Category Archives: Leadership

#Unplug : To Be Productive in Your Work, You Must Take Downtime

The 40-hour work-week is dead — some employees are coming closer to 24/7

Are you disengaged at work? Only 1 in 3 Americans are actively engaged. The irony is that employees are working more hours and powered by more technology than ever.

Unplug eBook#Unplug: How to Work Hard and Still Have a Life (Fast Company 2013), takes on the issue of how work and technology are impacting our overall life. The eBook explores how and why to untether yourself from technology throughout the workday, on weekends, and on vacation without undoing your life or career.

The 40-hour work-week is dead. The culprit is the trifecta of increased post-recession employment competition, close interdependency of global markets and perpetual demands for higher productivity. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time.

At the same time, our conditioned desire for evermore seems insatiable. A study of 1,000 professional, 9 of 10 said making their personal life a higher priority was important. And yet when asked which they’d take, a $10,000-a-year raise or an hour more each day to spend with their family, 8 of 10 took the cash.

A Word-Wide Phenomenon

Unfortunately, this is global phenomenon. European countries are struggling to keep their work-week standards. In Japan, there were 160 official cases of Karōshi, or “death from overwork,” and another 43 people committed work-related suicide.
Paradoxically, technology was supposed to help us be more productive, yet it has enabled being on call 24/7/365:

  • Unplug-matrix79% of 18 to 44-year-olds have their phone on or near them for 22 hours of the day—IDC
  • 72% of parents use a mobile device during the family meal—NPR
  • 67% routinely check phones even when their phone is not ringing or vibrating—Pew Research

We can’t blame it all on work; it’s a matter of personal accountability.

What is driving our obsessive behavior?

Unplug Feat#Unplug unveils an obscure suspect: Fear. That is, fear of missing out, fear of real-time market or competitor knowledge and the illusive fear of living your life. A psychologist at the National Center for Preventive and Stress Medicine who counseled others on the impacts of stress, was blind to his own. When he was confronted by his young son, he embarked on deep soul searching. Asking himself why he’s so driven that he overworks, he finally realized “I’m afraid of being a father.”

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that if you fit into this category, you will deny it. If you do accept it, you’ll deceptively convince yourself that you’re only hurting yourself. Most of us won’t change until a crisis occurs, but you don’t have to wait for that. #Unplug dares us to take time away from work and technology, in order to live simpler lives—and ultimately be more productive in life and at work.


This article was published in PM360 magazine.  



Unleash Your Talent’s Limitless Potential

What if you could automate data collection of employee behavioral, qualitative and performance in real time?  Imagine the impact on employee satisfaction, best practice sharing and productivity. This is not the future—you can do this today. The possibilities are limited only by your organization’s willingness to embrace a new competitive paradigm.

The Decoded CompanyThe Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers (February 2014, Penguin Group) masterfully lays out a roadmap towards this vision. Through first-hand experience and case studies, authors Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman and Rahaf Harfoush, demonstrate how data is currently being leveraged to achieve better outcomes. Think Big Data meets decision support inside your organization.

At the core of the book is the belief that talent is not only our greatest asset but also our greatest competitive advantage. This makes a ton of sense, especially in our dynamic healthcare industry where the market and competitors are unpredictable a few years down the road. Still, growth targets demand we must control what we can and optimize every single resource to reach our objectives. Remarkably, in our search for outcomes and results, we often overlook the most obvious and potentially best investment—our people.

The Decoded Company lays out a framework to structure our approach:

Technology as a Coach: Transform technology to engage, motivate, and train your people. Think hyper-personalization, from the training you really need, to the style of training that you learn best from, to sharing best practices as you’re facing similar issues in real time.

Data as a Sixth Sense: The ability to pair analytics with instincts to gain a perspective that’s grounded in data but tempered by experience. Remove personal bias, blind spots and knowledge gaps by providing contextual analytics in real time, yet at the same time, allowing the person to make the final, now well-informed decision.

Engineered Ecosystems: Provide quantitative feedback about behaviors, beliefs, attitudes and values that currently exist in your company. The opportunity for culture is to supercharge speed: Quantify, evaluate, correct or support, and monitor. Culture is treated as a living organism that can be leveraged for competitiveness.

location_basedI have to admit—at first pass this smelled like “Big Brother.” But as I read on, I was reminded that companies already have most, if not all, of our digital footprint. This data is not limited to digital communications—it’s tied to our credit cards, cameras and provided through our social networks. Clearly, laws protect our identities, but in a corporate environment where you use proprietary assets or leverage proprietary networks, you are creating valuable data that can be used to improve your organization’s competitiveness.

The book simply and smartly notes that these same technologies can be used positively to make our people and organizations better and provide a competitive edge.

This article was published in PM360.

Six Ways Improv Can Improve Your Leadership Skills

Looking to take your leadership style to the next level?  Try improv!  Seriously.

Last year, as part of my performance evaluation, I was told in kinder terms that for my career development I should boost my executive leadership presence.  My review was solid, but if I wanted to take it to the next level, this was something to address.  No one doubted my capability or capacity, but my brand had lost some of its sizzle as I was bogged down by my daily grind as the Chief Marketing Officer of one of GE Healthcare’s biggest and most profitable businesses.

I did some soul searching and acknowledged that I needed to freshen up my leadership style.  As I considered alternatives, I began to evaluate development tools.  I’ve benefited from best in class leadership courses in universities and in corporate programs at GE and J&J, but I was looking for something different that could significantly impact my behavior.  Then I recalled something I’ve always wanted to do, but never took the time to – always with the excuse of “that’s not for me” – improv.

ComedySportz, Milwaukee, WI 2014
2014 ComedySportz, Milwaukee, WI

Improv, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. In its purest form, the dialogue, the action, the story and the characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds in present time, without use of an already prepared, written script.” 

I’ve always prided myself in being prepared, on strategy and with a clear objective in mind, not… well, being improvisational.

The Benefits of Improv : PILLAR

Challenged by the concept, I looked up the local club and decided to give it a try.  Ten months later, I am a convert.  Improv has boosted my leadership skills in unforeseen ways which corporate or university programs previously have not:

  1. Poise – Although I’ve always been a good speaker, facing a completely foreign audience on any topic without the benefit of any preparation is sure to challenge the best of us.  Poise, conviction and resolve are crucial to your delivery, on and off stage.
  2. Innovation – The only rule in improv is that there are no rules.  Through a series of “yes, and” you and your colleagues build a spontaneous reality that is both creative and original.
  3. Listening – By far, the biggest surprise I’ve had is the realization that improv has remarkably improved my listening skills.  I find myself much more attuned to what people say, particularly in interviews, presentations and the often dreaded marathon teleconferences.
  4. Laughter – I’ve always wanted to be that leader who uses the right humor with impeccable timing to diffuse tense situations.  While I’m not there yet, I can tell you that I am laughing a lot more in all aspects of my life and that my laughter is contagious with my team and workplace.
  5. Adaptability – The market, competition and unforeseen forces challenge us to be adaptable leaders.  Improv fortifies these muscles, as on stage you can be told to become someone with specific personality traits and you must make the story work – same as in business life.
  6. Risk-taking – Improv is 100% risk, in real time.  What’s more, the more you do it, the more you crave it.  The ability to take risks, rapidly, plays well in our competitive business environment.


This year, my performance review significantly improved in this developmental area, largely as a result of my newfound improvisational skills.  If you find yourself stuck in the same development conundrum, try improv!  You’ll be amazed if you stick with it.

Keep growing!


This article was featured on PM360 Online

Best Personality Type for Sales

Hire an ‘Ambivert’ or Learn to Become One

Are you in sales?  Yes, you are. Think about it, your title may not say so, but essentially you make a living selling. You may label it To sell is humaninfluencing, persuasion, cajoling, convincing, trading or exchanging—but if you use the general definition of selling: “to hand over something in exchange for money or to persuade someone of the merits of” then hopefully you’ll agree with Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human (Riverhead Books, 2013) that we’re all in sales.

A seller’s market

In general, sales people have had a traditionally negative stereotype. The typical car salesman comes top of mind. People have associated sales roles with adjectives like pushy, sleazy, and manipulative—you get the point.

Historically, sales people could afford to take on an aggressive stance because it was a seller’s market, where the salesperson had exclusive information. In this context, the customer needed to interact with this gatekeeper. In this traditional model, extroverts— outgoing, gregarious and talkative—were hired and promoted in the sales ranks.

A buyer’s market

Pink details in his book how the sales playing field has been changed and the customer now has the advantage. Much of development has come with the advances of technology, access to information, increased global competition and consumerism.  Today, if a customer knows what they want, they can access most, if not all of the information without involving a sales person.

As the selling dynamics have shifted from seller to buyer, Pink identifies 3 key qualities a sales person must posses in the today’s environment:

1.  Attunement: fully understanding your target’s perspective as the prelude to help them

2.  Buoyancy—resilience through multiple cycles of rejections

3.  Clarity—expertise to make sense of complex situations and providing insights for problem finding

These qualities are not found in the traditionally extroverted salesperson.

The Rise of the Ambivert

A study conducted by Adam Grant, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Management developed and deployed a personality scale from 1-7.  The scores from 1-2 were considered introverts and scores from  6-7 were considered extroverts. In the middle, scores from 3 to 5 were considered ambiverts—a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.

Additionally, the study mapped personality scores to sales productivity. Quantitatively, introverts produced $120/hour, extroverts $125/hour and ambiverts $155/hour.  Surprisingly, the ambivert group that scored the highest productivity of $208/hour scored a 4 in the personality scale, right in the middle of the ambivert range.

Unlike the extremes in the scales, ambiverts know when to talk and when to listen;  when to support and when to push. They are able to manage more selling situations, customers from broader spectrums of personality and leverage both skill sets of the personality spectrum for the benefit of the sale. In short, Pink and the research conclude that ambiverts are the best personality type to sell in today’s environment.


The book and the accompanying study demystify the stereotype that extroverts make the best sales people. To find out where you fall on the scale, take the brief indicator at The good news is that we can all work on balancing our skills and becoming better ambiverts. If you’re looking for a pragmatic how-to book to balance your personality skills, I would recommend this book, it’s a how-to manual packed with exercises in every chapter.

Published in PM360

Can a Career Setback Actually Empower You?

Have you experienced a career downturn? If you haven’t yet, I hate to break it to you…it’s just a matter of time. Careers, like roller coasters, have ups and downs. However, unlike roller coasters, careers are not automatically propelled nor do they have a fixed track to follow. It’s up to you to navigate your path.

The Best Thing that Could Ever Happen To You—How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life (Big Shoes Publishing, 2013), by Sander A. Flaum, former CEO of Euro RSCG Life, is an insightful, wise and pragmatic book that can help you bounce back from a downturn by teaching you how to identify your fears, master your internal inhibitors, unleash your unique potential and ultimately propel you forward after a career setback.

I spent time with Sander discussing some of the intriguing aspects of his book. What follows is a condensed version of that conversation:

Why did you write this book?

A major pharmaceutical company went through a divestiture and employees found themselves disenfranchised. I was asked to come in and speak to them about their transition. I researched and put together the content of what is now the book. After one of the presentations, a senior sales leader asked me to come into his office where he became emotional stating, “You changed my life out there. You have to write a book about what you just said.” I wanted to help people out there who feel hopeless after a downturn.

How did you arrive at the title?

From personal experience. I had a devastating experience that led me to a separate path and eventually a very successful career. Looking back at it, it was literally the best thing that ever happened to me.

You write that “men tend to equate their self-worth with their jobs to a higher degree than many women do.” What specific advice would you give men?

Sociologists and anthropologists have concluded that men, in general, find their self-worth based on how far they have progressed in their career and what successes they have achieved. At the same time, they fail to develop rich networks. I’d advise three things:

1. Start networking immediately—call recruiters who have called you in the past, reach out to past employers and connect with specialty interest groups.

2. Talk to at least one key person everyday—reach out to people who are influential and can help you get a job.

3. Deliver your personal brand as a key message—it’s not about you, it’s about what value you bring to your next position.

What suggestion do you have for someone who’s been downsized or terminated?

Ask HR for a termination letter explaining the rationale for the departure. Write the letter yourself (example in the book) and ask them to edit as needed. There has to be complete consistency in what you are saying as the reason why you’re no longer with the company and what they will hear from your past employer.

What advice do you have about working with recruiters?

Find retained recruiters. Clearly communicate your brand in 20 seconds. Remember, it’s all about the value or ROI you can bring for the recruiter’s clients—it’s not about you. And when you talk to recruiters, don’t bad mouth your past company: A recruiter will simply not place you.

If you’re experiencing a downturn or foresee one in the near future, I recommend Sander’s new book. It’s a detailed “how to” that he’s developed over years of successful executive and academic experience. It can empower you to create the next fulfilling chapter of your career and life.

This book review was published in January’s PM360 issue.


Seven Tips for Moderating an Audience-centered Panel

Have you ever attended a terribly moderated panel? Unfortunately I have, several times. Panels can be a great way to get diverse points of view on important topics from thought leaders. Yet, while the medium is widely accepted and often used, in my humble opinion it is not done well the majority of the time.

Last month, I was asked to moderate a panel on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Convention in Chicago. After the initial excitement wore off, I began to reflect on the bad panels I’ve participated in over the years. Determined to make a difference, I interviewed several colleagues and researched literature on how to moderate panels; however, the marketer in me urged me to keep my audience in mind as I was preparing.

After I distilled my research and obtained a good understanding of my audience, I put together these seven tips:

1. You’re a moderator, not a panelist. Like the saying, “those who cannot do, teach” remember that if you were selected to moderate you’re not selected because of your opinions on the topic. As tempting as it might be, let the panelists be the content experts. 

2. Define the scope. Agree with your panelists on a tight scope of the topic ahead of time, including what is out of scope. In our case, we agreed on limiting our discussion on the pragmatic activities small business owners should be taking to prepare for the ACA. Given the audience and the topic, this could have easily turned into a long and heated debate, with everyone walking away at best entertained, but with little value post-conference. 

3. Provide different points of view. If you can select your panel, pepper your choices with panelists from different points of view, limiting overlap. In addition, agree on points of view to take on while answering questions. For example, in our panel someone represented the executive, another offered the insurance perspective and yet another was a patient educator. When a question arises ask another panelist for their point of view on the same issue. 

4. Structure the format. Plan, plan, plan. Then enforce, enforce, enforce. Break down the timelines for each section (introduction, Q&A, conclusion) down to the minute. Remind your panelists and the audience of your structure.

5. It’s not about the panel members. Every panel member is a thought leader in their own right. Do not waste valuable air time introducing them at length—let the content of their comments show how educated, experienced or famous they are. Social media should give full visibility to anyone if they truly want to find out more about the panelists and you. 

6. It’s all about the audience. People pay hundreds of dollars to attend a session, let alone the value of time. Open the panel to comments and Q&A from the audience. Out of the 45 minutes we were allotted, we spent 35 minutes in Q&A—hearing directly from our audience what burning questions they had. 

7. Close strong! Allow the panelist to give a final 30-second point of view on the issue, based on the questions from the audience. Wrap up by providing a brief summary of the scope, the themes of the answers and by making the panel and yourself available for a continued dialogue outside of the time allotted. 

Our panel was warmly received by the audience—a large feat given the topic at hand. Surprisingly, the panel members were very complimentary on our approach and discipline. Personally, I felt satisfied that like every good marketer, I was meeting my customer’s needs.

 This post will be published in the November issue of PM360. 

The ABCs of Corporate Turn-Arounds

Reinvent is a leader’s playbook for serial success

Do you know leaders who no matter where in the world their career takes them, they always seem to succeed? I know a couple. They seem to will their way in and out situations, almost magically. Fred Hassan’s Reinvent – Jossey-Bass 2013 – portrays the story of master turnaround artist—but make no mistake about it, it’s not magic. Although after reading the book, it’s easy to see that there’s something special about Hassan. Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money on CNBC, referred to Hassan’s skills in a TV interview this way: “You’ve done many turnarounds, which is why I bank with you first and then I bank with the company that you’re with.”  Marshall Goldsmith, recognized among the world’s top 50 influential leadership thinkers states, “I have had the honor of working with many of the world’s greatest leaders. I rank Fred Hassan as one of the top five.” 

Reinvent by Ramiro RomanIn many ways, Reinvent is his autobiography. It is full of real life stories, with real people—six who have gone on to become CEOs of large organizations. He is a great story teller who blends situations, observations and people in an engaging way. My favorite story in the book is when Mr. Hassan was called by The Coca-Cola’s company CEO to address the troubled company which was looking to embark on a turnaround.

Mr. Hassan started his speech to an audience of 200 executives this way: “Start with productive attitudes and behaviors to build a productive culture. Diffuse these into the organization via three main pathways: the Power Trident of Passion, Courage and Tenacity; the Power Triangle of People, Products and Process: and the Leadership Quartet of four winning leadership approaches. Do this right, and you can unleash a virtuous spiral of results that then generates even better results.”  This quote is a summary of his entire playbook, which uses the tools detailed in the book. In Reinvent, Hassan delivers the sound business practices he has refined over his career. His playbook packages his ideas in a simple and straight-forward system.  

What Are The ABCs?

Hassan’s playbook is not of the flavor of the month variety. He developed his approach over decades of practical experience. He’s not an academic, consultant or journalist. As the famous saying goes ’he’s been there, done that, got that t-shirt’ and the book simmers with pragmatism. This is not a book about grand strategy: It is about how do get things done. It is about people and culture at its foundation.

  • Attitude. Everything starts with attitude and that is to be role-modeled by leaders, especially the CEO. He believes that what holds companies back is the skepticism for management. He advocates being authentic—at work and in life—valuing integrity and owning your accountability for self-development, self-control & self-drive. Hassan seems to have an innate ability to see possibilities, persevere through challenges and restlessly drive towards excellence. And he believes we all can unleash this capability. He says.“It is in our power to do more with what we have. It’s in our power to fulfill our own potential. It’s not where we take our aspirations—it’s where our aspirations take us.” Attitude serves as the catalysts that stimulate the desired behaviors. 
  • Behaviors. There are three behaviors that Hassan outlines as key: purposeful, connected and leadership. Purpose is characterized by having clear goals, risk taking, inspiring energy and self-renewal. Connected means self-awareness, sincere emotional intelligence through all levels of the organization and being attuned to the external environment. Behaviors are the substance that sustain the culture.
  • Culture. People are the decisive difference in any organization. Hassan walks through the steps in selecting, aligning and motivating. He spends a great amount of time discussing how leaders should role-model behaviors throughout the organization, thereby inculcating winning behaviors and creating shared ownership. Culture is the context that fosters executional excellence.   

The ABCs are the foundation of Hassan’s playbook. The ultimate result of his playbook is to achieve executional excellence. Hassan understands that the power of a CEO is not realized by strategy or the leadership team, but by aligning all employees, customers, regulators and partners in execution. “Making strategies happen is the toughest part of being a CEO.” 

Hassan believes that strategies are best articulated in a few straight-forward sentences. He provides an example of his work at Schering-Plough, where he kept his strategies as simple as 1,2,3:

  1. Grow the top line.
  2. Grow the pipeline.
  3. Reduce costs & invest wisely.

That’s it. For six years these strategies remained unchanged. Their simplicity was executable and yielded one of the best turnaround stories in the pharmaceutical industry. 


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I found its tone sincere, personal and easy to digest—yet intellectually insightful and practical. If you’re interested in turnaround stories, you should definitely pick up this book. As you get your summer reading list ready, don’t overlook Reinvent: you’ll feel as though you’ll be sharing a conversation with a wise friend. Enjoy!

This book review will be published in the June issue of PM360.