Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Love That Dirty Water - Boston You're My Home!

I am a firm believer in mixing business with pleasure whenever possible, so it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that a meeting this morning with a candidate included lots of talk about the Boston Red Sox. This world-class CFO (if you know of a company that could use an outstanding Sarbanes Oxley expert, give me a call!) not only knows his SOX (Sarbanes Oxley), but has been a RED SOX season ticket holder since 1976.

In the course of our conversation, he mentioned a newspaper article that I immediately knew I needed to share in this space. Not long after the Red Sox had nailed down their first World Series championship in 86 years and the last of the Duck Boats had made its way down the victory parade route that ended in the waters of the storied Charles River, the LA Times ran an article that made me smile when I read it this morning.

Although the article first ran in November, it is still timely, as our Red Sox have won 8 of their last 9 games, and the early onset of the flush of Pennant Fever begins to grip Red Sox Nation once again.


* * * * *

They were one-hit wonders in a music world that had long stopped wondering. One was a barber, another owned a restaurant, another worked for a medical company, and another worked in nightclubs. They were four members of a forgotten and disbanded Southland garage band called the Standells. That one hit was four decades ago. Their youngest member is 59. Their drummer, Dick Dodd, took the call.

"Oh my gosh, we found you," said the giddy Boston Red Sox employee, phoning on the eve of the World Series. "Found who?" he said. "We want your band to come back to play at Fenway Park before Game 2," she said. "Play where?" he said. "Your song, `Dirty Water,' is our team anthem, we play it after every win, we want you to play it live," she said. "Our song is your what?" he said.

And so began the magical mystery tour that brought together four aging rockers after decades apart, put them on a plane from Los Angeles to Boston with less than 24 hours' notice and placed them in center field at Fenway before Game 2, where they led 35,000 people in song while players danced and inspiration built. After having never been to a Red Sox game, the Standells are now part of Red Sox lore, even if it was for only 2 1/2 minutes between cutting hair and serving pasta. They had never been to the World Series, yet folks back there are saying they helped win one, to which they can summon one response. "Cool," said Dodd.

It's a strange, wonderful story but, then, this has been a strange, wonderful month. "The chances of finding the Standells and making this work were slim and none," said Charles Steinberg, Boston's Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. "But, you know, this has been the year for slim." If you haven't heard of the band, then you probably don't live in Los Angeles. The Standells, thought by some to be the godfathers of punk rock because of their rebellious lyrics, were formed in 1962. They became a fixture in Southland nightclubs and eventually toured with the Rolling Stones before disbanding in 1970. If you haven't heard of the song, then you don't live in Boston. Released in 1966, it was such an afterthought that the Standells forgot they had recorded it until it began rising on the charts in south Florida. It rose as high as number 11 on the national charts, but then, like the band, it disappeared - except in Boston.

Because the song was Boston, written about life on the Charles River, with the "lovers, muggers and thieves - aw, but they're cool people." The most famous chorus of the song is a reaffirmation of Bostonians' love for their city despite its problems. "Well I love that dirty water . Oh, Boston, you're my home." The song was written by the late Ed Cobb, the band's producer, who was inspired while staying in a hotel on the Charles River. The song is a celebration of Boston's unusual but unrelenting lifestyles, so it only figured that eventually it would become a celebration of Boston's unusual but unrelenting baseball team.

In the early 1990s, the team began playing "Dirty Water" after victories. It was their "I Love L.A." By the time John Henry bought the team three years ago, fans were singing the chorus, then carrying it out to local bars, where disc jockeys and juke boxes also began playing the song after victories. It was then that Steinberg set out to actually find the Standells and invite them to Fenway Park. Problem was, the Standells were no longer the Standells. The four guys who played on "Dirty Water" had played together once in 20 years. They had little idea of their song's popularity in some faraway city. For most of three years, Steinberg searched in vain. "We'd walk around saying, 'Where in the heck do we find these guys?' " he said.

Then, in an odd way, the Standells found them. A couple of years ago, Larry Tamblyn, the keyboard player, heard their song being played for a few seconds on the telecast after the Sox won a playoff game. "I remember telling my wife, `Get in here, they're playing our song,' " he said. He told his buddies. They heard it, too. When the Sox made the World Series this year, Dodd, who still drums and sings in Orange County gigs, began wondering out loud. He sent an e-mail to a friend in the radio business saying it would be neat if the Standells could travel to Boston and play the song they kept hearing on television. "It was just kind of wishful thinking," Dodd said. "I had no idea.." The friend forwarded the e-mail to a friend who works in Boston radio. That friend forwarded the e-mail to Steinberg's office. It took about 10 seconds for one of Steinberg's assistants to telephone Dodd. It was 3 p.m. on the eve of the World Series. The Standells would have to find each other and jump on a plane in less than 24 hours to make it happen. Dodd hung up the phone and called his band mates, who all had the same reaction. Said bass player Gary McMillan, a barber: "I was like, `You gotta be kidding me! Nobody is going to know us. This is a joke, right?' " McMillan had to leave his shop on one of its busiest days. Guitarist Tony Valentino had to leave his Italian restaurant on a weekend night. Two nights later, they all found themselves standing on a stage in center field in Fenway Park, no joke.

I was sitting in a press area nearby, wondering, with other journalists, why the Red Sox were allowing these old, obscure dudes to handle pregame entertainment before perhaps the most important game in franchise history. Then they began playing "Dirty Water." And we learned. Everyone began singing. Young, old, ushers, vendors, everyone, waving their arms and singing. Down in the bullpen, the players were dancing. Over in the dugout, bats were tapping. They finished to a standing ovation, left the stage, and flew home to their Southland lives. Bundled, of course, in Red Sox gear that some of them still haven't shed. Loudspeakers played "Dirty Water" again and again Saturday during the victory parade, and the Red Sox were floating down that same Charles River, the music turned down to allow thousands to sing, "Oh, Boston, you're my home." Back at Paco's Barber Shop in La Cañada Flintridge, McMillan put down his scissors and flashed a strange grin shared today by all ambassadors of Red Sox Nation. "The whole thing was unbelievable," he said. "Still is."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Putting A Human Face To Combat Leadership

I think it is difficult for those of us who are not military veterans to have a clear sense of what our troops are going through as they serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe. By the same token, many of us who lack personal experience in the military often have to overcome stereotypes that popular culture and the media have perpetuated about those who choose to serve as professional warriors. For me, those stereotypes began to melt away as soon as I had an opportunity to develop friendships with men and women who had studied, trained, prepared and served as military officers and enlisted personnel. The three-dimensional reality of their humanity finally eradicated the two-dimensional caricatures that had been etched into my psyche.

Friends like John Byington, graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, have helped me to develop a profound respect for those who set aside personal ambition to serve with honor as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. John recently forwarded me an article that I am compelled to share with you now. Jim Lacey, writing for the National Review, shares his frontline experiences of seeing the humanity of our military leaders.

The Commanders - America’s military leaders are make great sacrifices for their troops

By Jim Lacey

Last month over 1,500 family members who have lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan gathered at Arlington National Cemetery at the behest of an organization called Faces of the Fallen, which has assembled dozens of artists to paint portraits of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the keynote speaker. While his speech managed to strike a few emotional chords, it was what he did after speaking that was remarkable. Hours after his speech concluded General Myers was still standing out in a cold drizzle talking at length to any family member who wanted to have a word with him. As the man ultimately responsible for ordering the missions that resulted in many of these American deaths, this must have been an incredibly hard thing for him to endure. Still, he never hurried a single person and listened as bereaved family members told him about the child, the spouse, or the sibling they had lost.

It would have been an easy matter for General Myers to claim pressing business and escape as soon as his speech concluded. In fact, he could have ordered a subordinate to represent him at the reception and spared himself the pain of meeting these families. Of course, no real leader would do such a thing. Like General Eisenhower, who felt compelled to go visit the paratroops on the eve of D-Day and meet the men who were expecting to take 90 percent losses, General Myers could not send anyone else to do what must be the most difficult part of his job.

I am reliably informed that General Myers starts each workday with a full briefing on the circumstances of every American casualty in the previous 24 hours. I can think of no more emotionally searing way to begin what are often long, arduous days. This is not something he has to do and I imagine he continues it only because it is a daily reminder that any decision he makes can have a dire consequence for the men and women who make it happen. During World War II, General George Marshall, the first chairman, did much the same thing. Every day he sent the casualty list to the White House to remind the president that real people died as a result of every order given. General Marshall continued this despite a White House request that the practice be discontinued.

This is a brief but telling glimpse at the character of a single man. The incredible thing is that this pattern reveals itself at every level of the chain of command. For generations, writers, moviemakers, and singers have made fortunes depicting cold, unfeeling officers who callously send young soldiers out to die while sitting safely in the rear. The stereotype still persists today and there is no more horrendous lie perpetrated about the people who lead our great soldiers into combat. Please note that I said “lead” and not “send.” The Americans who have entrusted their youth to these leaders deserve to know the character of the men and women in command.

On a recent trip to Iraq I was with a small group of civilians and officers when truck loads of care packages for the soldiers were being unloaded. The boxes were opened for the soldiers to grab what they wanted. Earlier, one of the officers mentioned that he needed to get some razors from the Post Exchange. One of the civilians in our group spotted a shaving kit in a box, grabbed it, and handed it to the officer in need of razors saying, “This will save you a trip.” Without a pause the officer threw the kit back in the box and replied, “That stuff was sent over for the troops to use, not me.” The civilian mentioned that the officer was also a soldier serving in Iraq and no one would begrudge him the kit. The officer did his best to explain and then finally said, “That is not how it works. Just watch.”

So we stood off to the side and watched. Over the next half hour, while a couple of hundred soldiers took what they wanted from the boxes about two dozen Army and Marine officers came over and looked to see what was in the boxes. Every one of them left empty handed. It was as clear a testament as I could personally imagine that they had internalized the idea that the needs of the soldiers came before their own.

Later that same day I was invited to go on a patrol with some soldiers from the 2nd BDE of the 10th Mountain Division along one of the more dangerous routes in Iraq. The patrol was led by the company commander, who tries to get out on at least one patrol a day with his men. Remarkably, the brigade commander, Colonel Mark Milley was also going along. Milley, despite an awesome workload and responsibility for over 5,000 soldiers, makes time to go on at least two patrols a week. There are a lot of things Col. Milley could be doing rather than sharing the risks of combat patrols with his soldiers on a regular basis, but he believes that nothing is nearly as important as being seen by his soldiers at the points of real danger. Also coming along was Brigadier General Anthony Cucolo, who was on a fact-finding tour after spending the previous six months in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. Colonels and generals carrying rifles out on patrol with infantry squads is a long way from the common perception of senior officers sitting in the rear moving pins on maps, but it is the daily reality in Iraq.

At one point during the night, the patrol pulled up to a checkpoint that was watching a road intersection, a favorite terrorist target. Col Milley was far from happy with what he found. In his professional judgment the soldiers at the checkpoint had made so many mistakes that they were inviting an attack. In what could be called a well-controlled rage, Col. Milley called the company commander on his radio, only to discover he was spending the night at another checkpoint some distance away. Col. Milley admitted that it was a bit harder to be mad at the captain when he is out sharing the danger with his men. Going to the next level of command, the battalion commander, he ordered that the entire checkpoint be replaced in the next 45 minutes and that the leadership currently at the checkpoint be retrained on their duties before they were sent out again. It was past midnight when he gave this order, meaning a lot of sleepless hours for the battalion leadership.

With that done, Col. Milley turned to BG Cucolo and said, “A lot of people are going to be hating me and cursing my name tonight.” As I walked away BG Cucolo commented, “That there is a lot more to loving your soldiers than making sure that they always love you.”

That statement brought home something I had already noticed about the military leaders it has been my privilege to know. They truly love the soldiers they lead. While researching a book about the Iraq war I found it imperative that I try and keep any discussion with commanders away from the subject of the men they lost in combat or I would rapidly lose most of whatever time I had to conduct the interview. When the subject of casualties was broached the interviewees would without exception stare away and start recounting every loss their units had suffered in minute detail. It was plainly visible that every one of these leaders felt each loss deep within their souls. A trauma nurse said that the hardest thing she did in Iraq was comfort a burly Marine colonel who was sobbing. Someone in the group said he must have been wounded pretty badly. The nurse was puzzled for a minute and replied, “He was not hurt. His Marines were.” It has been my experience that no commander ever suffers more than when he loses one of the men or women entrusted to his care. That they are able to find the will to carry on despite grievous heartache tells much about the leadership of our Armed Forces. When, as sometimes happens, our commanders fail in combat, it is never because they did not care about their men. Often it is because they cared too much.

For those who have not experienced it, it is almost impossible to explain the depth of feeling that commanders feel for their organizations and the people within them. I have seen infantry commanders who are absolutely fearless in combat break down crying when giving up their commands and moving on to other assignments. I know dozens of officers who have already done one or more tours in Iraq who cannot watch the news because they feel guilty about being safe at home while their comrades are still in danger. I have met dozens of officers who are volunteering for second and third tours in Iraq, simply because young Americans are fighting and dying there and they feel a deep need to be with them.

Those with no familiarity with America’s warriors might say they just like fighting and killing. Those people have never spoken to an officer who has been in a hard fight. They have never heard the cracking voice as he relates the difficulty of looking at people, whether enemy or ally, killed as a result of his orders. They have never heard the anguish of a leader replaying for the thousandth time the loss of one of his own. They did not hear an armored company commander answer a question about how he felt about having his soldiers rebuild schools after fighting to seize Baghdad literally days before. He said, “I cannot tell you how great it feels to be able to stop killing and start helping people.” Such is the overwhelming compassion of those who fight our wars.

— Jim Lacey is a Washington-based writer focused on international and military issues.

If you found this article to be as moving as I did, pass it along to those who could benefit from this perspective. And pray for those who serve and for their families.


"Get Your Ship Together" - A Review of Mike Abrashoff's Latest Offering

Since leaving the Navy, Mike Abrashoff has set sail on a second career that includes leadership consulting, speaking and writing – helping those in the world of commerce to navigate the tricky currents of competition, change, and corporate complacency. His latest book follows in the wake of his best seller that I reviewed yesterday, and chronicles heroes from business and the military as they demonstrate the practical wisdom of leading through building teams of committed employees. “Get Your Ship Together – How Great Leaders Inspire Ownership from the Keel Up,” offers six portraits of leaders who “get everyone to buy into the cause and accept personal responsibility for the organization.”

I found this book to be both inspiring and full of practical wisdom. The six leaders whose leadership stories Abrashoff shares are different enough in temperament, context and in the specific challenges they face that it becomes clear that the book’s leadership principles truly are universal in their application.

First Lieutenant Gabriel “Buddy” Gengler was faced with transforming a platoon of soldiers trained to launch rockets into a band of street-fighting urban guerillas.

Trish Karter of Dancing Deer Bakery in Roxbury, MA had to find a recipe for building a team that shared her vision of delivering a balanced diet of world-class cakes and cookies, healthy profits and community involvement as the icing on the cake!

Roger Valine is CEO of Vision Service Plan in Rancho Cordova, CA. Roger has been able to see his way clear to build an enterprise that has cornered the market on eye-care benefit plans while creating an atmosphere that focuses on giving his employees a healthy lifestyle balance between work and family.

Al Collins rose from the backwater of Warner Robins, GA to sail the seas as Captain of the USS Fitzgerald. During his voyage to his role as a naval officer and inspiring leader, he learned to apply his mother’s words of advice spoken as he prepared to leave the Deep South: “You’ll never be a great leader until you’re a great follower.”

Laura Folse leads a team of 700 scientists and engineers at BP – a rare female leader in the male dominated world of oil exploration. Laura has fueled her success at BP with an unshakable determination to use her staff as consultative partners who share accountability for the success of each project. Her approach has tapped a deep reservoir of trust and loyalty among her team members.

Ward Clapham of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has pioneered “smart policing” across Canada. In the course of learning to work alongside community leaders to refine police priorities and procedures, Mountie Ward was forced to mount several challenges against the entrenched bureaucracy of those above him in the RCP chain of command.

The overarching impression I have after having read and absorbed the stories of these six very different leaders is that great leadership can happen anywhere – in any setting, in any context, in any company – as long as the leader is willing to share the vision, the responsibility and the credit with her team.

I trust you will enjoy this book as much as I did. Anchors aweigh!


Monday, June 20, 2005

"It's Your Ship" - A Review of A Remarkable Book On Leadership

On several occasions in the past, I have written in this space about Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff, USN (Ret.). Mike has made the transition from being a decorated and acclaimed naval officer to offering his leadership insights to business leaders. His newsletter – available on his Website at - is one I look forward to reading each month.

Capt. Abrashoff has authored two fascinating books that I have devoured and now look forward to sharing with you. I offer them as a one-two punch! In this posting I will review his first best seller: It’s Your Ship – Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy. Later this week I will offer my thoughts on the sequel.

By his own account, Mike Abrashoff was dragged reluctantly to the enlightened conning tower where he now stands and from which vantage point he offers advice to those who desire to grow as leaders. As a young officer, Abrashoff was like many newly-minted Annapolis graduates, passing along the command and control ethos that he had absorbed and that has been the hallmark of military “leadership” for generations. As XO aboard the Shiloh, he learned a signal and indelible lesson in command when he unthinkingly passed down the chain of command an order that eventuated in a sailor falling asleep while standing watch – an egregious offense aboard a warship.

“Well, this was an open-and-shut case – if you are asleep on watch, you are guilty. There was no need to bother about the facts. So, I sent the sailor to the captain for punishment, without any further investigation.

To my utter surprise, the captain asked the sailor why he had fallen asleep on watch. The sailor said he had been up all night cleaning a dirty workspace. Why did he have to stay up to clean it? Because the chief told him it had to be done by 8:00 A.M.”

As the investigation continued and the chain of orders found it’s way back to Abrashoff, the department head told the captain: “The XO told me to get it done by 8 A.M.”

Abrashoff shares the lessons he learned that memorable day:

“How in the world could I have known that they were so short-handed that they would have to keep someone up all night to get it finished? But in fact I should have known or at least been approachable enough for the officers to feel safe explaining to me why it was a problematic order. I didn’t get all the facts; I didn’t realize that there were not enough resources to get the job done in the time I had allowed. The captain dismissed the case and I felt like a complete idiot. Never again, I promised myself, would I give an order without clearly articulating the goal, providing the time and resources to get it done, and ensuring that my crew had the proper training to do it right.” (Pages 34-35)

That watershed moment in Captain Abrashoff’s career led him to make many adjustments in his view of leadership, his willingness to listen, his approach to the chain of command, and his commitment to champion the cause of his people so that they could be equipped for success. The pinnacle of his career as a naval officer was commanding the USS Benfold in the Persian Gulf and seeing his ship transformed from a dysfunctional amalgamation of misfits and malcontents into a proud vessel that was awarded the Spokane Trophy, emblematic of the best ship in the Pacific Fleet.

In this book, Abrashoff recounts many of the lessons he learned along the way – lessons that are all immediately applicable to any business or organization. He manages to tell the story of his own development as a leader and the development of his shipmates without coming across as arrogant. Clearly, the unapproachable Abrashoff of page 35 somehow transformed himself into a very approachable and engaging leader who not only set a high standard for his own crew, but offers transferable lessons to business leaders willing to listen and read.

Each chapter treats one leadership lesson or principle and fleshes out the abstract ideas with stories of the men and women who were the crew that brought about the transformation of the Benfold.

Take Command
Lead By Example
Listen Aggressively
Communicate Purpose and Meaning
Create a Climate of Trust
Look for Results, not Salutes
Take Calculated Risks
Go Beyond Standard Procedure
Build Up Your People
Generate Unity
Improve Your People’s Quality of Life

I had two over-arching reactions to the book. First, was a realization that all of these lessons can be boiled down into a simple dictum and recipe for success: Set high standards for yourself and your people, create an environment that challenges them to embrace those standards as their own, and then train, equip, encourage and communicate with your people in such a way that you empower their success.

Second, this approach to excellence and leadership is very reminiscent of the principles of leadership I have heard articulated by my friends who have flown and taught at the Navy’s Top Gun school.

Abrashoff’s style of writing is one that I enjoy. His use of colorful and apt metaphors raises the quality of the writing above the level of most leadership books I have encountered. By way of encouraging you to read this book, I share the closing paragraph:

“In business, I have encountered many companies with the kind of bad habits and poor leadership that troubled Benfold when I first went aboard. Too many company departments appear blind to what they could accomplish together. Bereft of good leadership, they are trapped in needless bickering, politics and posturing, with predictable damage to the bottom line. And yet unity of purpose is quite achievable, even against heavy odds, and sometimes because of them. We created unity on Benfold. The U.S. military did it in Afghanistan. I am convinced that businesses everywhere can do the same. After all, it’s our ship.” (Page 210)

Enjoy reading this book, and bon voyage!


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Day In The Life Of Autograph Alley

The Red Sox limped back home to Fenway Park yesterday, after a frustrating 2-4 road trip to Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. With last night's game against the Reds, the Red Sox began selling the 3rd edition of the 2005 Red Sox Magazine - the publication that contains the scorecard, line-ups and related stories that is sold throughout the ballpark. Beginning on p. 65 of this edition, fans can read the following article, which I share with my Blog readers with permission of the Boston Red Sox:

A Day in the Life of Autograph Alley


Al Chase

5:30 PM – The gates of Fenway Park open and the curtain rises on another day in the life of Autograph Alley

BoSox Club member, Jack Murray and his daughter, Soo Bee, are today’s Autograph Alley volunteer hosts.

“Welcome to Fenway Park. Would you like to meet former Red Sox catcher, Rich Gedman, and receive a free autograph?”

“Rich Gedman! I used to collect his baseball cards. What do I have to do? How much does it cost?”

“It doesn’t cost a thing. Autograph Alley is a gift from the Red Sox to their fans – a way of saying thank you for your support and a way of connecting fans like you and me to the history and the future of the team. Take this picture of Rich Gedman and he’ll be glad to sign it for you. The line forms behind me, and it seems to be moving pretty quickly this evening.”

As Gara Field and her younger brother, John Robinson, waited in line to meet Rich Gedman, who worked behind the plate for the Red Sox from 1980 through the 1990 season, they talked about their experiences as Red Sox fans:

Gara: “I grew up in Bristol, NH and my day camp would come down each summer. I remember vividly seeing Tony Perez hit a walk-off home run.”

John: “My first memories of the Red Sox are of watching them on TV with my grandfather in Woburn. My first game at Fenway – I was about 8 years old – Nomar hit 3 homeruns, including a Grand Slam. I think it was his birthday.”

As they neared the table where Gedman was signing, brother and sister continued to share their journeys as Red Sox fans:

Gara, who is currently pursuing a Ph. D. degree from UCONN, recalled: “I was still a bit of a “Doubting Thomas” right until the end of the playoffs. When they finally won it all, I cried!”

15 year-old John, the leading scorer on Westford Academy’s lacrosse team, chimed in: “I think I may have shed a tear or two myself! I didn’t think it was possible for people to love the Red Sox more than they already did, but I have seen it happen with my friends.”

Gara: “I think it has to do with the new owners of the Red Sox. They seem intent on treating us fans the way we should be treated. Take Autograph Alley as an example. John, what happened when I heard Rich Gedman’s name a few minutes ago?”

John: “I saw your eyes light up!”

5:48 PM – Noticing that Gedman could use something cold to drink, Officer Jack Murray, 34-year veteran of the Fitchburg Police Department and avid Red Sox fan, brings Gedman a can of Coke.

While talking with them about his baseball career, lefty Gedman adds his distinctive signature to John and Gara’s photos of him, as well as to those proffered to him by the hundreds of other fans who have come to Autograph Alley on this beautiful spring evening for a chance to meet one of their heroes. As the line of fans continues to snake its way up the ramp towards Gedman, Barry and Jonathan Koff, a father and son team from California, arrive in front of the Red Sox star to engage in a quick conversation and to collect their autographs.

Barry: “This is Jonathan’s first time at Fenway. I grew up in NJ and we now live in Orange County, but we are Red Sox fans – except when they are playing the Angels! This Autograph Alley idea is terrific! I don’t know of any other team that offers this kind of service to their fans. Thanks for including us. It makes our visit to Fenway today that much more special and memorable.”

Between signing autographs and greeting those who have waited to meet him, Gedman reflects on the experience of returning to Fenway Park to interact with fans and to sign autographs for them at Autograph Alley:

“It kind of reminds me of Springsteen’s song ‘Glory Days’! It’s a lot different now than it was signing for fans in my playing days. On the field, no matter how many I would sign, there were always people who got left out. There was never enough time for all of them. But now – I can take my time and talk with them. It’s their option to be here and ask me to sign. It’s really special to come back and to feel welcome and wanted!”

Gedman continues ruminating about being back at Fenway and about his reaction to the 2004 Red Sox winning the World Series:

“I was happy for the organization. Of course, it reminded me of ’86. I wish we could have won it all back then, but I feel fortunate to have had a chance to compete in a World Series. I had a different perspective back then. Heck, I was still a kid, and thought it was only about the players. Now, I think about how exciting it must have been for everyone -
the grounds crew, the ushers, the front office staff, the fans.”

6:17 PM – Former Red Sox pitcher Bill MacLeod drops by Autograph Alley with his daughter prior to making their way to their seats in the stands.

Bill is scheduled to return soon for another season of engaging with citizens of Red Sox Nation as one of the former players whom people come to meet at Autograph Alley. Bill responds to a question about how he felt when he was first asked by Pam Ganley, Red Sox Coordinator of Alumni and Archives, to participate in the Autograph Alley program:

“My first thought was: ‘Who would want my autograph? Who will remember me?’ I last played in 1962! But the fans have been fabulous. I am amazed how people remember. I guess it helps that I was a local kid – growing up in on Cape Ann. There are people who still remember that at age 18 – right out of Gloucester High School – I led the Carolina League in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and I batted .375! The fans really appreciate that we take the time here to talk with them. It’s fun to be able to put a smile on a kid’s face!”

6:33 PM – Bill MacLeod remembers his teammate, Dick Radatz

“I had some great teammates during my short time with the Red Sox - Bill Monbouquette, Frank Malzone, Dick Radatz. They are all guys who have enjoyed meeting the fans at Autograph Alley. Radatz loved it! I know he really looked forward to interacting with his fans here that could not wait to meet ‘The Monster.’ We are all going to miss him.”

6:49 PM – Jack and Soo Bee Murray close the line to additional fans, and pause to reflect on what it means to them as a family to be starting their third season as Autograph Alley volunteers.

Soo Bee, a junior at Notre Dame Academy in Worcester: “Working at Autograph Alley has been the best thing that ever happened to us as father and daughter. We have had some of the typical tensions that every teenager has with her parents, but being together at Autograph Alley has brought my Dad and me together. During baseball season, he’s my best friend! It has also given me a different perspective than I had before. I realize how fortunate I am to be here experiencing this place. You know, sometimes you get lucky in life and get to do something really special. This is one of those things. I love it! I love being around the other fans – the kids. People are surprised when we invite them to meet a Red Sox player. It is so great to be to make someone else smile!”

7:05 PM - As current Red Sox player Bronson Arroyo prepares to throw the first pitch of the game from the mound, back in Autograph Alley, former Red Sox stalwart Gedman signs his last autograph of the evening with a flourish.

Gedman, the Murrays, Pam Ganley and Rod Oreste, Red Sox Manager of Publications and Archives slowly stroll down the ramp that leads to Yawkey Way. The ramp that is now home to Autograph Alley is a familiar sight to fans of the film “Field of Dreams.” In the movie, the first scene at Fenway Park shows Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann walking down a ramp heading towards a refreshment stand. That same ramp is now Autograph Alley. The group share impressions of this day in the life of Autograph Alley. Soo Bee also mentions, almost as an afterthought, that she really loves her class in Shakespeare.

“The teacher is amazing; she really makes the Old Master come alive!”

“Soo Bee, do you see a connection between the Red Sox and Shakespeare?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What kind of plays did Shakespeare write?”

“Tragedies . . . and Comedies!”

“And the Red Sox?”

“Tragedy . . . and Comedy! Yeah!”


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Rhinos Are Less Endangered!

Several times I have passed along great postings that I found through reading David Teten's Blog, Brain Food. Today, he posted a link to a fascinating site called Fractals of Change, written by Tom Evslin. Tom describes himself as a "retired serial ceo currently writing an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble"!

In today's posting on Unintended Consequences, I read the following lines that I knew I had to share:

Viagra is saving the rhinos. No, not by overcoming erectile dysfunction in wrinkled old rhinos but rather by reducing the demand for rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac in Asia since a more effective alternative has been available.

The White Rhino is grateful for this unintended consequence!

An Anomalous Mini-Talent Alert

As you are probably aware, most of the recruiting work I do is in finding senior executives, so it is rare for me to be looking for more junior talent. As a favor to a client company for which I have done higher level work, I promised to keep my eyes open for a more junior person. So, if you know of anyone early in their sales career, please let me know. Here are the details:

Boston North - I-93/I-495 area

Inside sales opportunity with good advancement possibilities.

2 years experience preferred selling financial services or software.



Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Good to Great" Is Even Better Than Advertised

I am reluctant to jump on bandwagons - often to the point of stubbornness and mule-headedness. I admit to even being - on rare occasion - a bit of an elitist. Just because something is a "best seller" does not guarantee that it is good. So, sometimes, it takes me a while to recognize the obvious, and consent to take advice from people whose opinions I have come to trust. Thus, it took about five such individuals asking me: "Have you read Good To Great by Jim Collins?," before I capitulated and read the book.

It was well worth waiting for.

I think most people in the business world who have been paying even minimal attention are aware of Good to Great to some degree. If you have not yet read this book, I implore you not to wait as long as I waited before sampling the nectar that oozes from the pages of this study in greatness.

What I love most about the book is that despite his best attempts to avoid pointing to "leadership" and "the right people" as explanations for why some companies are on a different planet than the rest of the business universe, the facts would not let Collins escape these conclusions in the end. In the few weeks since I finished reading Good to Great, I have found myself quoting from this book more often than any other business book since The Tipping Point. In discussing staffing challenges with a client, I often find myself citing an example from Good to Great. In talking with a candidate about her next career move, I regularly find myself talking about one of the eleven Good to Great companies as the kind of place where she would most likely feel most fulfilled and make the strongest contribution.

Here are a few salient points to serve as tidbits to whet your appetite to read the book yourself:

* Great companies are led by a "Level 5 leader" who subjugates his own ego to the greater good of building a company that will continue to thrive under his successor.

* Great companies and their leaders make their first priority assembling the right team. "To be clear, the main point . . . is not just about assembling the right team - that is nothing new. The main point is to first get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) before you figure out where to drive it." p. 44.

* Great companies understand the difference between leadership and management. "The good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. They hired self-disciplined people who didn't need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people." p. 125.

What I like best about this book is that the companies chosen as Good-to-Great companies are all led by individuals who have figured out that it is all about people - hiring the right people, treating them right, equipping them well, holding them accountable in ways that are not dehumanizing, taking succession planning seriously. As an executive recruiter and as a student of leadership and staffing issues, I could not agree more with Collins' conclusions that these are the hard skills and intangibles needed to grow a great company.

Enjoy reading or re-reading this book.


Monday, June 06, 2005

CareerJournal | Defining the Duties Of the American CEO

"In any organization, regardless of its mission, the CEO is the link between the Inside, i.e., 'the organization,' and the Outside -- society, the economy, technology, markets, customers, the media, public opinion. Inside, there are only costs. Results are only on the outside. Indeed the modern organization (beginning with the Jesuit Order in 1536) was expressly created to have results on the outside, that is, to make a difference in its society or its economy."

With these intriguing words, Peter Drucker, doyen of American Mangement theorists and writers, introduces his column of the duties of CEO's in the Wall Street Journal's "Career Journal." Enough of the readers of this Blog are CEO's, or are closely associated with CEO's, that I thought it worthwhile to share these thoughts from Drucker's column.

Al Chase

CareerJournal Defining the Duties Of the American CEO

Introducing Jesse Kornbluth and Head Butler

I have recently met a fascinating individual whom I am sure will become a treasured friend. Jonathan Meath and I became connected on LinkedIn and eventually met over some comestibles at Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. Jonathan has a rich background in media, broadcast, film - and has produced shows that you have probably seen - for PBS, Jim Henson, Nickolodeon, etc.

One of the by-products of my early conversations with Jonathan was his sharing with me the Link I am now passing on to you. Headbutler is the work of Jesse Kornbluth, who was one of Jonathan's Meath's professors at NYU - Tisch School of the Arts.

Here's what Jesse tells his readers they can expect from Head Butler:

--- Most days Butler will share a favorite from the best of the new or from the backlist: books he's read (and re-read), music that stays in the rotation for him, movies he can watch again and again.
--- gift recommendations for any occasion for even the hard-to-please.
--- a mini-essay, a link to someone else's smart commentary or unusual product, and more.

I have already returned frequently to sample the reviews of some of Jesse's favorite books, films and music. Today's offering about Faulkner and Oprah's Book Club is a fitting introduction to this wonderful resource.

The Butler did it!


Al Chase

Head Butler

Confessions Of One Imperfectly Edumicated - Reading Proust

I don't know why I do this to myself, but every few months I allow myself to read one of those "lists." You know the lists I mean. Allan Bloom and Harold Bloom and their ilk are often reminding us that if we are to consider ourselves truly educated, we must be familiar with the authors whose works make up the loosely defined "Western Canon."

My latest trek down this primrose path began a few months ago when I began to read Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds by Harold Bloom. I was fine (and even a bit smug and self-congratulatory) when I could mentally check off my having read and come to appreciate Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Goethe, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Mann, Cervantes, Milton, Chaucer, St. Paul and the rest of the club. But I was once again caught short when I learned that I must be a cretin or worse not to have read and celebrated the prose of Marcel Proust.

I had tried to read him several years ago. Bloom and his co-conspirators had guilt-tripped me into tackling "In Search of Lost Time," (A la Recherce du Temps Perdu), Proust's seven volume paean to Combray, unrequited love, self-reflection, narcissism and life in general. I got a few chapters into Volume I - Swann's Way, when I gave up in despair. I could not figure out what all the hubbub was all about. There was no action and it took Proust seven pages to describe the young protagonist wanting his mother to come to give him a good night kiss. So, I set it aside.

This time I was resolved to get through it and prove to Harold Bloom and the Western Canon Nazi's that I was their equal! So I waded once again into the slowly trickling stream that is the prose of Swann's Way, this time in a new English translation by Lydia Davis. This time it was different. I don't know if it was a matter of a new translation, or that fact that I am at a different point in my life and read through different eyes now, but this time around I "got it." Reading Proust no longer seemed like choking down Brussel sprouts. It was more like biting into a tasty "Madeleine." (The novel's most famous scene involves young Marcel biting into a tea-soaked madeleine cookie and having memories of his childhood come flooding into his consciousness.)

I think I woke up to what Proust is all about and jumped on the bandwagon around p. 128 of the new Penguin Classics edition when I read:

"He had in fact asked my parents the day before to send me to dine with him that evening: 'Come and keep your old friend company,' he said to me. 'Like a bouquet sent to us by a traveler from a country to which we will never return, allow me to breathe from the distance of your adolescence those flowers that belong to the springtimes which I too traversed many years ago.' "

Perhaps one needs to be eligible for membership in the AARP for such words to fly to the bull's-eye in the center of one's heart, but fly they did. Reading those words almost took my breath away. So, I was able to continue reading and enjoy arriving at the end of Swann's Way. I immediately began to contemplate finding the next volume in the Proust heptalogy - In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower - to continue the nostalgic journey.

So, I am able to breath a sigh of relief and check off another box along the path to being a fully sentient, classically educated member of the literati. Can anyone help me with James Joyce and Ulysses?!

Happy reading!


Friday, June 03, 2005

Talent Alert - Boston Area Sales Opportunity

I have a new client company on the Rte. 128 perimeter north of Boston that is facing the challenge of transforming itself from a traditional organization that has sold products to a variety of industries. In the "new economy," this company really needs to master the art of a consultative approach to solution sales in a B2B context. The present sales staff is unable to make the transition from selling pure product, so they have retained me to help find new talent with a new mindset.

This could be a tremendous opportunity for someone with a few years of success under his/her belt in solutions sales - a real hunter and deal closer. In the next several years, the plan is to grow annual sales from the present $4 million to a projected $16 million. The right sales executive could drive that process and drive their career through the roof. The current President is looking for someone who not only knows sales, but who can also help him to think strategically about business development, channels, strategic alliances and new markets.

Please let me know if you know of individuals who might be a fit for this opportunity. Like most sales positions, the base is adequate, but not spectacular, but the total compensation package will be competitive.