Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Banishing the Devil in Tampa Bay: Review of "The Extra 2%" by Jonah Keri

The timing of my reading of this new book could not have been more fortuitous; it followed immediately after my reading of "First Break All the Rules." Marcus Buckingham's book bears the subtitle: "What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently." In this great business book, Buckinghom lays out a clear picture of what it takes to be a great manager - and an outstanding leader. "The Extra 2%" by Jonah Keri serves as an excellent case study of how the owners of the Tampa Bay Major League franchise accomplished a stunning turnaround in just a few short years. The team that had been the perennial cellar-dweller in the American League East division shocked the baseball universe and went to the World Series. This book takes the reader behind the scenes to glimpse the changes that were wrought by the team of former Wall Street executives who took over the running of the franchise.

In re-naming and re-branding the team - from the former Tampa Bay Devil Rays to simply the Tampa Bay Rays - the new owners not only banished the devil from the premises of Tropicana Field, they also shined a bright beam of enlightened management. Vincent J.Naimoli, the original owner of the expansion franchise, had run the team and its stadium into the ground, along the way turning public opinion against him and his team by his penny-pinching and high-handed ways.

In 2004, Stuart Sternberg acquired a 48% share in the team, and eventually bought controlling interest in the team and began to assemble a coterie of executives, front office, back office and on field personnel who shared his conviction that the principles that had allowed him to achieve success on Wall Street could be applied to the world of baseball. Inspired by the "Money Ball" mentality that had brought success to the Boston Red Sox under John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein, the Rays' new team of leaders began to make consistent decisions that would eventually bring their Rays to the 2008 post-season.

Sternberg brought with him to Tampa Bay Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman. They wisely chose as the field Manager a baseball veteran in Joe Maddon. Maddon had worked his way up the ladder of MLB, filling almost every possible scouting and coaching role in the minor leagues and major leagues. His keen eye for talent, positive approach to molding ball players and his enthusiasm for using the new analytical tools provided through sabrematrics made him the perfect person to translate into on-field tactics the philosophy of the triumvirate in the front office.

Maddon embodies all of the traits described in Buckingham's book, creating an environment that challenges and empowers his players to do their best in the roles to which they have been assigned.

I have seen with my own eyes many of the dramatic changes that this franchise has experienced. My sister lives in the Tampa area, so she and I have attended many games at Tropicana Field. When I first started watching the Red Sox as they visited Tampa Bay, I noted that most of the fans were wearing Red Sox garb rather than that of the home team. I once did an actual count at a Red Sox vs. Tampa game. 95% of the fans wearing baseball clothing were sporting Red Sox apparel - only 5% showed the Devil Ray logo. By 2009, the balance had shifted so that it was closer to a 50-50% balance when the Red Sox now come to town in South Florida.

As a citizen of Red Sox Nation, I welcome the new rivalry with a Rays team that can challenge and often beat Boston's more established and better funded team. This book gives me a new appreciation for what it took to engineer such a dramatic transformation.



Lots of Hiring Activity - Sampling of Current White Rhino Partners Searches

White Rhino Partners is working with a variety of client companies in pursuing exceptional candidates for several positions:

  • Consulting roles in NYC and Boston - A top NYC-based consultancy is targeting former military officers - both pre-MBA and post-MBA for three of their practice areas.

  • Senior Software Development Project Manager for Cambridge-based firm - The firm creates teams of software engineers that work with clients to deliver long term solutions to complex technology and business challenges. We are looking for a software development project manager to manage 3-5 concurrent projects. Project teams typically include 2-6 software engineers, and the project manager will be responsible for end-to-end execution, including design, development, quality assurance and on-time delivery. The ideal candidate would be someone who has worked for a major consultancy but has had enough of the "road warrior" lifestyle and would like to stay home in the Boston area. The position is located in Cambridge, MA.
  • Hedge Fund in the NYC area - multiple positions in every area of the firm - investment, operations, back-office, IT support. Very specific culture and high barriers to entry. They prefer Ivy league or service academy grads with stellar records of success. Candidates coming out of financial services or consulting do well, as do military veterans.
  • Account executive or supervisor for PR firm - Salem, MA location
  • Sales Professional for (CRO) Contract Research Organization - Boston area, seasoned and hungry hinter to sell clinical trial assay services.
  • Medical Device Opportunity in California - Leading edge medical device company is looking for a superb candidate to take over and grow an existing territory. Best candidate will bring exceptionally strong conceptual skills and interpersonal skills for working collaboratively with physicians in OR/lab settings. Military veterans do well in this organization.

Feel free to forward this information to those in your network who may be qualified and interested in any of these opportunities.

In each case, please contact me for details. Send questions and MS-Word version of your resume to:


Saturday, April 23, 2011

"First, Break All the Rules" by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

I try to be judicious when I use the phrase: "This is a must read book," but in the case of "First, Break All the Rules," the phrase is justified. I became aware of this work when I heard my friend, Dr. Scott Snook of Harvard Business School, refer to the work in several of his lectures. The sub-title of the book tells all that a reader needs to know about its theme and value: "What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently." In recent years, there has emerged a spate of books talking about leadership development, but a dearth of worthwhile writing about the role of a manager in a successful enterprise. Buckingham and Coffman use Gallup Organization data to move the needle to a more balanced position.

Using meta-analysis of interviews with over 80,000 managers, the authors have distilled the essence of what differentiates a great manager from an average manager to six salient questions.

"The most powerful questions are those with a combination of the strongest links to the most business outcomes. Armed with this perspective, we now know that the following six are the most powerful questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for my good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?"
(Pages 33-34)

As you think about this list, how do you stack up as a manager? How does your current supervisor rate? The authors follow up with the statement that a person's immediate supervisor is a more significant indicator of employee performance and retention than company-wide initiatives or culture.

This book does a terrific job of highlighting the major differences between what it means to be a leader and a manager:

"The most important difference between a great manager and a great leader is one of focus. Great managers look inward. They look inside the company, into each individual, into differences in style, goals, needs and motivation of each person. These differences are small, subtle, but great managers need to pay attention to them. These subtle differences guide them to the right way to release each person's unique talents and performance." (Page 63)

4 Keys to Success

The authors have reduced the art of great management down to 4 keys:
  1. Select for Talent
  2. Define the Right Outcomes
  3. Focus on Strengths
  4. Fit the Right fit
"Bear in mind that these Keys are not steps. They are not a structured series of actions intruding on your natural style. Rather, each Key is a simply a way of thinking, a new perspective on a familiar set of challenges. As we mentioned in the introduction, our purpose is to help you capitalize your style by showing you how great managers think, not to replace your style with a standardized version of theirs." (Page 213)

This book is useful to professionals who are currently operating in the role of a manager. It is also valuable to each woman or man who is in the midst of figuring out how to get the most out of the resource of their current manager - or to consider leaving to find a manager who "gets it."



Friday, April 22, 2011

Have a Blessed Easter

To my friends who will join me tomorrow in celebrating the Resurrection, I wish you a happy and a blessed Easter. To my Jewish friends, my prayer is that you spent a joyful Passover remembrance of the miracle that occurred in Egypt so long ago.

For those who are able to spend the day worshiping and eating with family, embrace that joy. For those who will be away from family, be creative in celebrating with the surrogate family of friends and peers that God has blessed you with in your home-away-from-home.

God bless.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

My Visit to Haiti for the First Time in 30 Years: The Parable of the Oases

Haiti first grabbed my heart in 1972 when I spent three weeks there. In 1974, I returned and lived in the mountains - in Fermathe - for a year. I visited briefly in 1981 with my family, and then life intervened and 30 years went by before I was able to return to Haiti. I have been back here in Boston for a few days, and am still processing all that I experienced in traveling around Haiti this past week. The best way that I can think of to describe my experience of returning to Haiti as part of a small team of American businessmen and pastors is to offer a brief parable - the parable of the oases.

There was once a group of experienced world travelers who were asked to visit a once flourishing land that had devolved into a desert wasteland - bestrewn with rubble and garbage and over which hung a pall of hopelessness and despair. These travelers had seen other deserts, as well as lands that prospered, and hoped to bring to the inhabitants of this desert land a sense of hope and anticipation of how best to reclaim their land and make it flourish once again. So they traveled to several corners of the desert, trying to gain an understanding of the depth and breadth of the problem. As they traversed the land, they came upon a number of oases, appearing as islands of greenery and hope in the parched landscape. At each oasis, they asked those living there what secret they had unlocked for bringing life to the once dead and arid land. And the visitors learned that each oasis had discovered a slightly different approach to irrigating and vivifying the land. The visitors also were surprised to learn that the inhabitants of the oases were largely unaware of the existence of the other oases, so they were unable to capitalize on the lessons that were being learned in other parts of the desert. So, the visitors vowed to invite the sheiks from each oasis to travel and meet together to share their secrets. Perhaps with that kind of cooperation and sharing, what were once isolated pockets of greenery in the midst of a dusty desert could begin to overlap and eventually the land could be transformed into a verdant country once again.

Such was the experience that I shared this past week with Tom Nolan, Dru Dodson, Roger Stanage and Corey Unger as we made our way throughout the areas surrounding Port-au-Prince - from Delmas to Petionville to Fort Jacques to Carrefour to Thomazeau to Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake that devastated the land in January 2010. We saw much destruction and despair - but we also saw oases of hope and innovation. Let me sketch out briefly some of those islands of hope.

We worshiped last Sunday morning at a vibrant church in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. The church meets on the unfinished roof of a building under a tarp, surrounded by buildings that are canted at odd angles from the damage done in the earthquake and the aftershocks. Despite the daunting surroundings, the hundreds of faces of the men, women and young people gathered for worship were filled with joy. My heart and spirit were lifted by the experience and by the evidence of The Spirit at work, as well as a vibrant spirit of hope within the souls of the people. Assemblée Partenaires Chrétiennes is growing and thriving under the leadership of Pastor Ernso Jean-Louis. The church also operates a thriving business incubator and incorporates principals of sustainable business development as part of the solution for Haiti's future. An oasis of hope.

We met with leaders from Partners Worldwide, a visionary organization that works to form partnerships between groups of Haitian business men and women and American counterparts who share ideas and resources to encourage the growth of the Haitian businesses, leading to an increase in their ability to provide jobs for Haitians. Daniel Jean-Louis heads up part of the operation in Haiti, and we learned that he graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where my brother Dave lives. Small world, indeed. Partners Worldwide - An oasis of hope.

We traveled to Chambrun, near Thomazeau, to meet with Esperandieu Pierre, who leads Nehemiah Vision Ministries. Part of the vision at this "oasis" is to create jobs for families in this rural communty by growing exportable agricultural crops, including "essential oils" for the perfume industry and beverage industry, as well as raising laying hens and roaster chickens for sustenance and income for the community. An oasis of hope.

Part of the vision of Bishop Joel Jeune at Grace Village in the slum of Carrerfour, located just west of Port-au-Prince, is to turn the earthquake refugee camp, which once housed 20,000 refugees, into well organized communities in which entire families learn the responsibilities of citizenship and are offered opportunities to train for jobs. The camp is run with such impressive efficiency, order and cleanliness, that the UN and other NGO's have repeatedly visited to learn the secret of how Bishop Jeune and his sons, Danny, Jonny and Michael, have managed to gain the trust of the camp's residents. When asked by UN employees about his "secret" for success in gaining the trust of the people, Danny replied with a question of his own, "In running your camps, have you told that people that you love them?" The reply: "Of course not, we are just doing our jobs." In confronting community residents who are reluctant to accept the camp's rules and covenant, Danny replies: "I will outlast you; I love you more than you hate yourself." An oasis of hope.

Pastor Mullery Jean Pierre of Baraca Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY has created the Baraca Community Development Corporation to provide jobs for Haitians in the town of Leogane. Using a sustainable economic development model, BCDC has invested in 30 motorcycles that will form a "taxi" business employing community members who will be able to purchase the motorcycles as they drive and learn to maintain and repair the machines. An oasis of hope.

There are other oases that I do not have time to describe in this article - and still others I am not yet aware of. The vision that I share with the members of the group that I traveled with this past week is to make these oases and their leaders aware of each other. The dream is that these Haitian leaders will encourage and challenge one another to continue growing these islands of hope so that they eventually will overlap and offer hope and sustenance to a growing percentage of Haiti's inhabitants.

We are seeking partners in the U. S. who are willing to stand with us and our Haitian brothers and sisters - not in creating a new organization and not involved in "relief work," but in encouraging investment in sustainable economic development that touches the temporal and spiritual needs of Haiti's people. Contact me for details.

Watch for further details in the coming weeks and months in The White Rhino Report.

Pray for Haiti and its people, and join us in standing with them.

"The desert will bloom like a paradise.

To redeem the desert - to make it all one garden - isn't
that a fine thing to do?"

(From the film "The Winning of Barbara Worth" - 1926)