The Fox and the Hedgehog–How to build a lasting and Meaningful Career as a Generalist

Remember, if you try to build a career the same way everyone else does by being an expert in your field, it’s hard to imagine you’ll be in demand for senior corporate positions in the future. Don’t miss the following HBR article, entitled All Hail the Generalist by Vikram Mansharamani who is a Business Management expert and lecturer at Yale University. Here is a piece in the article to wet your interest:

“Approximately 2,700 years ago, the Greek poet Archilochus wrote that “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay “The Fox and the Hedgehog” contrasts hedgehogs that “relate everything to a single, central vision” with foxes who “pursue many ends connected…if at all, only in some de facto way.” It’s really a story of specialists vs. generalists. Don’t miss this important article on career changes and what corporations are looking for when hiring.

More tomorrow on thewick blog about how to start building a Generalist career portfolio.

A great read for the Thanksgiving Holiday–Free e-book by Heath Brothers.

Recently, I was reading The Myth of the Garage by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. This e-ibook is from Crown publishers and is free to the reader. The articles are the best of the Heath Brothers columns from Fast Magizine articles from 2007-2011. The stories range from Mutual Fund investing through customer service. The insights about business practices are mind stretching and not always what you expect, so if you want a great read and some AHA moments try reading this bag of business surprises. To access and download the articles in the Myth of the Garage log into the Heath Brothers Resource collection at 

Urgent Message for President Obama–To thine own self be True

Thought Stream —

Message for President Obama —Sort out his relationship with himself—have a talk with himself about his core values, beliefs and vision for America  Figure out why he always wants to compromise and  be  loved. Realize You can’t create Common Ground with people who want to destroy you and block any initiative that requires shared sacrifice. Be who you are. Then craft a message and an Action Plan to communicate this vision to the American people. Accept that the goal of the loyal opposition is to bury him in 2012.

Evaluating President Obama on Principle-Centered Leadership. What’s your score for him?

“In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” Margaret  J. Wheatley Leadership and the New Science

In the real world, the people who get Leadership right, again and again, are the ones that demonstrate in their actions the traits of Principle-Centered Leadership. Using these principles to guide their everyday interactions and decisions will make them a true leader of and for people, and it’s available to anyone who makes these principles “top of the mind” priority.

These principles are a powerful framework for assessing the effectiveness of leaders. It gives us insight into strengths and areas for improvement when evaluating a leader and their ability to set a compelling vision and mission for any organization and team they might be working with. More important, it sets up the opportunity for us to take stock of leaders, such as their use of values, control, selfishness and command. In concrete ways it shows if leaders are congruent in their espoused values and their actions.

Some leaders are followed out of fear or their ability to control others. But what about cresting followers by using these proven traits that make a leader someone people admire and believe in? Top 8 Characteristics of Principle-Centered Leaders (Ch 1, Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey) On a 1 being low on the trait up to 10 always demonstrating this trait how does President Obama stack up as Principle-Centered Leader. So your challenge is to check your perceptions of how President would lead when he was running for the presidency vs. your actual experience with hin as President. Is their a gap between what he said and is noe doing or his he congruent with his promises as a candidate? As we approach his two + years in office. What is President Obama’s score as a Principled-Center Leader?

1. He is a masters of live–long learning.
2. He is always looking to understand and be of service to others. (Empathy)
3. He models positive energy and calm under adversity
4. He believes in other people
5. He leads a balanced live.
6. He sees life as an adventure.
7. He is synergistic in his approach to problem solving (Thinking Win-Win)
8. He practices self-self-renewal and personal change.


Please rep[ort your scores so we can give the President our scorecard. Thanks.


Can you answer these make or break interview questions? TRY “PAR” Technique

Recently, I played tennis with a recent grad from UNC Chapel Hill. During a break at the water cooler he was telling us the challenges and difficulties of pitching the value of his MBA to prospective employers.  I asked him what differentiates him from other applicants? How did his experience and strengths match the consulting firms needs? In other words what unique and extraordinary talents and experiences was he going to bring to the  table  for his interview next week. This what I call the talent proposition or value he is going to sell  as an individual. The questions seemed to puzzle him. He was a bit general and flippant with his response. While I  reviewed their webpage and brochures so I know they need three  IT Strategist for their office in Washington D.C. .  I guess he missed my point that to be seen as a “talent” by a brand name  Consulting Firm they like to hear about you achievements and tangible examples of how you can contribute to growing and differentiating the Firm. What can  you contribute to the organization that is unique to you?  In Marketing, the big questions are always “What is our unique contribution?” and “What differentiates our company from others?” Answers to these questions provides a value contribution answer for the recruiter.

So I ask you as candidate for a position with a Firm , what is your value contribution?  What differentiates you from other candidates?   What do you need to say as a candidate about your experience or strengths so as to be perceived as a potential contributor to the organization?

Answer: I can be a valuable contributor to XYZ firm because I have managed projects on the development of IT strategies for different industries and companies during my MBA internship and in my last professional job. The project  goal and objectives were ABC. We developed an integrated hardware and software strategy that focus on converting legacy systems to SAP. The project design team that I led involved my supervising and managing 12 contractors. Our result was to bring our project in and complete both on time and within budget.  This approach to answering recruiter questions is concise and concrete. It provides an opportunity for follow-up questions so that the interview becomes a two-way conversation not an interrogation.

So the next time you want to show value and your potential value contribution try using the Project/Problem, Action/strategy and Results ( PAR) framework for answering questions.  I guarantee you with practice and forethought your answer will differentiate you as a talented candidate the Firm will want to make an offer to. Good Luck and as always share your results with us.

Does Obama have the courage to step-up and emulate FDR?

I think the question for President Obama is: will he use  his big “megaphone to” to  tie the unnecessary Wars together with the need to rebuild our homeland. The power of the Presidency to humanize the economic pain being experience in America is palpable. Of course he and the Democrats are not to blame for the mess Bushy got the country in, and now they are responsible.

We don’t need to rediscover the wheel when comes to solutions. All we have to do is have the courage to do what FDR did –Put people back to work. This renewal of the FDR type of jobs program like the WPA and CCC will restore people’s faith in Government and retraining for themselves. The Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area which was about 55 miles from Washington D.C. and Baltimore,MD provide the model for integrating work with skill development. By the way the President could go take a look at this area because Camp David, the President’s weekend retreat sets within the Catoctin Mountains.

The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects AdministrationWPA) employed millions of people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and educational literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the the United States had a park, bridges or schools constructed by the agency. This program worked then and with a a slightly different focus on infrastructure and the creation of industrialization of green jobs it can work again to renew America. Expenditures from 1936 to 1941 totaled nearly $12 billion. See summary at Today, it will take about 700 billion, but we would have new roads, bridges and grid improvements and powerful green manufacturing base to get us out of this Depression or what many call the Great Recession.

  • Aligning your own party, followers and opponents takes more than awareness that CHANGE IS NEEDED. It takes being assertive to your true values and principles. It will take political courage.
  • Best vision, strategy and plans, like Health Care, Financial Reform, Education and Energy etc.,  are not enough to guarantee success for a change agenda. It is people, not plans alone that determine outcomes and results. What people need now are jobs.
  • Maslow was right about the hierarchy of needs–when the people feel a threat to their basic needs for safety and survival they become anxious, angry and often frozen in place clinging to the status quo. Current day example the say no republicans and the new reformers the Tea Party.
  • Leaders often present logical, rational and right brain change goals but this approach is limited because it by passes the critical emotional elements of  core principles based on values and passion. These elements are  essential to sell and build commitment for change.
  • Vested interest will not let go of their advantages and status without strong pressure from the leader and his followers.
  • Bipartisanship is a wonderful, if not a little Pollyanna for a pragmatist like Obama, and you need honest brokers on the other side who are committed to concept that we are all in this together and support programs and policies that are aligned with the moral imperative of the ” greatest good for the greatest number.”
  • Don’t start from a position of weakness and compromise before negotiations start. You will end up with less than what you want and are open to being seen as “soft”
  • To as successful as you want to be . You must identify sponsors and willing partners for change–From the onset of HC and Financial Services Reform the Republicans  strategy was just say NO.
  • Time is not always on your side–it taks longer to make change happen than anyone usually thinks.

But MR. President the time is now. People are hurting and need help. I know this won’t be easy to sell but the URGENCY OF NOW calls you to act.

Does White House–Know how to treat supporters with respect and dignity?

“Power has only one duty — to secure the social welfare of the People.” Benjamin Disraeli

Maybe it’s time for the “White House” to put away their rabbit ears and be less sensitive to suggestions and disappointments voiced by  the liberal or progressive left. We ar not “fucking retards”  as Mr Emanuel, Chief of Staff said. Or to paraphrase Robert Gibbs, White House Communications guru, said yesterday–Liberals don’t give the President enough credit and won’t be happy till we have a Canadian Nationalized Health Care System etc. Remember power resides with the wealthy–that’s why people say: Wealth is power, and power is the only thing about which contemporary culture cares.

I think both Gibbs and the Rahm Emanuel comments are unfortunate and maybe symbolic of the “tin ear” and strategic clumsiness of the White House Staff. Have they forgotten all the time, money and work people put in to get the President elected.  We don’t expected to be taken for granted just because we don’t have any other place to go. But we do want this President to succeed and that can not happen by compromising with ourselves, playing nice with a greedy and self-serving political opposition who have no intentions of collaborating on solutions for the worst economic problems and job crisis since the Great Depression. The  just say NO folks want the President to fail so they can return to the failed policies that caused most of these problems in the first place.

People want their leaders to be responsive and sensitive to solving real problems. The elected officials need to take responsibility for creating environments that encourage  open and respectful discussions ( not name calling), problem resolution ( not filibusters that stop constructive action on solving problems) and truth-telling ( not made-up bullshit to harm the opposition) and development of an informed and educated citizenry.  People in leadership positions set a tone for public discussions. Furthermore, our leaders need to model good behavior in which people feel valued as unique individuals.

So let’s get back to working together to build a better America. If at the very least, if you feel powerless and insecure at work and other community and organizational environments to create a civil and respectful tone, you still have the power and role when interacting with friends and family to create a positive climate of respect, growth and security. Remember, people grow in places where honesty, integrity and trust can be counted on and rewarded. What have you done lately to create a healthy environment where you work and live?

Obama’s “Yes We Can ” Warp Speed Decision-Making Style

At a time when the economy is melting down, we are fighting two wars,  change is coming at us like a tornado, and the world is so interdependent we need a leader who gets ” it”. What is IT ? Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can ” Warp Speed Decision-Making Style”

Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership Element 360 Feedback: Way to Keep Growing

“Oh what a great gift we would have if we,could only see ourselves as others see us”  Robert Burns, Leadership Author     

 While President Obama has been setup to stay in communication with a few of his advisers and friends via the new super secret Blackberry. I would propose a more effective communication touchstone–stay in touch by setting up more open and consistent feedback processes such  as —the 360-degree multisource feedback process.   Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership Element 360 Feedback: Way to Keep Growing”

Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership Elements– Self-Efficacy and Community Organization

Psychologist Albert Bandura, the father of Social Learning Theory in 1977, defined self-efficacy as our belief in our ability to succeed in specific situations. The concept of self-efficacy emphasizes the role of observational learning through modeling and social experience in the development of personality. So how did Obama develop his high self-efficacy?  Continue reading “Obama’s “Yes We Can” Leadership Elements– Self-Efficacy and Community Organization”