swimming in the flood

19-22 Culture Club

Corporate culture, the iPod, and Woodstock.

swimming in the flood

19-21 Fighting the Fescue

Imagine that you are Rory McIlroy, a national treasure. A hero to your hometown, your home country. Crowds cheer your name before you make your first swing of the day. You acknowledge your fans and set in to perform your assigned tasks. The last time you played this course you were masterful. Better than masterful, you set the course record. Your chest is swollen to three times its size with the pride in your abilities. You are on the first tee of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and you just hooked your opening tee shot out of bounds then slashed the next one into hip high gorse dashing your chances of winning The Open Championship and crushing the hopes of a nation who waited half a century for this moment. It sounds like a Greek tragedy you learned in high school.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Hubris is the Greek sin of pride and one of the most tragic flaws of a hero or heroine. In the Odyssey, Odysseus’ hubris and arrogance towards the gods causes him to encounter trouble after trouble in a 10-year journey home of the battle of Troy. Narcissus is so prideful of his beauty that he sits staring at his reflection until he starves to death. Achilles is so prideful in his immortality, yet an arrow to the heel kills him.

How does hubris affect resilient leaders? There are numerous examples of hubris amongst CEOs. A University of Missouri study showed that, “Overconfident CEOs, feel that they have superior decision-making abilities and are more capable than their peers. Unfortunately, they tend to make decisions about mergers or acquisitions that can be viewed as risky. For example, CEOs who are over-confident tend to target companies that do not focus on their core line of business. Generally speaking, according to the study, mergers that diversify companies don’t work.”

The study also found that CEOs who are over confident often use cash to purchase or merge with other businesses. They do this because they believe their stock is undervalued. The CEOs are not paying attention to how the market views their stock, they believe that their personal judgement is more valuable. These CEOs are betting millions, nay billions of dollars on these judgements. Some of that may be your 401k or pension money their gambling with. These CEOs are in their current position because they’d proven their worth over the years. Has something changed in them? Are their successes of the past clouding their vision of the future?

Quick show of hands how many of you committed your own sin of hubris? An act of pride based on your newly acquired resilient leader’s skills? Made a decision because you made the same decision a thousand times before? My magic mirror shows me that more and more of you Greek sinners are starting to raise your hands.

Hubris is an ironic sin. Most of us don’t know when we are guilty of it. Most of us don’t know that we are staring at our reflection until we starve to death.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on hubris. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Trust your caddy. You heard it. Trust your caddy. This theory has been recently endorsed by one Northern Ireland golfer with a big swing and impish good looks.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Last week I was competing in a golf tournament in Scotland on a wind ravished course named Gullane #2. I was in the middle of the pack but recently started making a move up the leaderboard. I made three pars in a row when I stepped up to the tee a faced a wind strong enough to make my gums flap. An axiom of golf is when it’s breezy swing easy. Unfortunately, this was one of the longest holes on the course and the wind would only make it two times longer. I needed to pound out a solid drive to give me a chance at keeping my par streak alive. As you can expect, I swung too hard and hooked it into the fescue on the right. I’m not talking the cute little wispy fescue. I’m talking the chest high stuff. The kind of fescue you’d find Sandy Duncan making Wheat Thins commercials from.

My caddie, Caleb, and I searched for the ball. The competitors in my group and their caddies helped to no avail. We couldn’t find the ball. The rules of our tournament varied from normal golf rules. If a ball was lost in the fescue we were allowed to drop where we thought it was lost with only a one stroke penalty. I dropped my ball into the fescue and asked Caleb for the yardage. He replied, 225 to the flag.

Caleb handed me my A-wedge, which is a club I would hit typically 100-110 yards, less than half the distance to the flag. I was already hitting my third shot. I needed to put this on the green or very close to have a chance to make par. I commanded my 3-wood. “Mate, you don’t want to do that.” That was the sage advice from Caleb. You don’t want to do that. I did the math in my head. If I used the A-wedge, I would be – at best – a hundred and a quarter to the flag and at best lose one shot to par, maybe two at best. No, I needed to get to the green now. It was the start of the back nine on the final day. I needed to go for the green.

Caleb dutifully handed me the 3-wood and stepped back. For those of you who don’t play golf or have never hit out of this type of heather imagine playing golf with glasses that are not the correct prescription – got it – okay now rub some Vaseline over the lenses. That’s what it looks like trying to hit a ball in thick fescue. You don’t know how high the ball is sitting off the ground. Is it flat to the ground or is it three inches off. Plus, the fescue has a nasty habit of trying to grab your club as it moves through, like thousands of Lilliputians strapping down Gulliver.

I took a clean rip at the ball and made contact with only the fescue. The ball moved – straight down – as I swung under the ball. I screamed – I screamed words that golfers shouldn’t scream and I glared at Caleb. His look was melancholy. The only feature I noticed was his right arm holding out my A-wedge. He was holding it the entire time I set up with the 3-wood knowing that I would need to use it. I took my A-wedge and punched the ball back into the fairway. Made a triple bogey and effectively ended my chances of winning the tournament.

Why didn’t I listen to Caleb when he instructed me to use the wedge? Was I a better golfer than Caleb (the answer I found out was no). Did I know the course better? No, Did I know what happens to almost everyone who tries to swing a wood out of thick fescue? NO! There was one person who did, my caddie.

So, why didn’t I listen to my caddy? Hubris. Hubris. I had more belief in myself than belief in the expert’s opinion. I will tell you that this is common in leaders. There is a reason people rise to the top – they have a belief, a true conviction that they know what to do in each situation. And, many times they are right. In fact, most times they are right. But, there are those situations when we, as resilient leaders, need to accept that we are not the smartest person in the room. Not even average in many cases.

We need to accept that there are people with more wisdom and experience that can help us navigate. We need to listen to our caddies.

A close friend of mine has a more direct way of saying this. Sgt. Harry Callahan, I know him as Dirty Harry and he thinks this way about my hubris.

A man’s got to know his limitations – Amen Dirty Harry – a man’s got to know his limitations before he gets his head blown clean off. Caleb, hand me the wedge.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. I spent some time last week training college professors in resilient leadership. It was just a few ideas on how to better manage their workloads. If your organization could use some outside assistance, Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-20 Jockeying for Position

Corporations invest billions of dollars daily on whether projects will become successful. They will measure the potential for economic value added or market value added. Assessments will be made about the track for success in the marketplace and the hurdles the competitors will face. Investments will be based on the number of the competitors in the field and where they will enter the market. Decisions are often made based on the quality of the manager. Their ability to succeed…or maybe just the color of their silks.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I recently attended the horse races at Royal Musselburgh Race Course in Scotland. A dozen highly polished friends joined in the restaurant for a fantastic lunch and an afternoon of wagering on horses. Watching the races left me with countless ideas for how to prepare this episode. My mind was rife with metaphors for resilient leaders. So many that I am going to break format and give you ten unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theories. Are you ready? Got those pencils and wagering forms out?  Okay here we go.

Number 1 – The person who wins first doesn’t win every time.

The twelve of us made our initial wagers.  Eleven lost. The sole winner was viewed by the balance as a handicapping savant.  Ten minutes earlier he was enjoying tuna tartar. Now he’s the second coming of Jimmy the Greek. Everyone wanted to know his secret. The truth is he guessed. It is easy to follow someone based on their success. Resilient leaders need to be wary of trendy business models. What works once may never work again.

Number 2 – Horse betting requires an advance mathematical degree.

Each patron receives a book upon entering the track which gives volumes of data about each horse. Data like how much extra weight the horse is carrying or average finishing place on firm tracks versus wet tracks. I was thinking, “It’s Scotland. You can have both tracks in the same race.” Analyzing data you are given will greatly aid your opportunity for success. This is always the case. The more you study the data the better your odds for success.

Number 3 – Bet to win, not show.

We spend hours, years training for our opportunities. Some on the track, some in the office, some in school. Prove the value of your investments by betting on your horses to win. Betting to show – finishing third – shows a lack of confidence in your skills. Be confident…bet on yourself.

Number 4 – Get your horse to the starting gate.

I wagered on a horse named Honey GG. He looked like a great horse on paper. For some reason, the jockey dismounted before entering the gate and Honey GG backed up, went around the starting gate and galloped along the track. The crowd cheered as the rider-less horse frolicked down the track. Me, I held a useless ticket. You can’t win your events unless you are on the line at the start.

Number 5 – Cheer when someone else’s horse comes in. 

It is easy to be frustrated when you lose a large contract or your book submission is rejected by a publisher. Failure has many faces. Be happy for others around you. Cheer when they succeed. Happiness and karma are easily spread and warmly received.  Revel in someone else’s victories. In time, they will be there to support yours.

Number 6 – Race because you want to be racing.

Watching the horses thunder down the track makes me think how much they enjoy showing off their speed. Resilient leaders need to be in places where they can exhibit their skills. Be in a place that they enjoy working or playing. The more excited you are about your surroundings the greater you will perform on the track.

Number 7 – Throw away your losing tickets.

Movies emphasize how losers at the track will ceremoniously tear up their losing tickets and toss them into the air with disgust.  This point is spot on…save for the disgust. Take the experience and lessons of losing the race with you, but tear up the ticket and move onto the next race. How often have you wallowed in what you lost? What could have been? Worse, how often have you drained the person next to you in the story of your loss. Extracting lessons learned from failures is essential. Figuring out how much you possibly could have won if the three-horse placed on your superfecta will only send you to another strata of unfruitful aggravation.

Number 8 –  Put blinders on your horse.

Horses have enormous peripheral vision. Their eyes are located at the sides of the head allowing him to see a panoramic view of the world. In fact, horses can see a nearly full circle around themselves except for a small blind spot in front of their noses and behind their tails.

Blinders cover the rear and side vision of the horse, forcing him to focus only in a forward direction. The reduction in vision for the horses wearing blinders is significant and can reduce a horse’s vision from 180 degrees to as little as 30 degrees. Sometimes when we are managing projects we need to put blinders on ourselves and our teammates to block out the distractions of social media, competing projects…life in general. Blinders give you focus when it is needed most.

Number 9 – Don’t use the whip.

In the final furlong, the final stretch of the race, the jockeys are permitted to whip their horses. New regulations allow the jockeys to whip their horses up to five times down the stretch. I am not a proponent of this practice. The horses are working hard. The concept of the whipping the horse is to motivate them to finish strong as they are fatiguing. I think it’s barbaric.  Whipping your employees is wrong, completely wrong. I understand the desire. But, it’s still wrong. If you are frustrated with your teammates performance to the point you want to go to the whip you should realize. It’s not your teammates…it’s you.

Number 10 – Put a bed of roses on your winning horse.

I followed one of the horses after he won his race back to a marshaling area. His handlers were cooling him down by pouring buckets of water down his back. People were taking pictures of him and calling out his name. The horse glowed in the attention. Reward your people for a job well done. Reward them directly after their race. Let them bask in glory. Lay a bed of roses across their back.

A quick postscript about picking horses based on the jockey’s silks color. The day I went to Royal Musselburgh, if you bet on all green, if you bet on every jockey whose silks were green, you would have won 5 of 9 races…it’s not scientific, but I’m just sayin’ it is a method.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. I recently provided resiliency leadership training to a sales team that was struggling with integration following an acquisition. If I can help your team, please write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Also, send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-19 What is a 1202 Alarm?

Decisiveness, programming and the moonshot

swimming in the flood

19-18 Domesticated Service

Will you picture something for me please? I want you to picture yourself at your desk. It’s getting near the end of long, grinding day and you are looking forward to taking a joy ride in your new convertible straight after the workday. Now, in the minutes before you are ready to leave, your boss bursts into your office. She’s breathing heavily and explaining that she’s late for a pressing meeting, an uber-important summit. She wants to take your car…now! She tells you that you can find your way home and if you were a real company man you’d hand over the keys immediately. Got the picture? That’s the world of competitive cycling.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I received a recent request from a constant listener who wanted to know if I had some thoughts for developing resilient leaders who are just entering the workforce. And my answer is yes. Yes…hand her the keys to your car. Let me explain why.

The past weekend the most grueling event in sports commenced, the Tour de France; a 21-day, 2,162 mile race through the countryside and mountains of France – and a little bit of Belgium this year. Many of you might view this event as a pack of really skinny guys in colorful spandex moving as one giant blob with rabid fans trying to run alongside. Well, you’re not far off.

But, do you know how a team functions in the Tour? It may be helpful in understanding how we need to develop as resilient leaders, at all stages of our development. The general classification rider is the team leader. This is the individual for whom the team strives to put in the position to win.  There are specialists like the sprinters and the climbers who are afforded the opportunity to attempt stage wins. Then, there are the domestiques.  Domestique is French for servant. Think of the domestique as the individual learning to become a resilient leader. That rider’s responsibility is to serve and protect the team leader. If the team leader needs water, you give him yours. If you are out of water, you drop back to the team car, get water, sprint back to your leader and hand him a bottle. If he wants the granola bar you’re eating – fork it over. During the ride, you are directly in front of the leader. Drafting is when one rider is directly behind another. Drafting reduces up to half of the wind drag from cycling. The team leader gets a free ride while you do the hard work.  You work as hard as you can, for as long as you can and give your team leader the best chance to win.

And, if your leader’s bike breaks or has a flat – without hesitation – you hand him yours. That’s the job.

Starting out in the world is very much like being the domestique; thankless work at the bottom of the ladder. You’re the one helping schlep the bikes with the team mechanic while the leader is on the podium kissing the pretty French models.

But, young resilient leaders here is the good news. The business world, like the Tour de France is an egalitarian society. If you hone your skills properly you can become a sprinter or a climber on the team, or if you become skilled in both you can become the leader with a shot at winning the yellow jersey.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on being a domestique. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Look for the elevation markers. You heard it. Look for the elevation markers. This theory has been endorsed by one Japanese, hot dog engulfing, sport changing pioneer.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Ten years ago, I competed in Ironman Nice, in Nice, France. By the way, if you ever want to sell a spouse on a vacation promise to take them to the South of France for a week, all you ask for in return is one day to yourself. Works every time. Ironman Nice is noted in the Ironman circuit for having the most elevation, over 11,000 feet of climbing in total. Now, the race is 112 miles. The first 20 coming from the Mediterrean are as flat as the Mediterranean. The same for the returning 20. The middle 70 are broken this way. 35 straight up. The rest descend. So, all this climbing happens within a very short range.

Many of you know that I am not the slightest man in the world. I am a little thicker around the rump and thighs. My uncle used to call me the Crisco Kid. In short, my body was not made for climbing mountains on a bicycle. Yet, in the late June heat I was out there grinding away. The longest climb of the day was three thousand feet. To put that in perspective, it is the same as scaling the Eiffel Tower three times. The climb that would test everything I had.

The bottom of the climb is exceptionally steep with a grade of near 14% and is a place for hundreds of spectators shouting “Allez, Allez,” “Go, Go,” and similar in other languages. I pedaled through. And pedaled.

Near the middle of the 24-kilometer climb, I was passed by Marie from Norway. She was 25 and this was her second Ironman and the hills here aren’t as difficult as those in Norway and she really liked the pre-race dinner and she likes puppies and duckies. Did you know that she loves duckies? I learned all these things because she was giving an interview to the Ironman media while passing me on a 7% gradient.

I felt my legs first crack just as I noticed a stone marker on the side which read 7-5-0-M. I wasn’t quite sure what its meaning was. Mile marker of some sort. I got distracted when I was chicked by a man named “Fifi” Everyone’s name is printed on their racing number to the fans can call them out. Fifi roared by me as if I was standing still.

I put my head down and kept pedaling. Then I noticed a stone marker reading 7-5-5-m. These weren’t mile markers they were elevation markers – markers indicating how high up we were. My mind raced to calculate that this climb would be nearly 1,000 meters. I was only three quarters of the way up and feeling hopeless about my prospects to ascend. 7-6-0-m these stone markers were taunting me in 5-meter increments. Each one more painful as I passed.

Then, resilient leaders, something in my mind switched. I no longer thought about getting to 1,000, I thought about getting to the next elevation marker. If I can just make the next elevation marker, I’ll worry about the balance of the climb from there. I started counting towards the elevation markers 750, 790, 830, 910, 965 and I crested the climb.

By breaking my task into more manageable assignments I was able to complete what I thought might be impossible. Young resilient leaders – you are now on your climb. Put your head down. Pedal hard. Count the elevation markers. You will get there.

Let me make one comment about the downside of this climb. It’s fun, but by no means easy. You have to be agile and have vision to navigate the steeply pitched switchbacks. The elevation markers are still there on downside of the mountain. They still measure in 5-meter increments, but when you have momentum on your side you don’t seem to notice the same way.

Lastly, while being 50 pounds lighter than me may have helped Marie on the ascent, gravity did her no favors on the decent as I passed her 2 hours later. I quacked as I passed her, in Norwegian of course.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com.  Music today is from Bensound. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. I would be happy to discuss speaking at your next conference or event. Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens.  Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-17 Hot Dogging It

Have you ever seen an innovation which made you think, “I came up with that idea years ago?” On Demand TV is that innovation for me. My mother took me to see The Bad News Bears, the original in its original run in 1976, at the Newport Opera House Theatre. She told me in the lobby that the boys would be using some bad words and if she ever heard me using any of them she would wedge a bar of soap in my mouth. She was right. There were a lot of words I never heard before like crud, turd and booger. The racist and sexist jokes went past me, but I clearly understood that 12-year old boys were making fun of each other. Later that night, I was watching television and thought how cool it would be if I could watch The Bad News Bears again right then. I could watch the movie over and over to memorize the jokes. “What does   Wait, I could do the same for Looney Tunes. I could watch Bugs Bunny whenever I wanted rather than assume mean?” only at 4:00 after school. This was a brilliant idea. I just mentally invented On Demand TV, maybe thirty years too early and definitely several million missing scientific brains cells too late.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

In its purest sense, invention can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. Innovation, on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

Spotify is the world’s largest music streaming subscription service, and has played a key role in transforming how consumers experience music by offering unprecedented convenience, accessibility, and data-driven personalization to drive discovery and engagement. Founded in 2006 in Sweden, the company over 80 million paying subscribers. Spotify’s streaming access model reversed the industry’s declining revenue trend, unlocking revenue and adding value for consumers, artists, and all players in the music ecosystem.

Let’s remember the world before Spotify. The first wave of internet-based music services, like Napster, facilitated piracy and illegal digital distribution, significantly reducing global music revenues, which declined by 40% from 1999 to 2014. Sixteen years of annual revenue declines coupled with poor and unreliable customer experiences in pirated music created a market where both publishers and consumers were receptive to a new solution. Spotify’s streaming model was a key driver of the music industry’s inflection point; from 2011 to 2017, the streaming category grew from 9% of revenues to 72%. In 2016, global music revenues reached its highest annual growth rate in 20 years, increasing 6% to reach $15.7 billion. Spotify’s revenue represented 23% of the global music market in 2016 and 30% in 2017. More importantly, it now represents 42% of the streaming music market – the largest and fastest growing portion of the market. The company is well-positioned to scale its user base and capture revenue opportunities in recorded music and more broadly in the music industry.

You may also remember that to buy music you could go to iTunes and for a cheap $0.99 you could digitally own a song. Or, if you were really old school you could walk into Strawberry’s and buy a CD. You might have to wait behind someone buying the best of Barbara Streisand. There sure wasn’t anybody in line buying Slim Shady.

Digital music existed before Spotify. It was the innovative business model that changed the market. Spotify leveraged music’s inherently social nature to drive sharing and discovery amongst users. Unlike earlier music piracy services that destroyed value for music industry revenues with each share, Spotify created a viral loop that increased the value of the market and network with each new user. Spotify’s growth-oriented social features such as shared links, shared playlists, and aggressive integrations with social networks connected to a market ready consume music in a different way. Truthfully, when was the last time you purchased a compact disk? Do you still own a CD player, other than maybe in your six year old car?

Resilient Leaders are innovative. They are constantly seeking opportunities to build better mousetraps for their companies and for themselves. By the way, there is a misnomer that all innovation needs to be driven by technology. I contend that this statement is false. It is correct that some of the most economically altering events were driven by technology. However, we should not dismiss those innovation driven by heart and desire and simplicity.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on innovation. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Soak the bun. You heard it. Soak the bun. This theory has been endorsed by one Japanese, hot dog engulfing, sport changing pioneer.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Takeru Kobayashi, on July 4th, 2001 won the Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. To say that he just won the contest is a disservice to Kobayashi, he destroyed the field. The contest measures how many complete hot dogs a person can eat in twelve minutes, bun and all. This was Kobayashi’s first attempt at the contest and he ate fifty – 5-0 hot dogs in twelve minutes. That doubled the previous record of 25. The record was so unexpected that the organizers ran out of signs indicating how many dogs Kobayashi had eaten and had to resort to handwritten signs.

Now, most of you probably have an impression of a competitive eater as some obese biker type wearing a sleeveless t-shirt. Not so. Kobayashi is closer in size to the nerd you knew in junior high school algebra. He’s small. 5’ 8” Maybe 125 pounds. Your basic beanpole. Yet, Kobayashi took down the obese biker types in a food eating contest. The simplest question is how? Innovation, resilient leaders. Innovation.

In an interview on Freakenomics Radion, Kobayashi said, “the other competitive eaters were asking themselves: “How could I fit more hot dogs in my stomach?” I asked a different question: How can I make one hot dog easier to eat?”  A brilliant way to consider the flip side of a coin.

Kobayashi said, “The key to me was that I had to change the mentality that it was a sport — it wasn’t having a meal.” Kobayashi noticed previous competitors in the hot dog eating contest ate as if a friend had dared them to eat a bunch of food, whereas he saw an opportunity to dissect the physical action of eating and optimize it for speed and efficiency.

Kobyashi began intensely experimenting with different techniques for sausage (and bun consumption. It was during this time he crafted the game-changing bun dip, where he dipped the hot dog bun in a cup of water to break down its starch, squeeze out the excess water, and toss it into his mouth as a ball. It wasn’t appetizing (or visually appealing), but it worked.

His technique revolutionized the sport of competitive eating. He dipped the hot dog bun to innovate and dominate his field.

Man, this discussion is making me hungry. I’m going to go off on a quick tangent. This 4th of July week, I am going to have a juicy hot dog. I prefer mine with spicy mustard, some celery salt, onions on top and I’m going to wash it down with an ice cold coke. Then, I going to watch The Bad News Bears on my On Demand TV.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. Music today is from Bensound. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. I would be happy to discuss speaking at your next conference or event. Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens.  Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-16 Fly In Orlando

I recently watched the Best Picture award winner, Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. The final scene is very touching. The two men are riding a bus to Florida to get out of the grimy New York street life. Overplaying the action is Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’. The song’s opening lyrics – Everybody’s talking at me. I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Only the echoes of my mind. It made me think about a recent business meeting. Six people at the table with six agendas. Each participant with one mouth and no ears. Side conversations took over the general discussion – everybody was talking at me. At the conclusion – well, there really wasn’t a conclusion – the meeting just ultimately ended. At the end, I was unclear what direction we wanted to follow. The messages were mixed in my mind. The intentions of the team were chaotic. Is your business chaotic or is it chaos theory?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Chaos in a system was discovered by American mathematician Edward Lorenz. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lorenz modeled the weather using twelve differential equations. He wanted to save time on one occasion and started the program in the middle, rather than at its initial conditions, and stored computer data to three decimals rather than the usual six. Instead of getting an expected close approximation to his result, Lorenz got a very different answer.

Lorenz rationalized that a small change in the initial conditions can drastically change the long-term behavior of a meteorological system. He called this phenomenon the “butterfly effect.” In its extreme case, Lorenz contended it was possible for the flapping of butterfly wings to cause a massive storm a half world away. His 1972 paper “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?” originated the term Butterfly effect. Based on his results, Lorenz stated that it is impossible to predict the weather accurately.

Did we seriously expect endless studies to tell us anything other than when the weatherman predicts a hurricane I should look in my front closet for the snow shovel? Heck No.

Can you imagine that this happens in organizations? Can you imagine how the butterfly effect can move a company off its course? It happens virtually every day. One set of directives are passed down through the organization ranks to the next generation where they are interpreted then passed down one management level where pieces are missing and by the time it gets to the mail room the message is nothing like when it left the boardroom.

This is the same telephone game we’ve played since we were children. You and your kindergarten friends sit cross-legged in a circle. One child whispers a sentence to the next. The objective is to repeat exactly what the one before said. Exactly what they said. Do you remember how this worked out – I do – miserably. The teacher would whisper – “Sally wears red shoes in the classroom” and the sentence would make it back “Bobby pooped in the bathroom sink.” Or some variation. The difference between kindergarten and organizations is that there is a political component to the conversation.

It is hard to ignore that there are personal motivations in the corporate telephone game. I know that the resilient leaders listening attempt to steer from these obstacles, but it is challenging. Political and self-serving motivations skew and obfuscate corporate messages delivered from the board room.

Johnathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after.” It is sad, but it is true and to be expected that nearly every organization suffers from the butterfly effect in corporate messages. This chaos is set upon organizations with the intention to disrupt the unity and harmony of an organization. Chaos is a devious beast because it attacks us from the inside and cannot be fought with normal weapons.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on chaos. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Fly in Orlando. You heard it. Fly in Orlando. This theory has been endorsed by one highly-motivated, Jamaican born former Toronto Argonaut.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Resilient leaders often face the urge to pass along data and information they gather throughout their networks. Some of this information is valuable others are just plain crap. For those organizations who are getting mixed messages from the leaders. Conflicting corporate messages that make your actual objective ambiguous?

You need to Fly in Orlando. This theory does not include mouse ears and hours in a queue with screaming children. But, you should consider flying in Orlando – Bowen. Orlando Bowen. Orlando is a game changer equipping people to get off the sidelines and make a difference. Orlando’s message of One Team – One Voice – sends a message that organizations should rally to a clear message to move forward. A clarion call for the objectives and intentions of organizations. Orlando speaks to corporate audiences with a passion reserved for rabid zealots. Yet, within seconds he snaps an audience to attention with his shout “ONE TEAM”…you were supposed to respond “ONE VOICE”  Let’s try it again. “ONE TEAM” “ONE VOICE” There, that’s better.

Too often our corporate directives – our projects devolve into corporate Towers of Babel. Quick show of hands how many of you are involved in projects where it feels like the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. Hmmm? My Magic Mirror shows me that quite a few of you have both hands raised.

The Tower of Babel you may remember from the Book of Genesis was one of the world’s first major engineering undertakings and one of the world’s first management failures. God advised them that as long as they are one people with one language, nothing would be impossible. However, the language and semantics changed. Teams couldn’t talk effectively with each other and consequently lacked coordination. This deteriorated relationships, resulting in jealousies, with different groups isolating themselves. And the project failed. They became masters of babbling in Babylon.

If only the project manager could Fly in Orlando. ONE TEAM – ONE VOICE. Resilient leaders need to find how to communicate in a unifying voice.  One clear voice that listens to all and can speak for all. One voice that is unwavering in its intentions. One voice that can raise the bar and raise the floor at the same time.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. Music today is from Bensound. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe.  I would be happy to discuss speaking at your next conference or event. Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens.  Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-15 The On Deck Hitter

Did you watch the royal birth last month? It was beautiful, regal and proper. I was fascinated by how perfectly orchestrated little Archie Mountbatten-Windsor was fit into the family. First, the queen. She’s been the queen for over 60 years. Then there’s Charles in his fake military garb. William stood proud and tall followed closely by his children; George, Charlotte and Louis.  Next is the groom Harry. Prince Harry. In some respects this is his day. But in my eyes his still only sixth in line for the crown. Don’t you love a good succession plan?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Succession planning in the house of Windsor is serious business. Did you know that if you are one of the first six in line it is required to have the sovereign’s consent before you marry? Without such consent they, and their children, would be disqualified from succession.

The formal succession planning extends quite a bit. Did you know that the fiftieth in line to the crown is Maud Windsor?  Neither did I. Daughter of Prince Michael of Kent (48th), son of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (37th), whose grandfather would be the same as Queen Elizabeth’s.  It get gets a little confusing. And gosh forbid you marry a Catholic. That throws the whole matrix off – except following the Succession Act of 2013, they now tolerate Catholics and will put you back in line. (No cutsies.)

That’s not how resilient leaders would design succession planning. I’m more a fan of an egalitarian approach. Succession planning based on merit rather than the lucky… club…you know which one.

General Electric’s succession planning approach requires six years to make a transition at the top. Their process starts with moving new leaders throughout the organization to give them stretch experiences.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on preparing for succession. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Kneel in the on-deck circle. You heard it. Kneel in the on-deck circle. This theory has been endorsed by thousands of sunflower chewing, eye black wearing, Louisville Slugger swinging baseball players.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. When an inning starts, the batter due up digs in into the batter’s box and takes his turn at bat. The next batter steps out of the dugout and into the on deck circle. The batter in the on deck circle is there for two reasons. First, to get his body loose to swing, but more importantly to take a measure of how the pitcher is pitching to the guy at bat. The on-deck batter is watching for changes in pitch velocity, determining if the pitcher is getting tired or if he’s losing control of his pitches. This is all valuable intel for the on deck batter. The same approach holds true for resilient leaders. There is going to be a time when we are at bat, when we are going to be pressed into action, when the succession plan falls to us. The amount of preparation you have for you turn at bat will correlate directly to how well you will swing when the pitches are thrown to you.

There are several predictive algorithms which can mathematically express this theory. Sorry, I can’t explain them because the math is a little beyond my comprehension, but I believe their conclusions to be true.

Quick show of hands how many of you asked more than five questions today? My Magic Mirror tells me that not many of you did?

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. Music today is from Bensound. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. I would be happy to discuss speaking at your next conference or event. Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Speaking of writing to me, I want to thank my favorite CPA, Judith Ventura Enright for giving me the idea for this podcast. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-14 The Book Thief

Have you ever witnessed a crime being committed within close proximity to you?  How did you react? Were you scared by the atrocity and immobilized – unable to respond? Did you pounce like a jaguar nabbing its prey ready to thwart the action? Or did you just say to yourself, “Is that guy really stealing a book from this bookstore?”

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I was standing in a kiosk in the Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans. I had given a speech earlier in the morning and I was flying home. The kiosk was your typical airport sundries store that included a wall of books and magazines. Unlike many of these stores, we were in the actual aisle way, not inside a store. I was perusing some paperbacks next to a 60-something gentleman sporting a thin greyish beard and wearing a sharp navy blue blazer. We stood next to each other for no more than a minute before he took the book he was examining and stuffed it inside his jacket under his left arm.

I was stunned. Did I just witness someone stealing or was he putting it there to hold it while he shopped more? Nope. He took a direct line into the aisle way and started walking towards his gate. I was appalled and angry. My immediate reaction was to do my civic duty and stop this book thief. I took three steps towards the aisle way before I realized that I was conspicuously holding a new, unpaid for book. I went back to the shelf – placed my book down – and chased after the thief.

This older man must have been skilled in the art of evading authorities because within a matter of 20 seconds since stealing the book he was gone. I hurried down the aisle searching for his navy blue blazer – his most distinguishable feature. I reached the end of the concourse and began to double back. As you can infer from this retelling, I’m no Jason Bourne. I began to double back when I saw him handing his boarding pass to the airline agent. I was prepared to yell, “Stop! Book Thief.”

In the nanosecond between thinking of my action and actually yelling a huge red flag waved in front in me reading, “People who yell in airports do not make their flights on-time.” So, I watched him board – with his stolen book.

Waiting for my flight, I was reflecting on the incident trying to understand why the gentleman, decided to go Winona Ryder rummaging through Sak’s 5th Avenue. From all appearances, he has means. So, why reduce yourself to shoplifting?

My thoughts then turned to my reaction. Why was I appalled at something he was doing? Why did it bother me that he was stealing a book from a store? I wasn’t the one stealing. I try to develop resilient leader’s mindsets, but this was a hard question and I didn’t have an immediate answer.

I broke the question down to the premise that stealing would violate my sense of integrity. And his stealing was such an affront to my moral code that I was left with the visceral response to hunt him down – and potentially handcuff him to the airplane gateway – and beat a confession out of him – with the book he stole. But, that’s just me.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on integrity.  Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Stop at the red light after midnight. You heard it. Stop at the red light after midnight.  This theory has been endorsed by one Catholic high school English teacher.

The theory is simple. My sophomore year English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, told a story about her husband that made me want to emulate him. She said that they were driving home one evening at about one o’clock in the morning and approached a light turning red. Her husband stopped the car and waited for the light to cycle back to green. Mrs. Johnson said that there was no one near the intersection. In fact, no on anywhere to be seen. She admitted that she would have gone through the light as it really wasn’t directing any traffic. Her husband chose to wait. And follow the law.

There was a message in that story about integrity for me.

Quick show of hands how many of you have driven through a red light when there was no one around? My Magic Mirror tells me that quite a few of you have? It’s perfectly rational to drive through the red light. Heck, the light’s function is to regulate traffic. There is no traffic. Hence, there is nothing to regulate. That’s the definition of Socratic logic.

But, he waited. His value system rose higher than the logic that he was the only driver on the road. Mr. Johnson displayed his integrity and respect for the law over the expedience and logic of the system. Resilient leaders demonstrate integrity. I’m not saying that every resilient leader should stop at the light at one in the morning. No, I am saying that resilient leaders have a code of ethics they follow and that they should be true to that code.

Do you know the name Andrew Fastow? This man will not be considered a resilient leader.  Fastow was the Chief Financial Officer of Enron. You remember Enron. They famously went bankrupt in 2001 shortly after their stock price hit an all-time high.  Fastow was the engineer of how to manipulate financial statements to inflate quarterly earnings while hiding the company’s true financial position. Here is an example of their shenanigans. The story is called the Nigerian Barge Deal. No – I’m serious. It’s known as the Nigerian Barge Deal.

Fastow calls his banker at Merrill Lynch on December 29th and says, “Bob, I’m going to sell you some oil tankers today.”  Bob was confused. “But, I don’t want any oil tankers.” “Oh, you’re going to want these oil tankers.” “Andy, I’m a banker. We lend money. What do I need oil tankers for?” “Bob, I’ve got these oil tankers in Nigeria that I need to sell today, before year end.  Now, here’s the deal. You buy the tankers from me today for $12 million. And, on June 1st, I will buy the tankers back from you for $15 million.  How does that sound?” “Let me get this straight, Andy, you want to sell me $12 million worth of oil tankers and you want to buy them back six months later $15 million?”  “That’s right. I will put it writing to guarantee the repurchase.”

That transaction actually happened! I kid you not. You might ask, “How does someone make money on that transaction?” Good question. Quick accounting refresher for you. When you sell an asset you record the gain or loss on that asset by subtracting the sale price from the book value. The trick here is that the tankers were fully depreciated, thus had zero book value. The entire transaction was a gain for Enron and could be recorded as such on their quarterly financials. A scam right? Not quite.

Fastow is the antithesis of a resilient leader.  Fastow was fast and loose with the rules of Special Purpose Entities and spent much of his time obfuscating Enron’s true financial position.  Fastow was the Chief Financial Officer of a multi-billion-dollar business. The position should be held by someone an appropriate level of integrity.  Not some flim-flam artist.

This chicanery was so blatant that the US government changed the rules for tax returns. Now, a CEO and the CFO sign the tax return, under the penalty of perjury, meaning that if you commit these kinds of acts then you will go to prison. Fastow was sentenced to six years in prison for his actions. And, if I were the judge I would have put the book thief in the cell next to him. – And give him nothing to read.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. Music today is from Bensound. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, leave a comment…subscribe. I would be happy to discuss speaking at your next conference or event. Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com.  I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

19-13 Persistent Meetings

Persistence, asking why, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers.