Thursday, February 24, 2005

Practicing Servant-Leadership -- Larry Spears article

Thanks to David Teten's Brain Food Blog, I was recently reminded of the concept of Servant Leadership. I know the concept well, but reading the article below reminded me that the attitude of Servant Leadership is as crucial and applicable to someone filling the role of Chief of Staff as it would be to the CEO, Division President or Team Leader.

In the text of this article by Larry Spears of the Leader to Leader Institute, he quotes from Max DePree, former chairman of the Herman Miller Company and author of Leadership Is an Art and Leadership Jazz: "The servanthood of leadership needs to be felt, understood, believed, and practiced."

I would add my own my own "Amen" to those words by Max DePree. As part of my doctoral studies, I had the privilege of taking a class in leadership taught by Max DePree. He is the very embodiment of these principles.

Enjoy the article, and enjoy even more putting them into practice!

Al Chase

Practicing Servant-Leadership -- Larry Spears full-text article

Chief of Staff Feedback and Comment

After yesterday's posting on the Chief of Staff role was published, a discerning reader offered the following comment:

I believe that there was a critical factor not mentioned in the selection of a "Chief of Staff" (different organizations have different Titles). The C of S absolutely must have the respect and cooperation of the line managers who also report to the same manager/executive. In my experience, the C of S is selected from that group of line executives who has risen as a "prima inter pares" with his peers, which will allow him to act with effectiveness as (since I'm into the Latin) a quasi "in loco parentis" equivalent to the Chief. To be truly effective, his line peers must "like" him personally and respect his judgement. He, in turn, must be seem as trustworthy and unwilling to undercut his field peers.

* * * * *

I am grateful to my erudite reader for raising this point. In organizations in which the Chief of Staff is drawn from inside the organization, I would agree that pre-existing respect and cooperation from line managers is crucial to the success of the Chief. I am familiar with other organizations that have brought in a C of S from the outside. In this case, the Chief of Staff must quickly establish his/her own bona fides by virtue of reputation, prior achievements, expertise, strength of character, interpersonal skills and a spirit of "Servant Leadership." (See following article)

A corollary to this point is the absolute necessity of the Chief of Staff being able to garner reliable data from the far reaches of the organization. It is axiomatic that within large enterprises, reports sent up the line are often presented in a way that will show the Division and its leaders in the best possible light. It is incumbent up on the Chief of Staff to develop alternate sources of data so that she/he is in a position to keep the CEO informed of the true "State of the Union" at any given moment. The ability to develop and to maintain these sources of reliable information and to analyze the stream of data may ultimately be the most challenging aspect of this job, and the function that returns the most value to the CEO) and to the organizaion.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Al Chase

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Chief of Staff - A Force Multiplier (Part IV)

In my last posting describing my views of the Chief of Staff role, I offered a summary of the professional characteristics, functional skills and personal traits that are required of a stellar Chief of Staff.

In today’s discussion of the Chief of Staff role, I would like to answer the question we left hanging when we signed off last week: "Where do we find such men [and women]?"

From my experience as an executive recruiter, I can point to three primary sources where I have been able to discover individuals who possess the panoply of skills, traits and characteristic that are the hallmark of a great Chief of Staff:

1) Military officers who have retired after a full career

2) Junior military officers who have 5-10 years of leadership experience leavened with a top-tier MBA to add business sense and analytical tools to their arsenal.

3) Mature veterans of the “corporate battlefield” who have amassed knowledge, judgment, diplomacy and project management skills over the course of a broad-based business career.

Before describing in detail these three pools of potential Chiefs of Staff, let me offer the observation that the role of COS can be structured in two primary ways:

a) As a role that the candidate would fill on a long-term basis – 5-10 years or more. In this scenario, the COS sees himself/herself as a “Career XO” – a person who is content to remain in a strategically important behind the scenes role in support of a C-level executive.

b) As a transitional role that is part of an overall approach to succession planning. In this scenario, the COS serves for 2-3 years in a strategic support role with the understanding that at the end of that term of service, she/he will be given a general management role with P&L responsibility – Division President, Brand Manager, etc. During the final year in the COS role, there would be a period of overlap – selecting, training and transitioning in a new COS to carry on seamlessly the support functions.

Now, back to the three pools of candidates . . .

1) Military officers who have retired after a full career

This type of candidate fits best in the long term COS role. For many men and women who have served our nation for 20 years or more, they still desire to make a contribution and build a fulfilling second career that will leverage the depth of experiences and breadth of skills they have acquired in leading troops and running programs. For the officer who is temperamentally fitted for the COS role, fancy job titles and an opportunity for climbing up the corporate ladder are not priorities. Having succeeded in being promoted consistently over the course of a distinguished military career, this candidate possess finely honed project management skills, communication skills, sophisticated diplomatic sensibilities and the ability to fully utilize to the company’s advantage both the formal and the informal power structures.

2) Junior military officers who have 5-10 years of leadership experience leavened with a top-tier MBA to add business sense and analytical tools to their arsenal.

Let me offer a composite description of a typical candidate in this category. This person is best-suited for the transition role – serving 2-3 years as COS before ascending to a GM role:

· Graduate of United State Naval Academy, US Marine Corps military intelligence officer whose assignments included a stint supporting Gen. Wesley Clark in his role as Commander of NATO And US forces in Europe. MBA from MIT Sloan School of business, summer internship and two-year stint as a strategy consultant in the Boston office of Bain & Co.

This “young Turk” is just the kind of leader that a visionary company would want to attract, develop and “fast track” into a senior position. This extraordinarily gifted and precocious top-achiever will not be attracted to or sufficiently challenged by most rotational training programs designed to groom future leaders, but would thrive in a properly conceived COS role in support of a mentoring C-level executive.

3) Mature veterans of the “corporate battlefield” who have amassed knowledge, judgment, diplomacy and project management skills over the course of a broad-based business career.

Once again, let me offer a description of a composite candidate from this pool:

BA from Columbia, MBA or continuing education programs from Stern School of Business at NYU. Over the years, functional roles have includes Director of Sales and Marketing, Director of Business development, Program Manager/Project Manager for mission-critical initiatives, Managing Director Client services.

Because of lifestyle choices, family situation, travel restrictions, etc., this gifted administrator and manager is happy to climb off of the treadmill leading to the top of the organizational chart, and spend the next 10+ years of her/his career leveraging a wealth of experience in support of a CEO, COB, CIO, COO, etc.

In the final installment dedicated to the role of the Chief of Staff, I will add some final thoughts and refinements, sum up the series, and make recommendations on ways to implement the creation and filling of the COS role with the right candidate.

Al Chase

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Life is Precious; Life is Fragile

I made the long, delightful drive last evening up Rte. 125 to the sleepy village of Barrington, NH to visit my son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and brand new grandson. I felt like Santa Claus, bearing sacks of bargains I had culled from the racks at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls - a dress, a coat, mittens for Laurelin; sleepers, snugglies and little boy outfits for two-week–old Amet. (Anyone who really knows me must be chuckling at the mental image of the White Rhino charging through the aisles of these exclusive boutiques looking for baby clothes and dresses!)

During the course of my visit – between cappuccinos, slices of yogurt pie and handfuls of popcorn – I had several opportunities to hold and to rock Amet. Ti and Raluca did not want him to fall asleep between rounds of nursing, hoping that he would sleep for a few straight hours later that night. So, I did my best to keep him awake as I rocked him. I talked to him, and then I began to sing to him. The instant I began to sing, he turned his head and his saucer-sized eyes to me and locked onto my eyes in a gaze that seemed to last an eternity. This may strike you as a paterfamilias’ hyperbole, but it seemed as if he were saying through his prolonged scrutiny of my face: “This is our first chance to get to know each other, Grampy.” I had held him when he was barely an hour old, but this was different. Those moments – perhaps 20 uninterrupted minutes of taking each other’s measure – were moments that I will treasure forever. They were transcendent. Life is a precious gift.

The memories of last night were still fresh in my mind when I clicked on my car radio this morning to catch to 6:00 news on WBZ. How shocking to learn that Tedy Bruschi of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots is lying in Mass. General Hospital with stroke-like symptoms – including partial paralysis and loss of vision. I immediately offered up prayers for Tedy and his family, and then my mind turned to one of the most indelible images I retain from Super Bowl XXXIX. A few hours before the game, Bruschi was photographed on the field wrestling and romping with his two little boys. On the brink of one of the biggest moments of his professional life, he found time to take delight in his role as a father. I am sure for Tedy, these were moments that he will treasure forever. They were transcendent. Life is a fragile gift.

Take time today to make a call, send a card, shoot an e-mail to someone who will be surprised and delighted to hear from you. And go the extra mile and tell that person you love them. Life is precious; life is fragile. Carpe diem!


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Candidate Spotlight

With this posting, I am introducing a new feature that I will offer sporadically to readers of this Blog. As an executive recruiter, I am blessed to be in a position to meet some extraordinarily gifted women and men who function as senior executives in a variety of industries. The common thread among these leaders is that they are broadly educated – often “Renaissance Souls” – and they perform their leadership functions from a solid ethical base of integrity, accountability, fairness and a commitment to excellence.

When I become aware that one of these extraordinary leaders is ready to transition to a new opportunity, I will make my community of Blog readers aware of this candidate’s value proposition. This approach to executive placement is one of my differentiators. Like most other recruiters who work with senior executives, I welcome the opportunity to perform retained searches for client companies. This is the bread and butter of most executive search practices.

But I do not limit my approach to this traditional methodology. I have also been successful in presenting uniquely gifted candidates to companies – even before the company knew they had a need for such a person. As an example, I introduced to Lucent Technologies the person around whom they eventually created the position of Vice President of Homeland Security and Government Strategy. (I am often asked how the economics of such a non-traditional placement works. The simple answer is that when the client company hires a candidate that I have introduced to them in this “backwards” way, I am compensated at the traditional rate by the company as if they had retained me to fill this executive level position.)

In introducing this occasional “Candidate Spotlight” feature to the Blog, it is my expectation that there will be some readers who may be aware of companies that are in need of the kind of talent embodied in the candidate(s) I describe. You may be a Board member, employee or advisor to a company that could use these skills. If this is the case, please e-mail me ( so that we can discuss the best way to approach the company that has the need.

* * * * *

Experienced CEO/COO – Telecom, software development, IT, professional services, medical devices – ready to grow a successful company to the next level, or turn around a company facing difficult challenges.

This candidate is a seasoned veteran of AT&T, Lucent Technologies and an e-commerce start-up. He has overseen the acquisition and post-merger integration of a $1.5 billion company into the larger enterprise. While he has succeeded at the highest levels in Fortune 50 companies, it is his desire to be in a hands-on operating role in a growing small to mid-sized firm to provide operational expertise to scale, where his entrepreneurial skills and passions can be fully realized. These skills would also be well utilized in running a Divison of a large enterprise.

This gentleman is one of the finest human beings I have been privileged to get to know. He engenders loyalty and elicits peak performance from his team members, and is a brilliant and a consummate “out of the box” thinker.

The best fit for the next step in his career would be an operating role (CEO, COO or GM) in a venture-backed portfolio company, an acquisition target by a leveraged buyout firm, or a turn-around situation. His broad experiences set him up to help grow companies in such industries as telecom, software development, IT, professional services, medical devices, and any other setting that needs a leader who can help a company respond to rapidly evolving challenges in a volatile market.

In response to my request that he describe himself ina one minute elevator speech, the candidate replied:

"I have over 23 years of global general management experience. I am a results driven leader who enjoys developing and executing focused strategies, creates environment where innovation and teamwork flourish, and has passion to negotiate and solve problems of conceptual and interpersonal nature. As a result, I have added $300M to the bottom line in less than 3 years by leading business transformation efforts and grew $200M revenue in 18 months by positioning firm as a major player in billing and customer care software market."

Resume is available upon request.

Al Chase

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Quick Look at a Book Worth Reading - "Moscow and Beyond" by Andrei Sakharov

One of the books I received for Christmas was Moscow and Beyond (1986 to 1989) by Andrei Sakharov. This little volume constitutes the second part of his autobiography. The first half was published under the title Memoirs.

I found that seeing the events of 1986-1989 through the eyes of Sakharov give me new insight into the behind-the- scenes role that he played in the events that led to the dissolution of the USSR. It is clear that Sakharov's relationship with Gorbachev was an ambivalent one - full of mutual respect and mutual distrust.

I was intrigued by the local Boston connection to Sakharov. Several family memmbers and friends live in Newton and Westwood, and Sakharov did much of the writing and editing of this volume while staying in Newton.

As I finished reading this book, I felt as if I had savored an interesting appetizer. I can't wait to read Memoirs and experience the fullness of the main course.

Al Chase

Monday, February 14, 2005

George Plimpton: The Proto-Networker – Continuing Last Week’s Conversation

To bring you up to date, let me remind you that last week, in response to an exchange with my friend Abbot Cooper, I sent out a request for anyone who may be able to shed some light on George Plimpton’s role as a “networker.” Almost immediately, I heard from my friend, Roy Vella, a Stanford grad who works for eBay/PayPal in San Francisco. Roy was familiar with Blair Fuller, who had first come to know George Plimpton when the two of them studied together at Harvard. Through an e-mail to Roy, Blair was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on George Plimpton.

Blair and I had a delightful phone conversation on Friday afternoon. During that conversation, I not only learned that Blair and George had been together at Harvard, but that they served together as editors of The Paris Review. Blair was very clear in making me aware that Plimpton would never have used the term “networking,” nor would he have seen himself as a “networker.” What we would today call networking – the weaving of a web of relationships for personal or business purposes – was not an aim in itself for Plimpton, but was, rather, a by-product of his genuine interest in people and of his curiosity about the world.

With that important clarification in mind, I am pleased to share with you some of Mr. Fuller’s thoughts on his friend, George Plimpton:

There's a lot that could be said about GAP and networking: he was interested in individuals. No political bias interfered with this interest. He was only peripherally interested in position of any kind. He was never impressed. People with big positions were often interesting because they had the confidence to express whatever they felt like --- as opposed the timidity of those who are impressed by position. He was very bright, eager to know many people and would retain their names. Kept a small size of writing paper so that only a couple of typed lines would look sufficient --- he often sent very short notes. He had a Rolodex --- did not depend on anyone else to keep names and numbers. He never told self-aggrandizing stories, although he liked to tell stories, God knows.

It occurs to me: He was close with many Kennedys. He took the pistol from Sirhan Sirhan and NEVER talked about it. He spent a weekend at Camp David with George Bush. They played golf, tennis, pitched horseshoes, bowled, and at the very end played tiddlywinks (!) I asked how he felt about Bush. "No one can say a bad thing about him to me," said George.



Thank you, Blair, for adding to our understanding of the role that “networking” played in George Plimpton’s life.

Al Chase

FYI: Blair Fuller, is an editor of The Paris Review, author of two novels, and the recipient of two O. Henry Awards for his short stories. His most recent book is Art in the Blood: Seven Generations of American Artists in the Fuller Family.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Career Effectiveness: How "Career Imprinting" Shapes Leaders - A Preview

The more time I spend in the midst of helping companies to find top talent - and helping top talent to find companies with visionary leaders at the helm - the more convinced I become of the critical importance of matching intangibles. The best hiring decisions - and the best career moves - are made with an eye towards carefully matching the personal value system of the candidate with the corporate culture, ethos and values of the companies she/he is joining.

In his BrainFood Blog, David Teten recently shared an article that caught my eye because it addressed the same issues in a way that was new to me. The article originally appeared in the February 7 edition of Harvard Business School's "Working Knowledge for Business Leaders."

"Where you work early in your career shapes the kind of leader you become later on, says HBS professor Monica Higgins. She discusses her forthcoming book, Career Imprints: Creating Leaders Across an Industry."

HBS Working Knowledge: Career Effectiveness: How "Career Imprinting" Shapes Leaders


Al Chase


As I have promised, from time to time I will ask the readers of my Blog to provide me with additional sets of eyes and ears in looking for specific skill sets on behalf of client companies. Below are two different kinds of opportunities:

Washington, D.C. area

Retired USAF officer for Business Development position with consultancy looking to grow its prime contracting business with USAF.

Retired USAF officer with HAZMAT expertise for Consulting and Business Development position with consultancy.

Retired National Guard officer for Business Development position with consultancy looking to grow its prime contracting business with the National Guard.

Boston and Silicon Valley

One of my clients – a progressive commercial bank with a strong presence on both Coasts – has asked for my help in finding top talent. We are looking for individuals with 5-10+ years of experience in commercial banking to fill a variety of roles. Cultural fit is important. This bank’s staff operates with a spirit of collegial teamwork and a fanatical devotion to customer service. Most openings at present are in the Boston area, with one in Silicon Valley. If you know of qualified and impressive candidates in Boston or NOCAL or those who would be willing to relocate, please let me know and I’ll be happy to share specific position requirements.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chief of Staff - A Force Multiplier (Part III)

In my last posting describing my views of the Chief of Staff role, I offered the following observation:

"It would take a pretty extraordinary individual to be able to juggle all of these balls, satisfy all of the key stake holders, massage sensitive egos and do it all with efficiency and grace. And such an extraordinary individual would have to be content and fulfilled serving in a ‘support role.'”

In today’s discussion of the Chief of Staff, I would like to address the professional characteristics, functional skills and personal traits that are required of a stellar Chief of Staff.

A Chief of Staff must possess in abundance a well-balanced arsenal of what are often called “hard skills” and “soft skills.”


· Project management – Each strategic initiative being tracked on behalf of the C-level executive whom the Chief of Staff supports is a project to be managed. Inherent in the oversight of these initiatives are the sub-skills of:
o Multi-tasking
o Time management
o Prioritization
o Benchmarking
o Trouble shooting
o Reporting

· Information gathering and analysis – The COS needs to be able to create and to utilize systems (both formal and informal) for gathering on behalf of his/her boss reliable information on what is happening throughout the enterprise with regard to the strategic initiatives being tracked.
o This aspect of the job can be a challenge, since those charged with providing timely updates are not direct reports to the COS. This requires a high level of sophistication in communications, interpersonal relations and diplomacy on the part of the COS. (See soft skills below)

· A keen mind and multi-focal intelligence – The COS will be juggling many balls in support of the boss. She/he must have a quick but thorough grasp of the salient issues and details of each initiative to be able to make evaluations and recommendations to the C-level executive. This is tantamount to being a “jack of all trades” and “master of all”!

· Poise and grace under pressure – The pressure to perform at the highest level will be relentless, since by definition, each strategic initiative is mission-critical and crucial to the well being of the organization. No unimportant matters float up to the C-level to be addressed.

· Finely honed communication skills – The COS will need to be able to communicate in writing and verbally with great precision and effectiveness:

o Upwards to the C-level executive
o Laterally to others on the executive team
o Downwards throughout the organizational chart


· Unimpeachable integrity – By reputation and by consistent performance, the COS must be viewed by the C-level executive as utterly trustworthy. Each stakeholder must also be confident that the COS is operating on a solid ethical foundation of personal values that are transparent.

· Selflessness – The COS must gain satisfaction from serving in a support role, and not feel the need to be in the limelight or receive public acclaim for victories and successes.

· Emotional stability and resilience– Because of the high stakes attached to each strategic initiative that is being tracked, and by virtue of the high level of accountability that is expected of each player, the atmosphere in which the COS works is one of high pressure and high expectations. Thin-skinned and easily bruised egos need not apply!

· The ability to give and receive constructive criticism – Human nature and the nature of organizational behavior almost guarantee that the COS will often be operating in an environment when one or more initiatives are off-track, over-budget and behind-schedule. Supporting the boss in holding individuals accountable, coaching and correcting their performance is a crucial skill.

· Diplomacy skills – The COS will often be expected to represent the boss in dealing with individuals whose teams may have missed deadlines or benchmarks. Careers, bonuses and promotions may be on the line, so the COS often operates in a volatile environment in which the wrong word or the wrong tone of voice could derail a delicate situation.

· Keen judgment – The COS must often make instantaneous choices about:

o What to bring to the attention of the boss and what to shield her/him from;
o When to speak and when to remain silent;
o When to intervene and when to let things run their course;
o What information is reliable and what needs to be questioned and challenged;
o How to respond to unanticipated developments;
o How to best keep the boss focused on the top priorities;
o How to help the boss see clearly through the “fog of war.”

Wow! We just described Superman or Wonder Woman. Do such paragons of virtue exist in the real world?

My friend, John Byington, reminded me the other day of a terrific and apt quotation. The line comes from the Korean War era film, “The Bridges of Toko Ri” and has been oft repeated: "Where do we find such men?"

I will address this question in my next COS segment.

Al Chase

"Blink" and "The Wisdom of Crowds" - How to improve the decision-making environment.

This recent dialogue between authors Malcom Gladwell and James Surowiecki adds some additional texture and insight into the ramifications of Gladwell's new book, Blink (discussed in my previous posting).

Blink and The Wisdom of Crowds - How to improve the decision-making environment. By Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowiecki

A Brief Encounter with Malcolm Gladwell and "Blink"

On Monday evening, Malcolm Gladwell and his book-signing cavalcade rolled into Cambridge. Before the best-selling author signed copies of his latest hit, Blink, he spoke briefly and took questions from the audience that overflowed the auditorium of First Parish Church in Harvard Square.

As Gladwell strode to the small temporary podium that had been set up just below the imposing and historic pulpit, I had the following impious thoughts:

"With that balding, unkempt Afro, he looks like the first runner-up in an Art Garfunkel look-alike contest! What a remarkable resemblance to the picture on the album jacket of 'Fate for Breakfast'!"

I recovered from my brief reverie in time to hear Gladwell, standing at the mini-pulpit, begin to proclaim the Gospel of Rapid Cognition. In a very charming and disarming self-deprecating style, the Canadian-born journalist recounted stories that had been the basis for several chapters of the book. He told of the tragic shooting of Amadou Diallou in New York City as an example of "blink" decisions - thin-slicing rapid cognition - gone wrong. He recounted the watershed study that had led ER doctors at Chicago's Cook County Hospital to learn to use less information to make better diagnoses on patients with acute chest pain. He rhapsodized on the watershed moment in classical musical history when screens became standard equipment for auditions, and women began to win the auditions and to be hired by world class symphony orchestras.

He shared the tale that opens the book - the fascinating saga of the Getty Museum spending months verifying the authenticity of a 6th Century B.C. Greek statue. Satisfied that their painstaking research and analysis by an army of experts had revealed the statue to be the real thing - a rare kouros - the museum wrote a check for $10 million. Not long after the check had cleared, another expert was invited to view the new acquisition. He knew in the "blink" of an eye that he was looking at a fake. Blink examines how we make such rapid cognition determinations. Gladwell also casts an unblinking eye on the question: "Under what circumstances can we and should we rely on the art of 'thin-slicing' to make judgments about people and situations?"

The book is fascinating and relevant. Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, is the only "business book" I re-read on a regular basis. If you have not yet read it, take a break and click on to order it right now! Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, seems to be on track to become another instant classic - and deservedly so. I found myself thinking about mundane decisions and situations in new ways. I offer this book my unequivocal commendation. If you enjoy reading this Blog, I guarantee that you will find Blink worth feasting your eyes on.

As the Q&A session wound down, Gladwell sat to sign books. Pressed for time, I had managed to position myself close to the aisle that would contain the queue of ardent bibliophiles. So, I was second in line when Gladwell began to sign. As the writer autographed the title pages of my well-worn copies of Blink and The Tipping Point, I was able to slip in the question I had been dying to ask him all evening:

"Have you reached a 'Tipping Point' in your own ability to use rapid cognition effectively in your own life?"

Gladwell finished signing my books, looked up at me, blinked, and replied: "Not yet."

Happy reading!

Al Chase

Monday, February 07, 2005

Continuing the Dialogue of Networking - Quality vs. Quantity

Over lunch last week, my friend, Abbot Cooper and I were continuing the dialogue I began in this space regarding the balance between quality and quantity in social and professional networking. In an e-mail to me this morning, Abbott continued to share his thoughts. I was intrigued at his mention of George Plimpton as a prolific networker, and asked his permission to share his thoughts with the rest of you.


Another random thought... one of the greatest social networkers of all time was the late George Plimpton. He maintained a vast network of friends over an extraordinary breadth of professional and societal circles, and he did it without the benefit of technology -- unless he adopted such in his later years. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on him or to find out more details about his approach to life in general.

Incidentally, Plimpton was the commencement speaker at St. Andrew's in 1989, and he also narrated a celebratory fireworks display the evening prior. I can remember precious little of the specifics of what he said at either event, but I do remember him as being an absolutely delightful and riveting speaker, even to a 15 year old boy.


* * * * * *

Abbot and I would love to hear from anyone who may have insights into Plimpton's approach to networking and how he managed to juggle so many balls so successfully. Surely, the "Paper Lion" was a rare breed.

FYI - Abbot Cooper is the Founder of Hospital Dynamics, a consulting firm that provides software solutions to enable hospital administrators and managers to improve capacity and patient flow. Abbott is a bright young Renaissance Man, and comes with the White Rhino's "Two Hooves Up" stamp of approval and recommendation! He can be reached at: (617) 848-8126.

Pats Reign (Who cares if I got the final score wrong!)

What an entertaining game. Hats off to T.O. for an other-worldly performance, but it takes more than one inspired opponent to slow down the juggernaut that Bill Belichick and company have assembled.

An e-mail I received this morning from a regular reader of this Blog nicely encapsulates what it is like to be a sports fan in New England these days. I first met Sam Meckey when he was a leader of the Armed Forces Alumni Associaiton at Harvard Business School. Now working for United HealthCare, he offers the following thoughts, from the vantage point of someone who grew up in Pittsburgh in the days when the Steel City was "Title Town":


Couldn't help but think of you last night as I watched the Patriots win their 3rd Super Bowl in four years. It's definitely a great time to be a Boston sports fan. I grew up in Pittsburgh and lived there in 1979 when the Pirates won the World Series and the Steelers won their third of four Super Bowl titles. They were calling Pittsburgh "Titletown USA" which was one of my big thrills growing up.

I can't imagine how many kids growing up in Boston right now will have a completely different life then their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers before them, all because of the success the Red Sox and Patriots have had this year.

Hope all is well and keep up the great work on the blog. I really enjoy readingit.

Sam Meckey

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Sam. My sons and grandchildren will definitely have a different set of memories than those carried by my generation and those that proceeded us in cheering on the Sox and the Pats. May the dynasty continue!


Yahoo! News - Congo Calls Off Airlift of Rare White Rhinos

Yahoo! News - Congo Calls Off Airlift of Rare White Rhinos

Sharing the Wealth - The Wisdom of Warren Buffett

In this morning's Blog from David Teten,,
he made me aware of a fascinating posting from the Blog of Darren Johnson. I did a quick scan of Johnson's Profile, and saw that The Brothers Karamazov is his favorite book. For my money, that alone is prima facie evidence of a keen and discerning mind! So, it is with pleasure that I share Johnson's distillation of a day he recently spent with Warren Buffet.

Stuff I Think : The Wisdom of Warren Buffett

Friday, February 04, 2005

Go Pats!

I am putting myself on record. I'll be rooting for the New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl Champions on Sunday evening.

Patriots 31 - Eagles 10!

Enjoy the game.


Food for Thought for Networkers - Too Many Connections, Part 2

David Teten offers his thoughts on the quality vs. quantity debate in the world of social networking.

Fast Company The Great Debate: Quality or Quantity?

Here is a linked to David Teten's Blog, "Brain Food":
To learn more about this blog, visit

I welcome your input and response to this ongoing conversation. How do you balance quality vs. quantity in making networking decisions?

Al Chase

Food for Thought for Networkers -Too Many Connections, Part I

If you are reading the Blog, you probably spend quite a bit of time thinking about and practicing the fine art of networking. If you are anything like me, you may often ponder the optimal balance between developing a large quantity of networking contacts on the one hand, and a limited number of "high qualty" contacts on the other hand.

This morning, David Teten, in his Blog, "Brain Food", he offered a link to an intriguing article by Christopher Allen that deals with this dilemma.

Life With Alacrity: Dunbar Triage: Too Many Connections

In my next posting, I will lead you to a link in which David Teten himself offers his perspective on this quant. vs. qual. dilemma.

Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Belichick Redux - A Texan responds

Among the responses I have received to yesterday's posting on Bill Belichick and his Annapolis roots, the one from Harvard-educated San Antonio native, Mark Apolinar, seemed most worth sharing with other readers.


I read your Bill Belichick posting with great interest. I went to school in Boston, and have since then had a special interest in Boston sports teams. As you can agree, these have been some great years.

What struck me most was the paragraph which is copied below. As I read it, I couldn't help but think that I was reading a story about my beloved hometown San Antonio Spurs. Unselfish, team work, objective to win, preparation, and execution... these are all words which are often used to describe the Spurs. Its important to note, that the other common adjective is "boring", because the Spurs are so methodical and non-flashy in their approach all they do is "simply win". As a Spurs fan, I'll take "boring" championships any day.

Why am I bringing this up? Where did Spurs head coach Greg Popovich go to college? You guessed it, one of the military academies (Air Force). To put Coach Pop's accomplishments in perspective keep in mind, he's won 2 championships in the past six years, currently the Spurs are ranked #1 according to various analysts, the Spurs have the best record in the league, and among active coaches, Pop has the best win-loss record. After reading your blog, the military academy's influence on Pop is all the more apparent.

Keep the blogs coming, I enjoy reading them.- Mark

Thanks, Mark. Keep reading and responding!

Al Chase

Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" - Upcoming book signing

I am halfway through Blink, Malcolm Gladwell's latest book. I am finding it as engaging as I did The Tipping Point. I will report in full in this space next week, but I wanted to alert Boston area readers that Gladwell will be in Cambridge next Monday, February 7. I plan to attend:

Monday, February 7, 2005
Harvard Bookstore Offsite:
First Parish Church
3 Church St.
Cambridge, MA

6:30-8:00 PM

Talk and Book Signing

I hope to see some of you there.

Al Chase

A New Little Rhino Joins the Herd: The Proud Grandpa Speaks

I was thrilled to get the call yesterday afternoon from my oldest son, Ti, informing me that his wife, Raluca, was in labor and ready to give birth to their second child. The due date was a week away, but there had been some early signs that the baby was anxious to make an appearance before the Super Bowl, so I was not completely surprised to learn that labor had begun.

By the time I made the drive up to York Hospital on the South Coast of Maine, my new grandson had already made his entrance into the world. Amet Scott Fyodor Chase was born just before 2:00 EST on February 1. He was almost immediately greeted by his proud "big sister," 2 and 1/2 year-old Laurelin.

Let me parse for you my grandson's name:

Amet (pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable), is the Hebrew word for "truth."

Scott is in honor of "Uncle Scott," my second son.

Fyodor is in honor of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, an author revered both by Ti and by me.

Chase - The first Chase, Aquila Chase, landed in Newbury, MA in the mid- 1630's, and we have now guaranteed at least one more generation of standard bearers for that name!

When I walked into the birthing room to meet my hour-old grandson, I was astounded to see that he looked like a clone of his father. I am not sure I would be able to distinguish between a baby picture of Ti and one of Amet. Everyone in the family also agrees that he looks exactly like me. Please keep the poor child in your prayers!

Seriously, we thank the Lord for a safe delivery, a healthy baby and the gift of a new life and member of the clan.

Al Chase

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Marines Weigh in on the Discussion of Junior Officer-initiated Combat Innovations

Several weeks ago (January 13) in this space, I shared an article that ran in the New Yorker that described the phenomenon of junior officers serving as the catalysts for battlefield innovations in solving communications and logistics problems in Iraq. The next day, Bill Batten offered his thought-provoking reactions to the piece.

Today, I am pleased to share with you a continuation of this dialogue by sharing the thoughts of USMC Capt. Christopher “Buster” O’Brien. Buster is a 1999 graduate of the Naval Academy (he is President of his USNA class), and is a decorated combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Buster hails from the Boston area, and is a lifelong Red Sox fan (I presume that means he has collected a lot of hazardous duty pay over the years and the Red Sox Nation equivalent of the Purple Heart!)

It was very interesting to read the New Yorker article regarding the Army's development in the lessons learned arena since operations began in Iraq almost two years ago. I currently work in almost the exact same capacity for the Marine Corps as many of those mentioned in the article. In fact, after returning from Iraq a year and a half ago I have worked closely with groups such as CALL and the Joint IED Task Force to ensure that we are sharing as many lessons as possible. Though I read operations and intelligence reports daily, I also spend time on CompanyCommand.Com to ensure that I have a feel not just for the tactics being learned but how they are being learned and why. To me, that is more crucial and helps me more in my own development as a leader - in combat and otherwise.

Rommel once said that the "American fighting man is the worst-trained but learns and adapts faster than any fighting man in the world." Current military operations are proving the latter at least. I wish every American could see how amazing and resourceful our young servicemen are and continue to be overseas. It is literally an awesome experience, and the resulting pride is overwhelming. And one truly horrible reality is that a war is very healthy for our military. Now, any man who works to understand war knows that peace is an immeasurably better option, and many I know personally are paying a far higher price for this war than I or most have or will. But, in a macro sense, combat operations force us to "innovate and think" in a way no training environment can ever replicate. Competence and creativity at the leadership and troop levels are immediately of supreme importance, as it should always be. I can honestly say that the Marine Corps today is literally light years ahead of the one I joined just six years ago in terms of living our ethos, truly focusing on empowering our junior warriors, and being able to execute combat operations no matter what adversity lay ahead. Don't we expect those traits and abilities of military anyway?

Towards the end of the article there is a quote regarding the very hierarchical and doctrinal Army and its ability to change with its combat-proven and perhaps more-than-confident junior officers. "But can the Army as an institution be nimble enough to leverage them?," Leonard Wong asks. "Do we now sit these Captains down and treat them as we used to?" To me, even the tone of these questions is wrong. The Army should not be fearful or worried about how to accommodate these leaders but how to push them to be even better, to develop all those lessons learned into a refined set of warfighting skills that can be adapted to fight any of a number of the enemies in the present and future. No matter how experienced, those "combat badge" Captains (and yes, I am one as well) still need the same thing they always did: competent, open-mined senior fighter-leaders to help develop them to their full potential. Isn't that why we pay senior officers more anyway? To find a way to do just that? One thing I do know: to not do so would have a direct and negative affect on our military perhaps evident only the next time our country calls on it - and history has shown that our beloved eighteen and nineteen year-olds are the ones that will pay the price.

Two quick final thoughts: first, the current project we are working on is based on the premise that our young Marines are the best in the world, so what would happen if truly we educated, trained and equipped them as such? Should be quite interesting as it draws heavily on the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan...and second, it is amazing how many of the issues in the New Yorker article, and this blog in general, are rooted somehow in creative, competent, and trusted leadership. There is just no substitute.

* * * * *

As always, your thoughts and reactions are welcome. I'll be happy to pass on to Buster any comments you may wish to post. Let me add my personal thanks to Buster - not only for sharing his thoughts - but for giving some of the best years of his life in service to our nation.

Al Chase