The Coach's Corner

Archive for October, 2016

More on the “R” Word, Which Makes You Irrelevant

October 31st, 2016 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In the June 2016 Harvard Business Review (, the authors offer some thoughts about what I call the “Next Season.” The suggestions aren’t bad, but most of the people offering advice haven’t yet experienced that phase of life, and really don’t get it. I would suggest reading this short article, but I highly encourage those who are in the “Next Season” — or people advising those in the “Next Season” — to read my Food for Thought, which includes input from more than 20 executives who have successfully navigated the “Next Season.” Enjoy!

Read it here: Thoughts For The Next Season – Last Life Marathon

Stars and Rotten Apples

October 17th, 2016 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

“Stars and Rotten Apples” is the title of Chapter 4 in Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert Sutton. Sutton also wrote The No A _ _ hole Rule, which I would not recommend. His language is a little rough and harsh (not my style), and a conundrum to me — kind of surprising, since he is a professor of engineering and business at Stanford. All that being said, Good Boss, Bad Boss may make my Top Book Picks list.

I have written a lot about having the “right” team, which is code language for hiring the best talent you can and stepping up to people who aren’t performing. If you can get past the rough language, Sutton makes some great suggestions. I’ll attempt to summarize them for you:

  1. Bring the energizers — Interactions with some people can leave you feeling drained, while others can leave you feeling enthused about the possibilities.
  2. Rotten Apples: Bad is Stronger Than Good — The best bosses eliminate the negative, because even a few bad apples and destructive acts can undermine many good people.
  3. Show Them the Love — When people talk about leaving a company, they often aren’t feeling sufficiently appreciated.
  4. Assume the Best — The power of believing that good things will happen to your team and communicating that to them — the self-fulfilling prophecy— is supported by much research.
  5. Cut Loose the Real Losers (ouch!) — Bosses sometimes make excessively glowing judgments about people they have invested a lot of time and money in, or who they simply find to be likable and admirable. (Editorial comment: I have observed this a lot!)
  6. Keep Teams Together — Sutton used the first U.S. women’s national soccer team, which won numerous championships, as an example. Per Sutton, the key to their amazing success was the fact that they were a tight-knit and stable group of players who had played together for a dozen years or so.
  7. Take a Look in the Mirror — On page 124, Sutton provides a 20-question “EGOS Survey” (Evaluation Gauge for Obnoxious Superstars). (Editorial comment: I haven’t gathered up the courage to take the assessment yet, but I’ll bet it’s revealing).

My question is this: If I were to confidentially interview your key team members, would they all give me the same name of someone who should leave? And, just as important, would they all agree on someone (generically) who should be added to the team?

You already know the answers, so save your money and just do it!

Culture Change

October 3rd, 2016 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I’m sure I’ll offend someone with this post, but here goes. For years, I have seriously questioned whether you can change a culture. To me, the culture is the culture. Even so, there are lots of consultants who make good money advising clients on how to change their culture (by the way, some of these consultants are good friends of mine). On March 21, 2016, I posted “How the Mighty Fall” about Arthur Andersen, a company that for decades had an amazing culture, but still failed (read the post). AA, as we called them, had a great culture. What happened?

Well, I recently read Culture is Not the Culprit in the April 2016 Harvard Business Review ( and had an epiphany. The authors, Jay Lorsch (whom I had the privilege of interacting with at a Harvard executive program) and Emily McTague, said: “… culture is not something you ‘fix.’ Rather … cultural change is what you get after you’ve put new processes or structures in place … .”

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like consultant mumbo jumbo, but it’s exactly what Alan Mulally did at Ford Motor Co., which the authors explain. In one of his first management meetings at Ford, Mulally found that all his direct reports brought their assistants to the meeting (picture two huge circles with the direct reports in the inner circle and their No. 2 in the outer circle). When a question came up, the direct reports would defer the answer to their No. 2. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mulally excused the assistants and then told the direct reports that, in the future, they needed to answer the questions — and the No. 2s were no longer invited.

Often, we want to make business more glamorous-sounding, but it’s a lot about accountability, taking responsibility, focusing on the customer/client, treating team members with respect, and what I like to call just basic blocking and tackling.

So, in simple English, don’t focus on the culture. Focus on doing the basics right. Take good care of the customer and your team members.

Are you thinking you need a culture change? If your answer is yes, are your basic processes working well? Really?

p.s. As I’ve said to many of you, it ain’t easy running a company.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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