Monday, March 30, 2009

NYC Event Alert - DecisionPath Workshop on Enabling Organizational Change - Thursday, May 7

My good friend, Dr. Richard Adler, is the founder of DecisionPath and creator of the ForeTell software for "test driving" decisions. Dr. Adler will be leading a workshop in New York City on May 7. Please forward the information below to anyone you know who has an interest in Enabling Organizational Change.

Richard Adler of DecisionPath and two consulting partners will present a half day workshop on Enabling Organizational Change on Thursday May 7, 2009 in New York City. In turbulent times such as our current economic crisis, organizations must change simply to survive, by downsizing, divesting or merging, or changing business models. Such changes upset the status quo, generating employee uncertainty, fear, and often resistance, which is turn reduce focus, morale and performance. US corporations spend $50 billion annually on consulting services to mitigate or forestall such cultural and psychological disruptions. Unfortunately, over 70% report that these change initiatives fail.

The workshop will describe CALM™, an innovative new methodology for achieving successful and sustainable change. CALM builds on the speakers' experience with change strategies at diverse companies and non-profits and DecisionPath’s ForeTell software, which helps “test drive” change strategies to make sure they work before rolling them out. The speakers will discuss how CALM applies to specific change problems brought in by attendees. Don’t miss this stimulating interactive workshop.

Contact for more details and registration information.

Monday, March 23, 2009

“Tribes” by Seth Godin – a Review and a Reaction

Any reader of The White Rhino Report is aware that I am a big fan of Seth Godin – his writing, his speaking, his blogging, his workshops, his persona, his no-holds-barred commitment to innovation. I have made been frequent mentions of him in this Blog over the past few years.

I owe Seth Godin a great deal; he has exerted a strong influence over the development of my career in business. His books and blog articles have challenged and inspired me. His column in Fast Company magazine encouraged me to subscribe to that periodical. His responses to Q&A sessions I participated in – in person and on conference calls – have helped to shape my response to business challenges and opportunities. The day that I spent with Seth as part of a workshop at Dobbs Ferry, NY broadened my horizons. And his personal challenge to me to break away from traditional recruiting firms and launch my own innovative executive search practice led directly to my taking the plunge and launching White Rhino Partners a little over two years ago.

So, it was with great anticipation that I purchased a copy of his latest book, “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.” I was not disappointed. There are nuggets buried throughout these pages. Rather than give a traditional review of this latest offering by Seth, I will, rather, tell you about how I responded to reading this manifesto that challenges each of us sentient beings to be willing to lead in new ways befitting the world that is emerging. Godin uses vignettes and mini-case studies to highlight creative ways in which women and men are leading their own tribes in an age when internet connectivity has removed geographic barriers that heretofore had limited the reach of tribes and their tribal chieftains.

Read the book!

Godin defines a tribe as follows:

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For million of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. . . Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.” (Pages 1-2)
While reading “Tribes,” and in the subsequent times of reflective afterglow, I thought about the tribes to which I belong. I am a member of Red Sox Nation! I proudly display my battle scars and wear the ceremonial headdress – OK, my Red Sox cap – for all the world to see that I identify with this historic and recently renascent tribe. I have been adopted into several local chapters of the West Point Society, and I am honored to be able to rub shoulders with these brave men and women who have served our nation so faithfully. I am part of a “secret” advertising executive’s club in New York City called Chumley’s that meets sporadically at a traditional watering hole. Chumley’s is definitely a tribe – complete with fire water and medicine men!

Then I began to reflect on tribes that I lead, and my discussion of those tribes will constitute the rest of my response to Godin’s treatise on tribes. I will talk about three distinct, but related tribes.

The Moby Dick Tribe - A few months ago, just before the holidays last year, several of us spontaneously decided to share lunch at a Persian restaurant on Huntington Avenue in Boston. One of my friends said, “I know this great place called Moby Dick. Let’s meet there."

Several of us walked there together after attending church, and a few other friends met us at the restaurant. We ordered delicious lamb stew and other regional dishes, and we began talking – about nothing and about everything. The conversation took on a Socratic bent, with questions and answers flying across the table in a series of rapidly morphing fractals. When more than two hours had passed, someone noticed the time and gasped. “I have not had this kind of stimulating conversation since college. Can we do this again every Sunday?”
Thus was born what I will dub “The Moby Dick Socratic Roundtable.” Since that weekend in December, the only Sunday when there has not be some sort of a gathering at Moby Dick was the week between Christmas and New Year’s. There is an explicit understanding that when any “member” of the group is in town, he (or she) is welcome to stop by Huntington Avenue and take a spot at our reserved table. Sometimes there are two of us, and at others times there have been as many as six. I do not really “lead” this amorphous tribe, but I am the common denominator who was originally the one person that knew each of the participants before they began to form individual friendships after meeting at the Round Table. I have no idea what the life cycle for this group will be, but it has become for several of us one of the highlights of the week that we look forward to with eager anticipation. We have a “member” who sometimes makes the trek down from Ipswich. It is a wonderful tribe.

The White Rhino Report Tribe – As many of you know, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the Blogsphere several years ago. I just checked; the first posting of The White Rhino Report was published on December 3, 2004. This Blog was born in response to several individuals hounding me to write something on the Internet. Since that time, the tribe of Blog readers has grown, as has my relationship with individuals from all over the world whom I first met as a result of their reading articles in the Blog. My “leadership” of this tribe constitutes merely sharing in written form ideas that come from my reading, my viewing of film and theater, my listening to live and recorded music, and my meeting interesting people – in person or virtually in cyberspace. The Blog and the people who constitute its readership have become an important part of my life, and as is often the case in life, I feel that I receive back at least as much as I give out within this tribe that I lead.

The White Rhino Intersection Tribe - For several years, friends and protégés have commented to me about how exceptionally diverse is my network of connections – encompassing women and men from the worlds of professional sports, theater, film, television, newspapers, magazines, publishing, advertising, banking, venture capital, marketing, design, software, energy, homeland security, travel, food and beverage industry, academia, military, intelligence, non-profits, music, literature and beyond. I have been asked by several of these protégés to host an event that would bring people together from the far-flung corners of my networks for an event that would allow each participant to rub shoulders with men and women they might not otherwise have an opportunity to interact with.

The planning has progressed far enough for the first event of this kind that I am able to announce the White Rhino Intersection to be held in Cambridge on Saturday, April 18 from 8:00 AM - 5:30 PM.

The agenda is being finalized for the event, but I can tell you that it will include a discussion of the book, “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johanssen. Frans is hoping to be able to join us. Other presenters will include Dr. Scott Snook of Harvard Business School and author of “Friendly Fire,” Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe and author of “The Best Old Movies for Families,” and possibly Donovan Campbell, author of “Joker One,” which just debuted at #15 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Non-Fiction.

If you live in the Boston area, or can travel to Boston for that date, and would like to receive an official invitation to this event, e-mail me at:

I guess whoever assembles with me that day can be considered part of the White Rhino tribe. It is a fun group. Join us!

Thanks, Seth, for your many forms of inspiration to me and my tribes and to thousands of others!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Talent Alert - New York City - Upscale Chocolate Company

I recently met the CEO of a fascinating company: MarieBelle - Luxury Chocolate and Cacao. This company, with two retail locations in Manhattan, is on a rapid growth trajectory and is looking to hire unique young talent - women and men who are prepared to grow with the company.

The clientele for MarieBelle is very upscale and sophisticated, and that is the image that needs to be portrayed by the employees who are the face and voice for the company. There are part-time and full-time opportunities available in customer service and in administration.

How will you know if you should apply?

Do you share MarieBelle's passionate commitment for creating a memorable customer experience? Do you conduct yourself with an air of grace and elegance while serving your clients? Do you have that certain "je ne sais quoi"? (If you had to head to the dictionary to translate that phrase, this may not be the job for you!)

If you are interested in learning more, let me know and we can discuss details about the opportunities that await the right people at Marie Belle.

The hot chocolate I sampled at the 762 Madison Avenue location was the best I have ever had. I recommend both the Spicy and the Dark. Magnifique!

At this location, you can enjoy an intimate Jazz Soiree each Wednesday evening. For details:

Bon appetit!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Talent Alert - Medical Imaging Sales Managers - Rocky Mountain Region + Georgia/Florida

One of our client companies is looking for sales managers with experience in medical imaging - one for the Rocky Mountain Region and the other for Georgia/Florida. Candidates must already live in the region.

Please alert any qualified candidates in your network and have them contact me for details.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mini-Review of “A Most Wanted Man” by John Le Carre

I have many “favorite authors.” In the genre of spy novels, John Le Carre stands at the top of the pantheon of very good writers. This Oxford graduate brings an elegance and panache to the world of espionage that few other writers have been able to match. Over the years, I think I have read most of his novels, and seen the movies that have been made based on his works – “Russia House,” “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “The Constant Gardener,” to name a few.

With his latest novel, “A Most Wanted Man,” he adds a nice exclamation point to an already stellar career.

This was what he had to say when he had finished the process of creating this work:

“Dear Reader,

New spies with new loyalties, old spies with old ones; terror as the new mantra; decent people wanting to do good, but caught in the moral maze; all the good, sound, rational reasons for doing the inhuman thing; the recognition that we cannot safely love, or pity, and remain good ‘patriots’ – I’m pleased with the way this novel turned out.

Best, John Le Carre”

Turn out well it did. In this up-to-date and action-filled tale set in Hamburg, Germany, the author comments on the moral compromises we are asked to weigh in promulgating the “War on Terror." In that regard, it is both an entertaining and a cautionary tale.



Monday, March 16, 2009

Mini-Review – “Kaspar Hauser: A Foundling’s Opera” at the Flea Theater in Tribeca

Elizabeth Swados has done it again! She has found an unconventional way, using operatic narrative, to tell the story of a troubled and mysterious young person. Her surprise Broadway hit, Runaways, put her on the map for most lovers of the theater. She has devoted a career to her passion for framing and presenting on stage the stories of young women and men who have been neglected, abused, misunderstood or otherwise disenfranchised.

This past Thursday evening, I attended a performance of her latest work: “Kaspar Hauser: A Foundling’s Opera” at the Flea Theater in Tribeca. I was not sure what to expect. I sat enraptured by the energy of the story-telling – as written by Swados and her co-writer, Erin Courtney – and as enacted by The Bats, the amazing group of gifted young actors in residence at The Flea.

The opera will be running through Saturday, March 28. If you are in or near NYC, you will find this to be an event not to be missed. I attended the show with a friend who is an Equity actor, and he was blown away with the experience. We both were.

Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 7:00 PM through March 28

Saturday Matinees at 3:00 PM

For Tickets, call (212) 352-3101

See the links below for details about the show:

Kaspar Hauser Description

Village Voice Overview of Kaspar Hauser



Friday, March 13, 2009

Head to Portsmouth, NH to See “All the Rage”

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to make readers of The White Rhino Report aware of my inability to be completely objective when it comes to recommending the new play, “All the Rage.” The playwright, Greg Gaskell, and the three principle actors, Gaskell, Andy Fling and Chris Savage, all grow up with my four sons, and are in many ways almost surrogate sons of mine. So, there was a modicum of parental pride in my enjoyment of the World Premiere of “All the Rage” last weekend at the Players’ Ring Theater in Portsmouth, NH.

Having laid my cards on the table, let me tell you that this show represents some of the best stage writing and ensemble acting I have seen in a long while outside of New York and London. Gaskell’s comedic writing is better than some of the best of Neil Simon. The timing of entrances, exits, dialogue, competing simultaneous monologues and pregnant pauses work to create an atmosphere that is both believable and electric. The ensemble comes together to create a lovably dysfunctional family and their once-and-future love interests. They are each note perfect in their roles and portrayals, and together, they are magical.

Writing in the Portsmouth Herald, Tama Le does a masterful job of describing what makes this play such a satisfying evening at the theater.

Portsmouth Herald Review of "All the Rage"

I would add only one additional thought to Tamara’s well- conceived review. I shared this sentiment on Opening Night during the talk-back session between actors and audience.

In most well-written tragedy or serious drama, there are moments of comic relief that allow the audience to take a breath and recover from the emotional bludgeoning of tragic scene after tragic scene. Gaskell turns that concept on its head. In this play, which is full of well-earned laughs – earned honestly by telling the truth about our human foibles – there is a breath-taking moment of what I will call “poignant relief” when two of the characters connect in a moment of pure honesty and understanding. It brought tears to my eyes, and it felt all the more real because it added a welcome new flavor to the bouillabaisse of belly laughs that had been the bill of fare for most of the evening up until that crucial plot twist.

For readers in the Boston area – or anywhere within a couple of hour’s drive of the New Hampshire Seacoast – let me say that this play is worth planning a road trip for. Head to Portsmouth, dine in one of the many wonderful restaurants that the Port City has to offer (I’ll be happy to offer recommendations if you care to ask), and settle in for an evening of superb entertainment.

The play runs through the final weekend in March. Order tickets now, because this show will sell out.

Link to The Players' Ring Website



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iraq 5 - Poems from a Warrior Father for His Warrior Son

A few days ago, my friend, Dr. Scott Snook of the Harvard Business School faculty, shared with me some remarkable poems. Despite my love for literature and for reading, I must confess that I do not read much poetry. But these poems reached out and grabbed me by the throat and by the heart. They are remarkable. They are clearly written by a warrior/poet – the kind we do not often find today.

These five poems were penned by Dr. Joseph T. Cox, former United States Military Academy English professor. Dr. Cox was an Army Colonel who served in Vietnam. He has been a mentor to Dr. Snook. He currently serves as Head Master at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania. This warrior, and published poet, is a true Renaissance Man.

His collection of poems, “Garden’s Close” is available on line. I just ordered a copy.

With the kind permission of Dr. Cox, I am pleased to share this set of poems:

Iraq 5

Fathers and Sons

for 1LT Matthew D. Cox

My boy lives a half a world away, a man

leading other men, but he will always be my boy.

I see curly blond hair and sky-blue eyes

sparkle, a face filled with smile as he

plucks a big bass from a Tennessee pond.

I see the tense stare, the elbow held high,

as he hangs in on first curve balls of Babe Ruth.

I see the sweetness of a face in the glow of midsummer

fireworks, and long eyelashes on sleeping lids

as I carry him to bed and lay him next to Boo.

I am proud that he is a man leading men

and miss him because he is so far away,

but what I miss most is the little boy who

will always and never again be my little boy.

First Snow Fort Wayne

Under the wing, Fort Wayne, Indiana, white with first snow,
thirty minutes left to go. Thirty years of memories including
Larry, one of my soldiers in Vietnam, a father at fourteen,
illiterate, hard working, always there to please.
Oh how he missed his dark, cold, prairie city
how he bragged of bowling strikes, his beautiful
wife, and the high life in Fort Wayne.
Today my son leads similar boys
who kill illiterate boys in shattered
desert towns, angry boys armed with resentment
of having been under too many heels
for too long a time. The pilot tells us
its right around freezing at O’Hare
and the winds are light. On the other side
of the world, my son is thankful for cool nights
and his soldiers’ ability to fight in the dark,
but when he tries to sleep, his two friends
lost to suicide bombers crowd his cot.
Larry, too, has trouble sleeping and lingers
too long in the bowling alley where he works
after locking up. The snow in Fort Wayne
is early this year and heating oil at an all-time high.
He thinks of his son who drives a truck on roads
where angry boys carefully wire their gift of death.


Walking with my son on the sandy hook, we stare at a full moon
that he finds hard to believe polishes the rough desert he just left.
We gaze across at the lights of a great city and the dark spaces.
The spirit of atrocity fades in soft rhythms of Jersey beach.

The more we talk, the more we realize we are cowards, retreating
into a common bond of camaraderie, medicating ourselves with myths
of old soldiers. On his left wrist he wears his best friend’s name,
tangible reminder of a man disintegrated by a suicide bomber.

In this sweet air, it is hard to recall the daily dragon’s breath
that claimed a family’s only son. My son has difficulty talking.
He made this pilgrimage to explain love in a time of fear,
but it is easier to trade clichés and swap sanitized sound bites.

On the drive back, my son mentally walks a soldier’s stations of the cross:
go to war, glimpse the darkness in your soul, try to find your way home.
Haunted by survivor guilt, he will learn that even those who lived are lost.
After war the homes we try to come home to are no more.

Second Tour

The night before Thanksgiving
my son told me he’s going back to Iraq,
again. The first cost him his two best friends
and his CO’s legs. He doesn’t talk about it much.
This time he goes to Fort Riley
for two or three months first.
I told him that after that shit hole,
Iraq might even look good.

His grandfather went to Germany,
got shot twice, came back an angry,
sullen man, still picking shrapnel out of his legs
as he fought the middle-aged battle of the bulge.
I had my time in Vietnam, never shot,
but came back different, or so my
first wife told me before she left.

Every soldier’s war is unique, every minute,
every step, every square foot, even for those
in the same country at the very same time.
My only wish is that my son will find peace,
but I honestly don’t know how to tell him that,
and when I try, it sounds like just one more lie.

Post Stress

For years after the war
I had those dreams.
You know the ones:
trapped in the burning helicopter,
watching the bullet as it flew
toward that space between your eyes,
feeling the impact of jagged steel
tear through your lower torso.
We all had those dreams,
the ones in which you didn’t wake up
before the terrible moment
before you found yourself dying,
again and again.

I knew I was better when I
started waking up before I died.
Recently, at the start of each war,
those who died would visit my dreams
and ask, “Why didn’t you die?”
I thought I was lucky,
but it wasn’t until my son was lost
that they could hear my answer,
and now I dream I am dead.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Review of “Joker One” by Donovan Campbell – Cutting through the Fog of War with the Lamp of Love

Next Tuesday, March 10, “Joker One” will hit the shelves of the bookstores nearest you. It has already hit me hard. I was privileged to be given a pre-publication copy of the book to read. Before I tell you something of the substance of the book, let me comment briefly about the substance of the author, Donovan Campbell.

I first met Donovan – “Dono” to most of his friends – when he was at Harvard Business School pursuing an MBA degree. I was an invited guest at the annual Marine Corps Birthday bash held at HBS. The last toast of the evening was given by a young Marine I had never seen before. It was an eloquent and moving toast to those who had fallen in combat. I turned to someone beside me and asked:

“Who is that young man? I need to meet him”

“That is Donovan Campbell.”

The next day I was speaking at a Career Fair sponsored by the HBS Armed Forces Alumni Association. After I had given my talk as part of a panel discussion, several students waited to have one-on-time with me. At the end of the line, I recognized Mr. Campbell. When he finally made his way to where I was sitting, he said:

“Sir, several of the things you said today really resonated with me. I would like to discuss them with you. As I begin my time here at Harvard, I want to be sure that I do not miss any of the lessons that God has in store for me to learn here.”

And learn them he did! Donovan graduated with distinction as a Baker Scholar. He used his time at HBS to reflect on his experiences of leading Marines in combat. “Joker One” is the product of those years of distillation and reflection. This book takes its place beside the growing oeuvre of insightful memoirs that are emerging from the experiences that JMO’s (Junior Military Officers) from all of our military branches are sharing as they return from their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dono sets the scene well in describing why he felt compelled to tell the story of his USMA unit, dubbed “Joker One”:

“Now, nearly three years after that August day [in Ramadi], those Marines and I have long since parted ways. Our time together in Iraq seems like someone else’s story, for there’s nothing in America even remotely similar to what we experienced overseas, nothing that reminds us of what we suffered and achieved together. And none of us have really been able to tell that story, not fully, not even to our families, because each small telling takes a personal toll. No one wants to suffer the pain of trying to explain the unexplainable to those who rarely have either the time or the desire to comprehend. So, many of us have simply packed our war away and tried hard to fit into normalcy by ignoring that time in our lives.

But our story is an important one, and I believe it’s worth telling truthfully and completely no matter what the cost.” (Page 7)

This past week, I had the privilege of hearing Medal of Honor recipient, Captain Paul Bucha, speak to a small gathering in Chicago. In talking about the price that our young soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen are paying as they fight the war on terror, he highlighted the relentless OP-Tempo (Operational Tempo) and intensity of combat. He compared the time in combat experienced today with that of previous wars. In his opinion, there is no comparison. Never before in history have U.S. troops been asked to keep up combat operations day after day, week after week, month after month with virtually no break. Campbell describes this phenomenon as it impacted his unit, Joker One:

“During our entire deployment, I prayed for something other than this standard day, for a respite from the unrelenting pace of combat, but a break never came. Instead, we fought and fought and fought until, on our return, one out of every two of us had been wounded – a casualty rate that, we were told, exceeded that of any other Marine or Army combat unit since Vietnam.” (Page 8)

Dono’s humility in describing his pilgrimage to becoming a leader fit to face the challenges that were thrown at Joker One makes this book a compelling and moving read. He paints an honest and sometimes ugly picture of his personal struggles and those of his marines and the officers who commanded them to learn both to take lives and to save lives – depending on the circumstances.

“So, that’s me: an ordinary young man who once made the choice to serve. I wish I could present someone greater to the reader, someone whose exploits and whose fame could automatically make people sit up and pay attention to the story of my men, but I can’t, because I’m not that someone. However, to this day I love my Marines with all that I’m capable of, and in spite of my shortcomings I want to do my utmost to help tell their tale. Though I can’t offer myself to the reader, I can offer my men, and I can tell a true story with love and heartfelt emotion from the inside. And I hope and I pray that whoever reads this story will know my men as do I, and that knowing them, they too might come to love them.” (Page 10)

I found Dono’s intimate tale of Joker One’s struggles with combat in Ramadi to be deeply moving. One of the unit’s Marines, a man by the name of Bolding, lost both of his legs from an RPG attack. Campbell shares the depth of the despair that he had to deal with in the wake of Bolding’s traumatic injuries. His account of those moments is among the most raw and honest and transfixing of any war memoir I have read. The context for this excerpt is that Campbell has just briefed his Marines on what has happened to Bolding and how they will respond by continuing to pursue their mission:

“Now, almost every one of my Marines was nodding. Some were still crying and some were still dry-eyed, but they were nodding along with the words. I looked at Teague. He was nodding, too, and I knew that I had gotten through.

As soon as I knew this, though, the mantle of leadership crumbled, and the full weight of what had happened finally overwhelmed the tactical numbness. The dull rage died, and in its place I felt only tremendous sadness and the crushing feeling of failure. Because of my decisions, one of my Marines had lost both of his legs. It may not have been my fault, but it was certainly my responsibility because everything that happened to my Marines was my responsibility. That’s one of the first things you learn as an officer, and if you’re a leader who’s any good at all, then as you go on you know that you always err on the side of taking too much responsibility until the weight crushes you, and then your men pick you up, and then you take still more responsibility until they need to pick you up again.

Staring at the Marines, I started getting crushed, and I started losing it. Tears welled up, and I choked them back and probably finished up the talk with a few inane, meaningless sentences. Then, I literally turned on my heels and fled the room, helmet in hand, for the filthy, excrement-encrusted, piss-stained Iraqi bathroom down the hall and to the right. I arrived there blind from tears and banged open the door with my shoulder. Then I sunk to the ground, curled up on myself, and cried and cried and cried.

I didn’t know it, but the Gunny had noticed my abrupt departure. Maybe ten seconds after I crashed through the door, he opened it very gently and looked in on me. I didn’t see him then, and in fact I didn’t notice the Gunny’s presence at all until he sat down next to me and wrapped his arms around me. Instinctively, I hugged him back, buried my face into the rough Kevlar of his shoulder, and sobbed. He told me that it was alright, and then he didn’t say anything at all.” (Page 231)

Despite the rigors of war, the breakneck pace of combat operations, and the devastation of losing brothers in arms to injury and death, Campbell and his men were able to maintain an overall positive outlook on life as they prepared to leave Iraq and return home. They were to return very different men, to be sure, than those who had landed in the war zone so many months before.

“Fortunately, the rest of Joker One picked up the slack [for a depressed Campbell] as we approached our final two weeks in Ramadi. In spite of their weariness, in spite of the ever-increasing strain, Bowen, Noriel, Teague, and all of my other team leaders made one last push to the finish. They inspected their men with care, planned their missions in detail, and gently corrected me when I made mistakes. They held themselves together, and watching them lead, I started a slow recovery, although I didn’t know it at the time.

Their men were even more amazing. The Mahardys and the Hendersons and the Guzons – the ones who’d deployed with barely two months of training and who’s kept me awake with worry on the plane flight over – had been transformed from wide-eyed recruits into slit-eyed combat veterans. They’d seen all the horrors of war firsthand, again and again, but somehow, someway, they retained their faith in each other and in their mission. They knew with unshakeable certainty that the Corps was strong and that Joker One was strong and that given enough time, we’d both prevail no matter what the circumstances.

They loved one another and their mission – the people of Ramadi – in a way that I didn’t fully appreciate until just a few days before we left the city, during the second week of September. I’d run into Mahardy, smoking outside the hangar bay as usual, and I’d asked him the standard throwaway question: Was he excited to go home? The response shocked me.

On the one hand, Mahardy said, he was excited to see his family, but on the other, he was sad to leave before the job in Ramadi was finished. . . Furthermore, going home meant that his new family, Joker One, wouldn’t be around all the time like they were now. Mahardy loved the guys, he said, and he wasn’t sure what he’d do without them there.” (Page 299-300)

At the end of the day, paradoxically, this war story is a story about love. This is a love story that comes out of the leather-tough Marines Corps. In that regard, Campbell’s book reminds me of Bill Murphy’s book about the West Point class of 2002, “In a Time of War.” That story, about Army soldiers, also turns out to be about love, as well. How ironic. How poignant.

Review of “In a Time of War”

My overall impression – after reading through this book for the second time – is that through his writing, Donovan Campbell shines a warmly loving fog light that offers a modicum of hazy illumination through the nimbus that is the fog of war. Dono joins Dante in limning a description of a ring of Hell that few of us could imagine

It is not a picture that is easy to apprehend or to comprehend. But for those who are willing to invest the time, energy and tears that it takes to journey through the pages of this memoir, the destination is one of greater understanding, empathy and appreciation of what Campbell, his Marines and their ilk have endured to be faithful to their call to be Semper Fi.

I challenge you to take “the time and the desire to comprehend.” You won’t be sorry.

As I write this review, I have paused to listen to the Podcast of today’s edition of NPR’s acclaimed program, “Fresh Air.” I encourage you to listen to Donovan Campbell’s interview with Terry Gross.

NPR Fresh Air Link

Here is a link to the official Website for the book, "Joker One." You can order the book through this site, through or pick it up at a bookstore.

Joker One Website


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mini-Review: "False Impression" by Jeffrey Archer

A couple of years ago I reviewed another novel by Jeffrey Archer.

Previous Archer Review

In that review, I talked about my having met Archer in London. I also took issue with his misuse of the term "alumni." I have no such ax to grind this time around. Archer has shown himself in "False Impression" to be the consummate story teller that many prominent reviewers have acclaimed him to be.

From opening paragraph to denouement, Archer paints a vivid portrait of murder, forgery, deception and double-dealing - all set in New York, London and Tokyo in the days just before and after 9/11/2001.

I am loathe to reveal too many of the plot details, because there are some quirky twists and turns appropriate to a novel that centers on a stolen Van Gogh self-portrait. Archer frames his story beautifully with 9/11 events, memorable characters and fast-paced action.

If you like action-based fiction written in stylish Queen's English, and have an interest in the world of art, this book is for you.



Top 10 Observations about Life in the Private Sector and Beyond for Military Veterans

Last week my travels took me to Chicago - one of my favorite cities in the world. The bulk of my "liberal arts education" took place on the streets of the South Side during the memorable 1960's.

See recent relevant posting:

Grant Park Revisited Posting

I was humbled and honored to be invited to address the combined alumni clubs for the Chicago area of all of the U.S. Service Academies - West Point, Annapolis, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy. Under the inspired leadership of Jack Amberg, the clubs are among the most active local groups of service academy graduates in the nation. The meeting was held at the beautiful Union League Club of Chicago.

Several readers of The White Rhino Report who were aware of the topic of my talk last week have asked me to post the outline of my talk. I am pleased to do so below. Based on the direct and indirect feedback I received after giving the talk, a number of men and women in the room that evening found my observations particularly relevant to this trying job market. I trust the outline below may be of some help to a broader audience in thinking about how to maximize the advantages that a background in military leadership brings to a candidate in the private sector.

Top 10 Observations about Life in the Private Sector and Beyond for Military Veterans

1. Offer of 1-on-1 help in thinking about career choices – my role as a recruiter

a. Who can I help? Probably 10% of those in this room today

i. Renaissance Men and Women

ii. Those wired as entrepreneurs

iii. Those who may choose to follow an alternate career path:

1. When you look over the list of traditional companies that hire military, you find yourself thinking: “These are all great companies, but I am wondering if there might be something else out there for me – starting my own business, working for a start-up, working in government service.”

2. If that describes you, then we should talk.

b. Form of help:

i. Resume review

ii. Phone conversations

iii. Access to my network

iv. Objective feedback

v. A listening ear

2. Relax – Part I

a. Do not stress out inordinately worrying about interviewing for jobs.

b. Of the hundreds of Service Academy grads and former military officers I know personally, not one of them is homeless or even close to indigent – even in a down market!

3. Relax – Part II

a. Your next job may only be a stepping stone in a progression of career moves, so don’t worry about making a wrong move that could cripple the rest of your career.

b. Your choices are not between “good vs. bad,” but rather between “good vs. best”!

c. In the past year, I have met with or talked on the phone with dozens of service academy grads and former officers whom I have mentored over the years and who have contacted me to talk about their next career move. In each case, he or she is in their first or second year of the job they took out of the military or out of grad school, and they feel – for a variety of reasons – that it is time to move on. This is not an aberration, but is becoming the norm.

4. Realize that your search for a job is a two-way street.

a. You should be just as selective in choosing a company as the company is in screening candidates.

i. You should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

b. Make sure that the job, the corporate culture, the hours you will be expected to work, the amount of travel you will be expected to do all fit with the game plan that you and your family have decided is appropriate for this time in your career and this time in your family life.

i. Earlier and earlier in their careers, thoughtful individuals are asking tough questions about life-style and family balance before jumping at a lucrative offer.

c. Be aware that at the level of responsibility you will be assuming, bad hiring decisions sometimes happen, and when they do happen, they usually result – not from a misaligned of hard skills with the task at hand – but from a misalignment at the level of the intangibles:

i. Corporate culture

ii. Value systems

iii. Communication style

iv. Decision-making style

v. Work-life balance

5. Know your Value Proposition as a Military Leader

a. Do not be intimidated by others in the job market that have already been in the business world and may know the nomenclature better than you do.

b. You bring to the table things they can only dream about:

i. Leadership experience that has been battle-tested

ii. A sense of proportionality – what is truly a “life or death” situation and what is something less than that

iii. A knowledge of what it takes to motivate a work force

iv. How to achieve consensus under duress

v. How to accept responsibility for your actions and their results

vi. A solid ethical base that has been tested in the crucible of combat

vii. Reliability

viii. How to function as part of a team

c. Be aware that many civilian prospective employers may not appreciate the full range of your value proposition and distinctives.

d. It is your job to humbly educate them and disabuse them of some of the stereotypes they may be harboring about the military

6. Be aware of the power of narrative – and be prepared to use it

a. In overcoming stereotypes about the military and in making people aware of who you are and what you are capable of doing, master the art of story telling.

b. Joe Rich quotation: “Every successful businessman/woman needs 10 good stories they can tell

c. Stories make you memorable and intriguing

i. They simultaneously touch the cognitive and the emotional level of communication and make that communication “sticky.”

7. Mentoring, mentoring, mentoring

a. At every point in your career, look for mentors among the men and women in your network

i. Maintain relationships with mentors from earlier stages of your life

b. In considering joining a company, explore if it is a mentoring environment

c. Can you identify potential mentors among the senior leadership team?

d. Ask specific questions as you interview: “Who is your mentor in this organization?” “Who are you mentoring at the moment?”

e. Find someone to for you to mentor

i. Don’t buy into the lie: “I don’t have time”

ii. You develop habits and priorities and values now that will carry into the rest of your career

8. Be aware of the power of networking – and use that power wisely

a. I am in a position to observe many networks in operation.

b. The graduate networks of the top business schools are among the best in terms of their reach and the influence of those within the networks

c. Those networks are trumped by the Service Academy networks and ex-military networks – which are, hands-down, the most responsive networks I have ever encountered.

d. An important principle of networking is to build and nurture your network before you need it.

i. The Mike Cooper story – USMA ‘2002

9. Use this time to process what you have experienced as a military leader

a. Use tools like Grossman’s books, “On Killing” and “On Combat” to think about what you may have experienced in combat.

b. If you recognize any symptoms of PTSD in yourself and in those who are close to you, address them early so they can be dealt with in a healthy and healing way.

10. Do not neglect the spiritual and emotional part of your life as you are caught up in the whirlwind of job hunting

a. If one of your differentiators as a military leader is your strong and reliable ethical base, make sure that your ethical base has a spiritual anchor that keeps it from drifting amidst the pressures of school and of work.

b. I am prompted to mention this factor because of a conversation I had a few years ago with a former President of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School. As he was getting ready to leave HBS to start his new job, he said to me: “You have been such an important part of the process of evaluating where I am heading in my career, I am wondering if I can call on you to help me in a part of my life I have been neglecting. I don’t have a clue how to address the deficiency in the spiritual part of my life. Would you be willing to help me there, as well?”

c. The process of looking for a job – even under the best of circumstances can be a very discouraging and dehumanizing process.

i. Be aware of the emotional toll that weeks and months of fruitless knocking on doors may take on your self-esteem.

ii. Everyone in this room is here because of a lifetime of achievement at the highest levels in some of the most selective organizations in the world.

iii. You are winners

iv. Yet, some mornings you look in the mirror and wonder if your best days are behind you.

v. That response is normal – but must be addressed

vi. Use your network of significant others and trusted peers and advisors to help you to monitor your emotional response to the war of attrition that is a job search in this market.

As always, I welcome your comments.