Thursday, March 31, 2005

Chief of Staff Role (Part V) – Final Thoughts

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the leadership training provided by USN Captain Mike Abrashoff (Ret.), former skipper of the USS Benfold, a.k.a. “The Best Damn Ship in the Navy.” This morning I was reading his insightful first book: “It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.” Early in his career, Abrashoff served as an Admiral’s aide in Subic Bay, Philippines. One of his statements from page 22 jumped out at me:

“I was twenty-five years old at the time, and most twenty-five-year-olds don’t get the opportunity to see how the organization runs at a senior level. It was good training, which businesses could give their up-and-coming young people by making them executive assistants to the top officers.”

Capt. Abrashoff uses the term “executive assistants,” but in context, it is clear that he is really talking about the Chief of Staff role as I have been discussing it in this series. His comments almost exactly echo the words of James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche – words that I quoted as I opened this series several weeks ago:

“I am not sure I would be where I am today if I had not been given that extraordinary opportunity early in my career. I was rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with all of the strategic decision makers in the company. I was exposed to ideas, challenges, responsibilities and opportunities that most people at my age and at my stage of career never dreaming about. In addition, I was mentored, coached and stretched by visual leaders who gave me opportunities to prove what I was capable of doing.”

The message is pretty clear. A number of young leaders with extraordinary leadership potential have been encouraged in the development and deployment of these leadership gifts by being given the opportunity to function in the role of Chief of Staff, XO, or whatever term that organization may choose to put on a role that services as a ”force multiplier” in support of a C-level executive. When structured correctly, a Chief of Staff role provides a triple win:

The CEO wins because he is freed up to be able to concentrate his time, effort and priorities on strategic initiatives. He is empowered to “keep the main thing the main thing”!

The organization wins because its leader is leading more effectively and the COS role is adding to succession planning by attracting, grooming and retaining an unusually gifted up-and-coming leader.

The Chief of Staff wins because his/her career trajectory is raised and he/she is able to make a major contribution while being mentored and groomed by a seasoned leader.

Ed Cusati, one of the regular readers of this Blog, responded to the most recent COS posting by offering a flow diagram that depicts the balance between concerns over the potential upside and downside of adding a COS into the organizational mix. (Due to the technical limitations of this Blogster, I am not able to reproduce the diagram in this space, but it will be included in an upcoming White Paper!) Ed’s diagram points out the complex interactions among all of the stakeholders that must be taken into consideration in creating within an organization a Chief of Staff role. The CEO, the CEO's Direct Reports and the COS candidate must all – from their own vantage point - wrestle with the potential objections and benefits of creating a Chief of Staff role.

Where do we go from here with regard to this discussion? I plan to digest the material from this series and the feedback I have received into a White Paper on the role of a Chief of Staff. Through the amazing network of relationships I have been blessed to develop with some extraordinary men and women, I have access to an unmatched pool of potential Chiefs of Staff. It occurs to me that because of this rare access to a unique talent pool, and because of my awareness of the effectiveness of a properly deployed Chief of Staff, the role of evangelist for the COS role has been thrust upon me. I am pleased to accept that role, but I'll need some help.

So, how can we help each other to move things forward?

I would welcome an opportunity to enter into conversations with companies that you know or suspect could benefit from a Chief of Staff. In a situation in which the role has already been utilized in the company, I would like to be in a position to help that company to identify and to hire the next person to fill the role. In the case of a company that is just beginning to consider creating such a role, I would welcome a chance to come in and consult with the strategic leaders to define the role, and then to help the company to fill that role with their first COS.

Please let me know if you would like to receive a copy of the White Paper. I would appreciate your efforts in helping me to evangelize for the expansion of the role of the COS within corporate America.

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Mini-Talent Alerts

I would love to know about candidates you may know for the following positions:

Director of SalesBoston/NH area
B2B sales of light measurement technology products and services.

CFOPhiladelphia area
Distribution company. Candidate must have prior experience leading a company through the complications of a major IT upgrade.

Director of Sales, Marketing and Business DevelopmentBoston/Cambridge
On-line learning knowledge and prior experience selling products or services to K-12 educators is required.

Director of User Experience - NYC/NJ area
Financial services firm needs a creative leader to head the Web development team.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Memorable Meal - Breakfast in Bed I Will Never Forget

Let me share some food for thought . . .

I have been blessed to have a number of families scattered across the Globe that have "adopted" me as a member of their extended family. This makes life thrilling and comforting as I travel, since I am never far from special friends. Whenever possible, I prefer staying and visiting with these friends to the sterile life of a hotel guest. One special part of my wide net of families is the Cross family of Westport, CT. Marla and I first met on stage as we were both actors in a summer-long production of "Little Shop of Horrors." (My acting "career" is a story for another time!) We have been close ever since, and when she married Sean, the circle widened. Sean and Marla are now the proud parents of Camille - age 5, Ethan - age 3 and Raquel - who just arrived on the scene a few weeks ago. Sean works as an executive with Harper Collins Publishing in NYC and Marla balances motherhood and an acting career. You would recognize her face from her roles in such films as "Forrest Gump", "The Fan," "Great Expectations," "Autumn Heart," and "Road Trip." She has also appeared in a number of TV roles - Seinfeld, Law and Order, etc.

Last Thursday and Friday, I had meetings at West Point and in NYC, so I gladly accepted the Cross's hospitality and took over their guest room for a few nights. On Saturday morning, around 7:00 o'clock, I heard a knock on the guest room door. Ethan came in, jumped on the bed and handed me a package of string cheese. "Grandpa Al, here is some cheese for you!" Sean and Marla and Raquel were still sleeping peacefully, but Ethan and Camille had decided it was time to feed Grandpa Al. Camille entered next carrying a full plate - a stunning assortment of cherry tomatoes, strawberries, three strips of cold bacon that she had found in the refrigerator, a container of yogurt and a juice box! "Here, Grandpa Al, I made this just for you." It was one of the best meals I have had in a long while!

At the time, I was touched by the thoughtfulness that went behind Ethan and Camille's kindness and creativity. But the more I reflect on that extraordinary morning, the more in awe I become in pondering the precocious spirit of these two delightful little persons. Most toddlers and pre-school children are developmentally still focused on their own needs and wants. For a 3-year-old and a 5-year old to take the initiative to figure out that I might be hungry and to orchestra flawlessly a full meal is mind boggling.

Clearly, Marla and Sean have been role models who have inculcated in their children at an early age a spirit of sharing and "servanthood" that is an inspiration. Don't believe everything you read in the headlines. There is hope and love in this world. There are stable and nurturing families where the next generation is learning the values that will stand them in good stead as they assume places of leadership.

I thought you might enjoy my sharing this encouraging news on this beautiful spring day! Ethan and Camile have inspired me to think about how I may be able to surprise and delight someone with an unexpected act of kindness. Is there anyone in your circle of family members and friends who could use an unanticipated "breakfast in bed"? Go surprise them with a loving act, and think of the Crosses!

"And a little child will lead them" (Isaiah 11:6)


An "Out of this World" Prescription for Success - Words of Wisdom for a Budding Astronaut

I have a protégé who is serious about becoming an astronaut. Because of my strong belief in the power of networking, I offered to introduce Ben to Julianne Zimmerman – an amazing and delightful woman who spent fifteen years working in the manned space program. She was involved in a number of launches and missions – both in the U.S. and in Russia. Since Julianne now works near the MIT campus in Cambridge, she offered to meet us in Kendall Square to talk about how to think about preparing to be an astronaut. In additional to sharing her own considerable experience and wisdom on this topic, Julianne also offered to connect Ben to Brian Vanden Bosch, a colleague of hers and another veteran of the space program. Brian took time out from his trek through New Zealand to e-mail his thoughts.

As soon as I read the words that Brian had written, my first thought was: “This is not just about preparing to be an astronaut. This is a perfect prescription for developing as a Renaissance Man or Woman!” I wanted to be able to share Brian’s musings with the readers of this Blog, so I e-mailed Brian and asked his permission to share what he had written with a broader audience than he had anticipated addressing. Brian graciously granted his permission for me to share his words:

Be a good citizen.

Keep it in your peripheral vision; if you focus directly onto it the fuzzier it gets. There are a hundred ways to do it (how many astronauts have there been?). You can try and correlate the things on the surface - who went to MIT, or who was a Navy test pilot, or who is a HAM radio operator, or who has a pilot's license, but that's an indirect reflection of the type of people that get called in. Aren't they all unique?

If you get called you will use every skill you ever had to accumulate. So accumulate a lot and be resourceful. Whether it is from volunteer work that ties you into the local community, creative outlets that tie you into a creative community. . .

. . . be expressive and presentable so that you can be a public figure. . .

. . . go solo and rugged at times to tie you into an adventurous community. . .

. . . show teamwork and leadership that ties you into a professional community.

. . . skills and focus that tie you into an industry. . .

. . .demonstrate a disciplined and methodical flexible approach that shows you can be trained and demonstrate where you've been innovative beyond the training. . .

. . . show that you can handle singular focus for long spells as well as remaining broad and balanced. . .

. . . speak another language and live abroad to show an international spirit. . .

. . . learn to work with your hands senses and mind. . .

. . . be observant and descriptive - more often than not you'll be an extended set of eyes, ears, hands and brains for a dozen other people at the other end of a comm link. . .

. . . find the best troubleshooter in the world to watch and learn everything you can from.

Each time that I re-read these words, I find something new to latch onto and to chew on. I encourage you to read them now, and come back and re-read them again in a few hours or days. May they inspire you to reach for the stars!


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Talent Alert - NYC/NJ area - Director of User Experience

A major financial services firm in the NYC/NJ area has enaged me to help them to find someone to head up their team of architects and Web designers. Below you will find a job description. The ideal candidate will bring solid leadership experience, but still be "hands-on" in terms of interaction with the design team. Supreme customer service orientation is of paramount importance. This position calls for a typical "Renassiance Man/Woman" who is able to operate in both "left-brain" and "right-brain" modes. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Title: "Director – User Experience"

Location: New York/New Jersey area

Description: The Director of User Experience is responsible for overseeing the creative and visual design output for the company and will be based in NJ. The responsibilities include all web properties. A critical aspect of the role is as an evangelist for the discipline of User Experience / Interaction Design. The individual leads the interactive design, user interface design, information architecture and editorial content groups to ensure a world-class user experience and the following:
- The proper application of the company’s Style Guide and Brand Standards throughout the various online properties
- Delivery of all projects in accordance with project timelines and overall initiative strategy
- Manage and develop the visual design team by defining the vision, direction and goals for the group
- Develop team members by identifying and providing the needed training, coaching and mentoring
- Challenge and innovate new methods of creative execution
- Work closely with business partners to set clear expectations and goals and ensure that deliverables achieve the desired results
- Work in close partnership with lines of business and technology to develop a world class user experience, while executing projects in a quality and cost effective manner.
- Evaluate the best methods to communicate online to customers and, in conjunction with the marketing staff, evaluate results and adjust methodology as needed
- Set project timelines and assign tasks to designers and other creative department personnel
- Responsible for the hiring, managing, training and developing associates on their team.

- Minimum 10 years in creative or design fields.
- Minimum 4 years in the web/interactive space.
- Experience working in a Creative firm with the ability to design while maintaining a financial perspective.
- Ability to excel in an environment of competing priorities and multiple constituents.
- Bachelors degree or higher.
- Strong team player.
- Ability to clearly articulate the thinking behind creative solutions and to communicate successfully with other team members.
- Strong management and leadership skills.

- Degree in design, ergonomic science or related field.
- Financial Services industry experience.

Qualified and interested candidates should send MS-Word format resume to:

Dr. Al Chase

Monday, March 28, 2005

The White Rhino Report Reader Profile - Tony Lorizio

As promised, here is the first of a series of Profiles on interesting readers of this Blog.

A few months ago, my friend, Bob Allard, CEO of Retention Engine, told me that I needed to meet Tony Lorizio - fellow Renaissance Man and uber networker! Bob is never wrong about these things, so I was pleased when Tony and I were able to share some delicious pasta and some fascinating conversation at Papa Razzi in Wellesley.

I found Tony to be the prototypical "self-made man." As a non-traditional student at the Harvard University Extension School, he quickly became the nexus for many communitiy events and activities, and was chosen as his class's commencement speaker. He followed his Harvard experience with a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University, where his thesis was on: "Examination of the U.S. Trade Deficit and Trade Economics."

Tony is a "Deal Flow" guru, with a consulting practice that focuses on helping companies to open up foreign markets for their products and services. Since many of the issues he helps companies to address were new to me, I have felt in recent weeks like I have been drinking from a fire hose as Tony has educated me about many of the issues within his sphere of specialization. In a recent conversation, I asked Tony the following question: "If I owned a company that was not yet doing business overseas, what are some of the issues I should be aware of?"

Tony: The value of the dollar and the fact that English is the business language today should assuage the biggest barrier to doing business abroad: American business's fear of the unknown. That anxiety - and the fact that the US markets are so deep and broad - meant that in the past, most companies did not choose to involve themselves in international trade. In the new world of Globalization we must be aware that 80% of American companies are subject to competition, on US soil, from companies from abroad. They are here eating up market share.

Market research is another means to reduce the anxiety. Between commercial data and the data provided by government agencies, a company president can identify opportunities with minimal effort. The need for an EXPORT Business Plan does exist. An additional approach that can make a CEO more comfortable is to look at what multinationals are doing in those targeted countries. If they compete with a division of a multinational in the US they can usually do it abroad.

ALC: "Tony, it seems to me from our conversations that you have a specializaiton in helping companies to establish markets overseas in Central and Eastern Europe. Tell about about doing business in that part of the world and where there are opportunities to expand."

Tony: The US Commerce Department states that in Central Europe the best areas for American Business to exploit are:

Computers and Computer Peripheral Equipment
Pharmaceutical and medicinal Products
Automotive Parts and supplies
Energy Sector Equipment
Pollution Control
Architectural/Construction/ Engineering Services
Measuring, Testing, Scientific Equipment
Medical Equipment and healthcare technology
Security Equipment and Services

The European Union has double the population of the U.S. Hence, there is market.

ALC: "I have heard you refer to yourself both as a "Deal Flow Expeditor" and as an "International Trade Intermediary." Please tell me about that role:

Tony: An International Trade Intermediary is a necessary addition to a company's analysis process. This is someone who will help to analyze the data (even collect it), create the Export BP and deliver the contacts in the MARKET where transactions actually take place. This role is similar to that played by a Trading Company in that this is where the PERSONAL contacts come from - where sales can actually happen. At the end of the game it is one person who will sign a check. The Intermediary helps the client company to get there. I am that intermediary! That is the role that I play as a consultant to my clients.

If you know of anyone who would like to explore entering international markets for the first time, I would be pleased to introduce them to Tony.


The Blog Evolves - Previews of Coming Attractions

My apologies for the dearth of Blog postings in recent days. I was finishing up some projects that took up most of my creative time. I am back among the land of the compulsive Bloggers. Fasten your seat belts!

A number of recent conversations with regular readers of this Blog have led me to consider adding a feature that will be offered from time to time - once every week or two. The gist of these conversations has been that it would be helpful to offer some mechanism whereby readers of the Blog could get a chance to know one another - for the purpose of engaging in dialogue when desirable and perhaps even doing business together where there seems to be some basis for synergy and a "win-win" approach to partnering. The assumption is that there are some common denominators among those who find the posting on this Blog helpful and stimulating. If I had to encapsulate what I know about my readers I would say that for the most part, they tend to be visionary leaders who operate from a solid ethical base, who are committed to making a positive difference in the world, and who welcome being exposed to best practices, innovative ideas and challenging resources.

I propose to call this new feature: "The White Rhino Report Reader Profile." The profile will feature a brief description of the unique approach that the reader being profiled takes in approaching his/her area of endeavor. It will conclude with an invitation to enter into dialogue with this person about issues of mutual interest.

As always, I will welcome feedback on whether you find this to be a useful addition to this Blog. The first Profile will be posted shortly.

Also coming up this week will be the conclusion of the series on Chief of Staff roles, my comments on the recent announcement that Fenway Park will remain the epicenter of Red Sox Nation for the foreseeable future, a veteran of the manned space program looks at success, and another book review.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Networking Within Academia – the World of Graduate Education in English and Writing

I have a friend and protégé who has an interesting challenge facing him. I would love to be able to use my network of Blog readers to help him to resolve his dilemma. My friend will soon graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has just learned that the Air Force has awarded him a scholarship and a year to pursue a Masters Degree in English. Beginning with the Fall Term of ’05, he will have one calendar year to complete an MA Degree, which must be in English, Linguistics, Technical Writing, Folklore, etc. He would eventually like to be able to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, so it would be most helpful if his work on this first MA degree were to focus on a concentration in Contemporary Literature or Folklore.

Many graduate schools have already closed their admissions process for the fall semester. I would love to know about graduate schools that would be willing to entertain an application from this Renaissance Man (nationally ranked as a long distance runner for USAFA). I await your suggestions and help!



Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Monstrous Loss - The Passing of Dick Radatz

Red Sox Nation has lost one of its Elder Statesmen. Dick Radatz died this week at the age of 67 after a fall in his home in Easton, MA.

"The Monster," as he was affectionately know by all baseball fans, was a dominant force on the mound for the Red Sox during the mid-60's, when there was not a lot to cheer about at Fenway Park.

Upon learning of Radatz's sudden passing, I wrote a note of condolence to his son, Dick Radatz, Jr., who currently serves as President of The Northwoods League in Minnesota, a Cape Cod League type of summer league for college baseball players. The following excerpt from my note to Dick tells the tale of how I felt about Radatz:

"It was with sadness and a great sense of loss that I learned last night of the sudden passing of your father. My condolences to you and all of the family. You may recall that you and I met at Fenway Park last May when your father was doing one of the things he seemed to love to do - sign Autographs at Autograph Alley. Over the past two seasons, I was privileged to be one of the key volunteers staffing Autograph Alley, so I had lots of opportunitiesto sit and listen to your father spin his yarns of "Old Bastard Baseball." I will forever treasure those memories. I grew up watching "The Monster"dominate batters from the mound at Fenway. To have the opportunity years later to get to know the gentle human being behind the public persona was a rare privilege."

Last summer, in one of those leisurely one-on-one conversations, Radatz shared with me the genesis of his nickname and his signature move of holding both hands in triumph above his head after nailing down the victory and the save in a game.

"In a game against the Yankees, we had a one run lead, and Earl Wilson was pitching a terrific game. In the ninth inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with no one out, and I was called in from the bullpen to try to nail down the victory. If I recall correctly, I struck out Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard in succession on a total of 10 pitches. After the game, Curt Gowdy came up to me in the Club House and said: 'I loved what you did after you got that final out.' I had no idea what he was talking about. "You raised both of your arms above your head like a heavyweight boxing champion. The crowd loved it. I think you should do it more often.' So, Gowdy was responsible for creating that signature image of me celebrating each save.

I guess it was around the same time that Mantle was overheard by someone sitting in front of his locker after I had just struck him out again. Mantle was something like 1 for 67 against me in his career, and he told people I was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. So, on this particular day he is heard mumbling under his breath: 'That Radatz is a monster!' Gowdy heard about it and started using the phrase in his broadcasts. That's how I became known as "The Monster."

Rest in Peace, my friend. Thanks for lots of wonderful memories.

A Reality Check Amidst March Madness

On March 3, I posted some thoughts in this space that dealt with an emerging generation of leaders. I mentioned that my friend, Kevin Stacy, was deploying back to The Gulf, and that he would be sharing his thoughts from time to time with family and friends back home. Today, I received his first two Blog postings since his arrival back in the war zone. I knew right away that I needed to share these remarkable pieces with the readers of this Blog. I do so with Kevin's permission.

Kevin makes the point that here at home, we have become inured to the quotidian grind of war casualty reports - now relegated to the inside pages of the daily newspapers and throw-away tag lines at the end of news broadcasts. Thoughtful reporting on events in Iraq have given way to breathless accounts of the Michael Jackson trial, Robert Blake's acquittal, Mark Maguire's demurral before Congress, and the University of Vermont's stunning upset of the mighty Orangemen of Syracuse. Kevin's gut-wrenchingly honest sharing of his thoughts and feelings about what it means to be a real human being in the midst of continuing combat is a wake-up call. The fact that Kevin possesses the heart of a warrior, the mind of a sage and the pen of a poet make his writings all the more compelling and a "must read."

As you read for understanding Kevin's postings, please pray for him and all those for whom he speaks.

The SALT Reports

Mike Abrashoff -GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP - Building Solutions Through Leadership

Previously in this space, I have mentioned retired U.S. Navy Commander Mike Abrashoff. He has distinguished himself - during his Navy career and beyond - by thoughtful and innovative approaches to leadership. This link below leads to the Website for his consulting and leadership development practice, and includes his first Leadership Memo.

GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP - Building Solutions Through Leadership

Monday, March 14, 2005

Talent Alert - Confidential Search for CEO

I am embarking on a hush hush CEO search. The position will be located in the Mid-West (Rust Belt). The perfect candidate will have run a $300+ million manufacturing operation that produces Consumer Package Goods for the Big Box stores. In your network of contacts and colleagues, does anyone come to mind who might be interested in learning details about this opportunity? It looks like a pretty good compensation package - $400-500K base + 100% bonus + equity.

Please e-mail me with information about interested and qualified candidates.


Al Chase

Renaissance Souls Only Need Apply – A Call to Brainstorm

In last Friday’s posting, I mentioned my friend, David Mann – a person of strong faith, a venture capitalist, an Annapolis grad and a quintessential Renaissance Soul. For the past few months, Dave and I have been brainstorming about finding a means of connecting Renaissance Men and Women to one another in ways that would encourage mutual growth. We recently agreed that it would make sense to let other readers of this Blog join in on our dialogue and offer opinions and ideas. In that spirit, I share the gist of our recent e-mail conversations. The excerpt below serves to summarize and to encapsulate much of the discussion and thinking that David and I have shared over the past few months:


I am glad to hear you enjoyed the book – "Season of Life." I was inspired by the book. As I started reading the book I would have assumed that the football program never won any games and didn’t really care about competition. I was pleasantly surprised to read that they took the building people for others approach and were also a highly successful football program.

I think your idea of “Renaissance souls for others” is a good one. Why don’t we pursue that line of thinking and consider the mission and values of this group. Mission might be something like: “Renaissance men and women who value and emphasize relationships while focusing on service to others” OR “Men and women of substance and impact who value relationships and want to lead a life of service.” We can think about how best to carry out this mission – could be an invited group of people who come together to build meaningful relationships (i.e., people of faith and integrity who want to talk on a real level) and look for ways to help one another be successful – in life, in work, in play. So it needs to be a group of people who are in a position to actually assist other people (there are lots of people with good intentions, but not the capacity to assist others) and want to do so in a meaningful way. You can only be in the group if you are providing more than you are taking away, etc. etc.


* * * * *

So, that is pretty much where things stand. We are wondering if it makes sense to create a separate Blog as a forum dedicated to dialogue among Renaissance Souls, or if a special LinkedIn Group would be the way to go, or some other forum. Perhaps eventually an annual retreat would evolve – a "Davos Conference for Renaissance Souls." The idea, as you can tell from David’s thoughts above, would be to spur one another into action that will be beneficial to others.

Your comments are welcome and eagerly anticipated.


Al Chase

Friday, March 11, 2005

How not to parent: Judge gives homework lawsuit a big fat 'F'

In stark contrast to my previous posting about training young men to become "Men for Others," here is a disturbing story about a father who seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

MSNBC - Judge gives homework lawsuit a big fat 'F'

Building Men for Others – A Review of “Season of Life”

My friend, David Mann of Spring Mill Venture Partners in Bloomington, Indiana, recently made me aware of a book that is nothing short of life changing. David is a graduate of the Naval Academy and a Renaissance Man, so you can imagine that our conversations often center on issues of leadership and what it means to be a true and broadly educated Renaissance Man in this age of hyper-specialization. In the course of one of our dialogues, David mentioned the book, Season of Life, written by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Marx. The full title page spells out what this book is all about and why it is creating such a buzz: Season of Life - a Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood.

The story begins with Jeffrey Marx as a frizzy-headed young ball boy nicknamed “Brillo” working with the Baltimore Colts. During those years, he built a friendship with Joe Ehrmann, who starred as a defensive lineman with the great Baltimore Colts teams of the 1970’s. Flash forward to 2001. Jeffrey Marx has become a respected journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting; NFL All-Pro lineman Joe Ehrmann has morphed into the Rev. Joe Ehrmann, a gentle giant who runs a non-profit organization called: “Building Men for Others.” The organization focuses on training men of all ages to become focused on the needs of others as they develop a healthy view of masculinity.

When Jeff and Joe met for the first time in eighteen years, their conversation took an interesting turn that provides a good window into the soul of what this book is really about. I’ll share an excerpt:

Joe asked me a question that initially seemed to be strangely out of place in our conversation: Had I read Richard Ben Cramer’s recently published biography of baseball great Joe DiMaggio? I had not. But I had heard about it. I knew it painted a pathetic picture of a much-celebrated public hero. . . who was anything but heroic in his private life.

‘Well, more than anything, it’s the story of a man’s search for a heart,’ Joe said. ‘And that’s really a journey that an awful lot of athletes go through, an awful lot of men, period, because we’re searching based on all the wrong things – money, fame, power.’ (pages 29-30)

The book proceeds to recount the relationship that Jeff and Joe built over the next few years, and Jeff’s embarking on writing the story of Joe’s other passion – helping to coach the championship football team from the Gilman School in Maryland. What emerges is a fascinating and deeply moving parallel account of a journalist chronicling a unique and successful approach to coaching high school football players and challenging them to become the kind of men that they should become – while at the same time the journalist looks inward at his own journey towards a healthy understanding of manhood.

Gilman head coach, Francis “Biff” Poggi and defensive coordinator, Joe Ehrmann, and the eight other assistant coaches have created a unique and mind-boggling philosophy that has built a team of perennial champions that is often the top ranked high school team in the State of Maryland. Let’s listen in on part of Coach “Biff’s” opening speech to the team in the opening practice for the 2001 season:

"We’re going to go through this whole thing as a team. We are the Gilman football community. A community. This is the only place probably in your whole life where you’re gonna be together and work together with a group as diverse as this – racially, socially, economically, you name it. It’s a beautiful thing to be together like this. You’ll never find anything like it in the world – simply won’t happen. So enjoy it. Make the most of it. It’s yours" (page 44)

OK. There’s the appetizer. Now run out and get a copy of Season of Life so you can devour the entire smorgasbord of inspirational stories and thought-provoking reflections. Any man who is self-aware enough to ask himself the question: “What does it really mean to be a man?” should read this book. And any woman who wants to support a man who undertakes such a journey should read the book as well.

Oh, by the way, after finishing reading Season of Life, I reached for the next book on my special shelf at home that I have mentally labeled “Next Books to Read.” So, I just finished the Richard Ben Cramer biography of Joe DiMaggio mentioned above. The book is very well written and one that I am glad I read. Joe Ehrmann was right; the life of Joe DiMaggio the man stands in marked contradistinction to the “Men for Others” that Ehrmann and his colleagues are trying to build. Joltin’ Joe was a man for himself – and in the end he died a lonely and pathetic figure.

Read both books. The contrast will take your breath away.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Dumb and Dummer - My Alma Mater's Identity Crisis

I am a proud alumnus of Governor Dummer Academy, the oldest boarding school in the nation - founded in 1763 through a bequest from Lt. Governor William Dummer of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Quincy Adams once served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees.

Talk about tradition! Yet the current Board of Trustees, headed by Dan Morgan, my friend and former wrestling teammate, has embarked on what seems to me to be a fool's errand: exploring the changing of the school's name to something less "off-putting." Last evening's Chronicle show featured a brief segment on the controversial initiative. The Boston Globe has covered the developments in several articles this winter.

In a nutshell, the Board fears that the school's ability to recruit out-of-state boarding students is hampered by the first impressions created by the hearing of the name "Dummer." Since word leaked out to the public about the proposed name change, the school's name has been on everyone's lips. Everywhere I have gone, people who know that I went to GDA ask me: "Isn't that the school that is trying to change it's name?"

GDA is a great school and storied institution. It was at this school I first learned of the concept of The Renaissance Man. It was in the wrestling room that I learned from Coach Heb Evans about leadership. It was at this school that I learned to think as a "citizen of the world." My son, Tim, graduated from GDA in 1999, and received an extraordinary education there.

I hardly think of myself as an entrenched traditionalist. Most of my life, I have thought of myself as more of an iconoclast. So, I am having a hard time sorting out my feelings about this issue. I hate the idea of changing the name. It seems like a "dumb" idea. Can't the Board and the administration find some more creative and effective ways to market the school's history and reputation other than distancing the institution from the "Dummer" name?

But I am hardly an impartial or objective observer in all of this. I would love to know the thoughts of those of you who have no GDA background and no ax to grind about this issue. What do you think? Would you send your kid to a school named "Governor Dummer Academy"? Would you shy away from considering it because of the name?


Al Chase
GDA Class of '65

The Future Looks Bright - An Emerging Generation of Leaders

Over the course of the past few days, I have been privileged to have several opportunities to gaze into the soul of the next generation of our military leadership, and I am encouraged by what I see.

On Tuesday evening, I attended an extraordinary event at MIT. MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology (ISN) was sponsoring the second annual Soldier Design Competition. This competition, modeled after MIT's legendary $50K business plan competition, pitted teams of engineering students from MIT and West Point against one another in trying to solve practical problems that soldiers face on the battlefield - from dealing with the desert heat while wearing body armor, to solving the problem of evacuating battlefield casualties in the most efficient manner. I was astounded at the creativity and brilliance of the teams from both schools. During the course of the evening, we were presented with innovative and elegant solutions to a myriad of problems. This year, a West Point team won the top prize for their solution to salvaging residual power from depleted batteries and reusing that power in rechargable batteries. Thus, West Point won the team trophy. (Here is the URL For the ISN Website:)

During the time made available to intract with the team members from both schools, I was impressed with the depth of character in evidence from the men and women I met. They are clearly committed to channeling their impressive intellectual horsepower into making the battlefield environment as safe as possible for our troops.

Speaking of making the battlefield as safe as possible for our troops, at this event at MIT, I was pleasantly surprised to run into my friend, US Marine Corps officer Christopher "Buster" O'Brien. Buster is an Annapolis graduate, President of the USNA Class of '99, who is currently serving in the USMC Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA - applying real time lessons from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and using those lessons to train the trainers of Marines before they deploy to the Gulf.

FYI - Buster will be finishing his commitment to the USMC this spring, and is entertaining opportunities for employment in the private sector in the Boston area. If you know of a firm that could use an outstanding leader for a business development or sales role, please contact me about Buster's availability.

During one of the breaks, I spent time with one of the competing teams - made up of three West Point "firsties" ("Seniors" in normal academic parlance). During our conversation I learned that one member of the team will not be able to be commissioned with his classmates. Shortly after learning that he would be "branching" aviation and eventually earning his wings as an Army aviator, he was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition that will prevent him from continuing his military career. This bright young engineering student will be able to function normally in a non-military environment, and will be looking for private sector opportunities after graduation from West Point in June. I would like to be able to use my network of contacts to help this fine young man, so if you have have ideas of companies that would welcome the opportunity to recruit an entry-level engineer with strong leadership credentials, please let me know.

* * * * *

Early this morning, I had a phone conversation with my friend, Captain Kevin Stacy, whose unit leaves this evening from Ft. Carson, Colorado for deployment in the Gulf. Kevin, a 2001 graduate of West Point, and a helicopter pilot, will be among those working to make Baghdad safe for those involved in the long challenge of nation building. This Renaissance Man has created a Blog that will allow him to communicate with family and friends back home his experiences over the course of the next twelve months while he and his team will be serving in Iraq. Today's posting - his final thoughts before deploying to the Middle East are poignant and worth sharing with you.

Please keep in your prayers Kevin, his wife Shannon, his team members and all who willingly put themselves in harm's way to answer the call of Duty, Honor, Country.

Here is the URL to Kevin's Blog:
The SALT Reports

Al Chase

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Servant Leadership - A Dialogue

Last Thursday, I posted an article byLarry Spears on the topic of Servant Leadership. The article elicited a fascinating response from Bill Batten. To save you from having to dig in the archives, I am posting Bill's comments below:

Larry Spears points to the servant-leader having many highly desireable personality characteristics such as listening, empathy, awareness, conceptualization and other externally focused traits. Folks having those traits are in exceedingly short supply. Such persons are self-starters and exhibit Abraham Maslow's "Self-Actualization" performance level aspect.Maslow's Needs Hierarchy have been pushed aside somewhat over the past twenty years as additional personality, psychology and behavioral theories have been developed. Yet, to this practicing businessman, Maslow's work continues to offer a clear explanation as to why the 80/20 Rule is alive, well and never going away. I've worked with many independent sales representatives and it is the folks that never get above Maslow's Level 4 (Esteem) that are the 80 Percenters. Give us a Self-Actuator with the Spears' Servant-Leader profile and no matter what the external market conditions, we will show you a top 20 Percenter one day. I daresay the Spears' Servant-Leaders will be found in a high percentage of successful small business owners with many likely to have been previously undiscovered or underutilized potential "stars" in large organizations.The big question is it nature or nurture that creates Servant-Leaders? As an impressionable young man in the early 1970's I would have said environment is the biggest factor influencing behavior. But having interfaced with thousands of folks over the intervening years, it appears the 80/20 rule may also apply to the nature/nurture argument with nature getting the 80% end of the personality see-saw. A recently popular buzz phrase perhaps captures the argument best - "It is what it Is". A Servant-Leader will nearly always rise like cream to the top and we are all better for their ascension be it within corporations, on the battlefield or in our communities.

Bill Batten

* * * * *

I appreciate Bill reminding us of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and of the so-called "Pareto's Principle" (The 80/20 rule). With regard to the "Nature vs. Nurture" question, I would make the following observations:

It would seem to me that the best Servant Leaders possess some innate leadership traits (nature) and then hone those traits in environments where they are tested, challenged, mentored and led by men and women who model Servant Leadership (nurture). I think of the leader whose leadership skills have been refined in the crucible of a Service Academy and subsequent assignments in commanding troops. To gain admission to West Point, Annapolis, Air Force Academy or Coast Guard Academy, a future officer must already have proven that she/he is among the cream of the crop - academically, physically, ethically, emotionally. The four years of rigorous training and weeding out of those who cannot thrive under the sustained pressure further ensures that those who graduate are truly among the elite. The nascent leadership skills that recent graduates have developed to this point are further tested and refined in the real world of leading troops - enlisted and commissioned. Not everyone who emerges at the end of this pipeline can be properly called a "Servant Leader," but they tend to be more servant-oriented than the "average bear"!

(My apologies to those whose introduction to military leadership did not come by way of one of the Service Academies. I know many fine officers who came to military service by way of ROTC, the National Guard, etc. My default setting is often to refer to Service Academy graduates because in my executive search practice, many of the senior executives I have come to know are graduates of USMA, USNA, USAFA or USCGA.)

Al Chase

Krzyzewski Helped an Officer Become a Leader

Timing is everything! Late last week, my friend, Tom Glass, made me aware of the article below, detailing the longstanding relationship between Duke's Coach K and one of his former players - now an Army officer serving in Iraq.

On the day that the article ran in the New York Times, I had had lunch at Harvard Business School with Dr. Scott Snook, who teaches leadership and organizational behavior. Scott formerly ran the Leadership Development Center at West Point. Over lunch, one of the many topics we discussed was the case study that Dr. Snook is finishing up, comparing and contrasting the coaching styles of Bobby Knight and Coach K. Both coaches have a West Point connection, and Dr. Snook knows them both. I look forward to reading the case study when it is ready for publication, and hope to publish excerpts from it here. Stay tuned . . .

In the meantime, enjoy the article below.

The New York Times > Sports > College Basketball > Krzyzewski Helped an Officer Become a Leader