5 Ways Uber, Virgin, Schwab Crush Goals and Disrupt Competitors Alike- Guest Blog

By Mark C. Thompson- Executive Coach, New York Times Bestselling author, contributing author We Got Mojo!, Leadership Advisor to the World Bank, featured in Forbes, INC., and other publications. 

“Everybody loves the idea of ‘disruption’ as long as it happens to other people,” Salesforce founder Marc Benioff mused after a Virgin Disruptors seminar in San Francisco. “You need to get to the future first, ahead of your customers, and be ready to greet them when they arrive.” Sir Richard Branson, the tie-cutting, disruptive founder of the Virgin Group, was sitting within earshot: “Yeah, if your strategy is to change the world,” he said, “you’d better start by looking yourself in the mirror” to ask a simple question:

“Does your current annual plan actually ignite any excitement?” Will your team really want to make it happen with urgency? If you’re not absolutely certain, then rally your troops around five OKR’s — Objectives & Key Results — that make growth plans stick at high-performance companies like Virgin, SalesForce, Kleiner Perkins, BetterWorks, and Google. These five will predict whether your plans are doomed for defeat or poised for progress in the new year: Staffing, Capacity, Alignment, Authority and Accountability.

  1. Staffing Strategy— Do you have the right people on the team, and are you teaching them to lie to you? Alan Mulally, the CEO who lead Boeing and Ford through legendary turnarounds, argues that the belief that “your people should just bring solutions, not problems,” is a myth worth killing. Ford appeared doomed for bankruptcy when Mulally arrived for his first staff meeting, but his team spent two hours sharing dashboards which showed green across the board. “I’m not a car guy,” Mulally sighed, looking mystified. “But I don’t understand how all that good news is possible when we’re losing billions of dollars!” He told them to come back with the brutal truth. It took awhile, but finally one executive summoned the courage to reveal a few red signals, asking for help from the entire team to find solutions. His peers held their breath, expecting the grim reaper to open some trap door under his feet.

Instead, Mulally gave him a standing ovation. That same guy, Mark Fields, not only received the full support of the management team to turn those stoplights into green, but Chairman Bill Ford and the board of Ford Motor Company gladly accepted Mulally’s recommendation to make Fields their next CEO.

You shouldn’t shoot the messenger, but too many bosses do exactly that. Worst yet, the rest of the executive team is allowed to pile on when you finally do admit you’re in trouble. When people are afraid, they hide reality until it implodes. Tremendous effort is poured into managing a secret rather than finding a solution. Rather than obsess over disrupting competitors, perhaps it’s time you ‘disrupted’ the fear of failure for ‘disruptive’ ideas at your company, says Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself. Make sure your management systems celebrate (rather than punish) those who clarify problems and challenge business as usual. Don’t wait for the C-Suite to do this for you—start by role modeling that behavior as a leader of your team at every level in the organization. It’s disastrous to make plans and set goals without a staffing strategy that makes it safe to work as a team through difficult times. As you hire new people, be on the lookout for recruiting a deeper bench of experienced talent who love to learn rather than hold court—auto-didactic executives who have the confidence and hunger to lead and improve at the same time.

  1. Strategic Capacity—The battle is lost or won before the players get on the field. What strategy, resources and skills are necessary for your teams to lead the business transformation that you’ve outlined in your annual plan? In other words, you’ve set the table and bought the ingredients, but do they know how to cook? Leaders often engage in “wishful thinking that people can easily take the leap of faith” to execute your plan without actively “preparing them to win,” Bill Gates told me when I first met him at the World Economic Forum in Davos. We were serving on a panel focused on strategic planning, and he gave us a stern reminder that the “people expected to do the work are rarely in the room” where those great plans were conceived, mandated and “passed down like tablets from above.” If there’s any major changes in process involved in this new plan, how will you reward your staff at every level to embrace change, or have they just been asked to tolerate the changes you’ve made rather than own them? “You can’t ‘manage’ change if your team doesn’t understand how you’re supporting them” through the transformation. It may be obvious to you, but not to them. You’ve got to show them, Gates said, “don’t just think they heard you because you told them.”
  2. Alignment—Do we have a process to reward and recognize people for working together across silos to make things happen for customers? Do we have the measures in place to make that obvious? You can’t manage what you don’t measure, but we often don’t realize that leaders have contradictory rules in place that make it difficult or invisible when our team goes out of their way to collaborate, says Harvard’s Dr. Carol Kauffman, founder and executive director of the Institute of Coaching. We team taught an advanced coaching workshop during her annual summit with McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, where we heard overwhelming evidence from behavioralists like Dr. Susan David about how “alignment on a shared vision and ownership across teams” are the two lynchpins to high performance. What that requires is a behavior David calls Emotional Agility. She suggest that next time you find your team falling out of alignment “in a moment of stress or dealing with real complexity, ask yourself: I might be ‘right’ but is my response serving me? My team? My organization? What is my objective here? What am I truly trying to do? What action here is most aligned with my values?” Think about what team behaviors you want repeated: create a structure for that and shine a light in public about those values. Celebrate those teams and individuals who demonstrate them.
  3. Authority: “It’s obviously better to manage white water than to suffer log jams,” Travis Kalanick mused during my first visit to Uber. The disruptive founder of a company that’s synonymous with disruption loves white water, because to him that means “you’re paddling hard” through difficult currents, but at least you’re “splashing downstream with urgency.” But logjams around decision making are more typical; they signal that your plans are stuck because everyone is tolerating lack of clarity around authority. It’s much easier to give people responsibility and think that we’re holding them appropriately accountable than to figure out what level of authority they should have to deliver the outcomes you’re seeking. The point here is to agree explicitly about who can make which decisions. What makes this especially difficult is that you must be willing to tolerate and support other people making choices to move ahead even when you know they are not likely to be the same choices or maybe even the ‘best’ steps you’d take. There is often a mismatch between the responsibility that’s assigned and the authority necessary to move projects forward. Be realistic about workflow so that you intentionally accelerate progress.
  4. Accountability— What makes the planning process miserable are those endless days in the weeds fighting over the wrong issues or enemies, and in the end, it’s still not clear who’s responsible for what outcomes. Admit it, you’ve probably dreaded planning, and studies show that frustration springs from too many unspoken expectations by you and your boss, along with a general lack of pre-agreed definitions of success. LinkedIn leadership development expert Prakash Venkataraman believes the core to accountability revolves around clear ownership “focusing on what you can control to create the best possible outcome.” Ownership and accountability determine the “willingness to be held responsible for an outcome” even though we can’t control perfection.

I hated the planning cycle until I was lucky to work directly for a dozen years alongside founder Charles ‘Chuck’ Schwab,  the financial services industry disruptor. He insisted that no great plans or projects proceed without four checkpoints:

  1. Identify owners for what creates growth and quality of our services.
  2. Create clarity about how every new hire will have impact on your top priorities.
  3. Establish rewards and consequences for the individual, team and organization that make it self-evident how you’re doing. It’s not the boss’ role to hold you accountable—that’s your job—your leaders are there to bust barriers and help you win.
  4. Nail the right measures to keep things on track. Whenever the planning process started to drift at Schwab, he tasked the leadership team with shifting our external focus from obsessing over competitors, for example, (a natural tendency), when we should instead be fussing over our customers. When the internal conversations devolved into conflicts over power, control or defending turf, Schwab tasked us to remind the team who pays the bills. “Our job is to create breakout customer experiences — every year it’s about making things better and simpler in measurable ways,” Schwab said. At this point, Chuck would slap the table and smile as we lurched in our seats. Then he’d point to the plans that we had all signed up for. “I’m proud that you’re all willing to be accountable for that. You own what matters most!”

            The most common confusion about accountability is the difference between blame and responsibility. In studies about people who achieved extraordinary success long term despite seemingly impossible circumstances, “the most important factor was not whose ‘fault’ caused the horrible situation,” said serial entrepreneur and Cuban refugee, Dr. Raul Deju, founder of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University, where over $2 billion in revenue has been generated by dozens of scrappy startups born there. “What matters is that you take responsibility for what you can own — that might be your willingness to serve others, to learn new skills, or the attitude you show up with and an ambition to take action.”

            Deju and 35 other entrepreneurs have captured case histories of remarkable “ownership of adversity and personal transformation” in a recently released book, We Got Mojo (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other resellers; check it out at http://www.wegotmojodeju.com. These are personal stories about business leaders who you would never have expected to spring out of the genocide of Cambodian killing fields, the Cuban Revolution, or brutal life in the rural mountain villages of Perú. “Nothing could stop any of us in our aim to lead a wildly successful life until we abandoned the right we had to be victims.” Deju said. “Sulking and blame never fixes anything — it’s all about Mojo, the powerful realization and joy of knowing that it’s a choice to decide how to hold yourself accountable every day.”

To create greater transparency and accountability around goals, serial entrepreneur Kris Duggan, founder of Badgeville, along with legendary venture capitalist John Doerr, the first chairman of Kleiner Perkins, joined forces to created a startup called BetterWorks. “OKR’s should be at the top of every CEO’s 2017 wishlist,” Duggan insists. “When you have tools in place to measure goals with complete company-wide transparency, you get both operational excellence and more engaged, motivated employees if you’re willing to make a few changes to your performance management process.” Duggan and Doerr recommend a fresh start in 2017 by “replacing heavyweight, annual performance reviews with lightweight, frequent feedback.”

After three decades coaching extraordinary entrepreneurs, I’ve seen far too many CEO’s struggle with a leadership team whose annual plans drift dangerously without accountability. To help bring more structure to that process, last year Don Sull of MIT and I decided to become strategic advisors at BetterWorks because the key to execution on the annual plan is obvious: “Sally on your team shouldn’t be editing her Instagram photos at work — nor should she ever doubt her role as an individual contributor connecting to the company’s success,” Duggan said. “Setting transparent OKRs and communicating them to the entire company helps keep employees, like Sally, focused on what really matters.”

Duggan and Doerr’s upcoming book, Measure What Matters, is packed with evidence on over 200,000 goals achieved with transparency at more than 25% of the Fortune 500. On April 20, I’ll be hosting dozens of conversations about OKR’s with these and other thought leaders at the 2017 BetterWorks GoalSummit at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Megatrends for 2017 in Health Care-Part I

For those of you that want to sink you mojo into huge opportunities in 2017, look no further than the health field. However, you must keep in mind that these opportunities lie where few dare to have ventured in the past and “change” here is the norm. The current make-up of the health field is on an unsustainable path and either we effect some changes or we won’t be able to afford health care as we know it today.

While our current health care system is loaded with conflicts and problems these lead to huge opportunities. The Affordable Care Act was a daring step but it turned out to be not affordable and structurally not sustainable. Government and corporations need to rapidly change this unsustainable process while continuing to ensure basic affordable health care availability to everyone . As government embarks on changes to the current system there are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Here are five rocks entrepreneurs can look under for opportunities:

  1. Opportunities that deal with increasing competition and those that reduce the cost of administration of health delivery systems without affecting the quality of care are at the top of the list. Today in America, health care administration costs including insurance billing are about 30% of  total health care delivery costs. The other advanced nations in the world average 15-18% or about half of our costs as a % of total. Opportunities that can simplify the admin processes, streamline insurance and increase competition can save hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Competition across state lines can create efficiencies. Entrepreneurs with ideas that can streamline the vast administrative pipeline created by government and insurers can capitalize on this area. Mandate minimization and market forces will ensure that corporations and government deliver what consumers want and need.
  2. The drug delivery areas are rapidly changing. Life extension through quality living, eating and exercising and drugs that can extend quality of life into the 80’s and 90’s represent important business opportunities. Such opportunities will be enhanced in coming years with some revolutionary drugs, combined with healthy living alternatives, and genetics breakthroughs. Affordability of these options is a key to success.
  3. A great deal of the US medical expenses go for malpractice insurance, in fact the number is over $60 Billion a year and that number is understated as it does not include the cost of excess testing that doctors incur to avoid even a shade of malpractice liability. Malpractice insurance reform can provide a significant opportunity for cost reductions without affecting the quality of health care.
  4. Innovation areas where medical practitioners can identify diseases much earlier can save both lives as well as dollars. This field is ripe for entrepreneurs.
  5. Health care informatics is also an important opportunity for entrepreneurs so that the vast amount of health care information on each patient is easily accessible to anyone providing health services to the patient. Health records informatics must realize the full advantages of incorporating Artificial Intelligence into these systems.

To be continued in my next blog with more health care thoughts! Have a Happy and Healthy 2017.

We Got Mojo and So Should You! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As the holidays approach, I am always reminded of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is to give thanks for the good things we can count on for now, a good family, a great country and the opportunity to be alive today enjoying the goodness of America and its people. The bad for us now is the loss of one of my colleagues and co-author of my seventh book, Harlan Kleiman who passed away less than a month ago. Harlan who was one of the leading forces shaping the creation of Pay TV Channels, passed away peacefully leaving us without his charm, his caring, initiative and great mind. Harlan authored one of the chapters in our book We Got Mojo! Stories of Inspiration and Perspiration and will be sorely missed. Finally, the ugly is reflected in today’s polarization in our country. I offer the following solution “Let’s not get further apart, but have faith in the future. Let’s move an inch closer together  each day, let’s be tolerant and build some team mojo to get through the lows and turn them into highs”. We live in the greatest nation on earth with the greatest liberties anywhere. Let’s make America even greater, without segregating ourselves into polar opposites. Let’s turn the ugly polarization into a move toward the center where all of us can use our mojo to the benefit of all. Happy holidays, and a great 2017 to all.

Now if you still have not done it, buy a copy of We Got Mojo! Stories of Inspiration and Perspiration by Raul A. Deju and his 35 BFF. Proceeds go to help the Disabled Veterans Business Alliance. Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

What are the Megatrends in the Business World Today!

For the next 4 weeks I will feature 4 of my favorite books for 2016 and their importance to help us understand the megatrends driving the business world today. This week, I begin by featuring “Platform Revolution” by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary.

This phenomenal work shows us how platforms beat products and how you can learn to transform your organization to take advantage of a platform structure. The authors point out that Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple and PayPal are platforms that totally disrupted their markets when they launched. So you are starting a new venture, you need to  learn the secrets to start a successful platform business . If you are a traditional company today, the book will teach you how you can adapt to a platform in today’s changing marketplace. This is a must read!

Next week we will feature how to deal with “Health Science” opportunities.

We Got Mojo! can take you to higher ground

The election is over in the US. The challenges in the world still remain but it is now time to come together as one country with one class of citizens and pull ahead to solve problems. The stories in We Got Mojo should inspire you and help you succeed in life.

Also now as the holiday season begins books make great gifs. Give copies of We Got Mojo and you are donating to veteran entrepreneurship. Place your order at http://www.wegotmojodeju.com or through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other book-sellers.

The Bananization of the US Continues

Corruption, pay to play, demeaning treatment of women, which is worse? Are they the traits of a potential leader of the greatest nation on earth? A writer of screenplays could not have written a more unbelievable plot than this year’s elections in the US. The circumstances may be good for the sellers of anti-depressants but the entire process represents a bad example for the citizens of our country. As discussed in my newly released 7th book, We Got Mojo! success needs to begin with values and certainly there is every appearance that those wanting to become our top elected officials have different perspectives.

Values do matter. Kofi Anan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations in a eulogy after the death of Nelson Mandela succinctly said in reference to Mr. Mandela that “by showing us that the path to freedom and human dignity lies in love, wisdom, and compassion for one another Nelson Mandela stands as an inspiration for us all.” Well maybe our leaders need to practice the three keys to fine tuning your values:

  • Love one another;
  • Be wise making decisions that respect the betterment of freedom and human dignity; and
  • Exercise compassion to the rest of humanity.

Read more about what we think about values in our book “WE GOT MOJO!” now available in Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. Learn more about it and even purchase the book at http://www.wegotmojodeju.com

Pass the word on to others so they can benefit from the wisdom in the book which contains the stories of 35 of my very successful BFF and I. All proceeds go to help Service Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurs launch their businesses.



Word of the Day: Bananization- Spread it on!

Just some food for thought. In my recent book We Got Mojo, 36 of us got together and assessed what were the factors that have helped us succeed. In all cases we have started and built our success with true values. You can read our stories in the book (Here is my only ad- buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble on the internet and help veteran entrepreneurs).

However, what do we see in our leaders today. In Russia, Putin has a new calendar just like Sports Illustrated. In Asia, in Latin America and in many other capitals you hear about corruption but what about our American Example today? Corruption, intolerance, lies!

Here is why we need my new word “Bananization” to describe the process of turning America into a banana republic. We need to expect more from our leaders. We need to demand respect for each other be them men or women, all races, orientations, national origins etc. Remember the key to America’s prior success is its diversity and its tolerance for its diversity. We need to demand that our leaders be truthful. It is an insult for our leaders to lie to us assuming we are all stupid. Let’s fight bananization- it is a path to the destruction of. all the good that America has accomplished. Spread the word. Demand values from our leaders. Let’s continue to be the shining beacon of the world. This is not about party affiliation. It is about America and having a great future for generations to come.

I know it can be done!

Trump! Hillary! Better Yet Read “We Got Mojo”

36 of us just published We Got Mojo Stories of Inspiration and Perspiration. It is definitely more inspiring than listening to Hillary or Trump and guess what:  we start and go on with strong values. Watch our YouTube at https://youtu.be/3CKSZjAGkjU and then buy the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or other booksellers.

As practiced by the 36 of us, Albert Einstein puts it best in as few words as possible when he said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” There is not much learning you can do from listening to politicians today instead grab our book and learn a few good things!

I promise you won’t need anti-depressants when you read We Got Mojo!

Never Forget September 11. Our Freedom Depends on Keeping the Memory.

We all have memories of September 11. I was on a plane on my way to my office in Salt Lake City when the plane was asked to instead return to San Francisco and as soon as we arrived we were asked to leave the airport terminal. My older son and my daughter in law were in New York City on that day but fortunately not at ground zero. I had a friend that died in the building. The carnage of that day lives in my memory forever, but equally I will continue to remember what we Americans did in response to the acts of terror on that dreadful day.

Since that infamous day 15 years ago, look at what we in America have accomplished and the many American Dreams that have been achieved. We in America are innovators and risk takers as exemplified by the 36 of us who authored We Got Mojo!

Some of our stories are raw and most have had a happy ending- not all. However, on September 11 we need to particularly remember the three stories in the book by my co-authors who fought after the collapse of the towers  for the freedoms that we enjoy:

Lt. General (Ret) Ricardo Sanchez who served the US Army for 33 years including serving as the Director of Operations for US Southern Command and leading the US and Coalition forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom;

David Hornbeck, a US Marine who led IED patrols in the Middle East and patrols in Guantanamo Bay; and

US Army Major (Ret) Tom Deierlein, who was critically wounded by an Iraqi sniper yet now has completed the Army 10-miler race and several Triathlons.

The three of them have now moved into the private sector where they are building their companies while generously donating to others less fortunate. They all remember the infamy we suffered on September 11.

There are a number of other military veterans featured in the book but the three mentioned above will churn your gut with the pain of what they had to go through to insure that September 11 is not repeated and America continues to be the land of dreams.

We cannot forget September 11. May God Bless the souls that perished there and those that since have perished in the battlefield or in the homeland in this continuing Terror War trying to ensure our freedoms which sometimes we so easily take for granted.

We Got Mojo! is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other internet sellers. All proceeds go to the Disabled Veterans Business Alliance.