Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Remembering the Caregivers in our Prayers

Two recent tragic events have been playing in my mind these past few days: the December 21st suicide bombing at Mosul, Iraq and the incomprehensibly devestating earthquake and tsunami in Asia. My thoughts naturally turned first to those killed and wounded and their grieving families and communities.

Today, my thoughts turn to the rescue workers, medical personal, relief agency workers and volunteers struggling to stem the tide of suffering in locations scattered across thousands of miles. At a time when many of us are privileged to be celebrating the holidays and spending time relaxing with family and friends, these men and women put themselves on the line to offer a hand to those who are suffering. They deserve our support, our gratitude and our prayers.

A close friend of mine made me aware today of this posting from a Blog by Chaplain Lewis in Mosul. This moving account of his involvement in the aftermath of the suicide bombing makes it very clear how much it costs to put oneself in harm's way and in the midst of the aftermath of a mass casualty situation.

In the face of such suffering - in Iraq and throughout Asia - we may be tempted to feel overwhelmed and wonder what we canpossibly do to make a difference. The concrete steps I plan to take in response include:

* Offering prayers for the families of those who have suffered loss, and for those who are laboring to ameliorate the suffering;

* Sending a donation to an agency providing relief in Asia.

* Being more mindful than ever of the ephemeral nature of life here on earth, finding a family member or friend and telling that person today how much I love and appreciate him/her.

* Writing a note or an e-mail of thanks to someone serving at home or abroad in the military, or sending a note of appreciation to a civilian first responder.

* Taking nothing for granted, and taking time to celebrate each day, thanking God for the gift of another day to invest in making a difference in the loves of others.

God bless.


Monday, December 27, 2004

International Christmas – Think Globally; Celebrate Locally

More than ever before, this Christmas season has made me aware of the rich global network I have been blessed to participate in. I am pleased to share with you some gleanings from the harvest of communications I shared this past week with family and friends scattered across the globe:

· I received an e-mail update from a friend who is involved in AIDS education in the Republic of Haiti, a troubled nation that I called home for one year back in the 70’s, while I served as the Administrator of a small mission hospital in the mountains high above Port-au-Prince.

· An e-mail conversation with another friend – a West Point alumna and recent graduate of Harvard Business School. She is spending her Fulbright Scholarship doing AIDS research in Singapore on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.

· An e-mail conversation with my son’s Romanian father-in-law – written partly in Romanian, English and French.

· Christmas greetings via phone and e-mail with friends in Quebec City – mostly in English, but partly in French.

· Dinner a few days before Christmas with a special family I have come to love in Newton, MA. Among the ethnic strains and heritage represented in this remarkable extended family are Armenian, Greek, Turkish, Egyptian, Indonesian (Sumatra), and American Jewish!

· A phone call on Christmas Eve from Moscow as it was turning midnight there. Vasili Zhuravlev, a TV anchor and journalist who calls himself my “Russian son” was calling to send greetings from him, his wife and new son, his parents, and the many friends I have developed in Moscow from my 10 visits there since 1992.

· A “Merry Christmas” call from a Muslim friend from Morocco.

· Christmas Eve worship in Barrington, NH with my sons –Ti and Scott, daughter-in-law – Raluca, granddaughter, Laurelin. Following a moving service in which Scripture was read in five different languages, we repaired to Ti and Raluca’s home for a traditional Romanian Christmas dinner. It was a delight to see the joy in Raluca’s eyes as we kept asking for seconds of schnitzel and her special signature dish (one that I learned to love at the home of her parents in Craiova, Romania) - salată de boeuf.

· Later that evening, we received a visit from a large gentleman clad in a suit of red with white trim. He was bearded and had an infectious laugh. Two-year-old Laurelin was initially terrified, but as she watched her two neighbors crawl up into Santa’s lap with no apparent ill effects, she eventually came around and spent time on his lap as well. She was eventually so enthralled with his visit that she kept jumping up and down and slapping herself on the side of the head in sheer delight!

· A Christmas day conversation with my son, Tim, who is spending time in Poland teaching English. His teaching assignment is in the town of Katowice, but he is spending the Christmas break in Krakow, visiting a girlfriend who is from Latvia – the daughter of ethnic Russian parents. Tim described a memorable and beautiful midnight Mass at a church in Krakow – with the Mass being sung and celebrated partly in Polish and partly in Latin.

· Christmas greetings from business associates in Kuwait City, Beijing, Croatia, Calgary and Wellington, NZ.

· The news of the devastating earthquake off the coast of Sumatra brought home the point of how interconnected we are. Within hours of learning of the widespread damage, I made calls to check on the well being of family and friends in Bangkok, Jakarta and Sri Lanka.

We are an intricate web of interconnected families, friends and business colleagues scattered among scores of countries and all continents. It is my prayer that in the New Year of 2005, the strands of that web will strengthen and tighten, and the understanding and cooperation that exists at the personal level will percolate upwards to more universal understanding and trust at the level of nations.

Wishing God’s Blessing on you for 2005!


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

West Point, Leadership and the Apprentice

Over the past several years, my executive search practice has evolved in a direction I could not have predicted. An increasing percentage of the executives I place in positions of leadership with client companies are graduates of one of our nation’s service academies. At last count, I have had the privilege of getting to know close to three hundred men and women who have completed their undergraduate education at West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy or the Coast Guard Academy. The more opportunities I have to see these business leaders in action, the more convinced I become of the efficacy of our service academies as incubators for business leaders of the highest caliber.

Certainly, this business incubation phenomenon is a by-product and not a primary objective of our nation’s military academies. They were established by Congress to prepare the men and women who would lead our troops in times of war and peace. And these schools accomplish this primary objective with an efficiency that may represent the best return on taxpayer dollars that I have seen at the Federal level. But the leadership principles that are the foundation of the core curricula at these four academies stand their graduates in good stead when they choose to complete their time of formal service to the nation and transition into the private sector or some other venue of government service.

Most of the time, the general public is oblivious to this phenomenon. A small percentage of our citizenry may have had the privilege of working side-by-side with a colleague who cut his teeth by leading as a junior military officer, but for the most part, this cadre of service academy alumni work their leadership magic in relative anonymity. All of that changed last week when Donald Trump turned to Kelly Perdew, United States Military Academy Class of ’89, and said: “You’re hired!”

I do not watch a lot of television these days (with the exception of the Red Sox!), but I did manage to catch a few of the episodes of The Apprentice II. Based on those few data points and my broader knowledge of the kind of training West Point cadets receive in the art and science of leadership, I was not at all surprised the Perdew emerged as the victor from among a slate of candidates culled from the best and the brightest.

My curiosity led me to explore in greater depth what Perdew’s background had been after leaving West Point. My research led me to his personal Website: I found posted on this Website the following quotation:

Definition of Success.

Broadly speaking, success is to know that you have done everything possible to maximize the opportunities for you and your loved ones. It means knowing you worked hard, you made good decisions based on the best information you could acquire, and you thought about how your decisions would impact the people closest to you, both immediately and in the future.

Success is a process more than anything else, and it boils down to giving 100% at all times – leaving nothing on the table or on the playing field.

It will be interesting to watch Mr. Perdew continue to develop under the direction of Donald Trump. One has to wonder what lessons in leadership "The Donald" is about to learn from the newest member of his team.

Monday, December 20, 2004

"Renaissance Man" - "Renaissance Soul" defined

In the header to this White Rhino Report and in my Profile on the LinkedIn Network, ( I use the term "Renaissance Man." Margaret Lobenstine, in her upcoming book, uses the more inclusive term "Renaissance Soul." The terms are widely used, but I suspect each of us has our own personal definition and mental image of what it means to be a "Renaissance Man or Woman." I would like to share briefly my thoughts on common traits and characteristics that fall under this broad rubric.

A Renaissance Man, according to, is . . .

[n] a scholar during the Renaissance who (because knowledge was limited) could know almost everything about many topics
[n] a modern scholar who is in a position to acquire more than superficial knowledge about many different interests.

The American Heritage dicitonary offers this definition:

"A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences."

The following quotation from Shannon L. Duffy, Ph.D., helps to set the context for understanding the emergence of the "Renaissance Man":

The printing press helped make believable the highest ideal of the Renaissance: the "Renaissance Man" (or woman) who has achieved mastery all the fields of learning, and can do all things well. By the Renaissance, to be cultured, you would need to be versed in many intellectual and artistic disciples. The best example of the Renaissance ideals was Leonardo di Vinci, who was a painter, sculptor, and inventor, and was also interested in medicine and anatomy, and the physical science. The ideal Renaissance man was a master of art and literature, a scholar and inventor, as well as physically graceful and talented in all the social arts —he strove for perfection in man (as Michaelangelo's David sculpture was trying to represent the perfect human form).

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is Rostand's panache-sporting swordman, Cyrano de Bergerac. Self-confident to the point of being overbearing and cartoonish, Cyrano personifies the Renaissance Man ideals. In describing his philosophy of life to one of his comrades, he makes the following outrageous statement: "I have decided to excel at everything"

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are widely considered to be early American examples of Renaissance Men. They both excelled in an astonishly broad variety of fields and areas of interest.

I first learned of the concept of "Renaissance Man" when Valleau Wilkie, Jr., headmaster of Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, MA used the term in presenting me a prize at commencement (back in the days when dinosaurs still roamed the earth!). I took his use of the term as a personal challenge to continue to develop in as many dimensions as I possibly could.

In this era of increasing dependence on specialization in the business world, those of us who intentionally choose to develop as "Generalists" often find ourselves in danger of being misunderstood, marginalized or under-valued as anachronistic throwbacks to a quaint and bygone era. For this reason, I am convinced of the importance of "Renaissance Souls" finding one another and offering encouragement to each other to become all that we were meant to be. This vision informs my approach to recruiting. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I am able to find a client company led by visionary women and men who value a broad-based approach to leadership, and to be able to present to them candidates who are multi-faceted and extraordinarily gifted "Renaissance Souls" eager to help bring the company to new heights.

It is my hope that 2005 may usher in a rebirth of apprecation of the value and the role of "Renaissance Souls."

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Feelings Rule - Leading by Creating the Right "Feeling Mix"

This short article on leaders who succeed by taking into account the feelings they elicit from their team members struck me as helpful and insightful. The article - based in part on the principles laid out by Buckingham and Coffman in First, Break All the Rules - corrobates what I have seen anecdotally in my own experience in observing women and men who are outstanding leaders and motivators. The article made me "feel" encouraged and optimistic that dialogue about these kinds of leadership issues will lead to healthier and more nuturing work environments.

The CEO Refresher - Feelings Rule

Thursday, December 16, 2004

In Search of Courage - Challenging Words from Sen. John McCain

I recently came across this article on "Courage" by John McCain. Given his experience as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, he draws from a deep well of personal experience in offering these reflections on courage. (For a moving description of the experience of McCain and several of his classmates from Annapolis, I recommend you read The Nightingale's Song by Robert Timberg)

Fast Company In Search of Courage



Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Red Sox Evolving Corporate Culture: Adios to Pedro – from “Cabbage Patch Kid” to “Garbage Pail Kid” in 24 hours!

Just in the nick of time, the 80’s phenomenon – “The Garbage Pail Kids” stickers - have returned to check-out counters after a 15-year hiatus. I wonder how long it will take them to publish a “Pandering Pedro,” a “Dominating Dominican Diva” or a “Prima Donna Peetie” sticker to immortalize the 3-time Cy Young Award winner and former darling of Red Sox Nation. If we are to believe reports from Jayson Stark of, the terminal negotiating tactics employed by Pedro and his agent, Fernando Cuza, have raised disingenuousness to an art form. And once it became apparent that Pedro and Cuza had played their hand and revealed their true brassy colors, the Red Sox brass said: “No thanks; no mas” and walked away from a loudly-ticking time bomb, an rapdily-inflating ego and a slowly-fraying pitching shoulder.

In deciding to bid “Adios” to Martinez, the Red Sox Brain Trust took another important step in their long journey of reinventing the Red Sox corporate culture. Like the New England Patriots organization the Red Sox clearly are trying to emulate, they are making informed and carefully considered decisions to add players to their roster who want to wear the Boston uniform. They manifestly place a high value on players who put the concept of “team” before individual statistics or achievement, and who accept community involvement and public relations as a legitimate part of their role as professional athletes in Boston. (I am not sure how the signing of David Wells fits this emerging pattern, but time will tell. Perhaps he is the “exception that proves the rule.”) The other side of this coin is shedding the presence and the contracts of athletes who resent the “intrusions” and passion of the Boston media and Red Sox fans – see Nomar, Pedro, and Lowe. On-field performance is necessary to be a Red Sox player, but it is no longer sufficient. The five traditional “tools” of a major league ball player – hitting, hitting for power, fielding, throwing, and running – must now be complemented with the “soft skills” of sportsmanship, teamwork, charitable involvement and open communication.

I see the same type of evolution happening in the broader business world. Companies that once tolerated misfits and “jerks” who delivered the numbers, are waking up and demanding that their leaders exhibit the same “soft skills” that make so many of today’s World Champion Boston Red Sox players so accessible and loveable to their fans. Ty Cobb of long ago and his ilk are not welcome in the Red Sox clubhouse and dugout; they should not be welcome in the corporate boardroom.

Go Sox!

Sharing Access to a Career Transition Guide for Executives

One of the blogs I visit on a regular basis is “Brain Food Blog” by David Teten. Today’s posting by David led me to a terrific resource I would like you to be aware of: ExecuNet’s Career Transition: Charting A New Course.

If you are not already familiar with ExecuNet, let me say simply that I consider them to be among the best job search resources for senior executives. They are a subscription-based service that gives executive level candidates access to unique job postings and a host of other services – like this guide. See below for information from David Teten on how to download a free copy. I just did a quick download and evaluation of the guide, and I find it to contain helpful insights and guidance for any executive contemplating a career move.


* * * * *
From David Teten, via Richard Taylor, "I have just reviewed a Career Transitions guide put out by Execunet. The Guide provides advice on planning and implementing an effective plan to land a new executive job. It is very well done and worth requesting if you or someone you know is in career transition. Normally, they charge for these guides; they are quite comprehensive. If you would like a no cost copy of this guide simply use the link below." --

Posted by Brain Food (David Teten) to Brain Food Blog at 12/14/2004 06:45:57 PM

Monday, December 13, 2004

Branding and the Boston Red Sox: Johnny Damon et al. as “Cabbage Patch Kids”

In 1983, the “Cabbage Patch Kids” phenomenon swept the world of toys and Christmas Shopping like wildfire. My four sons at that time ranged in age from 20 months to 9 years, so I was well aware of the mass hysteria that broke out as it became clear early in that holiday shopping season that demand would far out-strip the supply of the huggable and adorably homely “adoptable” dolls. People began to camp out in front of toy stores and malls to try to score a doll for the children on their shopping list. That Christmas morning, there were many smiles on the faces of new adoptive owners of Cabbage Patch Kids, but there was also no shortage of disappointed kids, parents and grandparents as the law of supply and demand remained in full effect that season. There simply were not enough Cabbage Patch Kids to go around to satisfy the mania that had gripped the Nation.

FYI - Check out this Website for an interesting history of the Cabbage Patch Kids:

This holiday season, “mania” is a good descriptive term for the phenomenon that has gripped a smaller nation: Red Sox Nation. On Wednesday, card-carrying citizens of Red Sox Nation began arriving at Fenway Park – American Express, Visa and MasterCards in hand. They were hoping to have a chance to swipe the cards on Saturday morning to score tickets to the Red Sox 2005 season. I got to experience the hysteria first-hand on Saturday morning.

You may be aware that for the past two seasons, I have been one of the regular volunteers helping the Red Sox operate a program called “Autograph Alley.” Before each home game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox invite back a former player who spends an hour and a half autographing pictures of himself that the Red Sox make available free of charge to their fans. Last season, I was privileged to volunteer at fifty such events. I have laughingly been called the Red Sox “MVP Volunteer.” So, I was not terribly surprised when I received an e-mail last week from Rod Oreste, Red Sox Manager of Publications. Rod also serves as Autograph Alley Coordinator, so we have come to know each other well. He was asking if I would be available to help out on Saturday handling the crowd that was expected for the Christmas at Fenway event surrounding the first day of ticket sales for the 2005 season and defense of the World Series Championship. (It feels so good to be able to write that phrase!)

So, I spent all of Saturday morning at Fenway Park amidst the thousands of eager fans – each hoping against hope for a chance to spend their money on ducats for the defense of the World Series Trophy. As part of the Red Sox efforts to entertain the fans while they waited for the number on their wristbands to be called, Larry Lucchino brought out the World Series Trophy. They then offered individual fans an opportunity to be photographed with the trophy in exchange for a small donation made to the Red Sox Foundation.

As I watched all of this chaotic pageantry unfold, and as I breathed in the ambience of excitement and anticipation that was in the air that circulated around Yawkey Way this weekend, I begun to reflect on the Red Sox “brand.” Through a heuristic combination of strategic brilliance, consistent commitment to superior customer service, a cast of characters straight out of the film “Major League” and a denouement to the post-season that even the Farrelly brothers would have rejected as implausible, the Red Sox brand has never shined more brightly. Yet, for all of the strategic and tactical brilliance employed by “Theo and the Trio” (General Manager Theo Epstein, Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President/CEO Larry Lucchino) in building a well-oiled organizational machine and assembling a roster of on-field winners, the secret behind the hysteria of Red Sox nation to want a piece of the action goes well beyond senior level stratagems and managerial machinations.

Part of the serendipitous brilliance of the Red Sox “brand” is that the current cast of self-proclaimed “idiots” – World Champions though they may be – strike me as the “Cabbage Patch Kids” of the sports world. They are quirky, adorably homely, and eminently ”huggable.” Most female fans I know would gladly adopt the Cabbage Patch Kid named Johnny Damon. “Big Poppi” – David Ortiz – engenders passion and loyalty as much for his homespun persona as for his homerun power. Throw in “Cowboy” Kevin Millar, “Dirt Dog” Trot Nixon, “A-Rod Nemesis” Jason Varitek, “bionic” Curt Schilling and “Mango Tree” Pedro Martinez and you have a well-populated Kenmore Square Cabbage Patch. Even though some of these “Kids” are in danger of being “adopted” by other teams over the course of the next few weeks, we can count on Theo and the Trio to re-populate the Cabbage Patch with new personalities that will keep the pulse rate of Red Sox Nation elevated through most of the coming 2005 season.

Bring on Opening Day and the Evil Empire to watch the World Championship flag hoisted for the first time in 86 years to wave over the most colorful “Patch” since Al Capp’s Dog Patch!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

More on Leadership - Spotting a New Leader

I received so much response to yesterday's posting on Leadership, that I decided to continue with the theme today.

In response to yesterday's article, I heard from my friend, John Byington in Chicago. John is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he also later served as a member of the faculty. John holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and is currently working with GE Medical Systems as a Six Sigma guru. John has had many occasions during his career to think about issues of leadership. He was gracious enough to share with me this article from Christianity Today. I am pleased to share it, in turn, with you.

LEADERSHIP: Some profound thoughts from a combat veteran of Iraq

Last night, as soon as I read the e-mail I have excerpted below, I knew I had to share it with a broader audience. This e-mail speaks to the quality of the young men and women who are leading our troops – here at home, in Iraq and around the globe. It also speaks to the issue of integrity of leadership, and the incredible job that West Point and the other service academies do in preparing leaders who will think about decisions from an ethical perspective and not just about what makes sense tactically at the moment.

The author of this e-mail has given me his permission to share portions of his letter. He prefers to remain anonymous. He was a letter winning Division I-A varsity athlete, and is a member of the Class of 2002 of the United States Military Academy. He spent a year deployed in Iraq, and now leads a unit of soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Here are some of his thoughts:

I traveled to Las Vegas, NM this past weekend to attend a funeral of a fallen comrade. CPT Todd Christmas was my Executive Officer in Iraq and a few months after our return. He died a week ago in a Blackhawk Helicopter crash just north of Fort Hood. You probably heard about the crash on the news. He was General Allen's aide, who also passed away in the crash. CPT Christmas was destined to become a general himself; his death was a great loss to the Army. I was honored to attend his funeral and meet his very appreciative family. The entire week we were in contact with the family they were so positive. It was a sad loss but we managed to celebrate a real American and a great person.

A quick Iraq story and also a tough leadership challenge:

After the loss of Todd I started thinking back to the days in Iraq, when I lost my first soldier to a roadside bomb and then another two months later. I then got a call out of the blue from my old platoon sergeant today wanting to talk about those guys and how he was feeling depressed as to why we lost soldiers and the other platoons didn't. He told me he felt like a failure. I then remembered hearing stories from the other two platoons, that while we were deployed they would call in fake grid coordinates and not conduct the patrols like they were supposed too. I even had some of my NCO's approach me about that after we lost our first soldier and ask why we were the only ones doing the right thing, and how come we couldn't do like the other platoons?

At West Point they always preach about doing the harder right over the easier wrong. This is one instance where believing in that really helped out. I don't remember exactly what I told them, but I was able to convince them to conduct the patrols and missions to the standard, and not to focus on the other platoons. I never told my commander about this and sometimes I wish I would have. I explained all of this to my platoon sergeant today and it seemed to ease his depression.

I guess the point of this whole story is that the ethics and values West Point teaches really do work. I think my guys learned a lesson while deployed that will stick with them forever. Maybe some of this will help you with your book, at least it ads some perspective to West Point.

The good news is that this young soldier sees himself eventually in the role of business leader. If this is the kind of thoughtful leadership our service academies are producing, I feel very confident in the next generation of leaders – for our armed forces and for the business world.

If you would like to comment on what the author has shared, I will be happy to forward your thoughts on to this remarkable young man whom I am proud to call my friend.

Al Chase

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Power of Narrative in a Sales Environment

I had a fascinating meeting this week with one of my candidates. We were talking about the power of storytelling in a sales environment. He recounted to me an indelible lesson he had learned early in his career from one of his first mentors. I have taken some liberties with the particulars of the story, so the details are not exactly as he recounted the story to me, but the principals remain the same.

A young salesman was sitting across the table from his sales manager and mentor. The crusty old sales veteran offered the following comments:

“Jim, you look great today. I especially like that tie. In fact, I admire that tie so much, that I am wondering if I could borrow it for a day. I have a presentation tomorrow to a key client, and if I could wear that tie, I would feel like I could not fail to close the sale."

“Sure, Norman, I’ll be glad to lend it to you. Here you go.”

“Thank you. Now let me offer you a lesson. Let’s assume that the tables were reversed and you had asked me for the tie. In fact, go ahead, ask me if you can borrow my tie – the same one you just gave me.”

“Norman, I love your tie. I could really use that tie for a presentation tomorrow. Do you mind of I borrow it?”

“I am glad you like the tie. As a matter of fact, it is my favorite tie, and I only wear it on very special occasions. When I was getting dressed this morning, I said to myself: ‘Why not wear Aunt Matilda’s tie today; the new guy is starting in the North Shore territory, so it is an important day!’

You may wonder why I call this tie ‘Aunt Matilda’s tie.' I’ll be glad to tell you. You have not been around here long enough to have heard my personal history, but it is common knowledge that my mother died when I was six year old, and I was pretty much raised single-handedly by my Aunt Matilda. She was one of the most frugal women I have ever known. She would not spend a nickel more than necessary on herself. Most of her clothes came from K Mart.
The day I before I was to begin my new sales career here at ABC Global – 21 year’s ago tomorrow – Aunt Matilda said to me: ‘Norman, let’s get in the car; we’re going shopping for a new tie for you.’ I cringed at the thought of a K Mart tie, but I wanted to be appreciative, so I got in the car. On this occasion, I let her drive. So, imagine my surprise when she pulled up in front of Brooks Brothers!

I followed as she walked straight to the back, found a Manager and asked to see the special Limited Edition of imported silk ties reserved for Preferred Customers. We were shown an impressive collection, and Aunt Matilda said to me: ‘Pick out the one you like the best. Never mind about the price!’ So, I chose this tie – 'Aunt Matilda’s tie'! I could not help noticing as she handed her money to the clerk that she gave him six $20 bills. $120 dollars for a tie in 1983! Can you imagine!

Aunt Matilda died in her sleep at age 87 just last month. This remained her favorite tie, and I wore it to her funeral.
I am happy to lend it to you. Treat it carefully, please.”

Norman paused, and drove home the point of the story:

“Compare the ‘value’ of the tie before the story of Aunt Matilda and after the story. Same tie – but a completely different value. Sales, my boy, is all about telling the story to make sure that you help the customer to place the appropriate value on the product or service that you are selling. It is all about the story. The value lies in the story!”

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I welcome your feedback on this issue
Al Chase

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Peter King and Stephen King on the Red Sox

I am not a fan of Stephen King. I don't believe I have ever read one of his books. But he is a fellow denizen of Red Sox Nation, so that covers a multitude of sins. He has co-authored a just-released book: Faithful : Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stewart O'Nan, Stephen King. This book will be the first Stephen King tome that I will read!

Speaking of Kings who write about the victorious Red Sox . . . .

My friend, Mike O'Malley, star of the CBS series, "Yes, Dear," recently sent me this excerpt from SI writer Peter King:

MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- The earliest e-mail came Wednesday morning at 1:23 a.m. That's 6:23 a.m. where my brother Ken, the Yankee fan, lives and works. In England. It was four words long, with no greeting or salutation. "I can't stand it.''

My brother-in-law Bob Whiteley, the dentist from northern Connecticut, checked in by cell phone around 10 in the morning. He spoke, I think, for him and my sister, Pam, both Red Soxaholics. "I can't take any more of this.''

I called my brother Bob, another Yankee fan, just before the first pitch, and even though he has his life in glorious perspective, he too was a frazzled mess. "I can't take it anymore. Too much. It's madness. Madness.''

I was no different. We'd all grown up in Enfield, Conn., 90 miles from Boston and 105 from New York, in a split baseball family and area. My father (Sox) took my mother (Sox), brother (Yanks), sister (Sox), brother (Yanks) and me (Sox) to our first family game at Fenway in 1963. I was 6. Bob Tillman homered. Sox lost 5-3. I got Mel Allen's autograph after the game on Lansdowne Street. An addiction was born. Transistor under the pillow for West Coast games in 1967, not falling asleep till 1. Worshiping Yaz. Buying Yaz Bread. (There really was such a thing. Arnold made it.)

Taking the love to Ohio University, to the freshman-dorm basement TV (kids, there was no such thing as TVs in dorm rooms in 1975), being vastly outnumbered for seven games against the Reds, crushed after Game 7. They lost. So crushed after the '78 playoff game that I Black-Velvetted my way to my only "F'' in a journalism class ever for not turning in a paper due the day after Bucky Dent made me violent; can't write if you can't see. They lost. Hugging my wife in the upper deck at Shea Stadium late in Game 6 of '86, sure we'd finally won a Series; got Bucknered. They lost. Lost my voice in 1999 ALCS Game 3 at Fenway, Clemens-Pedro. Won the game, but the series? They lost. Last year, I barely saw the Aaron Boone homer clear the fence from seats way up the third-base line before I turned and got away from the stadium as fast as I could. They lost. Last Saturday, I did the unthinkable: I left a Fenway Park playoff game in the sixth inning. Couldn't take it anymore. The season was going down in flames, and watching the end from the Fairfield Inn TV had to be better than > suffering in person. They lost. Down 3-0.

Just end it, I thought. Euthanize the season. Can't hit, can't pitch. On the way back to the hotel, I'm playing Theo Epstein with the same intensity and fantasy I used to play Yastrzemski, trying to hit Stottlemyre on the Mark Twain School diamond in pickup games. Sign Jason Varitek, at any cost. Try to convince Orlando Cabrera to do what David Ortiz did -- sign short-term, cheap. Let Pedro and Derek Lowe go. Get Barry Zito, whose market value is down. Or compete for Carl Pavano. For God's sake, get one more middle-reliever. See if anyone out there will give a little bit of value for Manny Ramirez, who, and I don't care what he hits, isn't worth $20 million a year.

Then baseball intruded. Dave Roberts, who showed twice in this series just how smart Epstein is, extended two games with his legs, and the best value player in sports, Ortiz, won them both. I had to drive to Foxboro at 5:30 Tuesday morning to interview Corey Dillon, and on the way, Chris Russo, the anti-Yankee WFAN Mad Dog, reached me by cell at the Mystic Starbucks to say: "The Red Sox are winning the World Series, baby.'' (An omen? The Mystic Starbucks?) He had the best reasoning of all: It had to be this way. The Red Sox had to do it this way -- the incredibly hard way -- to put the Yankee ghosts to bed forever. It had to be something cataclysmic, like being the only team in baseball history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series 4-3.

Then Curt Schilling pitches the game of his life, and fearless Keith Foulke fans Tony Clark to win. The unthinkable is happening. The unspeakable. The impossible. Wednesday morning. My HBO Inside the NFL' producer, Brian Hyland, has his Yankees ski cap on throughout our taping. Cris Carter wears a Yankees cap. He took the Lexington Line up to Game 1 last week and was stunned at the intensity of the rivalry. Almost turned off. Which happens to me sometimes when fans act like first-graders. At the end of the day, Hyland gave me an extended fist > to knock. "Show's over,'' he said. "Now we're enemies.''

I am not a good person to watch the game with. My poor wife. I pace, I walk outside, I go to the computer to check pitch counts, I marvel loudly at what in the world happened to A-Rod and Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui, who have gone from trained killers to invisible in a matter of days, I take notes, I say things to TV you can't say in public or around children when Terry Francona brings Pedro in the game, I rock back and forth Mazzone-like. At one point, for some reason, I recall stopping my Volkswagen Rabbit for 35 minutes on a hill in Cincinnati, where we lived for five years after getting married, on the way home from work because WTIC was coming in so good from Hartford, and I could hear the last two innings of a Yankees-Red Sox game. Pre-MLB Extra Innings, obviously. Where did that come from? Who knows? I just knew not to be overconfident. Up 9-3 in the bottom of the eighth, with Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield, Matsui and Bernie Williams on the horizon, it is not over. But Mike Timlin makes it be over, with a final assist from Alan Embree, and all I can do is hug my wife and be thankful.

I'm sure most of you out there in Red Sox Nation were overcome with glee and jumping up and down and pouring drinks on heads, but I was just ... happy. And relieved. I hate the concept of the Yankees, but I can't hate this team because of the people they have. And to beat such a great team, such a class team, with such a class manager and class shortstop and clutch lineup, on the hallowed ground, hitting four homers into the same stands Babe Ruth hit so many ... happy. That's what I was.

I flipped the channels on TV to see every interview, and the one that hit home was John Henry, whose emotions he could barely keep in check. He's a zillionaire, and he said to some mini-cam, "It's so wonderful. There's a World Series in Fenway Park this weekend,'' and he sort of shied away from the camera, barely shaking his head. Like he was going to cry. I thought: That's me right now. That's me. Just marveling.

My cell phone rang. It was Laura, my daughter. She's a senior at Tufts, on the outskirts of Boston, and she goes through some intensely devotional spurts to the Sox. She'd watched the game down the street from Fenway, and now, I could barely hear her because of the background noise.

"Dad!'' she yelled. Horns blaring. People shrieking. Laura shrieking. "I'm at Fenway! I'm out on the street! Biggest mass of humanity I've ever seen!''

Line went dead. She called back. She went on like she hadn't ever gotten off.

"This is the greatest moment of my life!''

Congratulations, Red Sox Nation. You've baptized another one. For life.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Red Sox Nation on the Cover of SI

If you have not already had a chance to read it, the cover story on the Red Sox by Tom Verducci of Sport Illustrated is not to be missed. In the December 6 edition of SI, the Red Sox are named the "Sports Illustrated Sportmen of the Year." The cover is a brilliant photomosiac designed by Massachusetts native Robert Silvers.

The article about the Sox playoff run weaves stories of birth and death into the narrative of the on-field heroics. I had to stop four times while reading the article to wipe away tears so that I could continue reading. Verducci clearly and poignantly touches the pulsebeat of Red Sox Nation.

I was in Terminal C yesterday morning at Logan Airport. Around 11:00, I noticed quite a bit of commotion at the Delta Ticket Counter, and then finally figured out what was going on . I gentleman wearing a Red Sox jacket and Red Sox cap was being processed by one of the Delta ticket agents. Surrounding him were several TSA officers and a Massachusetts State Policeman, who stood holding an item draped in a teal shroud. By the shape of the package, I had a pretty good idea I was standing two feet from the World Series Trophy. I whisphered in the ear of the police officer: "Is that what I think it is, and is it viewable." "Yes, it is what you think it is, and it is not viewable." A minute later, the officer led an entourage down the ramp, through security and to one of the Delta gates. The trophy was off somewhere to bring joy to another precinct of Red Sox nation. I guess I'll have to wait for another opportunity to hold it!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Join the LinkedIn Networkand View My LinkedIn Profile

Among the proliferating social networking tools now available, I have found LinkedIn to be qualitatively better than any others I have tried. It is now the only on-line tool of its kind that I use. If you are already a member, follow the link below to view my Profile and invite me to link with you within the network:

If you are not already a member, you can sign up for free in just a few minutes on this link, or you can ask me to invite you into the network as a connection of mine.

HBS Graduates and Wall Street

Many of the candidates whom I place and others whom advise regarding their careers are Harvard Business School graduates. So, when I recently read in David Teten's "Brain Food" Blog ( the article below, it caught my eye. Enjoy the article and enjoy David's blog, if you have not already been exposed to it.

Why Harvard Is Bad for Wall Street - Obscure Economic Indicators Part 6: Harvard Business School graduates on Wall Street. By Daniel Gross: //

Recruiting Priorities - Please Keep Your Eyes Open

As you are out and about interacting with people in your network, please let me know if you learn of outstanding candidates who may want to learn more details about any of the opportunities below. As always, my priority is in making contact with A-level women and men who are well-rounded Renaissance Souls!

Beijing-based HR recruiter - must be bilingual in Mandarin and English.

Boston area - Experienced consultants with RFID/supply chain expertise

Boston area - Commercial banker with strong credit analysis skills

Boston area - Sales executive with knowledge of network security space

Pittsburgh area - Corporate strategy executive/Chief of staff

NYC/NJ area - Senior HR professional/generalist

NYC/Philadelphia - Private Equity analyst

Colorado Springs - Ret. USAF General Officer with Business Development exp.


I attended my first and only Army-Navy game in December of 2001. I was fortunate enough to be a guest of the West Point football team, so I had great seats - the 11th row from the field on the 40 yard line! I can't wait to attend my next game - perhaps in 2005 if my schedule will allow.

This storied rivalry began in 1890, and remains one of the most compelling annual sporting events. Just this morning is finished reading A Civil War: Army Vs. Navy : A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry by John Feinstein. It is a well-written book that gives moving insights into the hard work that goes into balancing the demands of Division 1-A foolball with the already staggering demands of being a cadet at West Point or a midshipman at Annapolis. If anything, reading the book only increased by appreciation and respect for my friends who have played for Army and Navy over the years.

Woody, Tyler, Cal, Mark, Jared, Chad, Brent - Thanks for the memories and thanks for welcoming me into the world of USMA football!

West Point TAC officer - feedback requested

Below you will find a description I have written of a fictional TAC. This description is part of a writing project I have undertaken that will eventually be a full-length novel, centered around five friends who meet as USMA plebes. If this description prompts any memories of encounters you have had with TAC's or TAC NCO's during your West Point years, please share them.
Captain Corcoran

As Captain Corcoran hove into view, his unique shape and mode of locomotion made him instantly recognizable – even at a thousand yards. Baker had warned Goldschmidt to be on the lookout for this guy. It wasn’t that he was fat – just the opposite. There did not seem to be much of him that had not been chipped from the fine-grained granite monolith of his native Georgia’s Stone Mountain. His muscle-bound thighs made his only possible means of effective ambulation a mechanical swivel of his hips. To undertake any change in location, the Captain would swing his hips 30 degrees to the right of his appointed track, allowing his left leg to swing well past the centerline of his intended route. He would then plant his left foot, swing his hips and right leg 30 degrees to the left and continue tacking in the general direction of his destination. As much as Goldschmidt wanted to avert his eyes, morbid fascination won out as he stared at the approaching frigate. As Corcoran continued his voyage across the yard, his usual stolid expression was broken by his lips moving almost imperceptibly – perhaps in an inaudible litany of whispered internal nautical commands: “Prepare to come about!”

Even while not in forward motion towards a new port of call, Corcoran’s nautical motif held true. He seemed incapable of standing still for more than 7 seconds at a time. (Goldschmidt eventually timed the Captain’s periodic cycle of movements.) While standing in one spot, he would habitually shift his weight laterally back and forth, thereby closely approximating the gentle undulations of the foremast of a yawl at anchor in Camden Harbor swaying with the lapping swells.

In watching him, one could not help but wonder at the incongruity between his seafarer’s gait and his infantry soldier’s uniform. Someone in Central Casting had clearly had a bad day!

Watching Capt. Corcoran draw hear, Goldschmidt’s gaze fell first on those steely eyes – apparently untroubled by sentient processes or original thought. They were eyes that seemed to look through him and beyond him – but not at him. The chestnut eyebrows were astonishingly pencil thin – especially for someone who was otherwise so uniformly hirsute. Even by the stingy light of dawn, the Plebe could see beneath the Captain’s freshly-scraped five o’clock shadow a perpetual rubicund blush on his cheek – an apparent signal flare launched by his circulatory system announcing a state of distress over the demands being made upon it. The man’s under-sized ears appeared to be pinioned to his skull by invisible forces, further accentuating the effect of his “high and tight” buzz cut. His foreshortened arms bowed slightly forward and outward from the shoulders in deference to his hypertrophic lats.

The overall impression was of a prototype of an early generation of automaton – one whose level of cognition was roughly equivalent to that of HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” To be more precise, he seemed a machine operating at the functional level of HAL - three choruses of “Daisy” into his decommissioning at the hands of Dave.

As Cadet Goldschmidt sized up Capt. Corcoran in all of his maritime magnificence, his first thought was: “Holy shit! This Neanderthal Red Neck is going to be a major pain in my ass!”