Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Story of Lester

Before I dive into the story that follows, I want to take a moment to talk about someone who has had (and is having) a huge impact on my life.  Coming out of business school in the mid-eighties, I joined Kimberly Clark as a marketing assistant.  My first boss in those days was a great guy named Bruce.  Over the years he and I have stayed close, with him being more than just an old boss and a mentor, he has been a great friend.  Recently, Bruce was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) and I have had the chance to see him a number of times since the diagnosis.  Those visits (one which occurred last night) have been "gems" for me.  His peace, his grace, his love and his humor are inspiring and intoxicating!

The following story occurred when I had first met Bruce.  His job was to help assimilate me into the company and as I went off for my training period, he helped keep an eye on me and made sure that I stayed on the right track.  Whether his job was easy or hard I'll never know, but Bruce was great then and continues to help me "stay on the right track" now!

The Story of Lester

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three Impact Points of Leadership

Over the past 20 years of my business career, I have had the chance to lead a wide variety of teams. Ranging from my first experience of leading a small brand team when I was brand manager of Breyers Ice cream at Kraft Foods (thank you Chis, Alan and Marcello for putting up with such a novice boss) to my latest role where I had the privilege of leading a large, highly performing, sales organization at The Coca-Cola Company. Regardless of size or structure, I learned that leadership is an art, and very different from management. I learned that you "manage" projects/timetables/initiatives/ etc but that you "lead" people. While this delineation seems simple, it is also vital! I have often seen leaders attempt to "manage" their teams in the same way they "manage" their projects, usually with very little success.

Through the course of my career, and through a great deal of trial and error, I started experiencing that my "leadership" actions seemed to be centering on three areas of my team's "beings". Now I don't mean anything metaphysical by this, but I do mean that my actions seemed to be focused on three areas or "impact points" of my teams.

1.) their minds
2.) their hearts
3.) their hands and feet.

what follows is a review of this idea that I wrote a few years ago and recently edited. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Thee Impact Points Thee Impact Points levisay7349

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Anton Ego's order

It seems impossible these days to keep track of all the bad news swirling around us. If it's not a discussion about another company laying off employees, it's a headline story of a failed insurance giant who is paying exorbitant "retention" bonuses to employees who no longer work for the firm. In college I had the chance to read Samuel Beckett's, Waiting for Godot, and never before have I felt that I/we are actors in that "theatre of the absurd". In the midst of this swirling "absurdity", it's easy to lose track of what's important, what's good, what's true. In a recent moment of "swirl", my mind was brought back to that sage of truth... Anton Ego. For those not familiar, Anton Ego is a marvelous character from the Disney*Pixar film Ratatouille. It was a scene towards the end of the film that triggered my memory when Anton comes to the restaurant to sample the food and write his review:

French overstuffed waiter approaches the table:

Waiter: "Do you know what you would like this evening sir?"

Anton Ego:"Yes, I think I do... after reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, do you know what I am craving...?

Waiter: looking on overwhelmed (like many of us these days!)

Anton Ego: " a little perspective. that's it (closes menu) , I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"

While I have never had the chance to try the 1947 vintage of Cheval Blanc ( the wine mentioned in the film) I am certain that almost any wine would go beautifully with an order of "fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective"!

We get so focused on what we don't have or what we have lost (our 401k's seem to be a natural starting place) that we forget to remember how much we do have. I think I have my statistics right when I say that over 1 billion people on our planet (of a total of a bit more than 6 billion) live on $1.00/day or less. We need to try to remember how fortunate we are to:
have a home,
have food on our families tables,
have an education,......

I am not trying to say that things aren't tough and for those without work, it can be a very scary time. What I am trying to suggest is that we all need to take a big breadth and try to keep it all in perspective.

This past weekend, my ten year old son Bryson as a member of his school's chess team,competed in the state chess tournament. On the ride home, I heard his voice say from the backseat..." we're the 5th best chess team in the state... and that's saying alot!" I am certainly proud of Bryson and his team for coming in 5th in the tournament. What was so refreshing about his comment was that he wasn't focused on the four teams ahead of his team. He was "in the moment", proud of what he and his team had accomplished. For me, an order of "fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective"!

From whatever source you can find, whether a character in a movie, a child in the backseat, or any other fountain of inspiration, try to find your order of" fresh,clear, well seasoned perspective" every day

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aunt Lorraine's Law

There are so many instances in life where the challenges we face seem insurmountable.  Think about challenges in your work life,  or in your family.  So often the issues/problems seem so big that all we can do is "admire" them from afar like some distant mountain range never to be crossed.  If you consider the immense financial "mess" that this country (and the world) are struggling through, it is natural to wonder where to start to try to make things better.  

Many times in my life I have been faced by this exact feeling and have often thought back to a lesson from my Aunt Lorraine.  (story and recipe follows!)  I have shared this story so often in my work that I have heard it told back to me by someone who didn't have any idea that Aunt Lorraine was actually my Aunt!  There is no fonder form of flattery for a storyteller that to have his or her story retold to them!

Once you've read through the story, don't forget to try the recipe, it's a real treat!



Aunt Lorraine's Law Aunt Lorraine's Law levisay7349

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Always a bigger boat

It's been almost 30 years since I first "learned" this important lesson.  What is amazing (and certainly at times discouraging) is that I seem to need to keep "learning" the same truth.... that the "things and stuff" of life are fleeting.   That truly "valuable" things in life cannot be measured with dollars or euros, or graphs and charts.  That at the end of life, we are all wishing we had more time with the ones we love, or for those of us now who have lost loved ones, what "stuff/money" would you give for an hour with that loved one?   

This idea seems more important now due to the recent market dynamics.  A friend of mine named Paul from the twin cities recently commented that the "dow jones industrial average doesn't represent him."  He wasn't saying that he had no investments in the dow, nor was he saying that he had no interest in how the markets were doing.  He was saying that the ups and downs of the market aren't an indicator on how he and his family is doing.  In some way he was declaring a bit of freedom from allowing his happiness to be too influenced by the vagaries of the market.  Truly a powerful idea!

Take a look at the following story and let me know your thoughts.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I have had a number of friends suggest recently that I should write a blog.  After a bit of "hemming and hawing", I am finally at the place to start.  While I am sure that the topics will expand over time, I am going to start with a focus on lessons of life, leadership, wine, food, family stories and the spaces in between.  

Over the past few years, I have been thinking a lot of the idea of "Legacy" thus the title of this blog.  This idea of focusing on what we are leaving behind in this journey called "life"continues to come up as an important idea, whether in the context of a family, a work environment, a social group, what have you.  The following story comes from a little book that I wrote a few years ago with a dear friend David Crafts.  Sadly, David passed away soon after the book was published which put this idea of "Legacy" and the following story into sharp focus.

Hopefully the stories and ideas that I share hear will provoke some thoughts and responses and I am eager to have them as part of this blog.  Regardless of age or experience, no one is too old to learn, to grow, to see new insights and I am hopeful that this blog will foster growth in the writer and reader alike.

Enjoy the story!