme conversation conduit because multiple people can read and discuss the news with the paper at the same time.

As newspapers change their philosophy, and I believe they will, they will come to recognize that the human connection is what matters.  As I have said for years, and now am questioning, the newspaper is the one place the whole community can gather together and share their ideas.  Now, I'm beginning to believe it is the blogosphere. 

It is imperative that local papers begin to understand that foster a conversation with their readers - I don't mean market research - is the key to creating a tighter bond with those who might find some use to the paper.

Murdoch thinks this is a technology deliver question.  It becomes that only after you figure out how the paper becomes a part of a communal conversation with its constituents.  This is also true for every institution, not just the media.

Cluetrain Conversations: Analogy or Real Thing?

Link: Knowledge Exchange: The Cluetrain Manifesto Revisited - Part 1.

I'm impressed with the number of times The Cluetrain Manifesto continues to pop up as the direction that organizations need to take.  I agree that markets are conversations. 

But the question that I have is whether we REALLY believe in conversations as conversations, or conversations as a cool analogy for what passes for two people or thousands of people talking passed one another.

In virtually every organizational context where I have some involvement, the top one or two most significant problems is communication.   

The problem is more than poorly executed marketing, p.r. and internal communication methods. 

The problem is actually the conversation that is not taking place.

Continue reading "Cluetrain Conversations: Analogy or Real Thing?" »

Increase Participation? Raise Standards

Leadership can be the loneliest business in town.  Too often because of the way we conduct ourselves as leaders, we end up taking on most of the burden of the organization.  As a result, participation falls off, and the leader experiences burn out.

It is the issue that I address in my latest Real Life Leadership column - Raising your personal standards can work wonders for your organization - that appears in today's WNC Business Journal in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Here I speak to the need for raising standards. 

It is this topic that became the impetus to create the University of Word of Mouth weblog and to create the Fill The Seats project at UNCA last month. I have more to say on this topic here.

Jack Welch - How to be a Good Leader

Jack Welch has a new book coming out next week called WINNING.
There is an excerpt in Newsweek, this week.

He offers 8 how to's on being a good leader. My comments in RED.

- As much emphasis as I place on maintaining quality relationships within an organization, I agree with him here.  For a business, the purpose is not to build a community of leaders, but to create a sustainable, growing company.  The relationships are a means to that end.  Creating a cohesive team is far more productive than just trying to heard cats.  But there has to be a purpose, a focus.  In for-profit businesses, it is profitability.  In a non-profit, it is measureable change in your mission's area of interest.

-  A clear, compelling vision has to be something that people can imagine like a dream. It is a real life story taking place in their head, so that they know what to do, and they know when it is happening.  It has to be something that commands their passion and love.  It can't do that if it is only ink on paper.

-  As Peter Drucker says, "Leaders lead people, not organizations."  Leaders have to believe in the people they lead.  They have to care about them in such a way that they want to give their very best to the goals of the organization.  This is why Greenleaf's servant leadership has garnered such an important place in discussions about leadership.  If the leader cannot connect with his or her people in a personal way, then it will be difficult to expect excellence service from them.

-  AMEN!  When leaders do not do this, they foster an environment of suspicion.  No one really knows what is happening. As a result, the network of people within the organization begin to work at cross purposes from one another.  It is important that critical candor be constructive. That it is not just to put someone in their place, but provide them a way to move to a different place.  When you have that kind of communication stream going on, the sharing of credit becomes much more motivational.  Honesty begets motivation to improve and perform at your best.  The leader though must model this genuinely for it to be effective.

-  In Homer's day, loyalty to family and community was demonstrated by courage.  I believe the same is true for today. 

-  This is why this blog is called Leading Questions.  Questions lead to insight.  However, if the questions are to humiliate, to put someone to shame, then it is counterproductive.

-  A clear, compelling vision will be a picture of change.  Change always involves risk.  It is important to know that the risk is worth it.


- Every grand endeavor needs to have an ending point, and a new beginning point.  Ships come into port, restock, and go back out to sea.  Businesses need to do the same.  Take time to celebrate and reflect on accomplishments in anticipation for the next exploration of the unknown future.  It is so important to celebrate, and to celebrate in a way that sends the message to every participant that their contribution was essential in their success.